While there had to be 500 cars on display at the 2004 NY Auto Show, only a few caught our eye. The trend seems to be adding in versatility along with fresh styling -- something we can all appreciate and use.
Volvo S40 and V50
Both the S40 (a sedan) and V50 (a wagon) felt like solid cars. So solid, in fact, they appeared to be stamped from a single block of metal. The S40 is aimed at the younger crowd looking for a more sophisticated car (that still maintains a lot of 'cool' appeal) while the V50 is aimed at those who have a little more to haul. Sitting in the driver's seat of the V50 felt snug but not tight. The car also offered a higher-than-usual seating height that felt like your head was going to hit the ceiling (but even our tall friends had no trouble). It does offer a better view of the road, however, so there is some concession for the seating height. Where we did have some trouble was the back seat -- it was tough getting in and out if the front seats were pushed back at all. "We aren't giants either," our friend Gian remarked. Once seated the rear seats are best for just two regardless of how many seatbelts are included. The only other issue might be a smaller-than-expected opening by the wagon's rear door. It's not tiny, but the overall shape of the car suggests a larger opening should be included. Here's the site (really just a big ad, but lots pretty pics) for the 2004 Volvo S40 and the site for the 2004 Volvo V50. Oh, check out the awesome HVAC panel on this car -- very nicely designed.
Years ago, our web peon owned a 1986 Mazda 626 and found it be a reliable 4-door sedan. But that was it. It certainly didn't qualify as exciting (by any definition). As the Mazda 626 aged, it changed.
Like most middle-aged products, it became bloated and even more uninteresting. It got so bad that Mazda stopped making the 626 altogether (whereas the Accord and Camry are still going strong). The 626 has turned into the 6 (as in Mazda6) and comes in three totally distinct flavors: sedan, hatch and wagon. Oh, they've gussied up the names some so "hatchback" doesn't appear anywhere (now it's called a 5-door) and the wagon is Sport Wagon; but their purpose remains the same. The amount of cargo the 5-door model will hold is impressive so it's now worthy of your consideration when considering a Camry and Accord. So, three cheers for Mazda to have the guts to make their new Mazda6 fit our lifestyle instead of some marketers idea of one.
Like the Mazda6 mentioned above, the new Chevy Malibu comes in different flavors, a sedan and a hatchback (the Maxx in Malibu Maxx). What's impressive about the Maxx is it's got a lot of room and a reasonable price. If you want an American car (what that even means anymore is another article) the Malibu Maxx is worth checking out. We've mentioned the 2004 Malibu Maxx before so we won't drone on -- but's a concept Chevy should expand upon.
The 2005 Chrysler 300 is another car we've covered positively in the past. It felt like a very complete car and is worthy of your consideration if you need a full-size sedan. In its price range ($23k-$33k) nothing comes close to it. And its in-your-face-styling is not only reminiscent of the new Rolls-Royce it's also a refreshing change of pace. In fact, the design philosophy is almost a polar opposite of a company we hold in the highest regard: Honda. Honda design philosophy is to constantly refine a product to perfection. Here the new Chrysler 300 is a total departure from last year's model in everyway: totally new shape, bigger engine and now rear-wheel-drive. We hope this opposite approach works for Chrysler.
BMW 6 Series
We've always thought the 6 Series has been the looker of the whole BMW collection. When it was discontinued in 1989 we fell into a deep depression that was only resuscitated by (yet more) alcohol. Enter the new BMW 6 Series. Now we have not only a beautiful coupe to lust over, there's also a 6-series convertible. Be still our hearts!