02.02.12

2012 Washington Auto Show

Posted in February 2012 at 2:02 am by The Layman

I visited the Washington Auto Show today to view live and in-person some intriguing models about to hit the market, as well as some influential concepts. The show, held at the D.C. Convention Center, is not really a manufacturers’ show; rather, it is produced by WANADA (Washington Area New Automobile Dealers Association).

But the manufacturers do send some of their latest concept models for display at the show. The crowds were light on this work and school day, so I was able to get close to the cars and take some unobstructed pictures. For larger versions of the pictures posted below, as well as other pictures not posted here, check out The Perch on Facebook.

The following models represent some of the most interesting cars on display at the show.

Chevrolet Tru 140S and Code 130R Concepts

Chevrolet, a company with a miserable history of developing small cars, displayed two stunning small, sporty concepts aimed at the segment of buyers who would typically shop Scion cars. As someone who drove the family Chevrolet Chevette during high school in the mid-80’s, my arms still ache when I think about the effort required to actuate the turn signal stalk and muscle the steering wheel to make a turn. However, these two concepts force me to re-evaluate my opinion of Chevy’s ability to produce a desirable, satisfying small vehicle.

The first concept is the Tru 140S, a coupe with the flair of the best exotics from Europe. It wears an appealing coat of matte white paint. The only thing that kept the Tru 140S from upstaging the new Subaru BRZ/Scion FR-S coupes is the fact that the concept does not have any running gear under the skin.

Chevrolet Tru 140S Concept

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The second concept is the Code 130R, a small coupe with big muscle car ambitions. The Code 130R also has no running gear, but exhibits all the requisite bulges around the fenders and wheel wells. While it bears the bow tie logo of a car company that knows a thing or two about making muscle cars, the Code 130R does bear a passing resemblance to the BMW 1-series coupe.

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Dodge Dart

Chrysler emerged from bankruptcy in 2009 locked in an alliance with Fiat, with a roadmap in place for Fiat to eventually take over all of Chrysler. One of the major elements of the roadmap required Fiat to provide platforms and technologies for future Chrysler products. The Dodge Dart represents the first major milestone of the alliance, allowing Fiat to take a controlling share of Chrysler. Chrysler has not offered a small, compact sedan for sale in the U.S. market since the Dodge Neon.

Now, thanks to Fiat contributing the Alfa Romeo Giulietta chassis and the MultiAir engine technology, U.S. buyers will be able to once again purchase a Dodge compact sedan. The rakish Dart departs from recent Chrysler sedan designs, with only the design of the rear light bar tying the car to its Dodge brethren. The interior seems unremarkable at first glance, but it does offer a huge 8.4 inch screen at the center of the dashboard.

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Lincoln MKZ Concept

The star of the DC Show is the dazzling Lincoln MKZ concept. Either I am getting old, or Ford is serious about reviving its luxury brand with an injection of style and panache. Everyone thought Mercedes-Benz blundered when it introduced the CLS-class, a four-door sedan with the flat, angular roofline of a two-door coupe. But Mercedes should feel vindicated as a visionary, as the CLS has spawned a raft of copycat models from the likes of Audi (A7) and BWM (6-Series Gran Coupe).

The MKZ concept falls in line with that trend, but the design is well-executed, and more stunning when viewed in-person than in pictures. Viewing the concept from the rear, I don’t have to squint too hard to see traces of Aston Martin in the taillights.  If Ford brings this concept to production, it will elevate Lincoln to a new level of style and elegance.

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Ford Evos Concept and 2013 Fusion

Ford single-handedly launched the movement towards aerodynamic design when it launched the Taurus in the mid-80’s. In the decades that followed, Ford seemed to have lost its way with trailblazing design. But now it appears Ford is aggressively poised to once again assume the mantle of design leadership. The Evos concept, introduced last year, represents an expression of Ford’s future design direction.

That direction became clear once Ford unveiled the 2013 Fusion with the new corporate trapezoidal grill first shown on the Evos concept. Once again, DNA from Aston Martin, of which Ford owns a small stake, has seeped into Ford’s other products.

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Lexus LF-LC Concept and 2013 GS-series

The Lexus LF-LC concept signals the brand’s future styling direction, which Lexus applies to the 2013 GS. The most striking aspect of this new brand identity is the in-your-face grill. Carmakers love to make a statement and establish a corporate face with the grill. Sometimes, of course, that backfires. Just ask Acura, who recently had to quickly redesign its corporate face when its overwrought grill design was roundly panned.

It remains to be seen how the market will react to Lexus’ latest design statement. In the meantime, somewhere in Southern California, Arnold Schwarzenegger has just diverted his attention from repairing his marriage to Maria Shriver for a moment to call his lawyers and demand compensation from Lexus for ripping off Predator to design its new corporate face.

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