Lunch: Crispy Taco (no tomato), crisp chicken burrito, cheddar fries, Pibb XTRA
|Pretty much like this all the time now|
Our Taco Time, the last in the region that has long been an island outside their core markets, is closing at the end of the month. So everybody and their mother has been bombarding the place with business since finding out to get their last crispy burrito fix and to stock up the freezer with bulk orders. The lot at the neighboring abandoned KFC has been acting as overflow parking. People come in and have their partners grab a table while they stand in line to order food to make sure those who got here ahead of them have no place to sit. Jerks. The owner is all like "Well if business had been this good all along, we'd have fixed the place up and stayed open!" Spiteful little prick.
I did the Auto Show Friday night. I usually do it on a Saturday or Sunday morning, but I may do evenings from now on. Smaller crowd, more relaxing atmosphere, and I got to experience "AUTO SHOW AFTER DARK!" as the guy on the PA put it. They dimmed the lights, replaced the girls modeling the cars with Playboy bunnies, fired up the disco music, and rolled out casino games and a cocaine and caviar buffet.
Okay, most of that isn't true. They just dimmed the lights slightly. I have no idea why.
A6 Sedan, A7 Sportback - Essentially the same car aside from the whole trunk-vs-hatch thing, they're all-new for 2019 with a 3.0 turbo mild hybrid V6 and fancy new dual center console touchscreens with improved everything, plus that configurable digital cockpit instrument cluster. TIP: Go with the Sportback. It's way cooler looking and more utilitarian. Frankly, all of the luxury brands should be looking at sportback designs.
Q8 - Audi calls it a "flagship crossover coupe". Remember when coupes had two doors? This doesn't. But it's the modern-day equivalent of what wealthy sports car buyers of the past want now. It's built on the same platform as the seven-passenger Q7 (though it's smaller), the Volkswagen Touraeg, the Porsche Cayenne, the Bentley Bentayga, and the Lamborghini Urus. The design was inspired by the Audi Quattro of the 80's. It has an aggressive stance with an almost obnoxiously mean look to the face of it. It has a 335 hp turbo V6 with a mild hybrid system for stop/start and coasting efficiency and a wealth of luxury and tech inside. This sucker can get from 0 to 60 in 5.6 seconds. The tuners have already gotten their paws on this and have shown off some really cool custom examples. Even at close to $100k fully loaded, Audi should have no problem selling these. I found a comfortable seating position in it faster than any other vehicle on the floor. Not sold on the two-screen center console, but wow does the dash have a clean look. If I were rich, I'd look at this.
RS5 Sportback - Four doors, a rear hatch, sexy lines, and 444 hp with 443 lb-ft of torque on an all wheel drive system. You could do worse. You could do far, far worse.
Regal TourX - It's a rebadged Opel Insignia station wagon. Not a tall station wagon trying to be an SUV, just an old fashioned station wagon, which I believe would be an exclusive to the segment in the GM line.
XT4 - A new small crossover that slots in below the XT5 but isn't like Chevy Trax small. It'll have a 2.0 turbo four making 237 hp tied to a nine-speed transmission. The infotainment screen is new with more buttons and less touch screen requirements than the horrible CUE system. Like every attempt Cadillac has ever made to enter the compact market, it will fail spectacularly. Girl sitting in it, commenting on the rustic orangeish-brownish metallic color: "It reminds me of a treeee!" Guy with her: "It reminds me of something I don't want."
Like Ford, GM is slimming down it's lineup by cutting several traditional cars as buyers shun them in favor of SUV's. Casualties at the Chevy brand include Cruze, Impala, and Volt. That leaves Bolt, Camaro, Malibu, Spark, and Sonic. Which is still way too many cars. In related news, holy crap..Chevy still had eight cars in its lineup?
Blazer - Remember these? For most of its life it was a truck frame two-door SUV before the term SUV was coined. A video game jobber friend of mine hauled machines to arcades in it. There was a smaller version based on the S-10 in later years, and a version of that was even available as a four-door. This new Blazer has nothing to do with those. This is a two-row "sporty" SUV with Camaro styling cues, especially in the interior. There's even an RS trim available. Unlike Equinox, you can get a V6 for it. Pricing starts at $29k, but the version you're really going to want (the AWD RS with Enhanced Convenience and Driver Confidence II package) is closer to $50k. Traditional Blazer fans are mad about the use of the Blazer name, so buyers can expect the same nitwits who shout "THAT'S NOT REALLY A WOMAN" at trans girls to shout "THAT'S NOT REALLY A BLAZER" at them constantly.
Cruze - Cruze may be done in the US after this model year, but it's still popular abroad and will continue production in other markets. As such, it's final US year includes an already planned style refresh, mostly noticeable in the grille. Really, hardly noticeable. But it's there. Some car experts are sort of baffled why Chevy didn't keep this in the US lineup and just punt Spark and Sonic. (HINT: It's not so hard to understand if you have a grasp on union politics.)
Malibu - Malibu gets a style refresh, a CVT transmission on most models, and a new RS package that sports up the appearance of the car without sporting up the performance of the car. That's a classic Chevy deception move right out of the eighties.
Silverado - The big news with the all-new 2019 Silverado is an available four cylinder turbo engine. In a full-size pickup. It's a 2.7 litre that apparently has 310hp. It has stop/start technology and can cruise on two cylinders when appropriate to save fuel. Don't worry, there's still a V6 and V8, though Autoweek claims the V6 is actually less powerful than the new four-banger.
Spark - Spark gets a mild style refresh and some new safety aids in an effort to...spark...interest. HA HA HA HA! See what I did...oh forget it.
500x - 500x gets a style refresh and a new motor. The updates didn't include a bigger infotainment screen, which is disappointing.
Ford announced last year that they're going to phase out most of their cars in favor of SUV's and trucks. No more Taurus. No more Fusion. No more Fiesta. No more Focus. Mustang lives. Lincoln sedans will not be affected by this change. If there was anything new on the Ford stand, I didn't notice.
Sierra - If there's a new Chevy Silverado, there's going to be a new Sierra, because they're basically the same thing in different clothes. And I don't like Sierra's new wardrobe much.
HR-V - Honda's baby SUV gets a style refresh and some advanced driver aid upgrades.
Passport - Honda revives a nameplate that once was essentially a rebadged Isuzu Rodeo. It's now essentially a shorter 5-row version of Pilot. It's Honda's answer to the new Chevy Blazer, Ford Edge, etc. You know what it makes me think of? A revived GMC Envoy.
Elantra - Elantra gets a style refresh that gives it a more aggressive look.
Kona - Hyundai's baby ute gets a full electric version in California and some compliance states. It was supposed to be available nationally, but according to the Hyundai rep at the show, "demand was so high, they restricted sales to compliance states." Think about that. Everybody wants it, so we'll make sure nobody can get it. Yeah. It can go an impressive 258 miles on a single charge, which is better than any EV sold in the US today not made by Tesla. It's front wheel drive only and makes 201hp, which is pretty danged zippy for a tall hatchback.
Palisade - An all-new full-size 8 passenger SUV, basically Hyundai's take on sister brand Kia's new Telluride. It really says something that there's suddenly all these Chevy Suburban competitors out there.
Santa Fe - For the past few years, Hyundai has sold two Santa Fe's...the larger Santa Fe, and the smaller Santa Fe Sport. The new Santa Fe is actually the size of the smaller Santa Fe Sport. The old Santa Fe is now the Santa Fe Plus, but it's only a stopgap model that will be replaced by the previously mentioned Palisade. The new Santa Fe gets Kona's squinty-eyed front end. I sat in this and the Kona (again), and frankly, I think I'd prefer the Kona. At least until you compare back seats.
Veloster - The all-new second gen car is here. It's still bratty and has that odd third door on the passenger side. There's a hot hatch Turbo R-Spec version you can get with a six-speed manual or dual-clutch automatic. 20 year-old me would have loved this.
Infiniti showed off an electric concept at Detroit this year that broke down before they could drive it onto the stage, which is a perfect example of how sad Nissan's luxury division has become. As for real new cars you can buy? Not only is there nothing this year, they're discontinuing the Q30/QX30 and pulling out of Western Europe completely. I could do my usual rant about how some models haven't been updated in a decade or more or the gross missteps they've made in models and technology they HAVE updated, but what's the point. I swear, I could do a better job of running Infiniti than any of the nitwits who actually have over the past decade. The most stimulating conversation I heard at the Infiniti stand? A woman who said to her friend "I like tacos. I really do."
Cherokee - Cherokee gets a new front end that gets rid of those controversial squinty lights that you'd think are headlights but aren't...those are really below in that boxy array of lights you probably thought were fog lights...just as a bunch of other automakers are adopting that very idea. The standard 2.4 four-banger and optional V6 are joined by a new 2.0 turbo four that is a $500 option above the V6, but returns slightly better gas mileage than either motor, though premium gas is suggested for best performance. No Jeep fan is going to buy that. Everybody complains about the transmission in these things, but I drove a rental with the V6 last year and it worked fine for me, and I got really good gas mileage for a V6, averaging 32 on the highway. The 8.5 inch touchscreen and backup camera were the best I've seen in any car. The instrument cluster is hard to read in the sun, though.
Gladiator - It's a pickup truck version of Wrangler. Picture a Jeep Wrangler combined with a Hummer H1 and you sort of get the idea. Joey, do you like movies about gladiators? Well we have the vehicle for you.
Forte - All new for 2019. It's basic efficient transportation in a dressy package with lots of standard and optional driver aids, comfort, and entertainment tech.
K900 - Ever heard of this before? No? Me neither. Yet there's an all new next generation model for 2019. It's a luxo-barge of a sedan designed for rich people who want to be chauffeured. In other words, almost no one in the US, let alone at close to $60k for a Kia-badged vehicle.
Niro - Kia's Prius fighter disguised as an SUV gets a plug-in hybrid that can go about 25 miles on electric before the gas motor kicks in. I really don;'t get the appeal to PHEV's, but I guess somebody does.
Telluride - Kia adds a Suburban-size SUV to its lineup. The front end looks like it's designed to make the thing look ridiculously wide.
Range Rover Evoque - A bit longer, a bit better leg room, LED headlights, and better displays. I drove one of these, my first ever experience with the brand, earlier this year around Vegas and the Inland Empire. It tossed around decently and had ample power, but being a British vehicle, I had to read the owner's manual to figure out how a lot of stuff worked (including the door locks) and why a lot of stuff didn't. Also, being a British vehicle, the check engine light was naturally on by the time I returned it.
Aviator - A new three-row people hauler that Lincoln uses a LOT of aircraft puns to describe. The teaser ads on Twitter last Spring said "Landing soon." But the only way you'll ever get this in the air is to drive it over a cliff, and the landing will be anything but graceful. It will have a twin turbo V6 and a plug-in hybrid option. Your smartphone will act as the car's keyfob, which is awesome for the elderly people who love Lincolns but carry those Consumer Cellular flip phones because you'll never be able to start the damn thing. So maybe pushing it over a cliff is the best option after all. Between this and McDonald's requiring use of their app to get deals on Filet-o-Fish during Fast Food Fish Season, it's clear America just wants the elderly to die off already.
Nautilus - A not so new vehicle with a new name, this is the MKX with a style refresh. Lincoln has been moving away from those dumb code naming schemes in favor of real words. That's refreshing. It competes with vehicles like the Audi Q5, the Infiniti QX50, the Cadillac XT5, and...see what I mean?
Mitsubishi actually started television advertising again last year, driven mostly towards selling the Eclipse Cross. But the Outlander and Outlander Sport are still the big sellers. Oh, there's nothing new to see here yet.
Altima - While Ford and Chevy get rid of most of their sedans, Nissan fields an all new Altima. Good timing...they can take advantage of disenfranchised American buyers. It's sleeker looking, has sportier handling, and has a ginormous infotainment screen that looks like an iPad you juryrigged onto the top of your dash, a massive improvement over the puny screen on the previous model. The back-up cam on that was completely useless if you were wearing polarized sunglasses. The base 2.5 liter motor has been extensively revamped and is more powerful and more efficient than the old model (which was already decent power-wise and absurdly efficient). The V6 option is gone in favor of the variable compression turbo four that debuted in the Infiniti QX50 last year. In a new twist, all-wheel drive is an option. Nissan's semi-autonomous ProPilot is available, and apparently there's tech that can read road signs and warn you of things like if you're speeding., which I'm sure will be as annoying as the "low outside temperature" warning my Altima warned me about ALL THE FREAKING TIME. YES I KNOW IT'S COLD OUT. Hey, can we get that VC-Turbo in the next-gen Rogue too?
Thing is, with all the updates, sitting in it still feels like an Altima. Everything is right where you left it, it's just a bit nicer now. And that's just fine. I still maintain that if you want the ideal compromise of size, handling, efficiency, comfort, and performance for long distance driving, Altima is the vehicle to get.
Murano - Murano gets a style refresh and Nissan's Safety Shield 360 is available in all trims (standard on SL). No ProPilot. Because why would they on Nissan's snazziest SUV.
Rogue Sport - The smaller Rogue which isn't really the same vehicle but gets called that to make Rogue's selling numbers more impressive (all told, the two Rogues are the second best selling non pickup truck in the US behind...and just barely behind...Toyota's RAV4) gets a style refresh that makes it look more...sporty. It isn't, though. It carries over the same motor that Nissan fans thought was a dumb choice when the model was launched.
Rivian is an electric startup that hopes to begin deliveries in late 2020 out of the old Mitsubishi plant in Normal, IL. Ever driven around Bloomington-Normal and wonder why there's so many Mitsubishi's? That's why. Normal is also where Steak n Shake was founded, so extra cool bonus points. They're planning to launch with two vehicles that appear to target off-roaders like Jeep fans. They like to use the phrase "Electric Adventure". They should cut a deal with Maverik Convenience Stores to put up charging stations, since Maverik is "Adventure's First Stop".
R1S - A three-row SUV that sort of looks like a Ford Flex and a Hummer H2 mated. It has all wheel drive via an electric motor on each wheel, 230 to 410 mile range depending on how you option it, and up to nearly 800 horsepower. The "slow" one can go 0-60 in under 5 seconds. It has off-road capability comparable to a Jeep. Prices start at $72,500.
R1T - A pickup truck version of the above. The cheap ones will start around $69,000. Said to have up to 11,000 pounds of towing capacity. (The R1S "only" has 7,700.) They are taking deposits if you want one of the first.
Ascent - Subie joins the three-row SUV ratpack with a Highlander-sized SUV. It's the biggest vehicle Subaru has ever made, but it's still a four-cylinder CVT vehicle. There's no V6 option.
Crosstrek - Crosstrek gets a plug-in hybrid option for 2019 that's borrowed from Toyota.
Forester - All-new for 2019. You could place pictures of the 2018 and 2019 next to each other and play a game of "spot the differences" and it would be a challenge. But inside there's a bigger screen and nicer interior. The engine and driver aids have also advanced.
Toyota had a giant plastic asterisk in their area that said "*Boring is not an option" on it. That's true. Boring comes standard on EVERY Toyota.
Corolla Hatchback - This new model evolved from the Scion iM (sold last year as Corolla iM). It's now faster and sharper but not quite on a GTI level. But it's also quite a bit cheaper. It sure feels cheap inside.
Corolla Hybrid - Corolla gets a new hybrid version that rides on the Prius platform. Actually, it sounds like it's basically a Prius disguised as a Corolla.
RAV4 - The best selling non pickup truck in the US is redesigned for 2019. It has an aggressive new style. The front end looks REALLY angry. Like Frownie the Brownie angry. The professional car reviewers are all saying you should go with the hybrid version, which has a more composed ride and waaay better gas mileage with 41 mpg city and 37 mpg highway estimates. It sits nice and I liked the control layout.
Supra - Toyota revives this sports car badge for an all-new...sports car. Which is impressive in an era where car companies are using legendary sports car names on SUV's. The bad news is speculation on the future of the 86, the much cheaper sports car co-built with Subaru, who sells their version as the BRZ. If I were in the coupe market, I'd prefer the 86 over the Supra.
I almost bought an old Tiguan this year. A cheap 2009 model with just north of 100k on the clock. Why? It had a six-speed manual and looked really nice. Thought it might make a fun project car. Something that could be morphed into being more GTI-like. Then I went through the VW forums to see what issues I should look for and found out about VW's epic fail in timing chain design and the class action that ensued. And I laughed and laughed and laughed and that ended that. If you must own a Volkswagen, buy it new and plan on selling it the day before the warranty expires. By the way, if you want a reminder of how flimsy cars in the eighties were built, close the door on a new Tiguan with the window rolled down. There's that classic rattle.
Beetle - The current generation Beetle will end production this year without a replacement. The follow-up to the "New Beetle", which was a sensation when it was introduced in 1998 (I had a 2000 New Beetle GLX and it ranks as one of my favorite cars ever) never really caught on in an era where car buyers are all but abandoning passenger cars...let alone coupes...in favor of SUV's. However, there's talk of a new Beetle EV coming eventually. I would love to see that. I also have a vision in my head of an SUV-sized Beetle that would be completely ridiculous and amazing.
Golf - Golf gets a motor demotion with the 1.4 turbo from the new Jetta moving into this model, replacing a more powerful but less efficient 1.8. The next gen Golf should debut next year.
GTI - The hot hatch legend gets a "Rabbit Edition", paying tribute to the brand VW marketed the first generation Golf under in the US. It's basically a trim package. Hop along, bunny.
Jetta GLI - The sport version of VW's best seller is here and is really the Jetta you want with its 228 hp four and standard six-speed manual. A dual clutch auto is optional. It gets similar performance upgrades to the GTI, a honeycomb grille, cool wheels, and painted brake calipers. It will not be mistaken for the ordinary Jetta, but they had a prototype GLI here, and it's not as impressive looking in person as it is in pictures.
Passat - The American Passat, which is different than the European and Chinese Passats, gets a style refresh to make it look like the new Jetta. Since it's not a full redesign and staying on an outdated platform, it doesn't have the ability to have a lot of advanced tech you see in other models because VW still believes the US is a third-world country. The Euro and Chinese Passats ride on VW's newer platforms and have no such limitations. I suggest you go look at Nissan's new Altima instead.
Touareg - VW's original SUV which was big, inefficient, and super expensive, is all new for 2019. It's bigger, nicer, and even more super expensive. And because of that and the fact VW has the Atlas in the US now, the US isn't even getting the new Touareg. That model is done here. Sorry kids. You'll just have to make do with platform mates Audi Q7, the new Q8, or Porsche Cayenne. Honestly, for that kind of money, you may as well get an Audi badge out of the deal.
S60 - All new US-built sedan from Volvo's shiny new plant in South Carolina. I don't care how many foreign manufacturers have built cars here for decades, this idea just seems a bit odd.
V60 - All new for 2019, the most modern take on the classic Volvo wagon. Not as boxy, has a lower,
sportier profile. My dad used to like the old Volvos because they were "easy to fix on the road when they broke down." Not that that happened much.
You know when you go to the Chinese buffet and they have a skill crane machine by the entrance full of cheap Chinese iPod knockoffs? Zotye is the car equivalent of that. They build cheap vehicles that borrow or just outright copy other car designs. Their big seller seems to be the T600, a compact SUV that looks exactly like a WW Tiguan up front and an Audi Q5 from the A-pillar back. Which, frankly, makes it look better overall than either of the German cars. They use a Mitsubishi-sourced 2-litre four-cylinder motor, which by default probably makes them way more reliable too.
Zotye plans to be selling cars in the US by the end of next year, starting with a slightly more vaguely designed version of the T600. They expect to be priced about 20% below similar competitors. They've already named initial dealers and apparently plan to have an online sales presence too. I went through a bunch of owner reviews which appeared to mostly come from ex-Soviet countries and they all liked theirs, referring to them as cheap dependable transportation with a lot of features for the money.