Phila. Auto Show Comments

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Staff member
Dec 14, 2002
New Jersey
Hi, We went to the Philadelphia auto show the other day. It was a fun time. We didnt spend too much time in the super fancy stuff, but we did see a lot of regular and near-luxury cars. My strongest recollections are as follows: -Audi A3: it really disapointed me. While interior space and overall utility seemed quite nice, the interior was really poor, IMO. My rental ford focus had a better looking dash hard plastic than the material they used on the dash in the A3. I know it is a "low priced" car, but it felt cheap. Seats were nice, paint was nice, but most everything else was kind of ho-hum. -Lexus IS: another disapointment... Not because it felt lousy, poorly put together, etc. in fact, the seats were awesome, and the 'put together' feel was top notch. The problem was that other than the great legroom in the driver's seat, there was so little usable space for that vehicle being the size that it was, that the car lacked all virtue as something worthwhile to own. The older model at leat appeared to be more compact, the TSX is more compact and has more usable space (though is far lower in quality/feel than the IS), thus my disapointment in the is. -Acura RDX - decent interior space ad form factor. Horrid fuel economy, though the power density of the engine is great. Flimsy interior components where you can't see them, e.g. the hood release lever broke off in my hand (maybe it was just due to too much handling at a car show). Nice seats, overall good package. Bummer no MT is offered. -Saab 9-3 SportCombi: Im familiar with this car, as I have the sedan version. I was disapointed that they took the on-dash small display away. Same feel and apparent operating dynamics for the most part. My fiancee plans to get one of these in the wagon form. -Subary legacy: Impressive. Given the cost and availability of MT in a wagon, coupled with 30 MPG in an AWD form, with 175 HP, and it seems like a good deal. The seats were some of the better ones that I sat in, and I liked the interior. Overall it felt extremely high quality for the dollars, definitely surpassed equivalent dollar-value products by the other mainstream (domestic and Japanese) makers in terms of look, feel, and apparent quality. -Saturn ion: a car that id usually walk by just happened to get a sit in. I was thuroughly impressed, not because of super top-notch anything, but because I could easily find a perfect seating position, with plenty of headspace in a small car with a moonroof (I'm 6ft 4 and this doesnt usually happen), and the 'upscale' leather seats had the exact right firmness and design to make me sit with a perfect posture comfortably. This is a welcome thing for a small car. -Honda Fit: Not that impressed. At first when I read about the fit, I thought it should get higher fuel economy... but then I changed mindsets. It was on my shortlist of potential commuter cars for my now 8 mile commute. The outside was nice and well put together... however the interior felt cheaper than I'd expect from honda. Sharper edges and harder mateirals than my impression of 'Honda quality' would allow. Overall not terrible, but certainly not as perfect as many would claim. -Porsche: particularly the Boxster was really impressive to me. 32 MPG in the base model? not bad given how good I can imagine the package would be. I always wondered what the truest replacement of my 91 E30 BMW would be, in terms of enginering, completeness for driving, and desire to make the whole thing right without worry about comparitive numbers, just for the sake of sales. OK, maybe thats all just babble, but this car seems like the real deal, moreso than anything else... heck, a new 3-series costs nearly as much as this... -Mini cooper: I went to look at both the convertible and hardtop. It was nice to see that I fit in both with good headroom. I like the form factor of the interior, the ability to get vinyl seats, etc., but I felt that the door handles on the interior were a bit chintzy. Like maybe the feel wasnt what Id expect, or the plastic was a bit harder and with edges that Id not expect. That all said, given BMW engineering and integration, if its 50% of a 3-series, any one of these that can be had for sub $20k is a steal, if the styling is up your alley. -MB E320CDI Bluetec: Great. Nice, 37 MPG, 36x lb-ft of torque. Worthy of being a successor of my 83 MB 300D. Comfortable, nice to sit in, I could see this as a nice highway car. A bit pricey though - and too bad it is super-emissions controlled nowadays... In a few more years when ULSD is assured to be sold in all stations' tanks, itll be quite the deal. Not a 5-series, but not supposed to be. A safe, comfy, gentleman's commuter car. -Hyundai Accent: I saw the sonata, elantra, and this. I could plop right into the accent and sit comfortably, which I couldnt do in the elantra. For $12800, it seemed like quite the steal. 37 MPG, IIRC. Perfect form factor as a 4dr car. Those were the biggest points that stuck in my mind. All in all a good show. Lots of nice cars, foreign and domestic. A great time... JMH
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