A Few Thoughts on the L.A. Auto Show

April 8, 2011

Beverly Hills. I woke up to a rainy Saturday thinking that by getting to the L.A. Convention Center first thing in the a.m. I’d have the place to myself; instead I was surprised that there was quite a crowd waiting to get in.  So much so that the show opened 5 minutes early to process the crowd.  Nice of them.

One of the things that struck me is how few cars I even cared to look at.  I don’t need a sedan and don’t like or care about SUVs so swaths of displays I pretty much ignored.  I did do my yearly sit in an MX-5 to see if I can still get in and out of one with some semblance of grace (still can, thanks).  I also noted that getting into the Miata was a hell of a lot easier than getting into the backseat of the Acura ZDX.  The space to get in there is incredibly narrow; I felt like I was mailing myself in there rather than sitting down. In short, hideous and useless.  Great idea there!

The new Buicks are very pretty. The new Infinitis are less so. The trunk space on the G37 convertible is non-existent with the top down. Same with the Lexus IS C. I guess that’s what the backseat is for. Makes the soft-topped Mercedes make much more sense. As for Mercedes, is the SLK so on its way out it couldn’t make it to the show?

BMW was there with everything seemingly in grey. Chevrolet had an aggressive line of Camaros and Corvettes in bright colors facing into the BMWs in a visual F/U. The Cruze is nice and the Volt was something that I could really see myself living with. It was also being swarmed over by some Asian tourists who were taking photos, videos and measuring the interior. Lord knows why.

Kia and Hyundai didn’t have models that made me swoon, but it’s undeniable that they’re nipping at the heels of the Japanese as far as quality and if some of their styling can be charitably called “quirky” at least they’re trying.  Honda and Toyota are, styling-wise, as exciting as a chamomile and Atavan smoothie. Toyota's decorations were so focused on reassuring one that they were still safe cars I half expected one to read “Really, the Prius isn’t out to kill you.” The new CR-Z really needs a backseat. I know it would be useless for humans but I kept thinking how much the insurance payments would dip if they’d just shove some seat belts and padding back there.

The Fords are very handsome, the Lincoln versions slightly less so. The blingy grin that is the grill on the sedans stretches to a Dr. Sardonicus maw when applied to the crossovers. The MKT looks like it should be trolling for krill.

Chrysler was there with the new Charger (better) and the new 200, which almost wipes the memory of the dreadful last-gen Sebring out of your mind.

Curiously tucked away in the far corner was the Fiat 500. A red, a white and a gray one were on display with one original for size comparison. I write curiously because when people found them they were all over them. It was the only car at that early hour that I had to wait at all to get into and one of the few that people were having their pictures taken in. I can’t blame them: it’s so cute you want to burp it. There’s some thin Sanrio-like about its face with its hint of whiskers, and the interior has a pop-art, retro-future vibe to it that fairly screams “Italian”. Men, women, children and a dog were all over it. Okay, the dog was a service one but she was still there. I can’t wait for the convertible and I’m sure that smart and MINI are in the corner, smoking nervously.

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