February 9, 2008

DT's Our Dad In Chicago Checks Out The Auto Show

Publicists from a couple of auto makers had been eager to get the daddy types to come to the Chicago Auto Show for some reason. But I don't get the kid out of bed for less than a payola-mazing Audi RS6 Avant [though maybe if that cherry 1969 Mercedes 300SEL 6.3 at the M-B Classic Center has the mostly Europe-only shoulder belts in the back, so I can strap the Maxi-Cosi down...

So I asked if DT regular GFR wanted to take a spin around the Show. Stay tuned for some great dad's-eye-view accounts from Our Man In Chicago. In the mean time, Professor GFR has posted a collection of images and commentary to flickr. Some highlights:

One could argue that the entire concept of an auto show centers on toys. These slick little cars in the Saab pavilion show the different paints & finishes:


If those paint chipmobiles look like Playsam toys, it could be because Playsam and Saab have a long history. [The kid rolls in a big, ride-on Playsam Saab at her grandparents' house.] Here are some Playsam toys--and a kid-sized Saab track suit for wearing to Caesar's Palace Forum Shops, I guess--embedded in the floor:


Though they're not very useful for hauling the beer home from the store, LATCH anchors turn up in some unusual places:


Hmm, the new VW Tiguan looks like it could use a nosejob, might help it fit in a little better in high school. [GFR: "pretty unimpressive, if mostly because it looked like a KIA."]

The VW Routan, on the other hand, left GFR feeling fairly good. Though it turns out in redesigning--and improving on, arguably--the Chrysler Town & Country's seats, now the second row doesn't fold flat into the floor. The third row still does its magic stowing trick, though. Video at 11.

The surprise winner--or at least non-loser--of the expectations game may be the Chevrolet Traverse, which made its family car debut. The crossover--do they dare call it a wagon? Actually, it looks like it fits squarely into the crossover genre to me--has three rows of seating and looks fine. That rear quarter glass kind of reminds me of the Mazda 9, which should be read as a compliment.

And last, I know it's not new new, but I really want to like the The Ford Flex; it hearkens back to an era of camping trips with the Beav and 50-cent/gallon gas. Then I wake up, and gas is still $3.50. Though on the bright side, I'm not that no-good Eddie Haskell.

Check out Prof GFR's whole collection of Chicago Auto Show '08 photos on flickr [flickr]


Wow, that Routan looks pretty sweet. Even though I am still fighting the inevitability of the mini-van, this might get me into one. And back into a VW, even though I swore them off after my problem-laden Cabrio. Although I'm not sure I can choke down what I'm sure will be the extremely low MPG. But I'm excited to see all the stats once they actually come out!

[as someone else said, "Chrysler build quality and VW reliability!" -ed.]

I think the Saab "paint chipmobiles" look like the Playsam Saab ride-on because they're both based on the "Ur-Saab". The industry name for these paint demo sculptures is "color frog". More info can be found at "www.colorfrog.com", the vendor for the Saab samples. BTW, these things are coveted (and costly) paperweights for auto industry insiders. Translation: if you're coveting one for a child's toybox, you might as well buy something intended to be a toy, like the Playsam or Automoblox cars.

I'm going to go out on a limb here and predict that this Chrysler in VW clothing will be short-lived. But then again, I would have said the same thing about VW's other foray into American minivans, the Sharan, and that one has been in production for about 13 years now. That minivan shared the platform with the now defunct Ford Galaxy. Ford wouldn't let them sell it in the US because they didn't want competition with their own minivans (given that Ford has abandoned that market, it's a moot point now). I guess Chrysler's either not worried about the competition or isn't negotiating from a position of strength here. In any case, they should get rid of both of them and put the Microbus into production!!! Oh, and bring the Touran here, too. Of course, neither of those things will ever happen and the auto execs will be yet again scratching their heads wondering why their sales aren't meeting their targets.

[I think you mean "oh, and bring the Sharan here, too"? I think we're already doomed to get the Touran Tiguan (D'oh, see below). -ed.]

When & from where did you here that the US is getting the Touran?!?

P.S. The Sharan is at the very end of it's production run thank god!

[whoops, I meant Tiguan. Of course, the Touran SHOULD be coming to the US, and of course, it's not. Instead, we get the exact opposite, the Routan. -ed.]

Yeah, I definitely meant the TOURan and not the SHARan (or the TIGUan, for that matter). The Touran is one of those mono-espace / mini-minivans you like so much, Greg, along the lines of the Mercedes B class, the Opel Zafira, the Citroen Picasso, etc. The Touran is based on an extended Golf platform, I believe. The long overdue replacement for the Sharan won't have any Ford DNA, since I read in AutoBild that it will be based on the Passat chassis. When the Microbus got shelved, that delayed the development of the next-gen Sharan. This concludes another installment of "Cool Cars You Won't Ever See In This Country".

Just to rub it in your faces your not very likely to see the Skoda Roomster or VW Caddy(Life/Maxi)...

To make up for my last comment... I've just learned the US should be getting the next VW Polo. No conformation yet though on the MPV version...

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