November 23, 2010
Sport wagon, that is. SPORT wagon, to be more precise (shown above). If there was an astonishing trend to be observed during this year’s L.A. show, it was the return of the wagon. Cadillac has its CTS wagon (picture), Acura is throwing a TSX wagon in the mix (called sport wagon), and Audi offers a slew of them (but I could do with all this letter salad. Gone are the days luxury cars had names. Sigh!) For me, that’s welcome news, even though I won’t be able to plunk down 50 Grand for a Cadillac – my own car will look less dorky. You just wait and see! Only fourteen years to go until I own a classic.
Another trend is still going strong and is wholly un-automotive. Spandex in UGGs, spandex in UGGs knock-offs, and spandex-jeans in UGGs and UGGs knock-offs. The first time around this looked horrible, but after watching this trend unfold (can a trend do that?) it’s becoming endearing. Wholesome even. I doubt anyone in New York is wearing that in 70 degree weather.
Back to the cars.
A third trend is the cockpit overkill. And cockpits the interiors definitely have become. I’m 6’2″. Tall, but not unusually so, and my right leg has nowhere to go in most larger and luxury cars, thanks to an absurdly huge middle console. These have more buttons now than a JoAnn Fabric’s and their sides are clad in ugly plastics. Of course, the button overload has led the German car makers to invent what BMW calls the iDrive. One button and one display to offer as many as 300 options. Choose the right one while driving in heavy traffic on the 405. People will love your sexy swerves. And the way you spin out the car and hit the divider. A triple 9 from the Dancing With the Stars judges.
Best new car? The Mazda 2. Small, agile, great interior that doesn’t feel confining. Cars appeal, of course, to our sensuality, and this one is just so – honest. No facelift, no fake boobs, no nose jobs. In fact, it does have an ugly beak, but hey, from the driver’s seat you won’t see it. It was so good, indeed, I forgot to take its picture.
Cutest new car? The Fiat 500, which isn’t new in Europe, but it’s the first time we can buy it in North America. Children went nuts over it, and they are also the only ones that fit into it. Okay, I was able to sit somewhat comfortably in that shiny red one, but it feels like you pulled the label off a can of chicken-noodle soup and attached four wheels to it. If the paper boy hits you on his BMX bike, your chance of survival is about 50-50. Astonishingly, that shiny red one had a sticker price of $21,000. The cheapest one shown at the auto show was $18,600. For that kind of money you get a decked-out VW Jetta or a nicely equipped Ford Fusion. Chrysler’s resurrection plan makes Christian mythology suddenly look credible.
Dumbest car? Chrysler again. I have a soft spot for Chryslers, mostly old Chryslers. Remember the automatic that switched gears by pressing a button? (Now, there was a handy button). So I really wanted to like the Charger. Really did. And sure, the newly face-lifted car (which also got a way-better engine) looks good from the outside. Sort of. More dramatic at least. Okay, pretty good. Acceptable then. But get inside and the materials are chintzy, and the fit and finish are terrible. An A-pillar cover wouldn’t fit, nearly came off. And this was a show car.
Best car? Ach ja, nun gut. The German in me is partial. I just love the Mercedes SLK. I don’t like SUVs, yet this one is just a wagon with extra ground clearance. And get inside – it’s…boring. Which is exciting. No stylish overkill, no slew of buttons, and you have nice arm and leg space. It’s so simple, and that right now so hard to find. Okay, give me crap for it!
Best engine? Audi. In the R8. The one you see through a window in back. And yes, it’s a V10.
Most macho car? Ford Taurus Police Interceptor. It’s all about sexual role play in this one!
Best shwag? My new Mattel Hot Wheels model of the Camaro Convertible.
Most dedicated photographer? The award goes to this guy, who crouched down and held his camera underneath a new Ford Explorer tailpipe. When was the last time a Japanese car manufacturer’s spy photographed a Ford tailpipe and didn’t collapse laughing?
Most telling gesture? This one, which is my “Posture/Gesture of the Decade.” Guy staring at smart phone.
Second place goes to this one. Me…oh, forget about it.