So I was at the 2009 Chicago Auto Show on Sunday night and I enjoyed it. I figured I’m not the only Doper who’s been to this one or one of the many other across the country and I’m eager to talk about what I saw.
The most interesting/exciting car I saw was the Cadillac Converj. It’s the sport-luxury version of the Chevy Volt Concept Car . I won’t go into too much detail about the Volt and the electric car idea since it’s been heavily discussed already, but I will say that both the Volt and Converj looked good in person. Who knows how close the Volt’s final design will be to this one, but the styling worked for me in person. The Converj however was simply gorgeous. Cadillac should use this exterior design for a standard drive vehicle right now and if the Converj ever comes to be I hope I am in the right tax bracket to afford one. The interior was basically like a cross of being inside an iPhone and the new Tron flick. Pretty much everything was a touch screen and everything was customizable, very little of that will probably see the light of day any time soon, but it was pretty cool.
I admit that the new Cadillac designs are a love it or hate it thing, but count me as someone who is a big fan. I dug the XLR when they debuted it a while back and I really like the updated CTS. The Converj is a continuation/exaggeration of that and could be what a potential CTS-V Coupe might look like if they ever made one (which I’d totally want).
My only complaint was that the Cadillac interiors had a bit too much plastic for my liking. It was pretty well matched to the rest of the more upscale interior, but when I’m in a car in that price range I don’t want to feel light plastic under my fingers. Cadillac wasn’t unique in this, but you noticed it when you climbed into a Mercedes or Infinity.
Generally speaking the Cadillac show space was one of the biggest and most interesting to see. Its obvious that they are one of the brands doing okay in the US and their Converj was easily the most impressive main stage. The giant SUVs were too abundant and the Escalade is still a joke, but you got the impression that they were sort of hidden in the back.
The Hummer space was kind of deserted. Not much buzz about the H3 at all and they only had one H2 on display.
The Chevy space, aside from the Volt, was pretty depressing. Not many worthwhile cars in that lineup at all. The Malibu is a step in the right direction and I actually like it a lot more than the Taurus, Camry, Accord or Passat. The Chevy Traverse, Buick Enclave, Saturn Outlook and GMC Acadia are the only other notable GM vehicles I saw. They are all essentially the same car with differing trim levels but every one was a very attractive and felt very solid. It’s a bit too big, bigger than it really needs to be frankly, but if I was a family toting soccer mom this is the car I’d want.
Ford really, really needs to fire whoever does their interiors. Man, you could feel how crappy those products are. Which is a shame since the Fusion, Edge and new Taurus are all pretty solid looking cars from the outside. Their lineup of trucks and SUVs are all pretty much unchanged and consistently ugly.
The Lincoln lineup was horribly depressing compared to the Cadillac one. They took what were essentially decent looking Ford cars and uglied them up considerably with misplaced chrome and chunky rims. They also suffered from subpar interiors too, copious leather and faux-wood didn’t hide what was essentially the same mess as was in their Ford counterparts. Lincoln won’t be competing with M-B and BMW any time soon.
It was interesting to see how small some of the exotic car displays were. It used to be that you’d get to see all kinds of Porsches, Ferraris, Lamborghinis, Maseratis, Aston Martins and a host of other Supercars. Lambo was the only brand mentioned above there and they only had 2 cars on display. There were a couple Maseratis and a Ferrari but they were being shown but a dealer, not the manufacturer. Porsche and Aston Martin didn’t have any presence at all.
Speaking of Supercars, the Corvette ZR-1 was shown in a mean looking Charcoal Grey and loaded with carbon fiber. It looked like every bit the equal to the Lambos and it probably drew the biggest crowds of any car not on a riser.
Overall I was surprised by how few car makers had main stages. In years past it seemed that every brand had to have one new model on a custom stage complete with special effects and spokesmodel. Other than the Volt/Converj displays very few brands had anything eye catching or prominent. A few had displays, like the new Challenger and Venza but they weren’t particularly bold.
Another awesome car I saw was the BMW X6. I love the look of this car, it finds the perfect balance between Crossover and Sports Car. I used to be a massive BMW fan and I still like the M-cars but generally speaking I’d say that their recent versions of the 3-series and 5-series have been big steps in the wrong direction artistically. Even more saddening was how poor the interiors have become. They were a bit too plasticy (though not to the degree of a Ford or other car half it’s price) for my liking and they simply aren’t in the class of either Audi or Mercedes inside anymore. The X6 was the best of the lot but even it had it’s problems inside.
The Mercedes Benz cars were universally flawless inside. Just immaculate pieces of art with the exception of the SLK Coupe. The exterior of the M-B cars however seemed to be changing into a much stodgier and more conservative look. I’ve never been too fond of the M-B look but this years lineup was especially elderly. It was reminiscent of the Jaguar styling under Ford, which wasn’t particularly popular.
The other notable car I saw, and the one with is probably the one I’ll end up buying in a year or two, is the wildly impressive Hyundai Genesis Coupe. I would never have thought I’d ever consider a Hyundai but this machine is incredible for the price. The performance specs beat just about every American muscle car and the fit and finish are like something you’d want in a Infinity. The interior was far above anything in it’s price range, including Honda and VW. Great, great car. I’ll be eager to drive one and see all the trim options.
Anyways, enough babbling. I’m sure there’s much more to discuss. Hope someone else has ventured out to the show in these uncertain times for the economy and out Auto companies. You can certainly see the effects of the depression on the presentations but there are still some very interesting cars out there.
Wasn’t sure what forum was best for this, but since the Auto Show seems like a cultural event/performance and the design of cars, especially concepts, is something of an artistic endeavor I decided on this one.