Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Auto Show Surprises

So sorry it took me so long to get to my Washington Auto Show posts. I know there were throngs and throngs of you at your computers, each night, staring at The Torque Retort's home page, clicking the Refresh button furiously, praying to God the post would come soon so meaning would return to your life and you could get back to the finishing touches on your Torque Retort shrine that kicked your daughters out of their own bedrooms. Well, I appreciate it.

Anyway, I'm going to start with some crazy things I discovered at the show, and then I'll move on to the much-anticipated (I overheard some teenage girls on the Metro talking about it, like, ooooh my gaaaaaaawd I can't wwaaaaaaaaaaait to see what caaaarr he fits iiiiiin, and at least one older man telling his wife to bookmark it in Chrome) Big Man Can't Fit post!

Camaro Interior: Epic Fail

The first surprise is really a disappointment. General Motors, with billions of Americans' tax dollars, is continuing to build cheap cars. It's no secret the Cobalt is just Cavalier Part Deux, without Charlie Sheen, and the HHR is an abortion on wheels. Regardless, lots of people have been menstruating all about the 2010 Camaro, even me. But now I'm hyperventilating a little less.

Yes, from the outside, I would like to lick it. But sit inside, and you're surrounded by the same chintz GM has been forcing down our throats for years. Some cool gauges beneath the center stack are the only redeeming feature of this car's interior. The interior trim on the door flaps like a Caribbean shanty-town in a hurricane. Plus, there is no visibility. None. The latest gaggle of "The Biggest Loser" contestants could be crossing the street in front of you and you'd see none of them.

I sat in a 2SS equipped with the Transformers package, which means if the All Spark shocked this car, Bumblebee would not be an AutoBot; he'd be a box of Tupperware. The problem with these auto shows, though, is you can't drive the cars, so maybe the 400/426 horsepower (automatic/manual tranny, respectively) would change my tune. But 90% of the time you own a car, you're immersed in the interior. Actually, GM was offering auto show attendees an opportunity to drive the Camaro 2SS and other GM fare around the Washington Convention Center, but three inches of snow made the insurance weenies pee their pants, so that car was pulled from the test drive lineup.

Mercedes G550: I Can See Clearly Now

Would I buy one of these? No. It's hideous, boxier than a U-Haul franchise, and it sucks gas like Truman Capote swilled scotch. But here's this SUV's likely most redeeming feature. I have never experienced better visibility in any vehicle. Ever. Not even a Hummer H2. The seats were perfect, too, like Recaros. So, congratulations are in order for M-B making a true command center for daring off-roaders everywhere negotiating the junglish terrors of Malibu.

Chevrolet Corvette: Slightly Less Fail

435 horsepower and nearly 30 miles to the gallon on the highway could be why I'm still paying attention to Chevrolet (that, and I still want to see a truck as incredibly cool as the '72 K20 longbed 4x4). I can't think of any vehicle that does that. The Lexus LS600hL hybrid can't pull that off and it makes 438. Some little twit cars lauded for their fuel economy can't touch that figure. And my God, that manual tranny. Granted I only ran through the gears on a Z06 model sitting still, but the shifts were so fluid.

Unfortunately, the genius Corvette - around since 1953 - has one problem. You must be Calista Flockhart to drive one. I do need to lose some weight, but I didn't have this problem in the Camaro. There was nowhere for my legs to go other than into holy-crap-I'm-sitting-down-and-I-need-to-get-all-40daysand40nights-on-a-urinal mode. I don't understand this, because the Corvette is a very wide car (which is why it handles so damn great), so there should be more room for those of us who take up a little more room. Still, if I somehow came to own one of these Z06s or the raucous ZR1, I might take on Calista's nutrition plan just to run through those gears through the Appalachian Mountains.

Ford Taurus SHO: Holy Crap the Taurus is Awesome and Costs Nearly $50,000

OK, this car is now neck-and-neck with the Infiniti G37x of family-friendly fist-pumpers I have got to try. I did not expect much more than the '89 Mercury my parents had for a few years and at best something that would make the Chevrolet Impala sweat. What I found was E-class and 5-series cuddling, combined with The. Best. Interior. I've. Ever. Sat. In. The Impala is having a panic attack.

Yes, I am quite excited about the 365 ponies and respectable gas mileage. But it's also big inside. Very big. I could do the whole I'm-a-rapper-and-I'm-spreading-my-legs-in-a-chair pose while trolling through Northern Virginia traffic. After getting in the cockpit and closing the door, all outside noise is virtually extinguished. Then you're treated to a center stack that slopes down at about a 35-degree angle, putting all A/C controls within uncanny reach. The two-tone leather is quite supple and doesn't feel slippery.

I'm not crazy about the gadget-and-power-laden Taurus costing nearly $50,000. I could pick up a barely-used 550i or even an AMG E55 for that price. That's not going to keep me from giving it a go. Regardless of the price, I'm sure this will become Ford's halo car.

Wheego Whip: I Don't Care if It's So Damn Big Inside, It Sucks

The Wheego Whip can go 59 miles an hour and can go 50 miles before it needs to get plugged back in to coal-fueled electricity. I don't think I need to say any more than that to describe my overall opinion of this car. If you can even call it a car. Dare I say it, the Chevrolet Corvette Z06 is overall a more environmentally-friendly choice.

Still, practically all that bubble you see in the picture can be absorbed by a person. I have more headroom in that car than I have in my own Ford Flex. And the Flex is dang cavernous.

But claiming the car has great ergonomics is like putting powdered sugar on rotten fish.

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