Cars are one of my things. As I described in conversation just a few hours ago, it’s not so much a technical / stats geek-out, but rather a fine appreciation of the fine detailing of fine automobiles.
My Pinterest board is a snapshot of the cars I love. Like every other aspect of life, I fixate on the peripheral niches: station wagons, compact hatches and city cars, old Mercedes-Benzes, and the like.
Thus, it is always interesting to join the masses in attending the Tampa Bay International Auto Show, which comes to town each November. See the 2012 post.
Instead of writing a narrative review of the show overall, I’m going to assign superlatives and give a brief explanation of each. Enjoy!
Best overall package: Volkswagen GTI
Little was wrong with the GTI before, and the new iteration builds on that success. It is more refined, more aggressive, and feels extremely high-quality inside.
Most improved: Cadillac Escalade
Seeing these on the road usually makes me cringe, and probably still will. However, Cadillac has aggressively upped its game, at least to make the Escalade a true high-end big box SUV. Materials quality and diversity inside the cabin is amazing.
Best evolution: Mini Cooper Hardtop
In passing, it’s hard to tell any difference in Mini Coopers, year to year. The newest one is no different. Same proportions, same quirky interior bits. Probably just as fun to drive.
I want to test one out when my lease ends in ~18 months.
Best compact SUV: Porsche Macan
Generally, ‘compact SUV’ sounds like a great waste of what could otherwise be a capable and sexy station wagon. The Porsche Macan takes the size and dimensions of the Cayenne SUV and shrinks them. What you get is an upright but still squat wagon, with a snug, tailor-made interior, and cargo room for the occasional rear passengers, potted plants, or furniture.
For many SUV buyers, this is all they would ever need. I like the design better than the Cayenne too.
Biggest bruiser: Dodge Ram diesel dually
The first thing you notice in this truck is how WIDE the cabin (and vehicle) is. If I ever had to haul things…
Best sports car: Jaguar F-Type Coupe
I’m not a connoisseur of racy two-seaters, but the F-type is neat. Modern cabin, a sensory delight. Multi-adjustable sports seats that hug your kidneys. And from what I hear, neck-snappingly quick.
Most overrated: BMW, excepting the i3 and i8
BMW hasn’t introduced much of great interest recently. That is, other than its two electric vehicles, which are interesting and different. Otherwise, there’s just nothing to get excited about with the 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 or X models.
Most underrated: Lexus RX
Lexus has no problem moving RXes. My only thought with them is: they’re the original car-based SUV/crossover, and from an execution standpoint, few are as good. I have no clue how it drives, but the interior is luxurious without being opulent, and for the first time, the joystick controller for the media interface didn’t seem awful. I also like the matte bamboo on the hybrid model.
Biggest bore: Acura (all)
Other than the jewel-eye LED headlamps now mostly standard across the range, Acuras just don’t do much for me, or anyone under 50, so I surmised based on the perspective buyers milling in the area.
Give us more drama, more special-ness!
Biggest surprise: GMC Yukon Denali
Tall, blocky SUVs seem pointless to me. A brash statement from people who have never stepped off-road in their lives. Nonetheless, the Yukon Denali is a subdued but no less luxurious or tech-heavy version of the Cadillac Escalade. I liked all the electronic doodadery, dark leather interior, and high definition graphics of the center displays.
Most cheerful: Volkswagen Beetle Convertible TDI clean diesel
Volkswagens never disappoint in the cheeky, cheery category. How can you not smile at a banana yellow rear like that?
Needs to be euthanized: Lincoln Navigator
Ugly, clunky, and mostly analog. All the best traits in a car…
Best limo for the price: Hyundai Equus
The Mercedes S-class is great, but so expensive. Like, eye-watering style. The Hyundai Equus is far less hip, but as a chauffeured vehicle, it is plush and compliant. The back seat is huge, and reclines enough to take a high-quality nap. Sun shades, heated and ventilated seats. TV monitors in the rear of the front seats. I wouldn’t protest.
Aaaand, the price is the best part. For $60,000, which buys a fully-loaded four-cylinder BMW 528i, you could have this.
Worst, most plasticky interior: Toyota 4Runner, Toyota Corolla
Car companies are building better cars than ever before, and a lot of that is innovation you can’t see or touch. However, hard plastic interior parts are still such a turnoff. My Beetle has some, and I deal, but on a $40,000 SUV, even if it is geared toward sporty, Tough Mudder types, it looks and feels like a slap in the face.
Strangest throwback feature: the column shifter