Like last year, we studied as many cars as we could. Not all the booths were finished while we were there... and it was dark... and the security guard asked us why we were there in the middle of the night. And why we had a Victoria's Secret catalog with us... but, dammit, we did it for you folks.
New: Lucerne sedan
The Lucerne is decent. We can't totally criticize the thing because it's supposed to be a big car and it does that very well. It gives the Toyota Avalon a decent run for its money, but we'd bet more people will buy the Avalon or maybe even the Azera over the Lucerne. Buick had the Enclave concept, a crossover, on display. It looked great. Lots of wood, leather, DVD screens. It's a shame the Enclave isn't for sale today. We think it would beat up on the RX 330 or 350 or however big the V-6 from Lexus currently is.
New: Nothing. Well, the 2007 Cadillac Escalade is all new, but since we're a car site, we'll let our sister site, Dumbass SUVs! Dumbass SUVs! Dumbass SUVs! cover that.
We spent a long time in every Cadillac (excluding the XLR). We took our notes about the Cadillac line while sitting in the spacious back seat of the DTS and, for the life of us, we can't figure out why anyone would buy a Cadillac. We acknowledge our schizophrenic opinion on Cadillac, and we're not sure how to rationalize it. We admire Cadillac's work to not only come from behind but pull way ahead of Lincoln. We admire the bold styling design Cadillac has put into every car they're making. They've done a good job of focusing on a project, and executing on that project and prevailing. We just don't like the things. For example, Cadillac compared the DTS to the Lexus LS430, which we think is nearly laughable because the LS430 is so insanely refined that the Lexus is in a different league. The Lexus is also a lot more expensive, so we're not sure why Cadillac was comparing themselves to Lexus other than to be associated with Lexus. Anyway, the two things that stood out to us were the 4-speed automatic (how old school) and the shifter on the column (how quaint).
We like the Dodges. We know they pretty much go against what we stand for, but, they're like our taste in women: They're fast and they use a lot of gas. Uh, we don't know what that means. Anyway, we can't stop wanting a Charger. With the Hemi—the whole works. Even the SRT-8 package. But $43k for that? Yikes! It's still cool. New for this show was the Dodge Caliber, a small wagon. It felt pretty cheap to us, but at $15k, maybe we were setting our expectations too high. The seats didn't feel very comfortable, either. Our main concern was that the subcompacts from the big three Japanese makers felt better put together.
New: Edge crossover
The Edge will be a 2007 model. While it's true Ford has the Freestyle crossover, Ford decided to make another one, but just a bit smaller. The Edge has a lot of plusses: better power, better looks... that's it. Is it enough? We spent a lot of time in the Edge and, honestly, we liked looking at it better than being in it. Ford nailed the exterior design, but they must have run out of money when it came time to work on the interior. The interior will be (has to be) the focus of the next redesign. It's quite poor. And while we're generally pretty positive about the Fusion, we kept hitting our head getting into the back seat. That was a bit of a drag. We sat in all of the Fords on display and felt that Ford's interior quality still hasn't matched its Japanese rivals'.
New: Fit subcompact sedan, Civic sedan/coupe
We've gone on and on about the new Civic so we won't go any further other than to say, if you've got $16—20k, look at the Civic. It's sweet. But all new is the Fit. It's a small dealie and it's wonderful. Smaller than most other cars, the Fit holds quite a bit. It feels as well put together as any Honda, yet costs $13k. It's important to keep in mind that the subcompact segment is the next craze (we think), and this is an important car for Honda. We think it's spot on as a potential first car.
New: Azera sedan
Unfortunately, the Hyundai booth wasn't set up for us to get a close look at the new Hyundai Azera. The Azera is set to go head-to-head with the bigger cars: Avalon, Five Hundred/Montego, and Lucerne. The Azera is bigger than it looks. We don't have a lot to say about the Azera since we didn't get to do any hands-on looking, but we've read good things about it.
New: G sedan
Ah, the G. Once the swan, now sorta the ugly duckling. But it's all new and it's pretty sweet. In fairness to the new G, we will leave the reviews to the other sites who had better access to the new car. We do wonder what's up with the Q. Way to let the thing wither and die, Infiniti. Hope you figure out what to do. The Lexus LS series has pummeled it badly.
Here's another division Ford is clearly trying to kill. We took one look at the satellite navigation integration, and we knew that they'd stopped trying. Rather than build the functionality into the car's fancy-pants information system, Jaguar cut out a hole in the lower dash and stuck in the receiver unit. So unclassy. We still think Jags are pretty as hell and just have great presence, but Ford isn't dropping the money in fast enough. Jaguar will continue to suffer poor sales until they fix these kinds of problems.
Oh, there's also some hybrid action for Lexus, but we didn't pay all that much attention to it. No high-end shopper is honestly fuel conscious, so we didn't think it was important. Lexus has run over every luxury maker with quality none of them expected. Lexus now has to work on bringing some soul to their cars. Some life. Some reason to yearn for them other than "it's a Lexus." Lexus does not equal lust.
New: future cars: MKS sedan and MKZ crossover
It's sad. Everything we said about Cadillac can be applied to Lincoln. We don't see a great road ahead for Lincoln. The road is there, but Lincoln's turned off the headlights. The LS, which was a decent first shot as a CTS competitor, was left to whither and die. And now it's dead. The Zephyr is too expensive considering it's a Mercury, and the Town Car is so old that it makes ancient people look young.
New: CX-7 crossover
We're big fans of Mazda, a Ford division. The Madza5 is a cool hatchback; the Mazda6 comes as a sedan, hatch, or wagon. The Miata, despite its girlie reputation, is cooler than hell, and the RX-8... sigh, they're still making it? Look, we like the RX-8, but clearly that means nothing since sales of it are off 41% in 2006. Now, we didn't sit in the CX-7 (either it wasn't there or we totally missed it), but based on what we know, we'd recommend this over the Ford Edge. We're not totally sure what we're basing this on.... Perhaps because the Edge is that bad.
New: New E-Class unveiled. Zzzzzz
To be honest, all we did in the M-B booth was take one look at the SLR McLaren and think of that douche who was racing against a Ferrari and walked away. Later the SLR was confiscated. Lindsey Lohan also cracked her up pretty M-B. So, all we think of when we think of M-B is racing and crashing. And teenage sex. On second thought, Go, Mercedes! We were also unhappy with the M-B booth because: 1. No scones. 2. Too much German being spoken. Look, friend, we like Frau Danes as much as the next guy, but cut out the teutonic talk, ja?
New: Altima sedan, Versa subcompact, Quest minivan
Nissan's been pretty busy lately. Redesigned for '07: Altima sedan and Quest minivan. We didn't get a long look at the Altima, but we did spend a lot of time with Quest (not trapped, as you may have heard... stupid child locks) and came away very impressed. So impressed we'd recommend the '07 Quest over the Toyota Sienna for the first time ever. It's really quite good. The Versa is a totally new car for the U.S. market and, again, color us impressed. In fact, the Versa stands out as having the best seats in any car we sat in under $30k. We went back two additional times just to sit in the car. But whither, again, the flagship the Maxima. What's the point, since the Altima is all that? We don't get it either.
The only thing Pontiac has going for it is the Solstice. And even then, it's a low-volume car. And mercy is it plasticky. In fact, if our friends... uh, friend... sigh, OK, if strangers walked up to us and asked us about the Solstice, we'd point them in the direction of the Saturn Sky and the Mazda Miata first. Otherwise Pontiac can drive its excitement to the crapper.
New: Aura sedan, Sky roadster
Wow. We're not about to claim the humble division is "cool," but these cars are unlike any Saturn we've seen. Or sat in. Or licked. The Aura looked as if it were as good as the new Hyundai Sonata despite shooting for the Accord/Camry benchmark. Sorry, Saturn, you aren't going to hit those cars until you've refined the hell out of the Aura. But the Sky, we likey. In fact, we really like it. In fact, it makes us forget about the Pontiac Solstice. The Sky has a lot more class while still having the boy-racer look. Very impressive. Keep in mind that we have not tested the thing yet, and we only licked it once because Jill Lajdziak rapped us on the head like Sister Mary Catherine Netherparts did back in high school. Ms. Lajdziak is cuter, though. Now, we're not going to give Saturn a total pass yet because we tested the LS200, and it was pretty mediocre. And the Ion... it's so bad it should be called the Ioff. Pricing for their cars haven't been announced yet, so we're holding off on giving it our full chubb, but we're far more optimistic about the division than we were last week. Or ever.
New: Camry sedan, FJ Cruiser SUV
Man, we're not truck folk, but the FJ Cruiser is cooler than cool. Crap, it's friggin' awesome. It's got such a beefy feel that we think we're actually more manly for being near the thing. Lots of folk think it's Hummer that has to worry, when, in reality, we think it's Jeep. Hummer is too much of a brand to be hurt by a Japanese brand. No, we think DC's Jeep division will suffer a sales loss. The Camry is all new, too. Yawn. It's near perfect, and there's just not a lot to talk about. Toyota is turning the Camry into a commodity rather than something worth talking about. We were very impressed by the new Yaris subcompact. For under $13k, you get a lot of car for the money. It's not as refined as the Corolla, but you'd be surprised how good it is for the money. And it gets 40 mpg on the highway without being a hybrid. Nice. In fairness, the larger Civic gets that, too. But the Civic is pricier.
New: Rabbit sedan, GTI
Hey now! Here's another brand we love but get punished by. VW's reliability just isn't as good as it should be for the money, but we love them. Yes, the styling on the Passat and Jetta have been heavily influenced by Japanese styling (read: zzzzzz), but we still think it's fine and focus our love thoughts on the interiors. We dig 'em. VW has dropped the Golf name (after, what, 22 years?) and reintroduced the Rabbit name. We're not sure how that will play out.
New: Redesigned S80, redesigned C70
It's hard to pick on Volvo... but let's try. They're expensive. Crap, that's it? Is that even a bad thing; Volvo is a luxury brand. Not everything can be affordable. And at least a Volvo feels like its price. Let's see, is there anything else? Oh, the nasty Ford influence. The big engine answer. We don't believe a high-end vehicle has to have a V-8. It sure helps with marketing, but we don't think it's a necessity. Speaking of a nonnecessity: the XC90. We no likey. Oh, Swedenland, what have you become? Anyway, we're looking forward to seeing a more affordable convertible (the C70 is de-lish, but $38k... so we're out) and the really sweet-looking C30. Also, the Volvo C70 beats the Saab 9-3 convertible in our taste taste. Uh, our pretend road test. OK, we sat in the thing and went "Vroooooooom!" And it sounded nicest in the Volvo.