By on November 19, 2011

You’ve no doubt read Alex’s coverage of the Cadillac XTS, Mazda CX-5 and others on TTAC all day, but there’s a lot that goes on at auto shows besides just new car introductions. I’m here to fill in the gaps.

Best Concept: Volvo Concept You

Volvo’s Concept You looked just as sleek and stunning on the show floor. The down-turned taillights echo the Horbury shoulders of recent Volvos, but this is new ground for Volvo. No powerplant was mentioned, and I didn’t have a chance to try out the novel FreshAir subwoofer developed in conjunction with Alpine.

Volvo’s Concept You was first unveiled at the Frankfurt Auto Show in September.

Best New Hassle-Saver: Ford Escape’s foot-activated tailgate

Ford introduced the new C-platform Escape with EcoBoost engines and a novel foot-level motion sensor for to open the power tailgate. With full hands, this feature works great–except when you don’t have the key fob, it doesn’t work, as a bunch of sore-legged auto journos found out when repeated kicks to the area didn’t achieve any opening. A thoughtful Ford rep set us straight.

Best Press Conference: Kia Motors

When Honda talks about “the power of dreams” and other companies trump up their achievements, the weary auto show journalist appreciates Kia’s Pardon the Interuption topical countdown. “Fifteen items in fifteen minutes” was promised, and the upfront overview and self-discipline of a countdown in full view made it easy to overlook the fact that Kia didn’t really have that much new to say.

Best Celebrity Joining the Press Conference: Blake Griffin–Kia Motors.

Griffin arrives in a basketball-themed car by West Coast Customs. They made NBA lockout jokes and his shoe size. Griffin also shows his acting chops in an Optima commercial in which he does lunges while feeding a deer and lecturing two campers about Optima’s safety record.

This was better than Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol actress Paula Patton’s interview with BMW CEO Ludwig Willisch. Willisch seem uncomfortable with Patton’s considerable beauty, while Patton seem uncomfortable with following a script as she giggled her way through a puff interview that strayed far from lines displayed on the teleprompters. In fact, maybe Willisch was uncomfortable with improvisation. Anyway, it would win Best Awkward Moment except for…

Best Awkward Moment: David Moore,

While trying to get a shot of Patrick Dempsey with Mazda NA CEO Jim O’Sullivan during the Mazda CX-5 introduction, I was assaulted–assaulted!-by a videographer who objected to my placement near his equipment. And when I say assaulted, I mean grabbed–firmly– on my shoulder and pulled away. No charges were filed, but I did get the picture. You can thank me in the comments.

Best Useful Feature: Infiniti JX

Infiniti’s new seven-passenger SUV has a second-row that allows access to the third-row without collapsing either seat back or seat cushion. So what? Those with children will immediately realize that this allows third-row access without removing and reinstalling a child safety seat, thus preventing passengers from the “rear-hatch entry/egress of shame.”

Best Unimportant Feature: Center console ashtray lid, Aston Martin V12 Vantage.

You get at lot for your $200k. Sexy looks, British heritage, and a screaming 500-hp V12. Not least important, the high-quality alloy ashtray lid that closes with the thunk of a Fiat 800 t-boning a Benz. I told a Honda employee with me in the car that it was my favorite feature. He laughed because he knew Honda could never produce such a lovely thing.

Most Delicious Emissions: Nissan NV2500/CoolHaus

An institution among the Los Angeles food truck cognoscenti, CoolHaus serves gourmet ice cream sandwiches. Nissan used its very, uh, functional-looking NV2500 cargo van to give out the sweet treats.

Best New Car Intro: BMW M5

The 4.4 twin-turbo V8 bellowed in fury, then rolled slowly onto the stage as BMW PR reps formed a human wall against people getting in it’s five mile-per-hour fury. It was as fitting an introduction as the gaggle of Chevy Sparks darting onto the stage like pastel hyperactive lemmings.

Best Use of a Backpack as a Desk: Alex L. Dykes

If you think it’s easy running from one press conference to another, think again. Intrepid journalist Alex L. Dykes tirelessly covered the most significant introductions for you while furiously typing and coordinating with photographer Rob. When is the time to type? Anytime you’ve got a backpack that can double as a desk, my friend.

Disclosure: A press pass was received in exchange for access to the event. Ford furnished a hot dog and a soda. BMW also provided a soda. The author also received a few USB drives from Chevrolet, Buick and Cadillac.

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