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LAIAS impressions

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Went to LAIAS today - and my eyes are still dazzled by the shiny paint, chrome, and display lighting. Glitzy environments like today's make cars seem more or less the same. Most automakers have improved their line-ups to the point very few vehicles have noticeable flaws. Most cars were "nice" - but few stood out as being particularly amazing.

GM

The standout from GM was the 9-5. It's a very attractive design that manages to look exotic and unique without being flashy and vulgar. Pictures don't do it justice. Speaking of Saab, they were the only GM division that was properly branded - they had a bright, icy cool Scandinavian exhibit with its own display floor.

Buick, GMC, Cadillac, and Chevy parked their cars on the dingy convention center carpet, as has been the case for years, and I didn't see much interest in their latest debuts. The Volt was the same pre-production show car they had last year, and the production Cruze and Regal were roped off with little fanfare. Cruze looks completely unremarkable, while Regal is attractive, save for the ridiculous 4X4 ride height. It's sleek and refined compared to the narrow and overwrought LaCrosse.

CTS Coupe has the same in-your-face look as the sedan, though to my eyes, it's getting a bit tired. Converj looks fantastic and fresh. I was pleasantly surprised by the Equinox LTZ and its two-tone leather interior. It looks cheap in photos, but in person, it's quite nice inside.

FORD

Ford, as usual, had great displays. Whereas Chevy had ONE Cruze, Ford scattered Fiestas all over the floor. Fiesta's interior has been downgraded compared to the international version, and it's not worthy of twenty-G's, but I'd imagine it's fine for a $16K SE model with cloth interior. Frankly, with all the hype given to Ford recently, I was a bit underwhelmed by their interiors. Fusion's interior is nothing special, and its doors close with a junky slam, while Taurus has lots of hard plastic but, surprisingly not much room.

I really, really like the MKS's interior in light colors. It's airy, comfortable, and stylish in a modern American luxury sort of way, with chrome and wood everywhere. Compared to the CTS's serious cabin, this is light and refreshing.

Mazda2 was cool. Simpler, more down-to-earth than the Fiesta. The modified versions looked great. All the Volvos were nice, as usual. The R-Design models, with a subtle body kit, brushed aluminum exterior trim, and big wheels, all look great. The refreshed C30 doesn't look ridiculous, as it does in press photos.

HYUNDAI

Sonata looks fine in person, and the interior is really nice for a family sedan. Almost aspirational. I sat in a Genesis and Equus before the Sonata, and it wasn't too huge of a downgrade. New Tucson, on the other hand, is nothing special compared to Equinox, CR-V, CX-7, etc. Same goes for the new Kia Sorento. Competent appliances, nothing more.

TOYOTA

New Sienna was locked. Boo. The Toyotas I could get into were underwhelming. I'd go as far as to say that most Hyundais were nicer inside than the equivalent Toyota.

Sonata > Camry

Genesis > Avalon

Tucson > RAV4

CHRYSLER

Fiat 500 can't come quick enough.

Edited by pow
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I went to the LA Auto Show late Friday afternoon, and it was free from crowds. I'll post more observations and pictures tomorrow. The show was smaller this year, with lots of no-shows. Pontiac and Saturn are gone, obviously, and there was no Hummer. Nissan and Infiniti seem to be sitting out all car shows. They were not at the San Francisco Auto Show last week. How much money can they be saving by sitting out the auto shows in the country's biggest markets? Are the local dealers ok with this? Or maybe there's a lack of new product this year, so they didn't want to bother? I always looked forward to Maserati, and it's amazing that Ferrari and Bentley weren't there.

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Quick impressions:

Regal = Fantastic style/package/estimated price

9-5 = f@#king incredible. Hope Spyker buys SAAB...the new 9-5 cannot go to waste.

CTS coupe = Great car, but why no rear armrest? Unacceptable for a $40k+ luxury car, especially since it has a rear console.

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I'm glad to hear the 9-5 is as good as I thought it would be. The DC auto show is in late January--hopefully I can see it there.

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>>"The standout from GM was the 9-5. It's a very attractive design that manages to look exotic and unique without being flashy and vulgar. Pictures don't do it justice. "<<

>>"CTS Coupe has the same in-your-face look as the sedan, though to my eyes, it's getting a bit tired."<<

I've probably made it more than clear that saab has zero appeal to me on any front (product or business-wise). That said, I just watched the '2010 saab 9-5' vid that C-Spec posted in that respective thread. Isn't the '10 9-5 wearing virtually the same nose as the -was it the AeroX version from how many years ago ?? At least it finally lost the awkward pseudo-Kammback look it had since the '70s, but the design language is still the same overall saab-generica they've been pedaling since time out of mind. I mean, once glance and you know it's a saab, right ??

So my question is, how can a truely fresh design that debuted for MY'08 (the CTS) already look "tired" when the saab wears the same mask it has for longer than that, yet is "unique" ? Just don't see it.

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But what becomes of the 9-5 now? Are they just going to scrap it and never sell it, because it seems that Saab production will end in 2010 before they ever get a chance to produce one.

Equus should be interesting, I read on Edmunds Insideline that it will be $50-58,000 and uses the same headliner as the S65 AMG. But they said the metal trim on the dash isn't real aluminum, it's plastic. I hope they don't hold back on that car, if they are going to challenge the big boys they should go all out. And hopefully the 5 liter V8 makes its debut also.

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>>"CTS Coupe has the same in-your-face look as the sedan, though to my eyes, it's getting a bit tired."<<

So my question is, how can a truely fresh design that debuted for MY'08 (the CTS) already look "tired" when the saab wears the same mask it has for longer than that, yet is "unique" ? Just don't see it.

Because aggressive, in-your-face designs that have a lot of chrome or gimmicks tend to age quickly, while conservatively designed cars don't. Chrysler 300's looked great at first, now they look dated, same was the case with the PT Cruiser and to some extent the Charger. Also, the Cadillac STS and DTS look dated, and the CTS looks similar, so that could be part of the problem. Although I don't think the CTS looks dated yet, in a few years it will, where as Mercedes and Audi use really gradual styling changes and the cars seem to age better.

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>>"The standout from GM was the 9-5. It's a very attractive design that manages to look exotic and unique without being flashy and vulgar. Pictures don't do it justice. "<<

>>"CTS Coupe has the same in-your-face look as the sedan, though to my eyes, it's getting a bit tired."<<

I've probably made it more than clear that saab has zero appeal to me on any front (product or business-wise). That said, I just watched the '2010 saab 9-5' vid that C-Spec posted in that respective thread. Isn't the '10 9-5 wearing virtually the same nose as the -was it the AeroX version from how many years ago ?? At least it finally lost the awkward pseudo-Kammback look it had since the '70s, but the design language is still the same overall saab-generica they've been pedaling since time out of mind. I mean, once glance and you know it's a saab, right ??

So my question is, how can a truely fresh design that debuted for MY'08 (the CTS) already look "tired" when the saab wears the same mask it has for longer than that, yet is "unique" ? Just don't see it.

The 9-5 has a lot of subtle design cues that aren't immediately apparent in pictures and video. From what I saw online, I thought it looked bloated, like a 1990s Infiniti J30, but actually the design language is very different from the same Saab generica we've seen in the past. Surprisingly for a Saab, it's a large car with presence. Based on looks I'd take the new 9-5 over a CTS sedan any day.

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The 9-5 has a lot of subtle design cues that aren't immediately apparent in pictures and video. From what I saw online, I thought it looked bloated, like a 1990s Infiniti J30, but actually the design language is very different from the same Saab generica we've seen in the past. Surprisingly for a Saab, it's a large car with presence. Based on looks I'd take the new 9-5 over a CTS sedan any day.

The 9-5 also has a lot of really thoughtful features, like an extendable seat cushion for long-legged drivers whose knees would otherwise be unsupported by a shorter seat cushion. Conversely, shorter drivers don't have to worry about a seat cushion that extends too far.

The glove box is also refrigerated, so that one can transport, say, a box of chocolate without worrying about melting.

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"The glove box is also refrigerated, so that one can transport, say, a box of chocolate without worrying about melting"

Similar to many current Chrysler products.

I do really like the new 9-5, though. It is distinctively SAAB with an upmarket twist not seen before. Very strong design, IMO.

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But what becomes of the 9-5 now? Are they just going to scrap it and never sell it, because it seems that Saab production will end in 2010 before they ever get a chance to produce one.

Equus should be interesting, I read on Edmunds Insideline that it will be $50-58,000 and uses the same headliner as the S65 AMG. But they said the metal trim on the dash isn't real aluminum, it's plastic. I hope they don't hold back on that car, if they are going to challenge the big boys they should go all out. And hopefully the 5 liter V8 makes its debut also.

This is seriously that big a deal to you? FAIL.

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But what becomes of the 9-5 now? Are they just going to scrap it and never sell it, because it seems that Saab production will end in 2010 before they ever get a chance to produce one.

Equus should be interesting, I read on Edmunds Insideline that it will be $50-58,000 and uses the same headliner as the S65 AMG. But they said the metal trim on the dash isn't real aluminum, it's plastic. I hope they don't hold back on that car, if they are going to challenge the big boys they should go all out. And hopefully the 5 liter V8 makes its debut also.

You mean the same headliner material. I don't think it uses the same part. So what? You seem to focus on pointless trivial details.

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I'm just saying that the Equus has some nice materials like the Alcantara headliner. Details make the car, a Rolls-Royce is a great car because of the endless attention to detail. Cars like the Impala, Cobalt, Grand Prix, etc don't pay attention to little details, and consumers notice. That is why a Corolla or Civic can sell outsell the Cobatl 3 to 1. Build quality, panel gaps, trim pieces all matter.

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I'm just saying that the Equus has some nice materials like the Alcantara headliner. Details make the car, a Rolls-Royce is a great car because of the endless attention to detail. Cars like the Impala, Cobalt, Grand Prix, etc don't pay attention to little details, and consumers notice. That is why a Corolla or Civic can sell outsell the Cobatl 3 to 1. Build quality, panel gaps, trim pieces all matter.

Good point. Hyundai does seem to be going down the same path Toyota did w/ Lexus 20 years ago, but faster and not w/ a dedicated luxury brand. The problem is, can a brand known for cheap generics also be taken seriously as a luxury player?

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Here are some more of my observations of the LA show:

Best bag: The Ford Taurus SHO ecoboost bag. The innovation was the adjustable shoulder strap. You had to sit through the Ford Taurus Theater to get one...more on that later.

Most crowd-pleasing production vehicle: The Porsche Panamera.

Best concept: Cadillac Converj. It's absolutely gorgeous in person, and it drew a crowd.

Best freebies: Ford. More below.

Best display: Ford. They went all-out, and they bribed people to attend presentations with a passport that need stamping at various booths. If you sat through the two-minute Ford Taurus Theater, did a Raptor driving simulator, sat in a Ford Flex for a Ford Sync demo, and talked to some Ford representatives about the Ford Fiesta, you got a Ford cap, a Focus water bottle, and a $5 Best Buy gift card. They also threw out Ford Fusion Hybrid T-shirts. If you put one on, a secret shopper may approach you and shower you with $10,000.

post-200-12601707678504.jpg

And here are some more observations:

GM: The displays were not too exciting overall, and the loss of brands made GM look like a shadow of its former self. On the positive side, the newest GM offerings are of high quality. The Volt was there, complete with dancers. There were two Cruzes on display, a light blue one and a red one. They were cordoned off. However, I think the car looks better in person than in pictures. There were 8 Camaros on display. The CTS Coupe and SRX use the new Cadillac logo that has more texture than the old cartoony one. The new Saab 9-5 is as impressive as others have stated.

post-200-12601718302275.jpg

Kia: They have come a long way. The new vehicles are very stylish. The Forte is really cheap inside, a step down from the Civic, but the Koup looks great.

Hyundai: The Sonata is a step up from the last model and is much nicer than the Camry inside. The Equus is impressive in person.

post-200-12601730186901.jpg

Honda: The Crosstour is ungainly in person, but it was drawing interest.

Acura: The ZDX is sadly an exercise in function following form. The rear seat is only for small people, which is unexcusable for such a big, thirsty vehicle.

BMW: The new 5-Series wasn't there, except for the awkward GT.

Toyota: I like the new Sienna. There were three at the show, but none were accessible.

Mini: Fun. I like the new Roadster and Coupe.

post-200-12601727636112.jpg

Audi: They were all white except for a black S8, red R8 coupe, and red R8 roadster.

post-200-12601717464684.jpg

Jaguar: The new XJ has presence. It's not exactly pretty, but it's stately and modern.

post-200-12601726789817.jpg

Mercedes: The E350 is really growing on me, and I could live with the tiny quarter windows on the E500 Coupe. The newest generation of Benzes exudes more quality than prior models.

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If the 9-5 is that impressive, there's your reason Fritz wasn't too happy with offloading SAAB (and losing the 9-5 plus the 9-4X). That's why I think SAAB's future after the latest GM shakeup consists of being killed and sold off in pieces.

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Good point. Hyundai does seem to be going down the same path Toyota did w/ Lexus 20 years ago, but faster and not w/ a dedicated luxury brand. The problem is, can a brand known for cheap generics also be taken seriously as a luxury player?

They may not be taken seriously as a luxury maker but look at what sales of the Elantra, Sonata, and Santa Fe have done since the Genesis went on sale. People don't see their entry-level or mid-level cars as jokes any more. The Equus and Genesis can be seen as engineering exercises and good publicity for the time being, and maybe one day they'll get their own brand. I agree that Hyundai is moving faster than Toyota did with Lexus, in 20 years, they might be what Toyota is today.

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I have to say I don't like the new XJ. I think it should have been more 'evolutional' off of the traditional XJ shape.

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I have to say I don't like the new XJ. I think it should have been more 'evolutional' off of the traditional XJ shape.

They had 40 years of evolution, the 2008 car looked the same as the 1968 XJ. It was time for a radical change, but I happen to love the new XJ. There is rumor of an XJR in the works with 600 hp as well, things could get interesting in Coventry.

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>>"The standout from GM was the 9-5. It's a very attractive design that manages to look exotic and unique without being flashy and vulgar. Pictures don't do it justice. "<<

>>"CTS Coupe has the same in-your-face look as the sedan, though to my eyes, it's getting a bit tired."<<

I've probably made it more than clear that saab has zero appeal to me on any front (product or business-wise). That said, I just watched the '2010 saab 9-5' vid that C-Spec posted in that respective thread. Isn't the '10 9-5 wearing virtually the same nose as the -was it the AeroX version from how many years ago ?? At least it finally lost the awkward pseudo-Kammback look it had since the '70s, but the design language is still the same overall saab-generica they've been pedaling since time out of mind. I mean, once glance and you know it's a saab, right ??

So my question is, how can a truely fresh design that debuted for MY'08 (the CTS) already look "tired" when the saab wears the same mask it has for longer than that, yet is "unique" ? Just don't see it.

I've seen you defend the first generation Cadillac Seville in the past, and all the reasons you gave for liking it are the same reasons other people like the new 9-5. The Seville was the beginning of GM's own era of boxy generica that lasted all through the 1980s, but while its design was bland, the design was well engineered and the little details were very refined. The new 9-5 is the same way: you may not like the shape of it, but it is a clean, unified design, and the attention to the little details was obviously painstaking. No feature of the car was taken for granted, not even ones you may dislike. There is nothing cheap about this car, and that is why people are attracted to it.

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