Old cars of the future.

Reviews of cars, trucks, and other autos.
Jan. 5 2003 3:56 PM

Yesterday's Cars of Tomorrow

Report from L.A.'s second-fiddle auto show.

My God, now a fungus is eating at a BMW's headlights!  (Click on the xActivity Concept car or the related video.) It must be another Bangle brainstorm! No doubt there is a highly persuasive theory behind it. But the BMW official who unveils the car in the video does not seem overly enthusiastic, calling it "a possible direction." ...

Monday, January 6, 2003

Yesterday's Cars of Tomorrow: I've now visited the L.A. auto show, which is a little like going to see the 1,693d performance of Cats. While the hot new models are being introduced at the big Detroit show, we Southern Californians get the tired old cars of the future that have been schlepped around the show circuit for a year or two.  The L.A. show does inadvertently provide a nice retrospective look at which new models and prototypes have held up over the months and which haven't. (We're talking looks here, mainly. That's what auto shows are about, right?)

Honda's Gen-Y Box
Honda's Gen-Y Box

Big winner: Honda Element. Lots of carmakers are displaying box-like, punky anti-style vehicles. There's Toyota's Scion xB, Nissan's slightly dowdy Cube, Ford's attractive but oddly-named Faction. (Next: the Chevy Consensus!) But Honda beat them to market. You can buy an Element today -- and once you see it and root around in it you'll probably want to. It will also be interesting to see how the anti-SUV crowd reacts to the Element, which looks a bit like an SUV but also like a socialist car-- the kind of unpretentious, utilitarian, and efficient vehicle anti-materialist eggheads have been telling us to drive for years.

Maybach: Maybe not
Maybach: Maybe not
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Big loser: Maybach. $320,000 for a car that looks like a giant Hyundai? Maybe Mercedes, the Maybach's maker, isn't that smart after all. You could easily see Maybach's PR tipping, with its product becoming the whipping boy for a press and public annoyed with conspicuous overconsumption in a time of war and high gas prices, etc., etc. Who wants to drive a car people throw tomatoes at? Suggested motto:"Making the world safe for Lexus."

More winners:

Cadillac XLR convertible: Slim and classy.

Chevy Bel-Air: Cheap retro cues, but not entirely a PT-Cruiser-like cartoon.

Mosler: It is what it is. Fewer gratuitous vents than the competing Saleen S7.

Dodge Magnum SRT-8: I actually missed this one in my mad dash around the hall, but it looks great in the photos.

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

The Irritating Confidante

John Dickerson on Ben Bradlee’s fascinating relationship with John F. Kennedy.

My Father Invented Social Networking at a Girls’ Reform School in the 1930s

Renée Zellweger’s New Face Is Too Real

Sleater-Kinney Was Once America’s Best Rock Band

Can it be again?

The All The President’s Men Scene That Captured Ben Bradlee

Medical Examiner

Is It Better to Be a Hero Like Batman?

Or an altruist like Bruce Wayne?

Technology

Driving in Circles

The autonomous Google car may never actually happen.

The World’s Human Rights Violators Are Signatories to the World’s Human Rights Treaties

How Punctual Are Germans?

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