Sunday, January 16, 2011

2011 North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) Superlatives

From the overhyped electric toys (Chevy Volt) to the more exciting real vehicles like the Range Rover Evoque or BMW 1-series M coupe, this year's North American International Auto Show is an exciting one to attend.  I wandered around the show on Sunday and there was no shortage of innovative and exciting cars.

While I will be writing more detailed individual blog posts about individual cars from the show later on, I'll award my "NAIAS Superlatives" today...

My apologies for the single photo. I was avoiding the side angle of the Panamera for obvious reasons.

Most Surprising: Porsche Panamera

Porsche's "ugly duckling" may be, well, ugly. But it's undeniably an incredible vehicle- not even Top Gear (the real show, not the American knockoff) could deny that it was wicked fast and wonderful to drive at "extralegal velocity."

In person, the Panamera isn't as bad looking as images lead one to believe. Pictures of the car make it look like a stretched Boxster, but in reality it is much wider and more substantial than Porsche's conventional offerings. It still has a bit of a turtle look to it, but it's actually quite good looking from the front and back. Just don't look at it from the sides.

NAIAS was my first opportunity to sit in a Panamera, and I have certainly gained a large amount of respect for the Turtle. The cockpit felt just right- it had the perfect mix of Porsche sports coupe feel and 7-series esque comfort. The Panamera would be an epic road trip car- just add an unlimited supply of gas and an Escort radar detector.

Best Overall: 2012 BMW 1-series M Coupe.

It's no secret that I am a huge fan of BMW, and I've been eagerly awaiting the arrival of an M model for the 1-series line ever since they came out with the 1-series a few years back. Well, it's finally here. If you gave me $40,000 and told me I had to buy a car from this year's show, I'd head down to a BMW dealership and put a deposit down on one of these without even thinking twice. Details on the new "M1" are here.

Most (Un) Surprising: BYD Auto

BYD has been at the Detroit show for three or four years now. They started in the basement, peddling their sloppily-welded Honda copies with videos that were labeled as "PROPAGANDA FILM" and generally serving as the laughing stock of the show. Then, the recession hit, and the media needed something to scare people with. Stories popped up in the news, suggesting that we will be able to buy cars from Chinese automakers here in the US very soon.

What a joke.

The cars that BYD brings to NAIAS are obvious copies of other vehicles- this SUV, for example, looks like a carbon-copy of a Lexus RX with a Hyundai Sonata front end slapped on. So they're not bad looking cars, but don't get too close to them. To utilize a phrase that is sometimes used to describe an amateur restoration of a classic car, they're "10-footers."

This Lexus RX/Hyundai Santa Fe/Sonata/Chevy Equinox knockoff-thing, which BYD purports to be a "dual-fuel gas/electric hybrid vehicle," was a 10-footer if not a 25-footer. See how pretty it is up there on the display stand? Take a closer look at this latch for the electric/fuel filler door.

I think General Tso needs some practice on the welding machine.

As I was laughing in amazement at the workmanship of the fuel filler door, my dad popped his head underneath the BYD X60491029 Electrical Gasolines Automotruck Prototype and said something about "rust on the bottom." We all know that sloppy welding and cheap metal can lead to rust, but this is a brand new car - knobbies still on the tires. I thought he was kidding. Nope!

See that? That's rust. And some undercoating, too! If this car wasn't a prototype at an international auto show, I'd have said it was wrecked and poorly repaired.

More rust. I suspect that they attempted to paint over the rust to hide it, only for it to return again.

With that, you have a small taste of what's up in Cobo Center this week at the auto show. I'll be posting some more detailed writeups throughout the next few weeks, and will be returning to the show in a few days. If you're interested in something specific, comment on this post and I'll try to snap a few pictures and make a few comments for you!

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