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PG auto writer Don Hammonds and friends rank the best -- and worst -- of this year's big car show in Detroit
By Donald I. Hammonds, Post-Gazette Staff Writer
You either have it or you don't.

That sums it up when you're talking about new cars and trucks in today's hot market.

This year's North American International Auto Show in Detroit was filled to the brim with new products.


So what worked? What didn't?

This year, I decided to take a look at things with fresh eyes -- two additional sets, in fact. My annual pilgrimage to the Motor City included Matt Beale, president of Daedalus Excel, a Pittsburgh-based product development firm. He has training in automotive styling from the College for Creative Studies in Detroit.

I also took Ricardo Cortes, an Edgewood resident and car enthusiast whose comments have appeared in our car reviews from time to time.

The first comments you'll see below for each vehicle will be mine, followed by those of my fellow show-goers.

Here's what we thought:

Acura TSX

Acura is positioning this one as an entry-level performance sedan between the RSX and the 3.2 TL. It has 200 horsepower, a six-speed manual and the usual array of performance and luxury equipment.

I was let down by what I saw. Honda/Acura's old bugaboo -- too much conservatism and a lack of excitement in design -- is evident in the TSX.

The TSX will compete in a very crowded field inhabited by the likes of the BMW 3 Series, Infiniti G35, Lexus IS-300 and others.

I'm not sure how it will fare, given that it's a dead ringer for a Honda Accord. Moreover, 200 horsepower sounds pretty paltry compared with the competition -- Infiniti's G35 with either 260 or 280 horses, and Cadillac CTS with 220.

Pontiac G6

Pontiac's team tells me this one is an awful lot like the upcoming Grand Am replacement and if that's true, bring it on.

It has coupe styling of a four-door sedan body, with a look that says performance and handling, altogether appropriate for General Motors' performance division. I also liked the cool blue and maroon interior.

Power comes from a supercharged, 285-horsepower, 3.5-liter V-6. But the back seat is awfully uncomfortable.

Saturn Ion

Saturn's replacement for the S series looks like a mishmash of various styling elements that simply don't work. The interior materials look really cheap -- plasticky, plasticky, plasticky.

Nothing's wrong with plastic, but you can do a lot with textures and finishes, and Saturn missed the mark here. I know GM can do better -- witness the finishes and textures in the Cadillac CTS and even some of GM's lower line products.

Matt: "There are just too many details on the Ion. There are contrasting colors with the roof, creases in doors that line up with nothing -- just too many small ideas that clash with one another."

Ricardo: "I especially don't like the two colors around the roof line. It looks like the car has been repainted, and big gaps make the car look unfinished."

Cadillac Sixteen

This is one magnificent piece of automotive design. It really has managed to capture the feel and look of the old '30s 16-cylinder classics, with the long hood, huge wheels and impressive interior. Better still, it's designed to be enjoyed by a driver, not a chauffeur.

Cadillac officials feel that, although there are no plans now to produce it, chances are excellent that market pressure from the Maybach, Bentley and Rolls Royce super luxury models will force them to make it at some point.

Matt: "The Sixteen has a long hood and an absolutely beautiful proportion. For now it is just a concept, but even if it's built it will be pure fantasy. It's the hands-down style champion. Cadillac's art-and-science look has always been a love-it-or-hate-it look, but this softened version is beautiful and stunning. You may hate the idea of such a large, expensive and overpowered luxury car, but you have to admit it's beautiful."

Nissan Maxima

While I commend Nissan on continuing to push the styling envelope -- I wish more companies would -- I have a mixed reaction to the Maxima.

It has many of the styling cues of old models, but the end effect of this new Maxima looks a bit too much like a slightly bloated Altima. It has a similar roof line, same shape grille and even a rear that looks something like the Altima.

It would have been nice to see them go in a different, contrasting direction instead of making the Maxima look like a bigger version of its better-looking, successful little brother.

Matt: "I don't know what the grille's doing. That centerpiece reminds me of belts that people wore back in the 1970s. Overall, it's a big improvement over the current Maxima, but the Altima is much prettier."

Mercury Messenger

Clearly, if the Mercury brand is going to succeed, it's going to have to stand on its own and not rely on just gussying up existing Ford products.

Fortunately, Ford Motor Co. officials are showing signs that they know that. Exhibit A is the stunning Mercury Messenger, which combines sleek styling, a sense of luxury that recalls the heyday of the Cougar and such styling cues as triangular shapes in the rear that rekindle memories -- at least to my mind -- of the '57 Mercury Turnpike Cruiser.

In my view Ford would be out of its mind not to produce it. There's nothing like it anywhere else.

Nissan Quest

I loved it. Pure and simple. I'd buy it in a flash. It's zoomy, innovative inside, lots of family pleasing gimmicks ... what more could you want?

Ricardo: "The horizontal surface of the center console looks like it would be a terrific dust catcher. But the idea of a double TV screen system is terrific and what I really love are the horizontal sunroofs (skylights)."

Volkswagen Touareg

VW's new SUV is suave and sophisticated, but I'm told it's a holy terror on the off-road circuit, beating just about everybody in its price class. Speaking of which, is anybody ready to pay as much as $50,000 for a VW SUV? I'm betting so. It's got all the pieces. It also has a classy, leather-laden, chrome and aluminum adorned interior.

Ricardo: "This is the one wagon that stood out. It's truly a do-it-all vehicle and the amazing part is that it does it all well. It's beautiful, practical, safe, powerful, fast refined."

Mazda RX-8

I once owned an RX-7 and the RX-8 brought back lovely memories. It has a similar sporty profile, low-slung hood and the right price -- they will start at just under $26,000.

It literally looks like a four-door sports car and it should have the field all to itself for a while. The Renesis engine -- that's the name given to Mazda's Wankel rotary engine -- provides sparkling performance according to all the road tests I've seen.

Matt: "I think the RX-8 represents a smart risk on Mazda's part. In spite of the back seat and four door, this car really does feel like a sports far from the front seat -- not a sports sedan or sport truck, but a real sports car. And the short rear suicide door makes for a back seat that is actually useful in a pinch."

Ricardo: "The RX-8 is a real world sports car with actual room for four and their luggage, and it also offers easy access to the back seat. And it's also beautiful."

Best of Show

The new Chrysler Crossfire gets my vote. The exterior design is daring, rugged-looking yet sophisticated, and the use of colors and materials inside is terrific. I'm also expecting strong road performance from it and I can't wait to get behind the wheel.

Matt: "The Infiniti FX35 and FX45 sport utilities get my vote. These are refined vehicles that don't try to look tough and macho -- vehicles that aren't ashamed to admit they may never be used off-road. The interior and exterior are beautiful with colors and materials that suggest finely tailored clothing, not mere metal and plastic."

Ricardo: "The best in show was the Mini from BMW. The Mini is simply adorable and beautiful. It makes you feel like you want to give it a hug. And it's also practical and fuel efficient. Maybe it's a message to the car industry that the excesses of the '90s are now past and times are calling for smaller, more sensible cars."



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G

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Now, I'm one to be pretty critical of Acura, even when they're successful with a car (like the TL). But I have to say that these guys missed the boat on a number of issues regarding the TSX.

Let's take it bit by bit:

tsxclub said:
PG auto writer Don Hammonds and friends rank the best -- and worst -- of this year's big car show in Detroit
By Donald I. Hammonds, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

Acura is positioning this one as an entry-level performance sedan between the RSX and the 3.2 TL. It has 200 horsepower, a six-speed manual and the usual array of performance and luxury equipment.

Well, it also has a class-leading 5-speed manumatic option.


tsxclub said:

I was let down by what I saw. Honda/Acura's old bugaboo -- too much conservatism and a lack of excitement in design -- is evident in the TSX.
There is no doubt that Honda/Acura is quite comfy in its old bugaboo. You know why? They make money doing it that way. They make money knowing that about 1/2 the US is conservative. Now, is that a shame in my opinion? Yes. Because Honda/Acura has the best value proposition of the bunch, as well as being the most reliable, it's a shame that we also can't have the sexiest machines to boot.

But, I have to take exception with regards to the TSX and RSX. I don't even like the way the RSX looks, but enough people do, and it's pretty distinctive looking. Also, the Integra (which I still own) was certainly a stand-out in design, no?

And lastly, the TSX -- it finally has the curves and the short shelves of a true sports sedan in the 3-series style of cars. FINALLY! Everyone wanted to make the TL the 3-series competition due to price and 0-60 speeds. But, with those shelves... there's no way a TL would even be considered in the same class.


The TSX will compete in a very crowded field inhabited by the likes of the BMW 3 Series, Infiniti G35, Lexus IS-300 and others.
Hmmmm. That seems like a very broad-brush statement. First off, let me just say that it will certainly not compete with the G35. The G35 is a much larger and more powerful vehicle.. and it's much more expensive to boot. Speaking of price, it seems like the TSX will NOT compete with the G35, IS300, or 3-series cars!

In what could be considered a smart marketing tact, Acura will not be really competing on price if you look at the total cost of similarly-equipped competition! Any one of the above will be about 8k more with similar options. How is that competition? That's an entirely new class.

So, Acura is actually putting out a smart-looking sports sedan in the "under 3-series" class, which is a nice niche, in my opinion. I really don't want to afford a fully-equipped 3 or A4. They end up being $37k too quickly. But, I do want a sharp sports sedan that handles well under pressure, looks nice, and is comfortable with luxury amenities. I think the TSX fits this crevace nicely.


I'm not sure how it will fare, given that it's a dead ringer for a Honda Accord. Moreover, 200 horsepower sounds pretty paltry compared with the competition -- Infiniti's G35 with either 260 or 280 horses, and Cadillac CTS with 220.
Err, what? A dead-ringer for an Accord? Not in this country, buddy! Maybe these guys are jet-lagged, but nobody that I know would ever mistake a TSX for a 2002 or 2003 Accord. They look absolutely nothing like each other, in my opinion.

And, again, why must they continue saying that the TSX competes with cars like the CTS and G35?! Maybe I should blame Acura (told you I'm critical)... maybe their marketing message is so mushy that the reviewers really don't understand the market they're going for. Heck, Acura is saying low $24, fully equipped. That puts the TSX up against the Passat and Mazda 6, not the Bimmer 3.

Maybe this will all be put to rest when Acura finally puts out the MSRPs! Initial reports of "$25-$30k" could have swayed the above reviewers to think that the TSX could be $30k base + Nav = $32k. That puts it in closer range with the G35 and 3 price-wise. However, if it is true that the starting price is $24.4k, then it's a different ball game.

Let's just hope that all of the on-line enthusiasm for the TSX doesn't make Acura marketing think they can get away with a $27k start-price! Why haven't they already announced the price anyway???

Jon
 

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you know Jon i think you are right about the TSX
it just cant be compared with the BMW3 or AUDI 4 they are just way too expansive.

and regarding HONDA being most reliable i know that to be a fact
even compared to a BMW which has tons of electrical and other problems e.g(thermostate) HONDA defanatly holds its own.
:cool:
 

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It has many of the styling cues of old models, but the end effect of this new Maxima looks a bit too much like a slightly bloated Altima. It has a similar roof line, same shape grille and even a rear that looks something like the Altima.
I have to agree with the critic here. The first time I saw the badged Maxima, I thought it was an Altima...But at least Nissan is continuing to mix it up, just hope to see a better model for the next Maxima (Altima II :D )
 

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I have to agree with the critic here. The first time I saw the badged Maxima, I thought it was an Altima...But at least Nissan is continuing to mix it up, just hope to see a better model for the next Maxima (Altima II )
I think what nissan is doing is getting the Maxima Market of people to buy Altimas and trying to get new market of people to buy the maximas this way they can grab on to the infiniti and lexus market with no problems :D
 

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The TSX is an entry-level luxury car in terms of features, but not an entry-level luxury car in terms of price (I'm of the opinion it will be around $25k loaded). I doubt the TSX will win over many customers who are currently driving a 3-series or A4, but it will win over more people who aren't driving luxury cars who wouldn't mind spending a bit more for a much nicer package (like those millions of Honda/Toyota drivers).

Yes, the styling isn't as sharp as a Bimmer, but you get 90% of the features for 60% of the price. Some people buy cars for the features/performance/handling/cost total package, some people buy (well, usually they lease) cars because they think they're status symbols.

Oh, and there will be a 20-25 age difference between the typical TSX driver and a CTS driver (I just thought comparing these two cars was ridiculous).
 

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Good points by all, but what really confuses is why they can't compare the TSX with other cars in its class. That is a sports sedan w/ 4 cylinders, leather and its other goodies. They still do make some sport sedans with I4s. The A4 is just one example. But comparing the car against 3series bimmers,G35, and IS300s,
forgetta bout it. In everyone's opinions what kind of I4 sport sedans with similiar array of goodies do you all think can compete with the TSX?
 

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You could compare it to the NEW NEON SRT4, SVT Focus, Sentra SE-R, and the Toyota Celica GT-S.... Just an idea...but seems pretty fare to me...
 

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Not a fan of Dodge or Ford, but they did an excellent job on the Neon SRT4= second fastest dodge behind the Viper
SVT Focus= Already have turbochargers and other aftermarket products
SER V-Spec or Spec-V?= is a good value for its the ~18,000
and the New Celicas are hot!
Good competitors, but I think the TSX will out perform them all.
I chose to compare the TSX with the A4 1.8T because they compete very well with each other. I'm considering an A4, but can't see myself as a "Yuppie" yet. A4 1.8T or TSX? Anyone.
 

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Sleeping time

:eek: Just register to this forum and found no one is responding. Is it the time difference or my words are boring?
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Re: Sleeping time

Bugs said:
:eek: Just register to this forum and found no one is responding. Is it the time difference or my words are boring?
lol people are spending time with their family on fridays :D
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Bugs said:
Found another site called *******....Mmmmm, who's copying who??? :eek:
basically same info is going around and people are posting it all over we are just a friendly place to chill at and meet friends and discuss what ever you want!
 

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tsx in carbon gray is sweet! love it....
 
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