As I warned last week, I spent Saturday at the Greater Milwaukee Auto Show.
Which has nothing to do with possibly the craziest thing I’ve ever seen in sports two days later, except that it too involved four-wheeled vehicles:
Well, there was a NASCAR-like race car at the car show, and Edgerton’s own Matt Kenseth won the race.
The first thing I noticed about this year’s show was the continuing encroachment of less-than-new vehicles — or, as the show literature put it, the “Manufacturer-Certified Pre-Owned Showcase.” Some of this is understandable simply because Lamborghini isn’t in the habit of sending its cars across the planet to car shows:
This is the 6.2-liter V-12 from a 2005 Lamborghini Murcielago, for which Harry Kaufmann Motorcars is asking $149,998. That presumably includes the mileage premium, since it has just 12,971 miles. Happily, it has a six-speed manual transmission and all-wheel drive, just the thing for later today’s apocalyptic forecast.
The opposite of the Lamborghini, I suppose, is this Fiat 500, Fiat’s answer to the Mini Cooper, my daughter’s favorite car. The common thing of the Mini and the 500 beyond their diminutive size is their surprising room for the driver. On the other hand, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t want to be a passenger in either.
(The Mini irony is that the Mini display was across from the Freightliner Sprinter, a van so large that it appeared able to swallow the Mini whole.)
Porsche had a new car display. But every Porsche was locked. However, the second floor had a section of lightly used cars, including this 2009 Porsche Carrera S. You can barely see from the photo that this silver Porsche had a butterscotch-colored interior. At least I fit in the car, which my German side approves of. But this Porsche had an automatic, which rather ruins the experience, particularly, I imagine, of the squirrelly handling of a rear-engine rear-drive car.
One reason for the appeal of less-than-new cars beyond their more reasonable prices (in exchange for the uncertain previous owner experience) is that manufacturer improvements are not necessarily improvements in the eye of the consumer. I own a 2005 Subaru Outback, a definite improvement from its previous iteration. (Before the 2005 Outback I owned a 1998 Outback, so I skipped iterations.) The current Outback doesn’t look to me like an improvement from what I own, in that it looks more like an SUV and less like a station wagon. (The Legacy line, from whence came the Outback, doesn’t offer a station wagon anymore.) The Outback no longer offers a turbocharged four-cylinder, and someone buying an Outback probably thinks the Impreza and Forester (which do offer turbo fours) are too small. (In case you haven’t noticed by now, the official positions of this blog are that (1) there is no such thing as too much horsepower and (2) automatic transmissions are necessary evils at best.)
The other thing about older cars is that they’re more likely to have manually adjustable seats instead of power seats. Both our cars have power seats, so I don’t object to owning them. But most power-seat-equipped cars in a car show don’t have their batteries connected, so the seat will be wherever it’s left, so you don’t get a good idea of whether the car would fit you or not. And when you’re 6-foot-4, that is not an insignificant issue.
Car shows are great for displaying manufacturers’ answers in search of questions. Want an SUV and a convertible, but can’t afford one of each? Buy a Nissan Murano, and you can have both in one vehicle, if you’re OK with, from what I read, poor acceleration and handling. (On the other hand, since Land Rover is reportedly introducing a convertible, perhaps there is a market for SUV convertibles after all.)
One of the displays was of an old-car trend I like — “restomods,” old cars with more modern engines and suspensions. The styling of yesterday’s cars is mostly superior, but their performance and accouterments (for instance, air conditioning) are not. Schwartz Performance of Woodstock, Ill., was there with a modern chassis and several cars, including this Pontiac Trans Am with, if I recall correctly, about 600 horsepower under the hood. To its right was a 1970s Trans Am with, according to the sign, a 1,200-horsepower V-8 under the hood. In front of it was a 1967 Chevy Nova with a 675-horsepower V-8.
The car Schwartz didn’t bring was a 1982 Cadillac Fleetwood Brougham that the owner had taken to Road America, after installing a heavily modified 500-cubic-inch V-8 and a suspension from his fabricated parts. Since early ’80s Caddys met no one’s definition of race car, one can imagine the surprise of those he passed on the track.
As an owner of a Subaru Outback, I of course checked out the Subaru display. This is the upcoming Subaru BRZ, a sports car developed with Toyota (20-percent owner of Subaru) without Subaru’s usual all-wheel-drive. It’s certainly cool looking, and it has Subaru’s boxer engine, but it’ll be interesting to see how potential owners react to the lack of all-wheel-drive. (Of course, if you want all-wheel-drive, you can get an Impreza WRX STI, with a 305-horsepower flat four.)
The ponycar wars of the ’60s continue with the Chevy Camaro …
… and the Ford Mustang:
The new competition in this category is, of all things, a Hyundai — the Genesis coupe, available with either a 210-horsepower turbocharged four or a 306-horsepower V-6.
I drove one of these at a Bergstrom Susan G. Komen Driver for the Cure event two years ago. I believe I wrote it was more fun than a box of puppies that had just been fed. Other than my usual issue of my height vs. the car’s (lack of) height, it would be a fun ownership experience.
I drove the sedan version, which has a V-8 like the Detroit big cars of old (and unlike the Detroit big cars of today save the Cadillac CTS-V, Dodge Charger and Chrysler 300), at last year’s Drive for the Cure. I was impressed by its turbine-like power, its heated and cooled seats, and its 528-watt sound system, more power than some radio stations put out.
For those who like their V-8s from domestic manufacturers, you can choose the Cadillac CTS-V sedan, coupe (above) …
… and station wagon. I’m not sure how usable the wagon’s storage space is, but getting the kids to their current sports team would be a stylish, yet fast, trip. (We’d have to get the wagon because the coupe has one fewer seat than we need.)
What? You ask if something’s missing?
You didn’t think I’d forget a Corvette, did you? (The ZR1 was locked, but the convertible wasn’t. I still fit.)