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Monday, January 30, 2012

2012 Portland Auto Show In Review

The 2012 Portland Auto Show is now just a dim haze in our collective rearview mirror, but here are a few of the highlights and lowlights in case you missed the event. All told over 500 new vehicles were on display to be pawed and probed by an enthusiastic public.
Camp Jeep Adventure Area
Emphasis on Electric/Hybrid Technology
There was a big impetus placed on high MPG vehicles ranging from fully electric vehicles like the new Smart, Ford Focus and Mitsubishi i, as well as old favorites like the Prius from Toyota which recently added a Prius V people carrier and will be adding a Prius C, essentially a scaled down and slightly sportier version of the popular vehicle.
Prius C
High End Persistance
We may be in the midst of the biggest economic downturn since the Great Depression, but people still need a little bright spot in their lives now and then, perhaps something in the form of a bespoke battle wagon weighing as much as a small moon. To quench that thirst for opulence, the fine folks at Bentley brought along three examples of the marque, even if one of them was the outdated previous model Continental GT. Spotted next to them was former housemate turned rival, Rolls-Royce, with an entirely underwhelming Ghost in classic white with inexplicably dirty tires. Perhaps creating a unique body style would have been more flattering to the newly introduced model rather than relying on scaling down the proportions of the nearly decade old Phantom.
Rolls-Royce Ghost
Local Made
Portland is no Detroit but we did have a genuine presence at the Auto Show with the Boxx personal transport device, assembled right here in Stumptown, heading up the line of funky/retro electric powered personal transports. Further evidence of the ingenuity of Portlanders were the vehicles on display from the Oregon Electric Vehicle Association, who showed off both a lovely British Racing Green MG, a VW Beetle (old school), and a Mazda Miata all given the full battery treatment. The VW and Miata were built by Ernest Hagel at VoltwagenEPC and the Beetle is available for purchase or he could do a conversion for you with costs running approximately $4,000 for labor and $20,00 for the kit in the case of the Miata. The MG was a private vehicle that was converted at a cost of around $12,000 according to the OEVA member on duty. The lower cost is said to reflect the ever dropping price of materials, especially batteries which have come down by almost 50% in recent years.
Boxx personal electric scooter, $3,995
High Points
While Portland is notoriously low on the Auto Show circuit and thus doesn't receive any of the mind shattering concepts featured at other shows, there was one vehicle that had everyone in the place leaning in for a closer look. The Fisker Karma, the brainchild of former BMW and Aston Martin designer Henrik Fisker, stunned with it's Maserati Quattroporte-like lines and innovative fuel assist mode for extended range driving all at a cost of $103,000 which isn't as bad as it sounds when you're staring this beast down face-to-face. Heck, you would also be counted among society's elite since to date the only Karma deliveries have been to high profile individuals like Leonardo DiCaprio, Colin Powell, and Al Gore.
Fisker Karma
The Mercedes-Benz stand featured the recently introduced SLK replacement with lots of goodies but with a couple of poorly executed features such as the hand-operated acrylic wind deflectors. The C-class coupe was on hand to lure daydreaming teens and those considering the brand for the first time. The updated CLS was less stunning in the flesh than it's predecessor although the rear seats were easier to get in and out of due to a taller roofline. As with all trade offs, the higher ceiling makes for more graceful ingress but loses the character that made the CLS such a looker when it debuted. Wouldn't you simply buy the standard E-class sedan if this was a concern?
2012 Mercedes-Benz C-class Coupe
We loved the Ryno Motors Micro-Cycle although it isn't in production. It is a gyroscopically balanced single wheeled motorcycle with a futuristic style as if it came right out of a Japanese Anime flick. Using apparatus similar to what a Segway scooter uses to maintain it's upright position, the Ryno seems to be a logical evolution of the technology and one we'd love to play around with.
Ryno Cycle
The Abarth high performance version of the Fiat 500 was at the show and seemed to gather the most enthusiastic crowds of the weekend. We will feature more of this car in an upcoming article, but it's essentially the tuner version much like AMG is for Mercedes, or Cooper Works with their Mini.

Hyundai stole the show from rivals like Toyota with their full line of beautifully designed and detailed vehicles, including the novel 3-door Veloster, many of which will feature hybrid technology in the coming year along with new model introductions and updates. We were especially pleased to hear that Hyundai developed a new gel based battery system that is almost entirely recyclable unlike the Prius battery that is largely impossible to reuse. Also, Hyundai sealed the fate of their hybrid competitors by announcing that all their hybrid drivetrain components will now have a lifetime warranty attached. All other motorcar companies need to pay attention to the way Hyundai does business if they want to remain relevant in a modern and quickly changing automotive world.

Monte Shelton Jaguar brought along the gorgeous and capable XJ, fresh from a total redesign that brings the classic sport sedan into modern times. The unique C-pillar impersonates rear wrap-around glass that carry on the lines drafted by elegant taillights that sweep upwards along the taught haunches that have become a Jaguar trademark. Inside the car, it's as if the traditional wooden dash was pivoted out to the door cards which feature large flat furniture quality slabs of exotic wood veneers. The details are where this car excel and everything from the pressure needed to activate each switch to the dampening of the climate control vents were perfectly engineered and executed. God Bless Mother England.

Low Points
The biggest disappointment was not smelling seeing the now-infamous Lamborghini Gallardo that caught fire after Auto Show staff decided to empty excess fuel from it's tank by revving it in place. Neverminding trivial facts about how cars work, like the need for air moving over radiators to keep things cool, an employee with simian-like intelligence made certain that at least a few prepubescent boy's dreams would be crushed by the absence of the supercar.

CODA Automotive, founded in 2009, had their all electric sedan at the show looking like a Daewoo from about a decade ago. They claim to be an American company with a car built in California, but much like Apple products you have to look closer to see that they are in fact largely created in China with only the finishing touches added in California. I'm sure it's all legal and correct in the eyes of the government but it just sounds like a sneaky way to do business in our opinion. To their credit, the staff at CODA was very open about the Chinese origins of the car when asked by random event goers.

We already mentioned there were no concept cars. Bummer.

Hyundai Equus... ok this is a tough one since we are such huge fans of the company otherwise, but they are definitely in over their heads on this one. Aside from a general approximation of what a super luxury car should be, the designer seems to have been handled by someone asked to draw an earlier Lexus from memory. Also, putting the driving assist camera in the middle of the grille center bar looks like a $50 upgrade performed by some 16-year old employee at  Best Buy.  A good place to start but definitely not ready for prime time.

All in all the Portland Auto Show is modest as you would expect, but in the long wet months between the plentitude of summer events, it's just the break in the clouds we need to quench our automotive thirst.

CLICK "Read More" below for full gallery of 2012 Auto Show Photos!


Electric VW Beetle

Electric MG

Electric powered wooden boat "Edison"



Interior of Fiat Abarth
Fiat Abarth




Hillary Clinton is shocked by her "likeness" on the side of a GMC Truck.
Fisker Karma
That ass, that ass!!!



Rolls-Royce Ghost interior
Even the MotoArigato Project Car got some love down in the parking garage.



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