05 January 2009

San Diego Auto Show

Here is a post of a whopping 50 photos from San Diego Auto Show.

I wasn't able to attend the Los Angeles show due to my absence. Sure, I was in Seoul, and there was an auto show there back in September, but I wasn't really looking forward to buying a car back then (besides, I wasn't too interested in Korean market only vehicles), so I skipped both shows. I came to this show after the fact (in my Gwaneum One, in fact), but I had to come, just to see what the marketplace is like, and how Gwaneum One stacks up against the field.

This was also another way to test my new Canon. I took ALL of these photos with the flash off; I am getting superb quality, even without a tripod.

I'm starting at the Dodge display, looking at this SRT version of the Caliber. SRT or not, the Caliber is a piece of scrap metal, built for fleet fuel efficiency average rather than any serious attempt at the small car market.

Surprisingly, I did see a fair number of Calibers during my South Korean stint. Some were serving the US Army, but others were driven by South Korea's Republican colonial government supporters, who think buying a crappy American compact is another way they can show appreciation to their colonial masters at the GOP.

Apparently, Chevrolet is trying to bring the Camaro back. Given that Ford has insisted on the Mustang with success, and that Dodge is phasing in the retro-styled Challenger, it's about time.

A different kind of Chevy: the Malibu Hybrid. It's only a mild hybrid which requires the engine to run at all times, so it is not as efficient as the Japanese competition. But glad to know that the domestics are now in the hybrid game, with entries that do stand a chance.

The X6 is proof that BMW's talk about being a company of no compromises is complete BS at best. The X6 makes major concessions in hauling capacity, handling, and practicality, just so that it could look stylish. Never mind its sky-high price and pathetic fuel economy. Even within the BMW lineup, the X5 is a much better alternative.

For that matter, all cars, BMW or otherwise, are compromises. BMWs must compromise on hauling capacity and ride quality so that they can deliver their world-famous handling.

Just about the only thing BMW won't compromise on is its dedication to reactionary politics. I'll make sure that BMW will pay a dear price for that stance. There are people in my social circles who currently drive BMWs on a temporary basis, and after hearing my story, will make sure to get another make - BMWs were turning out to be too cramped and firm for them anyway. I have already cost BMW about a dozen sales or so, and I look forward to having hundreds and thousands of future BMW sales evaporate as well.

Here is a nice entry from Toyota, if a bit pricey. This is the new Venza crossover SUV, based on the Camry and built in Kentucky. It's a more stylish alternative to the Highlander, which is otherwise identical.

A much cheaper Toyota, straight from Japan: the 5-door Yaris, for $14,000. Canada and Europe could get this car for years, and finally the US gets its chance.

This is my kind of car - though I'd rather buy from a different Japanese manufacturer.

This Ford Fusion shows the 2010 model year facelift. This is the Sport trim. There will also be a hybrid version.

I rented a brand-new 2008 Fusion V6 in Indy last April, and was pleased with it, though I hated its ergonomics. Apparently, ergonomic flaws are fixed for 2010. In any case, it is a vastly superior car to my former ride, the Contour, and now I am willing to consider Fords again.

Here's something I used to see in Europe: Ford Transit Connection delivery van. It looks like Ford wants to start selling these in the US too.

The 2010 Ford Mustang is also getting a facelift and some improvements.

Here is a very nice Hyundai. It's the 2010 Genesis Coupe, which shares the Genesis Sedan's rear wheel drive design but is otherwise a completely different car. I saw a few of these on the road back in South Korea.

Here is the Hyundai Elantra Touring, which takes the i30, the European hatchback version of the Elantra, and slightly lengthens it into a wagon form. This might be a car that I could need in the future.

Still at the Hyundai display. This is the basic Genesis, in red, with no optional equipment.

There are a number of red Genesises out there in the lower trims, but none with the Technology Package. I had to take a silver one as a result, but after the bumper scratch in Vegas, I am glad that I got the silver.

This is the interior of the basic Genesis. The parking sensor and Xenon headlight switches are replaced with blanks, and a standard pushbutton stereo replaces the navigation system. There is no Driver Information System knob. Also, the dash trim is all fake wood, instead of the leather used in Gwaneum One.

Yes, compared to Gwaneum One, this car certainly looks downmarket. But compared to anything else out there, it still looks great!

Here is another Genesis. Like Gwaneum One, it's silver. But the badging identifies it as the 4.6 - the V8 model that is exclusive to North America.

For the price of Gwaneum One, I can buy four of these. Hyundai started in the US with the $5,000 Excel, and even today, the Accent remains the cheapest car available, with a price tag just under $10,000.

The Sonata Limited. This example has the 2.4L engine. Now, all US-market Sonatas are built in Alabama.

And yes, those red blinkers clearly identify the car as a US model. I personally hate them. With red blinkers, turning on emergency flashers can look like stepping on the brake. These days, whenever I see traffic jams ahead, I always brake while turning on the emergency flashers - a practice that I had learned during my South Korean road trip, where everyone makes the same signal. For that, I must have amber turn signals - something taken for granted on the Korean highways, but becoming increasingly rare in the US.

The Sonata Limited can now be had with navigation. The interior is a significant improvement over that of Gwaneum Zero, which was a 2006 South Korean domestic market Sonata.

This is a black Genesis with Technology Package; aside from the color, it's identical to Gwaneum One. The Lexicon stereo is busy blaring out Amy Grant's version of "Big Yellow Taxi."

I made sure to talk about replacing a BMW 3-series with Gwaneum One, with other visitors checking out the Genesis. And when a few Hyundai representatives approached me, I made sure to share the story of Gwaneum One - and Gwaneum Zero - with them too; they thanked me, and gave me a Hyundai car wash kit as a sign of appreciation. It's not much, but it makes me feel better. Beats the BMW cockiness (and reactionary politics) any day!

For the first time in a long time, Volkswagen is selling a minivan.

The Routan, however, is a clone of the Chrysler minivan, rather than a descendant of the Microbus.

Here is a new Volkswagen sedan - the CC. It is a Passat with sleeker styling and higher price tag. For over $28K, I still don't get V6 power.

One thing I hate about modern Volkswagens (and many other European cars) is that my old-fashioned national origin preferences can simply no longer be met. Many Volkswagens are Latin American rather than German, using parts from all over the world. And while the CC is from Germany, its parts may as well be from elsewhere in Europe, including the cheaper Eastern Bloc nations.

A pair of New Beetles. They are not so new anymore, as they've been on the market for 11 years now. I still feel like driving around in a brightly colored New Beetle while dressed in a matching colored Ally McLesbian miniskirt suit; people constantly accuse me of having a fetish!

Here is one car that can never go wrong. It's the Honda Civic Hybrid - the choice of Karen Bradley of Democracy Cell Project, Gayle Brandeis of CODEPINK, and even the organizer of my favorite transgender lesbian nightclub.

However, for me, a Civic Hybrid would've been a "me-too" choice. When it's time to replace my aging Accord (which won't be anytime soon), I'll consider the Civic Hybrid. But I had to replace my BMW with something that had luxury and presence, and that could also make a personal statement about my Asian trip/meditation, and the only car that could do it for me was the Hyundai Genesis.

The Smart has been in the market for a decade now, and thanks to the recently sky-high gas prices, they are now available in the US as well. I think it's still illegal in the US to park a Smart perpendicularly in a parallel-parking space, however, taking away one major benefit of having a Smart.

This Kia Borrego is a fuel cell-powered prototype.

At the San Diego Auto Show, many "green" vehicles are displayed in a common area separately from their manufacturers' main displays.

The Borrego is a very nice SUV, but as it is a heavy truck-framed vehicle with a thirsty optional V8 (the same one powering the Hyundai Genesis 4.6), nobody seems to want it.

This Hyundai iMode prototype also is fuel cell powered.

Here is a Hyundai that I could be driving before I know it. The 2011 Sonata will offer a hybrid powertrain option, using the existing 2.4L Theta engine for gasoline power and adding electric powertrain and a next-generation battery pack. I do want a midsize hybrid, rather than a Prius or a Civic, given the kinds of driving I do for work, even though I'll have to take some hit in fuel economy.

In any case, having a Hyundai in my garage is something that was unthinkable until a few months ago. And now, I'm talking about having two Hyundais. As long as Hyundai doesn't offend me BMW-style, and as long as Gwaneum One proves to be better than a $40K Excel, I may indeed end up buying many Hyundais to come.

And all the great stuff that Hyundai has done recently is also benefiting its subsidiary Kia.

And yes, the Kia Soul is now available in the US! Some of the low-tech features, including the 4-speed automatic, did make it into the US version, so I am not too pleased.

I love minivans. And the Kia Sedona is a great minivan at a great price.

If I ever decide that I want to drive a sporty, firm German compact luxury sedan again, this Audi A4 may be the key. It has a 4-cylinder turbocharged engine and a great interior.

And here is my first US look at the Audi R8 supercar.

Lincoln's new MKS. It does get some nice options like all-wheel-drive. But I do consider my Gwaneum One to be a far superior vehicle.

Ford seriously needs to revive Lincoln the way GM sort of revived Cadillac.

Lexus GS350. It offers everything that Gwaneum One offers, with the added benefit of the Lexus reputation and dealer service. However, I must cough up at least $52,000. I'd rather drive Gwaneum One and keep the change.

This is Lexus's version of the Toyota Venza. This will be the next Lexus RX. This particular example is designated as the RX450h, denoting hybrid powertrain.

If I want a luxury convertible that actually offers room for four, the choices are not great. The most common (and most competent) choice has been the BMW 3-series, but now that's out of the question for me. This Lexus IS250 will be an alternative, even though I still hate Toyota.

The Mercedes-Benz C350. It's stodgy rather than sexy. And the Mercedes lineup is now plagued with reliability problems. But I still would love to drive one - a competent German sports sedan with a name that still conjures up an image of engineering excellence and precision.

The no-nonsense Honda Accord. This is a 4-cylinder EX built in Ohio. Pricing is about $23K - very reasonable.

A normal 4-cylinder Accord is a great choice, but I'd rather get one in a hybrid form. Honda has discontinued the Accord Hybrid, however, as it had been a power-oriented V6 model with mediocre fuel economy.

This is a very expensive minivan, at $41K. But the Honda Odyssey Touring is as good as a minivan gets.

The Cadillac CTS. Great car at a reasonable price. I hate the styling, however. And I also hate the fact that GM continues to crank out some really miserable pieces of scrap metal right alongside this CTS.

Here's another European car that I can buy in the US. The Opel Astra is now available in the US, as a Saturn. I don't know, however, if it makes sense to blow $22K on a tiny economy car that has only a 4-speed automatic.

The Pontiac G8, actually a Holden model built in Australia, is supposed to be Gwaneum One's main competition. But Gwaneum One is vastly more refined.

The G8 may be available as this pickup truck version soon. Vehicles like this, including the Chevy El Camino and the Ford Ranchero, used to be very common, but now they're forgotten.

This is the newest Nissan Maxima, offering a lot for $31K. Maximas are nice, but I hate the styling on this one.

Nissan also wants to compete against the boxy Scions with this boxy car of its own. It's called the Cube. I saw a number of Cubes during my South Korean stint; Nissan had just set up shop in South Korea during my stay.

The fabled Nissan GTR. No price tag, though I am pretty sure it's very pricey.

The Nissan Z-car is now the 370Z, redesigned.

Here is another Nissan product. This Infiniti G37 convertible may be the ticket to open-air driving for me. After all, I don't want to drive the BMW 3-series ever again, and driving a Lexus IS isn't all that appetizing either.

For under $20K, I can get this Subaru Impreza, complete with all wheel drive, automatic (though only 4-speed), and a number of standard features. Subaru's "fagalicious" reputation doesn't hurt either.

Let's see... $37K for a Japanese econobox that gets SUV fuel economy and offers a punishing ride.

Sure, it's the highly acclaimed Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution. It's a great performance car that many car buffs drool over. But no thanks for me.

The Chrysler 300C is also considered to be a main competitor to the Hyundai Genesis. But again, in terms of technology and refinement, there is no comparison.

The black example is the high-performance version that costs $47K, including $1,700 gas guzzler tax. At least its transmission is 5-speed rather than the standard 4-speed.

Great retro styling on the Dodge Challengers here - but again, that's all I like about them.

All in all, I am very impressed with the various vehicles available, even some of the domestics. However, I am more convinced than ever that the best vehicle for 2009 sits right in my garage.