TrueDelta Does Detroit Pt.2

Michael Karesh
by Michael Karesh
truedelta does detroit pt 2

The first presentation I attended on the second day of NAIAS was for Lincoln (no mention of Mercury). The MKT crossover has a roomy interior that manages to look and feel more upscale than that of the MKS sedan. Stitched upholstery on the center stack and center console are an improvement over silver-painted plastic. As in the MKS and the related Ford Flex, seats in the first two rows are very comfortable. So what’s not to love? That would be the clunky, chunky exterior.

It’s not that the MKT is a bad design. It’s worse than that. Lincoln’s cetacean snout looks slightly ridiculous on its cars. On a crossover, it’s tacky enough to demand a Russ Meyer remake: faster pussycat; krill, krill, krill! From Lincoln I went to GM’s stand, where CEO Rick Wagoner announced that the batteries for the Volt would be manufactured in Michigan. And that GM was going to make battery technology a core competence, with a new 31k-square foot engineering center. And that LG Chemical (of Korea) has been selected as the supplier of the battery cells. One of these statements doesn’t fit with the others.

Then things started to really not add up. BYD, a Chinese battery and vehicle manufacturer, announced it was going to be offering a five-passenger pure electric vehicle with a 250-mile range. The vehicle in question strongly resembles Honda’s Asian-market Odyssey. (All of BYD’s cars strongly resemble someone else’s car.) The technology that makes this possible? BYD’s breakthrough “ferrous” battery technology. Now, ferrous means iron. Who knew that iron was such a good basis for a battery? Also, batteries usually combine two elements. What’s the unnamed second element? Hype?

On the subject of knockoffs, the Chinese aren’t the only ones doing it. The photo above isn’t a BYD knockoff of a second-gen Toyota Prius. It’s a Honda knockoff of a second-generation Toyota Prius. Only even more ungainly. Meanwhile, Toyota introduced the third-generation Prius, which is much better looking than both the current car and Honda’s facsimile. Check out the attractive five-spoke 17-inch alloys. The high point of the roofline has been shifted rearward by four inches. While the official reason for this is more rear seat headroom, it also greatly improves the car’s proportions. Inside, the new Prius has more room and a more nicely finished interior.

Yesterday, Lexus introduced its first efficiency-focused hybrid off the Prius platform: the HS250h. Which also happens to be the first U.S.-market Lexus with a four-cylinder engine. I took a look today. The interior is Lexian, but the exterior makes the previous generation Corolla look like a suite at the Ritz. Call me El Finesse, but I’m not seeing a Lexus in this exterior. Or in the powertrain– unless driveability is way up from the second-gen Prius.

LastIy, I attended Henrik Fisker’s presentation, where his company introduced a strikingly attractive (top up or down) hardtop convertible. The former Aston designer promises his hybrid hottie will be available for discerning customers in 2012. I’ve had a number of questions about their Karma foor-door (hint: don’t call it a sedan):

1. How can Fisker manage to offer a stylish, luxurious, large (124.4-inch wheelbase, 196.3-inch length, 78.1-inch width) four-door car with a powerful hybrid powertrain (260 horsepower turbo four plus a pair of electric motors good for 400 horsepower) and monstrous 22-inch tires for conventional S-Class money? (Base price: $87,900)

2. Can GM’s rorty turbo four possibly behave as an engine in a $90,000+ sedan is expected to behave?

3. How can such a car go 50 miles on a charge? A huge battery pack would add weight and cost. See surprisingly low price above.

4. How can a car with such swoopy sheetmetal comfortably accommodate four adults.

Well, after today’s presentation I was able to sit in the Karma four door. It’s C3 Corvette tight in the front seat, and even tighter in the back seat. (For reference, I’m 5’9″ and the front seat was perhaps and inch farther rearward than I’d set it.) There’s considerably more room inside a Mazda RX-8, which has far more compact exterior dimensions. Getting in and out of the Mazda’s rear seat is also easier. Getting in and out of the the Karma is a head-and-knee-bumping chore thanks to a low roof and small door openings.

I will grant that Fisker’s made the seats as comfortable as possible given the low seating position and limited interior volume. Still, a third-gen Prius is a limo in comparison. The trunk was closed to the public. When I asked about cargo volume, they responded, “Enough for two golf bags.” So perhaps 8 cubic feet. That’s what happens when a designer is running the show. The Karma sedan is very much a four-door coupe-a Mercedes CLS taken to the extreme, with all of the compromises that implies.

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2 of 28 comments
  • Davey49 Davey49 on Jan 13, 2009

    The problem with the C230 and the 318ti was that they looked cheap when compared to the brands' other cars. It was like you paid for a 3 series but got a Cavalier interior. Plus those cars were sold during the height of the SUV craze The HS250h looks to be high finish

  • Mirko Reinhardt Mirko Reinhardt on Jan 14, 2009

    @davey49 : The problem with the C230 and the 318ti was that they looked cheap when compared to the brands’ other cars. It was like you paid for a 3 series but got a Cavalier interior. The BMW had a different interior than the other E36 3-series of it's time, but the C-class hatchback? The only difference was the shape of the hood over the instruments, otherwise it looked like any C-class inside.

  • Azfelix From certain angles the bonnet appears oversized with respect to the rest of the car - like a skinny teenager wearing a bulky sweater nicked from her older sister's wardrobe.
  • Tassos This is way too god damned OLD, 21 years old to have all the necessary options you need TODAY. You need a 10 year old or less car. AND if you give us THIS POS, a 21 year old model, that is not even a LUXURY car, whoever pays $10k for a Golf, And I Do NOT care what anniversary it is (they are all UTTERLY INSIGNIFICANT) deserves to get this MOST UNRELIABLE AND COSTLY TO REPAIR OF ALL LOUSY ECONOBOXES< EVEN THE DOMESTICS AND THE KOREANS.
  • Tassos As you say, Toyota confirmed this on TUESDAY. Today is WEDNESDAY. Why is everything on TTAC held back one or more days before you tell us the NEWS when it is NO MORE THE NEWS?
  • MRF 95 T-Bird You can find a decent and far more stylish Audi TT or an S4 of a similar vintage for under $10k.
  • RHD "In all situations, the grip of the tires (225/40R18 front, 225/35R18 rear) brings with it road noise."Are the rear tires actually smaller than the fronts??!! Adding just a bit of sidewall would take care of the bumps and rough ride. I'm not a fan of BMWs, personally, but this is a very enjoyable car. There are times when driving a convertible is pure bliss, and with a bit of power it's fun as well. (And certainly a better drive than a gussied-up, overpriced German taxicab!)