Friday, January 29, 2010

2010 Detroit: Best of the North American International Auto Show

DETROIT - A grizzled veteran who attended all of the 2010 North American International Auto Show press conferences here Monday & Tuesday says they lost count of automakers' use of the word "sustainable." That much has not changed -- it is been the word of the show since at least the mid-'00s. The difference, this time, is that while electric vehicles grabbed much of the headlines, the large news this year is little cars.

Think about the new Ford Focus, perhaps the major star of the show, judging by press day coverage, or the Chevrolet Aveo RS "concept" automobile, the 1.4-liter turbo four-door hatchback headed for production late this year. The Aveo's only concept elements may be the 19-inch wheels & center dual exhaust-pipe, which Chevy hopes the sport compact tuner crowd adds to the suddenly interesting subcompact.

So let's call that the theme of the 2010 NAIAS. I didn't attend all the press conferences, because Motor Trend has a full staff covering this show, & they split them up, but I saw much everything:

Best in Show: Unlike previous shows, even last year's, there's no large standouts. , the show was filled with lovely, solid product, most of it quickly headed for production or lightly disguised future production models. That said I am going to award the Audi e-tron Detroit concept because the Italian automaker continues to extend its design leadership to a pie-in-the-sky electric sports automobile. Updated from the Frankfurt '09 e-tron, the crystal-blue Audi combines R8 styling in what looks more like a TT-sized coupe. The three rear motors provide 201 horsepower & 1955 lb-ft of torque (that is not a typo -- that is apparently Audi's multiplied torque number) to the rear wheels only (no quattro). What I am liking best, though, are the rear sail panels flowing in to horizontal taillamps that give the automobile a mid-century "Jetsons"-era look. Sublime.

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