Unfortunately, we weren’t able to send anyone to the 2009 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, so we weren’t able to give you firsthand information as automakers wheeled out their last, best hopes for salvation in this craptastic economy.
However, the automakers are (thankfully) more than enthusiastic about making sure the information disseminates through the media – which means we can hook you up with all the best of the auto show, even though we never left New York this weekend.
Luckily, with the recession forcing people to pinch pennies in proper pauper phashion phuck i pcant pstop – nnyaa! There. Anyway, automakers are trying to appeal more towards people’s wallets these days, which means they’re cranking out more cars within the range of us “common men.” (I say men because I tend to think women, for the most part, are much less “common” then us dudes. Which is funny, since there are more of them…never mind. I babble.)
So, we at CCO would like to present what we’ve not-so-humbly chosen as The Most Important Automotive Debuts You Can Afford (And A Few You Probably Can’t Yet). And the list, arranged by the DNA codons of their assistant designers:
Volkswagen Concept BlueSport: While this baby is still just a concept, a production version is planned for 2011. A compact roadster intended to face off against the Nissan 370Z and the Honda S2000, the concept is powered by a 2.0 liter turbodiesel with 180 horsepower through a six-speed DSG. VW claims 0-60 in 6.6 seconds, top speed of 140 miles an hour, and 55 miles per gallon (though not while testing the first two numbers.) If they can stick it on the market with those kind of specs for less than 30 grand, they’ve probably got a winner on their hands.
Chevrolet Spark: I saw them unveil this car first in concept form two years ago at the NY Auto Show as the Chevy Beat. They brought it out alongside two similar concept subcompacts, the Groove and the Traxx. GM even hired a group of hip-hop dancers to “serve” them to the media. This was the first time I’d ever been to an auto show unveiling, and I have to admit, it made me feel like I was gonna blow chunks all over the stage. “What the fuck” doesn’t do it justice. Anyway, GM announced it would be bringing the production Spark to the U.S. (before, they’d said it would be Europe-only, since Americans didn’t really like small, fuel-efficient cars before 2008). That’s all. I just wanted to share that anecdote with you.
2010 Lexus HS 250h: Lexus has brought out hybrids before, but this is the first time they – or any luxury manufacturer – have brought out an exclusively-hybrid model, as opposed to retrofitting an existing car with hybrid parts. Think of it as their Prius…but overpriced. It runs a 2.4 liter 4-cylinder (plus its electric motor) and pumps a total 187 horses through a CVT transmission; mileage and performance haven’t been released yet, but expect plenty of the former and not a whole lot of the latter.
Cadillac Converj: Yes, folks, even the holy Chevrolet Volt (“aaaaahhhhh“) is not immune from being rebadged and spun off by good ole GM. In this case, the compact electric-first-gas-second Sedan Of The Future is being shown also as a Coupe Of The Future. (A few years down the line: the Minivan Of the Later Future. Think about it.) With 161 horsepower and a top speed of 100 mph, this Caddy (of the Future!) won’t be winning many drag races (of the Future!), but at least it’ll go 40 miles on electric power, and recharges in eight hours from a household plug – but only three hours from a 240V outlet, so if you want a Volt or any of its derivatives (of the Future!), you might wanna talk to an electrician. And hey, it looks pretty good. But “Converj?” Were the marketing people “hijh?”
Lincoln Concept C: Hoping to get a slice of the Mini Cooper business, Lincoln unveiled this compact concept as a luxury vehicle for “modern luxury buyers who live and work in large, urban areas.” Unfortunately, the Lincoln people apparently didn’t realize customers like the Mini for its looks too, because this thing is pretty ass-ugly. The front (featuring Lincoln’s new “like BMW, but fatter!” twin-kidney grill) isn’t that bad, but from the side…kinda pug fugly. Sorry, Lincoln, I’m just being honest here. If you want to sell Honda Civic-sized cars for $30,000 and up, they’d better at least look good.
2010 Honda Insight Hybrid: After several years playing with mothballs, the Insight name has been called up to active duty on this Prius competitor. While it doesn’t quite get mileage as good as the newest Prius (according to the EPA), 40/43 city/highway is good enough to feel proud of while parking at your next Greenpeace meeting. And it looks way, way better. Couple that with the long list of standard features (automatic climate control, paddle shifters, navigation system top the list), Honda’s propensity to make its cars more fun to drive than Toyota, and the fact that they’ve pledged to price the Insight less than the Civic Hybrid (i.e. under $23,650), and we may have a winner here.
2010 Ford Taurus: Holy shit, what is that good looking sedan, and what did it do with the Taurus? Yes, folks, the humble Ford Taurus – once a symbol of suburban blandness, then a melted jellybean of conformity, followed by a forgettable vehicle destined to toil forever in rental and government fleets, now looks…badass. Like, damn. This new Taurus is like that girl you knew growing up who was really plain looking, then she shows up to your 10 year reunion and she’s a bombshell. It’s been Sandra Bullock-ified. Unfortunately, like that now-gorgeous chick, the new Taurus clearly knows it’s hot shit. How else to explain this once-average, affordable car is now being marketed to the “premium luxury” segment? The cheapest model starts at $25,995, while the Limited begins moving at $31,995. For a Ford Taurus. Wow.
2010 Fisker Karma Hybrid: Now, you’re probably wondering, “Who the hell is Fisker, and why should I give a crap?” Well, drop those trousers, you negative jerk, because you’re gonna want to give a deuce about this car. Fisker, a new company, wants to make luxury cars for the eco-conscientious rich guy. And if this Karma pulls off what it promises, it’ll be the happiest day for Leonardo DiCaprio since James Cameron gave him that part. The Karma takes a page from the Volt’s playbook, drawing power from an electric motor until juice runs out – when a four-cylinder engine kicks in to recharge the battery and power the motor. The electric motor is said to make 201 horsepower; the 2.4 liter gas engine makes 260, but those never touch the ground, so it’s kind of irrelevant. Fisker says it’ll do the 0-60 in 5.8 seconds and max out at 125 mph, which is pretty sweet for a car you plug in at night. Of course, the best part is how it looks – it wouldn’t be hard to imagine this design as the next Maserati Quattroporte. It goes for $87,900, but Uncle Sam will toss you some of that back as tax credits – net cost is about $80,400.
2009 Mercedes-Benz McLaren SLR Sterling Moss: This car makes the list for simply being awesome – and showing incredible balls. The final 75 units of the SLR’s production run – a car widely panned by critics as being overly heavy and flawed for its $450,000 price tag – will all be Sterling Moss editions. It has no windshield. The engine is unchanged (not that a 5.4 liter supercharged V8 making 650 horses needed much changing). And it costs $1.04 million. Like I said, ballsy. But if you’re gonna name a car after a guy who once took a Mercedes 300SL over a bump at 170 mph and flew a hundred yards before landing it and driving several hundred more miles, it had better have balls.