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My Completely Arbitrary Highlights of the 2010 Detroit Auto Show

January 11, 2010

The 500-pound gorilla of auto shows, the 2010 Detroit Auto Show, is unfolding this week in Denver Detroit, and with it a lot of interesting metal is getting the old dog and pony.

To copy and paste from my post on last year’s Frankfurt show, I’m not about to cover everything, but I wanted to highlight a few of the new rides that grabbed my attention. If you want full coverage of every ugly-ass supercar mod job and retarded city car concept, be my guest. But this is my blog, and hence, my list.

The Buick I Don’t Hate

I hate Buicks as a general rule. The brand has always seemed to represent the worst of what General Motors has become. Its cars have been bland, flabby, completely and totally uninspired. The automotive equivalent of a yawn. Yeah, Buick has been trying hard to shed its oppressive blandness in recent years, and the Enclave and the new Lacrosse are certainly steps in the right direction, but they’re still tuned for people who don’t particularly like to drive. The Regal is different. Good looking in an understated way that reminds me of Acura before it tried to go all avant garde, the Regal is based on the Opel Insignia. That means crisp, European handling and, in the case of the Regal GS being shown off at Detroit, two turbocharged liters of get up and go.

Buick Regal GS

The Chris Gaines Award

Remember back when Garth Brooks tried to adopt that grunge rocker persona and everyone laughed at him? That’s how I feel about the GMC Granite. GMC is supposed to make trucks and, at a stretch, SUVs. But trying to take on the Scion xB, Kia Soul, and Nissan Cube? No.

GMC Granite

Once, Twice, Three Times a FAIL

It’s been a rough year or so for Honda. First it was the Insight, which turned out to be little more than a pale (and crappy) imitation of the Prius. Then it was the hideous Accord Crosstour that no one asked for, which they debuted on Facebook to pretty much complete hatred. Now it’s the eagerly awaited “sport hybrid”, the Honda CR-Z, which was supposed to recapture the barebones tossable awesomeness of the old CRX. And I’ll admit, it has the looks going for it, but it’s also only good for 122 horsepower and a combined fuel economy of 33 MPG. Huh? Plenty of traditionally powered cars this size pull down better fuel economy, and with more power. Isn’t the point of a hybrid to save gas?

Honda CR-Z

The Cadillac of Cadillacs

I’m typically tepid on coupes. Especially coupes made out of sedans. That said, this Cadillac CTS-V Coupe is one mean-looking mofo. Not something I’d ever buy (now a CTS-V Sportwagon…), but I have to admit I like what Caddy’s managed to pull off here.

Cadillac CTS-V Coupe

Awesomely Retarded

I’ve already written about the Mini Beachcomber, but to recap, it’s a thinly disguised look at the forthcoming Mini crossover. I like this concept a lot better than the earlier design concept Mini trotted out, and have to give it credit for piquing my interest in a car I’d pretty much written off. Bonus points for the completely random wannabe-dunebuggy design.

Mini Beachcomber Concept

Volkswagen Hates America

A couple years back, Volkswagen launched the Scirocco, an aggressively styled coupe based off the good old Golf/Jetta platform that seems to spawn half their models. Then they didn’t bring it to America. Despite the clamor of enthusiasts and the strong reception to the car over in Europe. Then word of a new coupe destined for the U.S. leaked out, and people got excited. And then the imaginatively titled New Coupe Concept showed its face. It’s a hybrid. It does hybrid things like pulling down awesome fuel economy (you here that, Honda CR-Z?). And it’s not ugly. But it’s no Scirocco.

Volkswagen New Coupe Concept

Volkswagen Scirocco R - aka "What Could Have Been"

Most Improved Player

The Ford Focus is one of the great automotive tragedies. Back in 1999 or so, Ford launched the Focus as a global car, and for a time the US and Europe shared the same model, which handled well and looked decent. Then the US model started suffering quality problems. Then, in 2004, Ford Europe launched  a second-gen Focus on a new platform. It was phenomenal, and drew rave reviews. We got a few of its platform siblings over here – notably the superb Mazda3, but we limped along with the old first-gen Focus. In fact, WE STILL ARE. That warmed over crapbox roaming the streets is still driving on a platform launched during the Clinton administration.

But today, that begins to change. Today, Ford unveiled the third-generation Focus, which builds on the awesomeness of the Euro Focus we never got. As with most of Ford’s recent launches, the design is striking, both inside and out. But the fun doesn’t stop there. This puppy is launching with a brand new, state of the art 2.0-liter direct injection engine and your choice of a six-speed manual or a six-speed dual clutch transmission similar to the Volkswagen DSG. In other words, an automated manual that doesn’t have to deal with all the clunky crap like torque converters and planetary gears most automatics are saddled with. Then there’s the Sync 2.0 system, or MyFord Touch, which is leaps and bounds ahead of any infotainment setup currently available.  With this car, Ford has reached a summit they’ve been building to for a few years, but that I wasn’t honestly sure they’d attain. They’ve built a car I want. And that’s the highest praise I can give.

2011 Ford Focus

2011 Ford Focus Interior

2011 Ford Focus Sedan

When I Think About You I Touch MyLincoln Touch

Ford is just all over this year’s show. In addition to unveiling the new Focus, they swept the North American Car of the Year and Truck of the Year awards, with the Fusion Hybrid and Transit Connect, respectively, and now they’ve gone and pulled the curtain back on the refreshed Lincoln MKX. Now, I’m definitely not Lincoln’s target market. And truth be told, I don’t really care too much about the MKX (though I do think the new nose is an improvement). But the luxo-crossover’s redesigned interior is significant enough that it warrants mention. See, in addition to being the first vehicle to carry the new MyFord Touch system (called the MyLincoln Touch because, well, obvious), the new MKX takes a radical approach to your typical center stack buttons and knobs. It gets rid of them, and replaces them with touch-sensitive sliders.

Now, a part of me kind of hesitates at all this technology. It’s a holdover from my offroading days, where anything electronic was usually more trouble than it was worth. And to some extent, I still appreciate the simplicity of a car that can be fixed with a socket, a hammer, and a roll of duct tape. But I’m a gadget nerd, too, and from that side I’m in love with the Star Trek-ery going on here. Touch-sensitive climate sliders that light up as your finger passes across? Full of win.

2011 Lincoln MKX interior

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