Motor Trend International Auto Show: Part 2 – Luxury Imports

Finally! Part 2 of The Heap’s 4 part overage of the International Auto Show which was in town at the beginning of December!

Today we’ll be looking at what the Import motor market has to offer for the upcoming production year. Perhaps the most impressive display was by Korean automaker Hyundai, which The Heap touts as the next up and coming power in the imported auto market. They’ve been the talk of the land, with redesigns across the board, leading to sportier, sleeker, dare I say, more desirable designs. They certainly should have an award for most improved, and one for actually listening to customers! The quality of the product has gone way up, while costs stay competitive.

I was disappointed by the showing by Volkswagen. It appeared to me that they almost had no interest in being there, having only a GTI and maybe a Jetta or 2 on hand. I was hoping to catch a glimpse of the new VW Beetle, but alas, it was not to be seen. Even Kia tried to appeal more to the auto show browsers! Those smug Germans!

First up were the JDM (Japanese) luxury imports- Acura, Infiniti, and Lexus. All three had fairly nice displays, but Acura’s was the most impressive, as they had their new touring crossover, the ZDX headlining their area. The other two didn’t really have anything too new, except minor cosmetic improvements to chassis. I found the ZDX to be quite impressive, and very sleek. Many aren’t fans of Acura’s attempt at a trademark grille, but the ZDX wears it perfectly. Sadly, the new TL was there too (thankfully in Pearl White), and looking at it makes it seem more and more like the glorified Honda Accord it is. The TSX is sharp, however, and the new available V6 engine will surely pep it up.

I want to like Infiniti- I really do, but the only thing worth seeing at their display was the G37 convertible. I’ve never been a fan of the G series sedan, though it is technologically sound. And again, their SUVs are marvels, but are overpriced and just don’t get my attention. I think they may have had their M series there, but that has never really appealed to me anyway. Only perhaps the 5.o liter series engines.

Lexus falls right in there with Infniti, though I do have a soft spot for the IS series. The beast of them all was there- the IS F. Looks nice in white, but I would love it in metallic blue! 400 HP in a small body car… it must fly!

BMW has modest improvements to design, which seems to be an annual necessity for them. But the 3 and 5 do keep getting sharper and sharper. If it ain’t broke don’t fix it… unless you can make it better! I sat down in the rear of a fully loaded 7 series and I was blown away at the comfort. It would say it could rival the aesthetics of a Rolls Royce! Wel maybe not, but it was nice enough for me!

I am not too big of a Mercedes-Benz fan, so I didnt spend too much time there. I do like their roadsters and they had a few on hand. But I just do not like their sedans at all. They surely have impressive engines and numbers, but they just don’t do it for me. Sadly, they didn’t have their newest two door roadster, which pays homage to the gull wings of old!

Mini made a surprising showing, and they finally had their 4 door “sedan” on hand to try out! Plenty of room in the back, and now with the 4 door option, it is a whole lot easier to get back there! I am looking forward to this one, and I’m hoping my girlfriend opts for one after she finishes law school – though I wouldn’t mind the Camaro she wants ;

That’s it for the import luxury section. Next we will have just normal imports!

smallheap.jpg image by jmooser

UCBC: The 2 Seeds

Wow, how quickly a month+ has passed since the last entry of UCBC. I have to be honest with you all. I actually ended up purchasing my new car! So many of you already now the “winner” of the tournament. But alas, I must finish what I started, and well, the UCBC is a fun process, and I actually filled out the bracket in determining the winner.

Granted, the fact that I got an offer I couldn’t refuse did further the cause of the eventual winner, but it was actually going to be in the semi’s probably in the finals anyway!

This entry reveals the 2 seeds. Here we start stretching just a little bit when it comes to desired price range/gas expenditures/insurance, but of course, the UCBC is all in good fun, right? These cars are some of my favorites, and perhaps have a greater chance of winning it all over the soon to be announced 1 seeds.

2003+ Acura TSX

2006 Acura TSX rear

Acura has been an award winning luxury brand for decades. 2003 saw the introduction of the TSX, Acura’s foray into the entry-level vehicle competition. Sleek and clean cut, the TSX is an automotive beauty. Distinguishable and envied at the parking lot, while not coming at a steep premium. This little car has got some giddy-up as well, with over 200 hp I-4 and an aggressive looking dual exhaust system.

The interior is sure to please even the pickiest of luxury-seeking palettes. Leather to best match the exterior color, beautifully designed accents inside, and a killer stock sound system make the TSX poised to perhaps take it all!

2003+ Infinity G35

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Nissan’s Infiniti luxury line has been a reputable namesake for years, similar to Acura’s reputation thanks to historic reliability of Honda. Infiniti’s advantage has often been imaginative design. Yes, some will argue that it’s nothing but a Nissan 350Z with makeup and a few extra pounds, but just looking at the picture, you have to admit that it is a beauty.

Under the hood, it packs 275 hp with a 3.5 L engine. This roughly translates to breathtaking fun on the road… or multiple speeding tickets… The tail lights are LEDs. It is quite customizable. Some tint, rims, and other accents and you’ll have a sexy machine.

Below average MPG and mandatory premium octane gas along with a rumored high cost of maintenance make me a little cautious… but for those where looks are a priority, this is your car.

2006+ Dodge Charger R/T

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Oh, the muscle car wars of the 60s and 70s… where American car companies managed to carve out a niche in the automotive universe. The Charger namesake brings back memories of Hemis, gasoline smells, and the Dukes of Hazzard. Much to the dismay of the generation that grew up with these bad boys, Daimler-Chrysler christened a four door family car with the glorious name. A muscle car doesn’t have four doors! Or does it?

While DC did manufacture basic models (a 2.7 L V6? and increased to 3.5 only after complaints of its sluggishness!) to fulfill the role of a four door family car, they did produce the R/T and SRT-8 models. These two have a 5.7L 340 hp and 6.1L 435 hp engines respectively. More than enough power to pin you to the back of your seat, and then some. The SRT-8 has horrendous city MPG, as can be expected from a 6.1 L engine. So I opted for the R/T, which can actually take regular gas on occasion as well (in contrast to SRT-8’s strict diet of PREMIUM!)

The sharkish looks are unique, though the overall platform hints of Chrysler 3oo and Dodge Magnum (which are coincidentally in the tournament!). The interiors are alarmingly smilar and well, cheap looking. But what’s under the hood can make you forget about this easily.

2004+ Acura TL

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The TL has been Acura’s bread and butter since the late 80’s, winning numerous awards for design, reliability, and quality in the luxury midsize category. The 2004 redesign of the TL gave it a unique look, making it more beefy and muscular, while maintaining a refined, timeless, luxurious look.

Again, the interior is beautifully designed, and the leather seats are firm but comfortable. The optional Navi is rated the best system of all vehicles with a GPS option. XM capability, a sunroof, bluetooth connectivity, and power everything are all standard.

Honda provides its V6 270 hp VTEC engine, providing the car with a surprising amount of power during acceleration. It takes curves smoothly and full of confidence. Clearly, a practical affordable dream machine. Mid-grade and Premium gas are a must, but with the reliability of Honda, the TL is the sure favorite.

We’ll at last reveal the 1 seeds later this week, as well as the tournament bracket!

smallheap.jpg image by jmooser