Thoughts on the DC Auto Show (Warning: Pictures)

There is a photo potato dump further down, but I'd like start this blurb with these things called words.

First, a list of the cars I sampled in detail. In order:

  • Buick Regal GS
  • GMC Yukon Denali
  • Chevrolet SS
  • Chevrolet Colorado
  • Chevrolet Impala LTZ
  • Chevrolet Malibu LTZ
  • Fiat 500 Abarth
  • Chrysler 200C
  • Jeep Cherokee
  • RAM 3500 TurboDiesel
  • Dodge Dart Rallye
  • Dodge Charger SRT
  • Chrysler 300
  • Ford Fiesta ST
  • Ford Edge Limited
  • Scion FR-S
  • Mercedes-Benz E400
  • Lexus RC 350 F
  • Volvo S60
  • BMW i3
  • Lincoln MKZ 2.0H
  • Lincoln MKZ V6 AWD
  • Lincoln MKX
  • Cadillac ATS Coupe 2.0T

General impresions? American manufacturers brought their A-game. You might notice that there's a lack of Toyota or Honda on here. I will tell you it's not because I didn't spend time with them; I was actually in the Toyota section longer than any other. The reason that there isn't anything from either of those makes on there is because I stuck my head in the window of each car and said "no fucking way." Seriously, those interiors look 20 years old, with cheap, leather-patterned, hard, black plastic bits comprising 90% of the whole thing. Even the lower end Malibus, Darts, and 200s were nicer-looking places. Combine with the most boring drive trains known to man, and you have the automotive equivalent to the Great Marianas Turkey Shoot. Credit where credit is due, though, Toyota had the liveliest display and they were trolling everybody by featuring otherwise unmodified Camry and Corolla and Avalon models that were stanced with hella-flush fitting and stretched tires. Way to own up, Toyota, mad props. Meanwhile, Honda was trying to look all dignified and proper...

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Unfortunately, not all of the American makes were good. Ford, to my surprise, actually felt hugely underwhelming. They have this fetish for sparkly semi-gloss plastic that looks like it came off of a Wal-Mart toy from the early '00s, like the crap those toy lightsabers have their hilts made from. While other manufacturers use this same stuff, Ford is extremely liberal with it. And it gets worse when you start looking at Lincoln, who are even more liberal with the application of this material. As if that weren't egregious enough for a luxury car, there were a lot of rough-finished edges. For example, I can stick my fingers behind the MKX's center stack bezel because they neglected to close it off. Behind it. And it's not an access point because it wasn't even a smooth gap. I should not be able to do that on a base-model C-Max, let alone an MKX.

I do have some choice words I'd like to say about some of the cars mentioned above.

Fiesta ST: This is the only car I've ever sat in that had bad Recaro seats. I'm a small-framed person, only 130 lbs. and 5' 8" tall. They just didn't work; the hips sat funny and upper bolstering conspired with the general lack of shoulder room to make for a very uncomfortable car. The gear shift was also too low and too notchy, and the clutch had this odd tactile hump about mid-way through its travel. For all the praise this car has received, I was kind of disappointed.

FR-S: there's nowhere to put your right arm. At all. If the gear shift were lower, this wouldn't have been as much of an issue but it's at the same height that the gear shift is in my C4 Corvettes...only without an armrest. This is not a place I want to spend time. That gauge cluster was pretty, though.

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Lexus RC 350 F: Best ergonomics of any of the luxury cars I sat in, period. Seating position, arm rests, the seats themselves, the controls. Nailed it. The styling, while quite polarizing, holds up much better in person than it does in photos. Good on you, Lexus, I am curious to see where you go in the next 5 years. Word of advice, though: cease that rebadged Prius you call the CT 200h. That thing is awful.

Volvo S60: What a package. The seats were great, the controls were incredibly intuitive (man-shaped heating control buttons? Genius), and it had pretty great visibility. A little plain-looking, but that could be said for most of the cars on the luxury floor.

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RAM 3500: It was a 6-speed manual.

BMW i3: budget interior designed for price-gouging. Basically, typical BMW.

Lincoln MKZ: The exterior is fine, the controls are fine, but seriously? They need a huge dose of aluminum in this car. Sparkly glitter plastic is absolutely unacceptable.

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ATS Coupe: My right elbow falls into the cup holder and the gauges came out of an '80s pickup truck. Also, if you want an ATS-V, get it in sedan form; it is much prettier.

Chrysler 200C: punching way, way above its class. It's roomy in both the front and the back without feeling like a barge. The materials are very generous; even the paddle shifters are aluminum. There were luxury cars downstairs that still featured plastic paddle-shifters, which was extremely off-putting. But this car? I want to drive one. It's the only one I really wanted to drive at the whole show, to put that V6 through its paces and see how it handled in S mode. You can really tell they put a lot of effort into it in every facet. It's not as stylistically bold as Cadillac, but it's built just as well. This car: value buy of the year.

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Anyway, if you've got questions about the cars in the bullet list above, or even of some others you might think of, I may be able to answer them.

P.S. I didn't get to the Mazda, Nissan, or VW sections. Ran out of time. :(

Have some potatoes:

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