To get him out of his undisclosed location for some fresh air, we sent our resident Gearhead over to the 2013 LA Auto Show. Read on for his expert take on the proceedings, and see what's hot for the coming year.
When I was a kid--before most of you were even born, I'm sure--I remember dreaming of going to an auto show. There would always be shiny photos from those shows in the magazines, and I'd pore over them at the local newsstand, leafing through the pages till the old man told me to skedaddle.
Well, now I'm an old man, and I finally got my chance this week: I scored an invite to the 2013 LA Auto Show. They've got these "Press Days," you see, where members of the media are allowed to walk the halls before they let the riff-raff in. And I've been writing these little columns for a while now, so I guess that makes me a member of the media. Got my press credentials and everything, like I'm a regular reporter for the LA Times.
So what'd I think? Great experience overall, a real privilege. Let me say that upfront. But I wish there were more emphasis on the cars this year, and less on the technology that goes inside them. Just my two cents, and hey, there were still some great cars on display. Anyway, here are a couple things I liked and a couple I didn't.
What I Liked
2015 Jaguar F-Type Coupe
Goodness me, that's a beautiful car. Beautiful! Well, let me qualify that: it's beautiful from the back and from the side. I'm talking don't-change-a-thing beautiful. I just wish the front end didn't remind me so much of a Nissan 350Z.
But I could get used to that part, I think, especially if I had the F-Type R. That's a super-fast version with a 550-horsepower supercharged V8, special brakes, you get the idea. I've driven the 495-hp convertible version, and the passing power in that thing was just fearsome. I don't know that I've ever felt anything like it. But give me another 55 horsepower and I won't complain.
Best car at the show, this Jag. Really a job well done. All I want for Christmas is a 2015 Jaguar F-Type Coupe.
Cadillac Elmiraj Concept
This big Caddy coupe caused a stir when it debuted at this year's Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance, and rightly so. It's the kind of car Cadillac should be building. See, I'm old enough to remember when Cadillac only built cars like this. Big, long, elegant cruisers with endless power and opulent interiors. That's why the company's old tagline, "The standard of the world," actually meant something.
But will they actually bring the Cadillac Elmiraj to production? I'll believe it when I see it. These days Cadillac is stuck on making "sport sedans" that do fast laps at German racetracks. To me, that's not a Cadillac. But the Elmiraj? Yes sirree, that there is a Cadillac. Come on, GM--let's get back to the days when Cadillac was the first name in luxury. Enough of trying to beat the other guys at their own game.
What I Didn't Like
2015 MINI Cooper
Now I've driven a lot of MINIs in my day, and I love being behind the wheel. BMW makes modern MINIs, if you didn't know, and it seems they decided to put all of the real enthusiasts on the MINI team. Driving a Cooper is like hitching a ride on a rambunctious puppy, is the best way I can describe it. It's the very definition of "fun to drive."
But I don't like how this new, third-generation 2015 MINI Cooper looks! Sure, at a quick glance it's just another MINI, but take a longer look at the front end of the car. From the side, you can see that the nose sticks out over the front axle a lot more than before. This is called "front overhang" in the trade, and MINI used to be known for having basically none of it whatsoever. It gave the car a really clipped, athletic profile that fit perfectly with its driving character. But for 2015, there's that elongated "snowplow" look out front, and I don't know if it's because of crash-test requirements or what. But to me, it's just not quite a MINI anymore.
Makes me want to go out and buy a used current-generation MINI Cooper S with the turbo before they're all gone.
I'm not going to pick on any particular car or manufacturer here, and I'll try to keep it short and sweet. Back when I was leafing through those auto show photos at the newsstand, it was all about design and performance. That's what these cars of the future promised: radical new looks and envelope-pushing driving dynamics. And that's what got my heart pumping.
But nowadays, it seems like cars increasingly just look the same, like melted bars of soap, because they're all designed with computers to be perfectly aerodynamic for fuel-efficiency and whatnot. And the emphasis isn't on performance anymore, either; it's on how many whiz-bang gadgets and TV screens are stuffed into the dashboard. Don't believe me? Just look at the entire first day of the 2013 LA Auto Show--it was a "Connected Car Expo" that was solely about technology! You had to wait till Day 2 if you wanted to hear about the cars themselves.
And you know what, I did wait till Day 2. While they were talking about computers at that Expo on Day 1, I put the top down on my V8 convertible and drove up the Pacific Coast Highway. I may be in the minority here, but I still think that's what driving is all about.
The Bottom Line
Don't get me wrong, I still had a blast. And there's a ton of photos out there covering all the new metal at the 2013 LA Auto Show. Y'all got any questions for me, since I was there? What are your likes and dislikes from this year's show?
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