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It's not surprising to see some stunning "models" at the Italian automaker displays (Ferrari, Lamborghini and Maserati all seem to handpick attractive women to pose next to their cars) ... but is it now a requisite to wear an evening gown to be a cameraperson, too?
It's clear there's a power struggle going on at this year's Detroit show: It's a battle between the big trucks and eco rides. But soon you can have your cake and eat it, too. General Motors's Chevy Tahoe Hybrid is on offer, but there's also the Cadillac Escalade Hybrid and just this morning GM unveiled the Cadillac Provoq fuel-cell crossover (first on show last week at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas). The Provoq -- gotta love the name -- looks more ready to go than most "concepts." The Provoq can travel more than 480 km on a fill of hydrogen.
I was gently informed this morning on the shuttle from the hotel that I should be (read: would be) attending the General Motors conference this morning. These conferences are held by all the manufacturers on a scheduled basis, usually directly across the facility from each other. This is mostly great fun to watch, as laptop-toting herds of jounalists trundle from place to place with very determined looks on their faces.
I figured out yesterday you don't have to run. You simply find the approximate right area, and there are giant screens everywhere projecting the show. A booming disembodied voice starts telling you why which company is excited about which product, and everyone takes notes.
I mostly creep around trying to find out where the voice is coming from. It's all very Wizard of Oz, though I think they might take it a tad seriously if I started yanking down curtains to find the source.
Last night everyone went to a place across the street, the Fire Hall. Chrysler sponsors a big booze fest (sorry: hospitality dinner) for the journos, and we met the cowboy from yesterday who was in charge of rounding up the steers. A lad from Oklahoma, he looked positively petrified as Nika and I used him as a prop for pics. I told him to relax - the ladies were only helping themselves to the buffet that Chrysler was paying for.
Off to another conference, though we have discovered a manufacturer who is offering massages. With a little luck, I'll be able to take notes while lying face down.
I've spoken to a couple of colleagues about this now, so I know it's not just me. The new Cadillac CTS-V looks, at least from the front, a lot like the old one. This, despite being based on the brand-new '08 CTS, which in base form, looks a *lot* different. It is, I think, the mesh grille, which is smaller on the V than on the base model, as well as the mesh-trimmed air intake set into the bumper. Familiar looks or not, the V is set to be a real scorcher, with a 550-hp supercharged V8, rear-drive, Brembo brakes and Michelin Pilot Sport PS2 tires. GM claims that, at least as of this writing, it's the fastest production sedan you can buy. You may soon be able to get the CTS in forms other than four-door, too. One of the real surprises of the show (and a well-kept secret) was a CTS coupe concept car. With a high rear end and an interior that tries out new and very cool finishes, it looks fantastic - and would be a logical addition to the product portfolio.
The sun's not up yet, but Day 2 kicks off here in Detroit in 40 minutes with a media roundtable with General Motors venerable prodcut/czar/guru/saviour, Bob "Can't Miss" Lutz.
But before that, here are some industry highlights from Sunday:
- As a direct shot at GM's non-committal date (maybe, probably in 2010) for its plug-in hybrid, the Chevy Volt, late yesterday Toyota claimed its lithium-ion hybrid vehicles will be in demonstration fleets in 2010. Toyota said this will include plug-in hybrids that already have been under development.
- Remember when the first Japanese premium brands—Acura, Infiniti, Lexus—blew up the idea of what value meant in the luxury classes in the late 1980 and early '90s? Korean automaker, Hyundai, thinks its new Genesis luxo-sedan will be an just as big of an "industry disruption."
As a reminder, the Genesis is a rear-drive sedan with a 375 hp, V8 and styling that mimics the best from Lexus and Infiniti to be priced many thousands less than the aforementioned established brands.
- Instead of as a replacement for its recently euthanized Accord Hybrid, Honda announced that its "i-DTEC" clean diesel technology will make its North American debut in a 2009 Acura-badged vehicle. Honda was mean with the details such as displacement, power and torque. But expect 2.2-litre four banger of some kind.
Just got back from Mitsubishi's press conference, where they unveiled the 2009 Lancer Ralliart. For what will likely be a lot less money than the Evo, it comes with most of that car's goodness. Same sequential dual-clutch manual transmission. Same all-wheel-drive system. Same aggressive front-end design. The differences? A bit less power from the 2.0 turbo four (235 hp instead of just under 300) and a rear wing that doesn't completely obsucre your view to the rear. With less-extreme suspension tuning than the Evo, it'll likely be better suited to the daily drive, while still offering plenty of fun when you're in the mood.
Much as I love the Evo (though I haven't yet driven the latest version), it, like the Subaru STi, may be a little too hardcore for some customers. It may also be a little too expensive to ensure, particularly for younger enthusiasts. For a lot less money, the Ralliart (and its major competitor, the "regular" WRX), will offer plenty of speed with most of the same driving thrills. And a bit more comfort to boot.
I've been serenaded by Bryan Adams,watched waiters scoot by with drinks on silver platters, and nestled my exhausted self into a Rolls Royce Phantom.
I think I've discovered the lifestyle to which I would like to become accustomed.
Then again, I've seen a bunch of bulls descend on Cobo Hall (and two of them getting a little affectionate with each other), which does qualify as my first rodeo, I suppose, but I doubt there will be a second.
Dear, patient Nika continues to point out the subtle (and not so subtle) differences between a two door and a four door - I'm not as stupid as that sounds. Manufacturers have more secrets compartments and doohickeys on these cars than a Bond movie.
I love the smell of testosterone in the afternoon - and it's a good thing. Besides being outnumbered by an alarming number of grey suits, virtually every car and truck has been butched up so that even the tiniest look like sneering little tough guys.
If you're Audi, the answer apparently is yes. While it's officially a concept car, the R8 V12 TDI looks almost production-ready. It's a bit more aggressive than the standard car, with a low, low carbon-fibre splitter, high-mounted central air intake and big wing. But the drivetrain is the real centrepiece - a twin-turbo diesel V12 that produces 500 hp and 737 lb-ft of torque. Diesel performance is, of course, not new to Audi. Its Le Mans racers have deployed the high-torque, fuel-saving engines for years with impressive race results.