Right in the heart of downtown Montreal, this bustling, multicultural bastion of semi-decent public transportation, excellent food and potholed pathways they dare to call streets, there was an exhibition of some of the latest and greatest automotive hardware from all over the world. Sure, we had only a few European brands, and no mass produced Italian or (thank heavens) French or Czech brands, so it didn't really capture all the world had to offer. But it did have lots of really nice cars, way too many SUVs and crossovers, and a nearly incalculable number of instances of being accosted by automotive flunkies, junkies and guys in suits thrusting their business card at you in a way that made you want to parry their 3.5 x 2 inch thrust with an elbow and repel them with a violently spinning, rolled up glossy brochure from the last manufacturer's exhibit.
So, any surprises? Not really, but all the same ti was quite pleasurable to see such a vast sea of cars and all the folks interested in them. In this case I was with my phenomenal wife, my sister and brother-in-law. They are looking for a new vehicle, seats 7, the word "minivan" being "verboten" in my sister's presence.
So which cars, kicked butt? Quite a few, actually. And here are my fave's and a few hideous hogs in no particular order.
However, the new Z4, well, that is a sweet looking car. They finally fixed the last generation. Both inside and out. It may be seen as a poseur car, but with 330 hp in the top-spec version, it flies, it has awesome looking wheels, it's passable in terms of interior space, and it's just flat out sweet looking.
This one wins the award for Most interesting and most stupid vehicle at the show. Those who know me, know I am short. I should be able to get in to most cars unimpeded. The front seats were no problem. The rear seats were the definition of form over function. I smashed my head getting in and out and that was with some serious bending. This car is for middle-aged dudes and older who need an admittedly interesting looking car but know ZILCH about practicality. Small trunk too. No foot space in the crushingly small rear seats. Excellent fit and finish made up for a number of flaws. But not completely.
It was nicer than I thought. Small, tight, but comfy. Great city car, tight rear quarters if you have adults or teens, but really well thought out. A true driver's car in that the pedals steering wheel and shifter were all nicely grouped. The radio controls, that will take some getting used to, but the car does work. Oh, cheap material on the seats.
Honda Fit (and NOT the Crosstour)
It is a brilliant car no matter how you slice it. Superb shifter, good ergonomics, the smartest use of interior space this side of a minivan, and just plain neat looking. If you need a city car, and one that can schlep a ton and be fun, this is it. The interior design does indeed takes getting used to in the sense that the Japanese may have smoking some bad seaweed, but somehow, it works.
Unlike the Crosstour. Oh, sure, Honda will sell them. But man, saying this car was beaten with an ugly stick is insulting to all sticks, whether they are used for uglification or not. This car is overweight, over-ugly, and you can't see out the back. I just don't get where Honda is going with this. I guess their product guys in japan must have little brain readers, otherwise, there is no good reason to get this car.
I have been in love with this car since Day 1, and my love for this vehicle remains unabashedly unabated. It was my wife who drew me to my favorite detail on the car -- the big shifter ball and the exquisite feel of the shit action. Throws were longer than I had hoped, but you felt the mechanical attachment to the car. So elemental, so right. And the miserable ergonomics? It's worth the high price of admission.And high price of upkeep should this thing break on you, as an acquaintance told me. But so desirable. Small is good.
Face it, it's a hot car. The interior has it's faults, like the cheap plastic behind the leather covered bin door in the middle of the console, or a few other cheap touches. But the steering wheel, the shifter, the placement of the controls, all top notch. Lovely shape, and we know what a hot engine this thing has. Sure, car insurance quotes may be high for this car and it screams "I'm swimming in testosterone" but if I had the means, or a life insurance policy on a relative I severely disliked, I would seriously think about getting this car.
VW Golf and Passat
I was so impressed with the rock solid interiors and the quiet yet competent exteriors, that I would almost part with my money for these cars. I say "almost" because they had to get out the defibrillator paddles when I saw the price of these things. Call 911, call my banker! Come on, VW. Great technology, sure! Spectacular interiors, they're a given. But 30K for a Golf? It was almost as outrageous as the Passat. 41K for the tricked out leather 4-cylinder wagon. I got cramps, and they rolled over the defibrillator a second time. It appears the marketing Volk at VW are smoking some kind of beer-soaked crack and inhaling through 100 Euro bills.
OK, this one is for my wife. She liked this car above every other car, including the nuclear yellow Bentley GTC that caught her eye. And trust me, she liked that car. But the Soul has design soul. It has mojo, it has presence. How did it feel? Well, for a 20K car, slightly cheap in some respects and you get what you pay for. But it is practical enough, sits high, is wide and accommodating to get in and out of. And the up-level interior does look quite nice, even if some switchgear is cheap.
So those are the highlights from my perspective. See if I am wrong by going to the next auto show in your area. Be prepared for salesmen, brochures galore and lots of walking. And tons of cool, rolling 4-wheeled metal.