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10/27/04 YOUNG IMPRESSIONS

This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!

Published on Sun, Dec 5, 2004

By: The LACar Editorial Staff

The Hummers drew both young and not-so-young crowds.

YOUNG IMPRESSIONS By ALEX GOINES & JOHN-FREDRIK WRIGHT

There are not many motor journalists under 25 years old. Maybe that's why the car manufacturers at auto shows have traditionally presented their cars in such a way as to appeal to the older generation. But, as members of the younger press, we think there might be a change around the corner. The majority of auto shows have press conferences that tend to be, well, frankly boring. Usually, a very powerful person within a car company goes on and on about the ingenious engineering of the car he is about to pull the cover off of, and then a very good-looking female pulls the sheet off the car and reveals the newest car of their line-up. Good news: We saw some differences this year at the California International Auto Show. For example, Kia's press conference came complete with lighting taken from a concert, music to go with the lights, plasma-screens showing interviews with people on the streets being asked about cars, and then of course a little information about the cars to be reviled.

All of this foreplay for a Kia? Yeah, and it worked. With the exception of an older journalist sitting two chairs to our right who was plugging her ears, the presentation was well-received by most everyone. Well done, Kia! The conference centered on the redesigned Sportage, which looked like the design team took random parts from the Volvo XC90, Ford Explorer, and Nissan Xterra. In fact, Kia even admitted that the rear end bore a striking resemblance to a Volvo. That earns points in our book for honesty, and smart designing (Volvo does know what they're doing). Also unveiled were the custom Spectra5 and Spectra LD, representing Kia's leap into the land of youthful tuners. These two had the usual side skirts, lowered suspension, and flashy paint job, but nothing that isn't seen on every other after market car. If you can't be ahead of the curve, it's still a plus to be in the pack, rather than a few laps back. Of course, Kia can't really steal a whole show, even with a great presentation. So what else caught the eyes of LA Car's young send-outs? Well, naturally, the Lamborghinis, Ferraris, and Maseratis always have a way of stealing some attention, even without a flashy presentation or cool lighting. The Ferrari F430 might be one of the nicest Ferraris ever, and the Maserati Quattroporte ranks way up there as a very neat four door sports car. And if there is a prettier sight than a yellow Murcielago marking its territory next to a lime one, these eyes have not seen them.

Ford Shelby GR-1 Whenever free stuff is involved, you can bet the press will flock, and this day was no different. This holds especially true when the goodies are accompanied by new Saleens, including the new Saleen Mustang. Also unveiled was a new Ford concept, the Ford Shelby GR-1 (which looked like a Mustang mated with a large rear-ended Corvette), and a youth oriented car, a Saleen Focus. Being the targeted market group for this sporty Focus, we were less than thrilled. First off, it's still a Focus, which we just can't get over. In an attempt to attract the aftermarket racing crowd (as well as save them time), the car comes stock with nitrous - a nice affect, but it can't save the car. Should we decide to actually want a raced-up street-legal coupe, the Focus would be nothing more than a consideration. The Cooper, Cooper S and the Cooper Cabriolet are all ridiculously small, but can the rest of the car make up for this minor hindrance? The dashboard tries to, dressed with oversized meters and gauges. The front end looks as if it wants to let out an aggressive scream, but because of its size, it can only muster a squeal. All of this is okay, if you're looking for a car that is fun to drive, will fit into any parking space, and still be an out-of-the-ordinary-car. We like the looks of this car; it's too bad that it has to be so small. Getting in and out of the back seat is a chore. One can easily get nightmares about spending an entire road trip wedged back there. However, driving one is fine; the leg room improves for the driver, and all of the instruments are within easy reach. The less fortunate friends will have to figure the back seat out on their own.

The most exciting press conference was also one of the biggest backfires of the auto show. Chrysler pulled out all of the stops in promoting their new racing inspired sedan, the 300C SRT8 (SRT standing for Street and Racing Technology). This 425-horsepower Hemi-engined car is wonderful, but it was all of the perks that stole the show. The press was shuttled to a nearby Sonic Burger in a fleet of classic Hemi powered Plymouths and Chryslers. Once there, an entirely different fleet comprised of beautiful ladies in roller skates, the likes of which only Southern California can offer, served us with food and eye-candy. Between the classic automobiles and women, these two young car enthusiasts had little mental capacity left to appreciate the reason we were there. The new Chrysler looks great on paper (no engine that large wouldn't). Unfortunately, the appearance of the actual car is less than pleasing (Editor's Note: Snoop Dog will beg to differ). True, the car will most likely not be marketed towards the under 25 generation, but neither are most Volvos, and we love those. The car would be fun to drive for a weekend, perhaps if a friend's father foolishly left the keys in our possession, but for the estimated price of around $50k, we can think of a grocery list sized group of cars we would rather drool over. Considering our young age and lack of a high paying job, 99 percent of the cars present were out of our price range (everyone can afford a Kia though, right?), but we can still appreciate the youthful touches added into today's cars. Be it flashy gauges, exotic dashboards, or a light-weight body, designers are turning mating functionality with an aesthetically pleasing feel, at least to the under-25 crowd.

Legomania: Volvo displays an XC90 made out of Lego pieces. For LA Car's report on the California International Auto Show, see Anaheim Reaches Critical Mass.

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