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Northstar

My 2007 Chicago Auto Show recap

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I thought I'd give everyone a quick write-up on my impressions at the auto show. First, I was amazed at the lack of people at the show on Friday. Saturday was crowded, so I would highly suggest that anyone who is planning to go to the show go on a weekday. This is a very long write-up, but I hope you at least skim through it.

Ok, here goes...

We walked into the Ford area first. We sat in the Fusion, then the Edge. Both have nice seats, and the Fusion's interior is acceptable for the price, but the Edge's is very poor. It's a half-step up from the Fusion's, but it can cost more than twice as much. I was very disappointed in the Edge interior. Next, we sat in a Shelby Mustang (not GT500). The interior was not as bad as I remembered, but still barely acceptable. At least from just sitting there rowing through the gears, the shifts were direct and rather short. Next was the Interceptor. I must say, this looks very good in person, though I'm not sure how well it will age. It does look better than the Charger or 300, even if it does rip-off the 300's greenhouse. Then came the laughable Taurus and Taurus X. There was absolutely no one looking at them. The Taurus looks terrible, the X was alright, if uninspiring. The new Focus actually looks alright, though certainly not class-leading.

We then ventured over to Chevy. It was the first time I had sat in the new Silverado, and I must say I was impressed. Though most of the plastic is rather hard, it felt solidly put together and substantial. If you want soft-touch materials in your truck, the up-level interior is waiting for you. Next up was the special-edition Corvette's. Both of them were impressive, and I really liked the wheels on the pace car. I was disappointed the Camaro was not on a turntable, which made it difficult to take pictures, but it does look good. It doesn't look as amazing as last year though, and I fear it may look slightly dated when it finally gets here. The Malibu looks very classy; I would never buy one, and it doesn't wow you, but it looks much more expensive than the price tag will suggest. It is bland, but not as bland as the CamCord, and looks much classier than both. The interior looked nice as well.

GMC was next, and it was the first time I had the opportunity to sit in the Acadia. The plastics are soft-touch and generally high-quality, with the exception of the vertical door pulls, which were rather cheap, as in the other Lambdas. The Smartslide is a nice feature, and allows plenty of room to get into the rear seat, which I am happy to report is perfectly suitable for a 6' passenger. My opinion of the Acadia changed slightly after sitting in the Outlook (see below).

We then headed over to Pontiac. I was rather disappointed in the display. You couldn't sit in the G6 convertible or coupe, there were two Solstices but no GXP to sit in (not that it would have been much different). Interestingly however, the Pontiac section was the busiest of any brand on Saturday. Ok, enough with the ranting... The Solstice interior is below par for the segment. The S2000 and Miata are both better, though the S2000 is significantly more expensive. The G6 interior is also rather drab, though better than the Avenger or Sebring. Finally, the G8 is absolutely fantastic. The proportions are fantastic, the stance is great, the front end is bold and in-your-face, the rear is nicely tailored and looks tidy, and the profile looks like a BMW. It looks taut, athletic, and ready to pounce. It's sex on wheels, and makes the Charger look bulky and over styled. The G8 looks not like a $25-35k car, but rather a $45k car. Nearly everyone commented on how great it looked, though a few did not like it.

After that we wandered over to Buick. It was much busier than in years past, though not as busy as Pontiac. There was an Enclave cut in half, and it made it easy to inspect the interior. Nearly all of it is soft-touch, though the vertical door pulls (to close the door) felt rather cheap. The dash was squishy, a nice touch.

After Buick came Saturn, which was very busy. The efforts by GM appear to be paying off big time, at least in terms of auto show traffic, which hopefully leads to improved sales. Anyways, on to the cars... the Astra looks very good, and the blue color is fantastic. The interior is not nearly as impressive as the exterior, but I think it is perfectly acceptable for an entry-level vehicle. The VUE looks much, much better in person. The Red Line is somewhat goofy looking with the huge over sized lower grill, but it doesn't look so tall and skinny in person as it does in pictures. The interior looks nicer in person as well, though it was somewhat difficult to tell through the windows, as they didn't have the doors open. The Sky is about the same as the Solstice in terms of interior quality, as it was not as good as the Miata or S2000. There were people crawling all over it, however. The Aura;s interior was comparable to others in the class, though the styling is not my cup of tea. Finally, the Outlook. I was thoroughly impressed. Though I like the Acadia's interior styling better, the materials in the Outlook are better. Where there's soft touch plastic on the Acadia's door panels, there's leather/leatherette on the Outlook's door panels. Quality everywhere else is about the same, but the Outlook's door panels put it over the top for me. As with the Acadia and Enclave, the only less-than-acceptable pieces were the vertical door pulls. am also happy to report that I was able to sit in the rear and middle rows comfortably. Had the middle row seat been positioned as far back as possible, I wouldn't have wanted to ride in the back for long, but positioning the middle seat at a comfortable position but without a lot of extra room allowed me to sit comfortably in the third row as well. It would definitely be possible for six 6' adults to go on a road trip in the Lambdas.

We then headed over to the Chrysler area. As you probably can guess, I was not the least bit impressed. The the 300 is acceptable; the plastics are mostly soft-touch and feel substantial, and the seats are comfortable, but the Charger is a definite step down. After the LX cars, Chrysler interiors are complete crap. The $29k Sebring I sat in was crap. Aside from plood on the doors and leather on the center armrest, it was no better than the $20k Avenger, which didn't have leather on the center arm rest, but was very rough, and when I first touched it I thought it was cutting me. The Sebring convertible is definitely function over form. It has a decent trunk, unlike the G6, but doesn't offer anything in the form of style. I don't want to rant too long, but the Nitro and Compass are just terrible, Not a single surface that I found acceptable, and when the car costs $26k, it better not be a bucket of rough, hard plastic.

The bright spot at Chrysler was definitely the test tracks. The SRT-8 track was cool with the 0-30-0, though the 30-0 was the only really impressive part to me, as the acceleration was nothing more than I'm used to when I really get on the GTO. The Jeep test track was awesome. We went over all sorts of tough terrain, forded a small amount of water, and went over two huge hills. The biggest one had a 40 degree incline and 45 degree decline, and the driver stopped halfway down the decline, which was very cool. I was somewhat surprised it was able to hold itself up so effortlessly on such a steep decline.

We then headed over to the luxury section of the show. First was Porsche, and the 911 I sat in was nothing special. I expected better for the price, even if Porsches are known for their driving dynamics, and not their interiors. We then headed over to Cadillac to see the CTS. It was very nice, but it just didn't wow me like the G8. Perhaps it is because I was expecting it to be just fantastic, I don't know. The detailing is all very refined and you can tell it is a meticulously designed car. The wheel flares are perfect, the little vent in wonderfully detailed and is cohesive with the rest of the design, and the detailing on the front and rear ends is amazing. Perhaps my slight bit of disappointed came from the new CTS really looking like a more refined and detailed first-gen CTS. The new SRX interior definitely puts it on the same level as the competition. The STS is rendered useless by the CTS, and the Escalade was very popular. The XLR needs a new interior, ASAP. It is a half-step below the SL, XK, and 6er.

We then went over to BMW. The 335i is nice, except that I didn't find the seats to be very comfortable. I have very high standards as GTO seats are some of the best out there, but I expected better. The new X5 is very nice.

MB was next, and my favorite car of the show was the new CL. It is absolutely drop-dead gorgeous and perfectly designed. I didn't sit in an SLK or C-Class, but all of the rest of the MBs had very good interiors, as expected. The S-Class was not necessarily any nicer than the new LS, but it seemed more upscale in design and features. The SL is nearly flawless. I don't know that I could find anything in it that didn't feel like a million bucks.

We then went over to Acura. The RDX was better than expected, but I wasn't that impressed with the MDX. Yes, the interior is nice, but I didn't find it to be as good as others in the class. The RL is nice as well, but again I thought it was a step down from the E-Class and A6. It is cheaper though, so perhaps that's the reason.

We then went over to Audi. I didn't think the A4's interior was anything great, but the A6 and A8 are both amazing. The TT looks good in person, and the R8 is very cool.

We then went to Infiniti. I do not like the new G35 in person at all. The front end doesn't look very good, and the interior is only marginal. Most of the other entries in the class have better interiors. The M45 on the other hand was very nice, nearly as good as the A6. The FX is not great, but it is different and feels more sporty than other crossovers, which I like.

Finally on the luxury side was Lexus. I'm not so sure why Lexus is hyped up so much... the RX feels like a minivan and the SRX's materials are now better, the LX is not in the same class as the Escalade or GL in terms of interior quality, the IS350 is nothing special at all, the GS is a definite step below the E-Class and A6, and the LS, while nice, doesn't give you the feeling that you're sitting in a very special car, as the S-Class and A8 do. The IS-F's front end is downright nasty, though the tailpipe arrangement is pretty cool. The LF-A is disgusting except for the side profile.

Lincoln is in a world of hurt. The only impressive vehicle was the MKR. The MKZ is similar in interior quality to the Aura, and the Outlook blows the doors off the MKX. Who would have ever guessed that a Saturn would someday be head-over-heals nicer than a Lincoln?

The new XK is fantastic. The exterior is probably best-in-class, and while the interior is not as good as the SL, it is better than the XLR's and on par with the 6er's.

Next up was VW, and it's easy to see why they're considered to be the best in interiors. Everything feels substantial and solid, and most of it is soft-touch. The Passat is fantastic, it easily had the best interior of any family sedan, though it was also the most expensive. The Eos will eat the G6's and Sebring's lunch. It not only offers a trunk as good as the Sebring's, but it also does so with some style. The interior is also better than either the G6 or Sebring. The glass roof is also very cool.

We went to Nissan next. The new Altima is nice, and the Versa is good for the price, but that was about all I was impressed with. The 350Z is cheap, the Murano is very average, the Titan and Armada are terrible. The Altima coupe is okay, but it's nothing that's going to knock your socks off; I think I actually prefer the sedan.

On to Mazda... The Miata is nicer than the Kappas, and more comfortable than the S2000. The CX-7 is terrible... very cheap. The CX-9 on the other hand has nice materials, on par with the Lambdas. where the CX-9 lacks, however, is in third-row room. I attempted to sit back there, but after I was in the seat and put the second row seat up my legs were squished. There was not sufficient room for my legs to fit between the second row seat back and third row seat cushion. Poor job there, Mazda.

Honda... The Accord is definitely a solid vehicle, if nothing spectacular. The S2000 has surprisingly good materials, but the seats aren't very comfortable at all. The Pilot is definitely a step below the Lambdas, as one would expect considering it is a rather old product. The Accord coupe concept is rather chunky in person, I personally did not like it much.

Toyota... They had a ridiculous amount of Tundras, but no one seemed to care. There was no line to sit in any of them, while the T900s all had lines... a good sign for GM. The interior of the T900s is also definitely higher quality. While both use hard plastics for the most part, the work truck Silverado interior felt more solid, and the plastics in the Tundra Limited felt hollow and cheap. The upscale T900 interior simply blows the Tundra out of the water. Toyota has fixed the problem with pieces falling off of the Camry interior for the most part... last year the piece came off almost effortlessly, this year it took some force, and unlike last year I don't think it would come off unless you really tried to take it off. The new Highlander looks more bland and less ugly in person. It's basically a big RAV4 that's had a small run-in with the ugly stick, but the interior looks nice, so it should do fine since it's a Toyota.

Scion made me want to puke... the xD and xB look terrible.

I think that's everything, though I probably forgot something along the way.

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