TrueDelta Does Detroit

Michael Karesh
by Michael Karesh
truedelta does detroit

Well, the first day at the 2009 North American International Auto Show wasn’t such a bust in the end. I began the day by attending the Intro and North American Car of the Year Awards. During the intro talk the Detroit show sought to demonstrate that it was still relevant by trotting out senior executives from the auto companies that didn’t opt to skip this year’s show. Among the execs from GM, Ford, Toyota, Honda, VW, and so forth was… Henrik Fisker. “Which one of these is not like the others…” started running through my head. Pretty good for a guy who reskinned SL’s and 8’s until he figured out it was better to ride the green gravy train. But that’s the way Detroit rolls these days.

Looking over the finalists from my place amidst a press release of journalists, I wondered what the G37 was doing amongst them. The Infiniti’s engine is new for 2009, but the rest of the car is entering its third model year. Well, it wasn’t the Infiniti. The car in question was a Hyundai Genesis, which won the award. Apparently, when you can only see the top half of the car the resemblance is rather strong.

I then attended the General Motors presentation. A couple years ago, when the then-new Cadillac CTS was introduced, I commented that it was nice to see the people involved in creating the car up on stage with it. Especially since I knew some of them. This year, GM kicked itup a notch. They brought in a crowd of 100+ employees to stand behind the seated press and engage in a pep rally. Holding signs that said things like “here to stay.” The foreign journalist besides me asked who the prostesters were.

The presenting GM execs called for a cheer from said cheering section each time a car rolled up on stage– and they paraded about 15 of them. A couple of times the exec called for a louder response. A bit much.

Some of the new GM cars were surprisingly impressive. The interior of the 2010 Equinox compact SUV is the best interior in a Chevrolet so far. It’s much nicer than that in a Toyota RAV4, and I’d also place it ahead of the Honda CR-V. Seat comfort is also excellent, front and rear. Why aren’t the seats in the larger Lambda crossovers nearly this good?

I actually found the firmer seats in the Cadillac SRX less comfortable than those in the Chevrolet. There’s also less rear seat and cargo room in the SRX. Overall, while the Cadillac’s interior is nicer than the Chevrolet’s, it will also be much more expensive. I expect the Cadillac will have a much harder time achieving its sales targets.

The new Buick LaCrosse is a mixed bag. The exterior doesn’t quite work for me. The “sweep spear” comes up too high on the overly tall front fender. As a result, your eye is pulled in one direction by the beltline (base of the windows) and in the other by the “sweep spear.” Beyond this, the proportions of the front fender are generally forced and awkward.

On the other hand, the interior of the new LaCrosse is outstanding, the best yet from GM– better even than that in the Cadillac CTS. Real stitching on the instrument panel and door panels has been achieved at a Buick price by molding the stitching into the polymer panels. The panels aren’t actually upholstered as they are in newer Cadillacs, but they look upholstered. The center stack is nicely executed, with a definite upscale appearance. The curvy door panels are exceedingly well done. They combine a nicely padded armrest with a comfortable door pull, flowing organically into the instrument panel.

Is an outstanding interior enough to get people under 70 to consider a Buick sedan? Probably not.

Looking back across the GM area, I wondered what a previous generation Audi A4 was doing there. Another case of mistaken identity: the Chevrolet Cruze. In the metal, the Cruze looks great– at least when it’s fitted with 19-inch five-spoke alloy rims. Inside, the instrument panel in the Cruze is trimmed in a woven fabric. This might not be to everyone’s taste, but it’s a huge step up from most compact car interiors.

Ford has thoroughly revised the Taurus. The new car looks much more upscale, inside and out. Though the new grille is a bit too Subaru nondescript, the rear fenders have strong Bentley overtones. Viewed from the side the car has more presence than a Taurus has any right to.

The interior of the 2010 Ford Taurus is not far off the related Lincoln MKS’, but not up to the level of the Buick LaCrosse. The panel fits aren’t as tight or as precise, and the materials seem a bit cheaper. I was surprised to hear that features such as adaptive cruise control and massaging seats– usually only available on expensive luxury cars– will be available on the Taurus. On the downside, the interior is much less roomy than that of the current Taurus. Inside, it does not feel like a full-size car.

I skipped the Chrysler presentation, figuring the company had nothing in the pipeline. I later learned they’d shown a possible next-generation 300, billed as the 200C EV with an alt fuel powertrain. This concept’s much more curvy than the current 300; a huge advance over recent Chrysler efforts like the Sebring. But is there enough trunk space inside the sportily bobbed tail?

That’s it for today. More tomorrow.

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2 of 13 comments
  • Revolver1978 Revolver1978 on Jan 13, 2009

    The new Equinox does look good, if a little Bloated but not Punked (a nugget to those who use Adobe Illustrator!) I'm a little dissapointed by the fuel economy, however. AWD fuel economy of 20/27 (I4) and 17/24 (V6) matches the 2009 Ford Escape V6 and barely edges the Escape I4, neither of which are direct injection AFAIK. Definitely looks ritcher though.

  • Mirko Reinhardt Mirko Reinhardt on Jan 14, 2009

    So from what angle does the Cruze look like the old Audi A4? Because it doesn't on that picture.

  • Tassos ask me if I care.
  • ToolGuy • Nice vehicle, reasonable price, good writeup. I like your ALL CAPS. 🙂"my mid-trim EX tester is saddled with dummy buttons for a function that’s not there"• If you press the Dummy button, does a narcissist show up spouting grandiose comments? Lol.
  • MaintenanceCosts These are everywhere around here. I'm not sure the extra power over a CR-V hybrid is worth the fragile interior materials and the Kia dealership experience.
  • MaintenanceCosts It's such a shame about the unusable ergonomics. I kind of like the looks of this Camaro and by all accounts it's the best-driving of the current generation of ponycars. A manual 2SS would be a really fun toy if only I could see out of it enough to drive safely.
  • ToolGuy Gut feel: It won't sell all that well as a new vehicle, but will be wildly popular in the used market 12.5 years from now.(See FJ Cruiser)