BLOG: The Milwaukee Auto Show

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by Tom Durian

Tom Durian's take on the Milwaukee Auto Show.

The Milwaukee Auto Show is in full swing right now at the Frontier Airlines Center. It's the perfect place to see what you can expect to arrive at dealerships near you soon. If you have read my bio, you know I love cars... so I took a trip Monday afternoon to check it out.

There was certainly a theme at this years show. With a gallon of unleaded gas approaching $4.00 here in Milwaukee... many drivers are looking for a vehicle that will sip gas. While walking around the show you'll notice the above signs on the floor directing you to vehicles that have an EPA rating of 40MPG. Whether it's a hybrid or traditional gas engine there were a lot of these to choose from.

There was this Fiat 500... (No J-Lo found in any of these). The car is getting a lot of airtime on TV, and it's incredibly popular in Europe. Reviews say the 101-hp engine is just adequate to get the small car moving, but it rates in the high 30's in HWY MPG. I think the car looks like a fun second set of wheels to drive during the summer... I'm not sure I'd want to navigate Wisconsin roadways in the Fiat during the winter.

Staying with the small theme. Volkswagen's 'New' New Beetle. I feel like they finally made this car a little manly. They stretched the wheelbase and gave the car a more dramatic look. The previous version available for the last decade was a little too girly for a dude to drive if you ask me. They have redesigned the interior as well... bringing back more of the Beetle's of years past (60's) and adding all the high tech gadgets expected in today's cars. If you're looking for the interior flower vase... you're out of luck. VW dropped it this year. 

This is the new Lexus GS. If you're familiar with the car, you can see that they totally redesigned it to make it more sporty, and an alternative to a BMW 5-Series or Mercedes-Benz E-Class. The vehicle in the picture is equipped with Lexus' "F" sports package. It adds bigger wheels and tires, along with aggressive body work and re-tuned performance suspension and the outside. Sport seats and special trim adorn the inside of the car. But there are no engine or drive train enhancements with the "F" package. The standard 306-hp V-6 is standard across the line (except the Hybrid GS450h) the V-8 option has been dropped for this year. 

OK, so my take on this. I recently traded in my 2006 Lexus GS, it was the first year of the previous body style. The car was great. Fit and Finish were impeccable and if you've ever owned a Lexus you know the customer service is hands down the best, no matter which dealer you go to. It's a corporate commitment. That said, the car was boring... no real attachment for the driver to the road. I never really felt a connection to the car like I have with previous vehicles. Mostly BMW and Mercedes-Benz models. The Germans just build a car that attaches the driver to the road with visceral feedback.

Lexus has tried to fix this problem, not only with the aggressive styling, but with the way the car feels. I have not driven the new model but reviewers that have say the car has vastly improved over the previous three generations. One area I think designers fell flat was the rear of the car. First off it looks cheap... (the vehicle pictured stickered at $58,000) and it looks too much like it's little brother the Lexus IS. I'm hoping to get behind the wheel and update you with a test drive later.

Speaking of the Lexus IS... here is one of it's new competitors. The Cadillac ATS. It is smaller than the CTS line of cars which has spawned a sedan, coupe, and wagon. It's a good looking vehicle. It carries the distinct Caddy grille and the lines are very sporty when equipped like the one shown. It's Cadillac's answer to the BMW 3-series, MBZ C-Class and Audi A-4. It will offer both I-4, I-4 Turbo, and V-6 power-trains.  Now for some fun...

Here is the Mercedes-Benz SLS. A dream car of sorts at $192,175 it sports the "gullwing" doors of Sl's past. You may have seen it in the Showtime series "House of Lies" ... Such a beautiful car and actually big enough to drive on a daily basis if you're a fat cat investment banker! Maybe this isn't expensive enough for you.... try this.

The Lexus LF-A. It is Lexus' answer to the super car. It's lines are less classic than the SLS and more reminiscent of a Ferrari or "super" Supra of the late 90's. Reviews for this car are mixed. For the $375,000 sticker price those who have driven this car say there are certainly better performing cars for the money. But once again it signifies Lexus' move to be aggressive in both design and performance... and I like it. It's about time they do. Their vehicles are just great, but lacking soul. If they find the right balance they will be able to take on all the other car brands.

Doesn't this look like an Aston-Martin or a Jag? Well I'm sure the recent family history between those companies and Ford has something to do with the look of the new Ford Fusion. I think Ford has a hit on their hands. The 2013 Fusion won Autoweek's "Best in Show" award at the Detroit Auto Show and other design awards. It will hit showrooms likely with Ford's popular new line of fuel efficient "Eco-Boost" engines.

Then there is this, that is just fun especially for those of us who live in areas with a winter climate. It's the Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet. It's a AWD SUV with the top chopped off... For those that have an SUV or truck to drive during the winter and a convertible for the summer, this may be the perfect combo. It's much taller than you would think... you can kind of see it here. That's a Pathfinder parked next to it.

This is just my take on some of the vehicles at the auto show. Watch the CBS 58 Morning News this week and "like" us on Facebook for your chance to win tickets to the event.

 

See you in the morning,

Tom

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