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I spent today at the New England Auto Show, where literally hundreds of cars were on show from both the domestic and import manufacturers. Here’s some impressions from some of the more interesting appearances..
First up was Scion – the sporty arm of Toyota in the US, with their FR-S (the equivalent of the Toyota GT-86). This car has received nothing but raving reviews, as it well should – it’s a highly affordable rear wheel drive sportscar. This is the first time I’ve seen it in the flesh, and it’s just as impressive up close. I was surprised to learn, at 6′ 3″, I still fit. One minor point – the head unit looks ugly on the dash.
Next was BMW’s stand, which brought with it only one M car, so only one thing of interest to me – the M6, in frozen silver – their factory matte paint. This complimented the exposed carbon roof nicely, however I think the frozen paint works better in a darker colour. What really grated on this car was the placement of a badge on the front grille – usually reserved for the hoards of fake M cars in existence. Why factory cars are now coming with this unnecessary extra badge baffles me.
Onto Mercedes. The latest breed of Mercedes styling has done immeasurable good in shaking off the old-man image of generations past. The new SL is, frankly, a stunningly handsome car. Its only fault is the cabin, which lacks the driver-focused feel that such a roadster should have.
In contrast, the E class coupe (the replacement for the CLK) still feels like something unsuited to anybody below 50.
Driver focused & sporting Audi S cabin
Audi brought an impressive collection of RS and S-Line models. The S4 and S5 share a noticeably similar design language, and the cabins of both are a lesson to Mercedes in how to build a driver focused car.
Chevrolet brought an array of muscle and sports cars. The Corvette was in hard top, targa and soft top variety. I’ve always pictured the Corvette as the US equivalent of the M3, but its finish just doesn’t seem up to scratch. Body work and the interior seems cheap and unfinished.
The new Camaro is a lesson in vulgarity. These seem to typically be found in garish colours like snot green, but even in muted silver the car’s portions seem silly. It screams ignorance – It’s a car I simply can’t grow to like.
Dodge had the new shape charger to show, with its incredibly distinctive rear light pattern. It’s still a sight to be seen, however if the drive is anything like the Avenger I drove back in 2009, I suspect it may disappoint.
Not much room for dead prostitutes
The Challenger can only be described as one thing – evil. The whole car has a foreboding presence. Its driver works at the iron foundry during the week, and murders prostitutes at the weekend. Which is odd – the boot is tiny.
Ford had both the V6 Mustang and Mustang GT, which is a whole different type of muscle car. It seems to have become the real underdog of the muscle cars – it certainly generated much less interest than the equivalent offering from Dodge and Chevrolet. The Mustang has held its age well against newer competition – it’s a car I feel I shouldn’t, but can’t help but like. Watch this space?
Volkswagen’s stand was sorely missing the Sirocco – turns out this model never made it to the US, which is a shame. It’s the highlight of VW’s current offering, however I guess it diminishes the already strong brand the Golf GTI has build up here. The VW Eos convertible is a toy car, with a not-so-toy price tag. No thanks.
Lexus had the LFA on a pedestal – in red, it looked incredibly ordinary, similar to a facelifted MR2. Like many others, I’m struggling to see a $300,000 car in the LFA.
Subaru BZR – Cabin a little better than the Scion
Subaru had the Impreza in both 4 door saloon and 5 door hatchback varieties. The new model’s body styling has grown on me, and the hatchback version almost looks civilised but as ever, the interior is sorely disappointing.
Subaru also had their version of the GT-86, the BRZ. Needless to say, the car is similar to the Scion, however the interior seemed marginally better finished.
Mini brought along a car I wasn’t even aware of, the Cooper Paceman. This looks like a car still at concept stage – not that it looks unfinished, just incredibly futuristic. As ever, Mini had a whole array of incredibly cool cars. I’m sick of hearing nostalgia for Minis of an era past – credit where credit is due, the BMW group have created an incredibly cool brand in Mini, and some outstanding cars.
The one reoccurring theme of the show is just how affordable some incredibly accomplished sports cars are from domestic US manufacturers. Affordability really is king in muscle – and it’s incredible that a brand new Mustang GT only costs $33k. On the other side of the world, the GT-86 series is an absolute steal, a fuel efficient rear wheel drive car for just $27k. Me? I’m looking forward to when these start to depreciate!