So in order of walking around.
Subaru – Some nice new stuff there, always been a fan of the STi, but obviously the new BRZ was taking centre stage. The XV Crossrtek is a great looking CUV which is basically a jacked up Impreza. It will have a relatively small engine so should be good economy on the school run and other urban adventures. On the BRZ, I had a good chance to look around it and sit in it. It’s actually much smaller than I imagined it would be which was a surprise! The interior is very functional, nothing special, but you get the feeling that it is well put together and very driver focused. The rear seats are virtually unusable; it’s more of a two-seater than a 2+2 coupe. Can’t wait to test drive one!
Audi – Lots of eye candy, from the gorgeous (and ridiculously capable) TT-RS, R8, and the strangely attractive (to a man like me with kids) A7. I really like the A7, so can’t wait to see what the S7 can do. They also had the 2013 A4 Sedan and the Allroad on show, both great looking cars from arguably the leader in automotive design.
Nissan – Had the new 2013 GTR, still brutal looking, more power, more everything. Although into the $100K+ price band now.
Kia – Showed the new Rio Sedan, plus some very interesting concept vehicles.
VW – Didn’t spend a lot of time here unfortunately, I’m sure Erik did though. The Golf R was there which was nice, but not as aggressive looking as I’d hoped it would be. The old European R32 had a much more intimidating stance to it; you could really tell it was different from other Golf’s. The new beetle looks slightly less cutesy than the old one; it’s a nicer design and should appeal to a broader audience. The new 2013 Passat CC was on show, still one of the best looking sedans around IMHO.
Fiat – Was there with a whole gaggle of 500’s, including special editions and the Abarth. These cars are just perfect, they epitomize everything that a small car should be, well designed, have bags of character, fun, and have go-kart handling. Please Fiat let me test an Abarth for a week, I beg you!
Ford – Ever since the domestic manufacturers started struggling Ford has impressed me with its tenacity, its recognition of its own failings, and its drive to succeed. This year’s show was no exception with 2013 models of the new Fusion, CMAX Energi PHEV, Flex, and Lincoln MKT. I had some seat time in the GT500 which is a great car indeed, although I think I would opt for the Boss 302, which was also there. Well done Ford for bringing the ST cars to North America, now just bring the Focus RS and we’re done! The Lincoln MKZ was a great looking concept, I hope they can get it to production without losing some of the flair.
Chevrolet – The Hot wheels Camaro was just fantastic, not only would my son kill for one I think I would actually drive one too! Great job, and actually presented on a big piece of Hot Wheels orange track too! Of all the various Camaro’s around the one that stood out was the ZL1, great looking, great power, and great value for money. They were moving it around when I was there and the exhaust note is already wild at low revs. Another “can’t wait” test drive. There were also various Corvette’s around the show, ZR1, Grand Sport, lots of eye candy. The C6 really is an amazing car, able to compete with anything from Europe, and there is one on my list of cars to own before I’m too old. I wonder what the C7 will look like. Speaking of which, the Stingray Concept was there, very nice indeed.
Jaguar – I spent lots of time around the C-X16 concept, which is Jaguar's new 911 competitor. It’s really really nice. I know it’s just a concept, but I really hope it stays true to the design ethos as it gets to production. It’s stunning to look at (the poor XKR-S behind it was getting much less attention that it deserved), the interior is very driver oriented, and it should bring some interesting hybrid or KERS type technology to the fray. Thanks Matt for the time you spent talking about the car and showing me around it.
Range Rover – The Evoque is a great looking CUV/SUV, it’s slightly smaller inside than I thought it would be, but it has just as nice an interior as exterior. I know one person who owns one in the UK who loves it, and everyone who has driven one seems to rave about it, so another to add to the review list. From what I hear this vehicle has mastered the fine line between good off and on road handling, well done Range Rover!
BMW – Not sure what to say about BMW really, they are pretty much masters of all they survey when it comes to combining design and driving dynamics. The ConnectedDrive concept was very space age, lots of innovative ideas. I still really like the 1-Series and the 3-Series (please build a 1-Series tii!) but there wasn’t much I hadn’t seen before. The new M5 was on show along with the new ActiveHybrid 3 series. I’m still not sure about the new M5 and its piped in soundtrack, ever since I drove an E39 M5 and fell in love with it I’m convinced these should be the German equivalent of a sedan muscle car. Also how on earth did they make the new one 200lbs heavier than the E60? I haven’t driven the new M5 so I’m probably being unduly harsh, I’m sure it’s still the best super sedan out there, but I’m starting to feel that instead of more and more horsepower, maybe the entire range could do with losing some heft. The M3 is nice, but the M3 CSL was perfect.
AMG – Gorgeous, just gorgeous! Of the old BMW vs Mercedes debate (although now that probably includes Audi) I’ve always preferred BMW, partly for the styling, and partly for the manual gearbox. But Mercedes has really stepped up its game in the last few years, quality is getting back up to where it used to be 10+ years ago, and the styling is just plain head turning. The latest round of AMG cars, the C63, CLS 63, CL63, E63, SLS etc. etc. combine immense power, stunning looks, and a soundtrack that can wake the gods of war. I would seriously love to own one of these cars. Good show!
Hyundai – Was showing the new Veloster Turbo which looks great, and the new Genesis Coupe which should also do well! I must admit that the front styling of the new GenCoupe is quite a change from the current model and looks better in some colours over others. Normally I like the gaping grille effect started by Audi and Mitsubishi, but on the 2013 GC it seemed overwhelming. I’m hoping the addition of a license plate will break up all the black space. Either way, it’s a performance bargain, handles beautifully, is well built with a long warranty, and is ridiculously low cost compared to its rivals. I see another polarizing year on the car forums! LOL. Also I’ve been eyeing up used Genesis Sedans as a replacement for the Outlander…
Mitsubishi – Didn’t really look at anything on the Mitsu stand, but did sit in the Evo. Ah what wonderful seats. Another car I would love to own.
Acura – The NSX concept was a real star. You can definitely see the Acura design language in the grille, let’s hope the finished car is as good as the old one, one of my favourite cars of all time.
Chrylser/Jeep – Yes that’s right, a Grand Cherokee with Brembo’s! Actually, two vehicles I really loved from Chrsyler were the Grand Cherokee SRT8, and the new 300C SRT8. I was impressed by the interior and exterior design of both, the 300C seems to have had a massive leap forward. It no longer looks like an older person’s car, I would happily drive one, another one to add to my possible Outlander replacement list. And as much as I love the Grand Cherokee SRT8 equally, the one at the show was close to $70K, oof!
Auto Exotica – OK so walking through this section I think I changed my “lottery win” car about ten times. Nice to finally see a Bugatti Veyron, I have never seen one in the metal before. It looks super smooth, and the engine bay is just pure automotive porn. 8 Litre, W16, quad turbo, 1001PS. Yes it’s a Top Trumps card I would want to have. The Aston Martin One-77 is another beauty, to be honest when is an Aston not? Sheer luxury, the classic Aston shape, and an amazing 7.3L V12 with 750bhp. Priced somewhere between $1M-$2M (so similar to a “base” Veyron) it’s second on my lottery win hypercar list.
There were a plethora of Ferrari’s, The FF and 458 Spider being may favourites. I know the FF is polarizing but I love it, practical and fast! (I must be getting old…) And the 458 Spider is both a soft top and hard top in one, sort of makes the coupe redundant, unless you like looking at the engine through a window. The McLaren MP4-12C was there in a stunning orange colour, great to see the Brits are still designing wonderful automobiles! Lamborghini had the new Aventador LP700-4 which again is another stunning car, big, aggressive, and powerful. The Gallardo next to it looked tame in comparison. If you’re going to buy a Lambo, go big or go home!
The guys from Gentry Lane in Toronto were there again with a collection of Lotus’s, or is that Lotii? A couple of stunning Exige S’s and also two Evora’s, one of which was the GP Edition which is inspired by the Formula 1 paint scheme from the John Player Special cars of the 70’s. I had a good look around all of them, remembering what is was like to own an Exige for a couple of years, loved it! The Evora really is a car that ticks all the boxes for me. No, it doesn’t have the build quality of a Cayman S I’ll admit that straight up. But it handles like a driver’s dream car, with amazing feedback from every part that you touch, to cornering that reminds you why the NSX was so perfect, to the suspension tuned by arguably the world leaders in their field. We got talking about used Evora’s, and that seems to have woken up some sleeping Lotus bug in my brain again, before the show they most definitely weren’t on my list in the near future, but it took me a long time to get to sleep last night… Thanks to Carl Plessl from Gentry Lane who showed me around and answered all of my queries, I met Piero Manzini at last year’s show and he was equally kind and accommodating with Jeff and I, both great guys! I hope to do business with you at some point.
Final word goes to my lottery win hypercar number one, the Pagani Zonda R. I have seen many supercars in my time, so not many make me awestruck. The Zonda did. With just a few coats of clear varnish to protect the carbon fibre the whole thing looks woven from some sort of angelic thread into a weapon of automotive destruction. The interior and exterior meld into one through the glass, the front and rear splitters will take off hands, feet and any other protuberance that comes close, and the styling is completely other worldly. Obviously it wouldn’t pass any road safety test so this one is a track toy only, oh but what a toy. Zonda’s are one of a rare breed of cars that have an engine note that is pure music, pretty close to F1 or GT cars, straight from the Mercedes sourced AMG V12. The one at the show is one of only 15 produced, so I doubt I’ll ever see one again.
In summary, go to the show, you will really enjoy it!
Best Hypercar – Pagani Zonda R for the track, Aston Martin One-77 for the road
Best Supercar – Ferrari 458 Spider
Best Sports Car – 2013 Nissan GTR
Best Concept – Jaguar C-X16, can’t wait to see what it becomes, it will be very important for Jaguar
Most Anticipated (real world) test drive – Subaru BRZ/Camaro ZL1
Most Surprised By – Chrysler 300C SRT8, it finally has the interior to match its modern day performance credentials. Plus can transport a family and luggage at some speed!
Most Thought About – Lotus, Carl Plessl, I have your card…
Most Disappointing – Honestly, probably Honda. I love Honda/Acura, I really do, but what has happened to them, they used to produce GREAT cars. The S2000, TSX, TL Type S. Even the Euro Civic Type-R. The designs over the last few years have become more rounded and blobby, with nothing to really capture the imagination of the keen driver. Where is their answer to the BRZ/FR-S, where is the new S2000, why has the NSX taken so long to just get to a concept. Come on Honda, pull your finger out and start making great cars again. (I know the latest 305bhp SH-AWD car is capable, it’s just not exciting)