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2009 New York International Auto Show – Day Two Unfiltered

Welcome back to day two of our fresh, seat-of-the-pants coverage of the New York Auto Show. Without further ado:

Mitsubishi, 9:40 a.m.: The i-MIEV electric kei-car is inching closer to production. Come on – I saw this last year. But they’ve got range estimates now! 75-100 miles on a single charge, and only 12-14 hours to charge from a 110 volt outlet! Well, the thing’s basically a Matchbox car. How many AAs does it take to run the thing? Couldn’t you just swap them out like I do with my mouse?

It's actually tofu flavored.

It's actually tofu flavored.

It’s always amusing to watch the American presenters follow the foreign ones – especially when they’re forced to awkwardly thank them by tripping over the alien language. But when the foreigners do it, it’s endearing. So I guess that’s how it comes off to them.

The spokesperson says Mitsubishi isn’t going to try to be everything to everyone anymore. Well, I’m sure Porsche and Ferrari are relieved they don’t have to sweat that any longer.

The Lancer Sportback is for people with “active lifestyles.” Well, remember folks – Genghis Khan had an active, outdoor lifestyle.

And the sheet comes off the new Outlander SUV concept. Meh. Plain vanilla. (Seriously, couldn’t they have painted it something more exciting than white?)

Subaru, 10:10 a.m.: Note to Subaru – when you’re going to unveil a new model for the first time, as you’re planning with the Legacy today, don’t  leave one of them sitting right next to the throng of journalists. Even if it’s cut up so you can see inside, half the sheetmetal’s still enough to ruin the surprise.

Couldn't you have thrown a sheet over it, or something?

Couldn't you have thrown a sheet over it, or something?

Another fancy countdown…how about you just start the damn thing sixty seconds earlier and save the money!

Subie sales were UP in 2008? Significantly? And they’re up so far in ’09? Shit, they need to make this the cornerstone of their marketing campaign or something. “Subaru: The Official Car of the Great Recession.” Wait…maybe not.

Wow, the teleprompter actually says “(smile)” for the presenter’s benefit. I’m sure he appreciates that. Just put marionette strings on him, already.

The 2010 Legacy gets three engines: a 170-hp four, a 265-hp turbo four, and a 256-hp six. Um…may I ask why you need all three of them? Second note, Subaru – if your six-cylinder engine makes fewer horsepower than your four-cylinder, don’t offer the damn six cylinder.

And here it is! Not bad, not bad. Kind of looks like an Infiniti G37, but you could do worse. back end’s a little frumpy – I kinda hoped for something sportier.

One...

One...

...or two?

...or two?

Wait, there’s a surprise for us? It’s the equally new 2010 Outback! All of New England just burst into cheers! But not until we get a slideshow of the Outback’s history.

YES! SHOWING PAUL HOGAN SOME LOVE! But calling him “some Australian guy…” Come on. Not only did he make you in America…he’s Crocodile Dundee. He’s like Steve Irwin’s superbadass alter ego.

Maybe I’m just sappy, but the promo video featuring a happy couple exploring and adventuring through green meadows and across mountains actually made me want to buy an Outback. I’d buy into that fantasy.

Wow! It looks really different from the Legacy. But it looks good…even though it looks a lot taller – almost like an SUV now – it works for it.

Come on, throw Paul Hogan a bone and rehire him. God knows he's not doing anything else.

Come on, throw Paul Hogan a bone and rehire him. God knows he's not doing anything else.

Kia, 10:40 a.m.: VP Michael Sprague walks on stage, not to generic music, but to the hook from “Get On Your Boots.” They cut out before Bono started singing, so I’m happy. (Seriously, sexy boots? Why am I listening to a 48-year-old man singing about sexy boots?)

Kia had a party last night? Why don’t I ever hear about the goddamn parties?!?

Kia’s plan is to become a “world-class U.S. manufacturer,” and they’re opening a new plant in Georgia. You know things are bad when G.M. is shutting American plants while Kia is opening them.

They think we car journalists are asking, “Where do [new Kia designs] come from? What inspires them?” Dude, we’re asking two questions these days: “How fucked are you?” and “Is this an open bar?”

Oh, I get it now. They’re sticking the designers who penned the cars on the stage into those egg-shaped seats from Men In Black and telling us they’re mind-reading chairs that will show us what they’re thinking on the screen. Actual humor? Wow, this is refreshing.

Even though you have to be 18 to enter the press days, these guys keep their thoughts strictly PG. Not even some side-boob.

Even though you have to be 18 to enter the press days, these guys keep their thoughts strictly PG. Not even some side-boob.

Apparently, the Kia Soul is inspired by a boar wearing a backpack. I couldn’t make that up if I tried.

The new Forte sedan is supposed to attract “younger buyers” – which apparently means Miley Cyrus, according to the designer’s “brain imagery.” Yeah, because 12-year-olds really buy cars…

I’m sorry? Miley Cyrus fans are old enough now to drive? And some to vote? I’m officially old. And quickly growing crotchety.

Off goes the cover over the Forte coupe…and it looks good! Like a Civic. I mean, really like a Civic.

Wait, they’re spelling it “Koup?” Are they “krazie?” “Koup” sounds like some generic microwaveable ramen.

Even "Kia Forte Sexy Boots" would have been better.

Even "Kia Forte Sexy Boots" would have been better.

But you can get it with a 173 horsepower four attached to a six-speed stick that gets 22/32 mpg, and comes with standard six-speaker stereo and bluetooth. Guess most people will just chip off that “Koup” lettering.

Mazda, 11:15 a.m.: Looks like they’re just announcing some mild updates to the CX-7 and CX-9 SUVs. Screw it – I’m gonna walk around.

Wow, this Volvo XC60 is actually really nice. Roomy, seats five easily, extremely safe…do they really need the big old XC90 anymore?

The Lincoln MKT – their version of the Ford Flex – looks just as good as the Flex. Maybe better. The Flex is a bit too blocky for me. But Lord, this thing is long.

But it has an incredibly kickass stereo. THX custom-made it for the MKT, and…shit. It’s better than most home theatre setups I’ve heard. I might buy this car just for the stereo.

TURN IT UP! TURN IT UP!

TURN IT UP! TURN IT UP!

Oh, shit – time for-

Honda, 11:45 a.m.: Just one model on the stage – the Element. It says it’s a concept, but it looks just like any other Element. But there’s a giant sign that says “Dog Friendly” above the car, and fifteen-foot high paws made of LEDs beside it. Is this really…

Next year: the first car for LOLCat lovers.

Next year: the first car for LOLCat lovers.

…yes, they’ve made a car optimized for dogs. With a special pet bed strapped in back, a doggie ramp that extends from the tailgate, machine washable rear seat covers, a spill-resistant water bowl, and a fan in back for the dog. It even comes with an Element collar and leash. And it goes on sale this fall.

I love you, Honda.

And holy shit, is that…yes, they actually brought an adorable dog to show it off. And his owner’s from the Humane Society. Not his handler – his actual owner. Well played, Honda, well played. The one surefire way to crack cynical journalists? Dogs.

In Honda's defense, he likes sitting like that.

In Honda's defense, he likes sitting like that.

Lunchtime, 12:00 p.m.: Trying out a couple Bentleys. First up, the Continental GTC convertible. Very comfy. Stereo’s not as good as the Lincoln (and I never thought I’d say that). Good car to drive across the country in. I probably wouldn’t buy it, though – not really sporty enough for me.

So over to the new Supersports.

Holy shit, manual seat controls?!? This would be odd on a car that cost $27,000 – but this Bentley costs ten times that. I love it.

Bucket seats are hard and grabby, too, like your perverted uncle. Thankfully, these are a little easier to live with. But I still wouldn’t want to drive more than fifty miles in them. Or so it seems now – extended real-world testing will be needed to learn more. How about it, Bentley?

There’s suede everywhere. Not that Alcantara microsuede shit – real suede, the kind you gotta take to the dry cleaners if it gets wet. Putting it on the steering wheel seems like the sort of thing someone would do if they had the money to launder their steering wheel every time their hands get wet. Gotta love it.

Hyundai, 12:35 p.m.: Oh, Hyundai’s donated over $12 million towards fighting children’s cancer. That’s nice. Bet those other automakers are kicking themselves for not mentioning their charitable works at the top of their press conferences.

Today’s concept is called the HCD-11 Nuvis. Sounds like a gun from Starship Troopers.

Apparently it’s a hybrid powered by lithium polymer batteries, which they claim are more easily sculpted and safer than lithium-ion ones. Of course, it’s a concept car, so they could claim it’s powered by distilled gall stones or pure faith if they wanted.

Goddamn it, Hyundai, stop flashing blue rack lights in my eyes! I’m trying to watch your stupid movie!

It’s obviously a concept car, but it looks pretty good. Those gullwing doors are huge, though. The purpose of gullwings is not to create enough lift to allow flight, guys!

Cacaw!

Cacaw!

Ah, apparently there’s an “information river” that flows through the car. Can we dam that up instead? Hell, maybe stick a generator in the dam and power the car that way.

They say the styling is “a hint and a wink” towards the next Santa Fe, which is about two years away. I feel like I might be pleasantly surprised.

Spyker, 1:05 p.m.: There’s only about thirty people here. Poor little Spyker. Went to all the trouble of building an all-new supercar, and nobody cares enough to show up.

The C8 Aileron, as it’s called, runs a 400-hp Audi V8, does 0-60 in 4.5 seconds, and costs $209,990. Sorry, guys, that’s not gonna cut it. Not when BMW’s giving us an SUV that’ll keep even with you in the sprint onto the interstate for less than half the price.

But the X6M wishes it could look like this, I bet.

You will never, ever see one of these again.

You will never, ever see one of these again.

And apparently, they haven’t been hit by the recession at all! Well, that’ll probably happen when you sell five cars a year. There will always be five rich car guys.

Wandering, 1:40 p.m.: Things are winding down fast here. Time for a last sweep of the floor to see if there’s anything else worth checking out.

The Nissan GT-R? This thing could double as a Rebel Alliance fighter. X-wing, Y-wing, R-wing. Or at the very least, a landspeeder to bulls-eye whomp rats with.

According to Top Gear, it also does the Kessel Run in eleven parsecs, but everyone knows they fudged their data.

According to Top Gear, it also does the Kessel Run in eleven parsecs, but everyone knows they fudged their data.

And you practically need R2-D2 to help with the electronics. There are switches for everything in here. Pilots ought to feel right at home. Kinda cheap inside, for $72 grand or so – then again, for what it does, it’s a bargain.

The new Camaro, though, is definitely chintzier than I expected. The door slams with a hollow vibration, and the interior plastics are much harder than anyone with feeling in their fingertips would like. The controls look great, just like everything else in the car – but function’s definitely riding pillion to form here, because a lot of the switches and gauges are downright awkward to use. Damn. I had such high hopes.

With all the hard plastic and nice looks, I could go for the fake boob joke here. But I won't, because I have standards.

With all the hard plastic and nice looks, I could go for the fake boob joke here. But I won't, because I have standards.

Same goes for the new Shelby GT500 Mustang. I’d heard the new Mustangs had made leaps and bounds in terms of interior quality, but this one didn’t seem much better then the ones I’ve tried before. And this is the top-level model. It looks like a million bucks outside…but the interior in a $15,000 Honda Fit is more pleasing.

Even the new Ford Taurus SHO suffers from chintzitis. Admittedly, the interior of this one looked like it’d logged a few hard months on the car show circuit – paint peeling, colors fading, etc. Not a good sign for how it might hold up in the real world. Then again, I think both these Fords were preproduction models, so hopefully they’ll ratchet things up a notch in the production cars.

Wandering around downstairs is always creepy. There are whole sections down there where no one ever seems to go. This is usually where the big guys hide their trucks for New York. Being underground in a silent concrete bunker, alone with a bunch of trucks that don’t move? It’s like being in some Detroit bomb shelter circa 1998 nuclear attack. “Quick, save the trucks! They’ll always be profitable!”

But they usually shove a few esoteric nutter butters back here, which is worth checking out. EV Innovations? Oh, they make their own electric cars. And they convert other cars to electric, too! Hey, know what would make a Toyota Yaris great? If it cost three times as much and needed half a day to refuel!

Ooh, Confederate motorcycles. I want to make a Yankee joke, but I can’t – they’re just too cool. One of them appears to literally be an engine and wheels connected by welded steel pipe. This must be who Bruce Wayne farms out the Bat-Pod contracts to.

Imagine if there was a Confederate Batman, and he fought the regular, U.S. Batman? That would be awesome.

Imagine if there was a Confederate Batman, and he fought the regular, U.S. Batman? That would be awesome.

Finally, heading out, it’s probably worth checking out the last press conference, if just for a second…

New Jersey Motorsports Park, 2:20 p.m.: Not a single journalist appears to have come. They even set up seats, and…nobody came. I feel sorry for a moment, and think about staying just out of pity…but it’s just too weird.

You can end with this, because I certainly did.

You can end with this, because I certainly did.

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2009 Detroit Auto Show Review

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.

volkswagen_bluesport_concept_image_013 volkswagen_bluesport_concept_image_001

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_chevrolet_spark_images_1

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.

2010_lexus_hs_250_h_image_002 

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?”

2009 Cadillac Converj Concept Computer Generated Image

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.

lincoln_c_concept_image_005

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 Honda Insight EX

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_ford_taurus_main

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. 

2010_fisker_karma_image_008

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.

mercedes_benz_mclaren_slr_stirling_moss_image001

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