Best of Show: Philly’s 2009 Auto Show

In Uncategorized on February 16, 2009 at 2:05 am

page6carsFrom January 31st through the 8th of February the Philadelphia International Auto Show invaded the chilly snow-covered City of Brotherly Love, bringing with it vehicles for anyone and everyone.  Housed inside the Philadelphia Convention Center the annual Auto Show limped into town on the world auto industry’s first yearly losses since 1950.  The news didn’t seem to put to much of a damper on the crowds of the show though as people flocked to the Convention Center for a look at the new, the old, the practical, and the expensive vehicles auto makers had to offer.

Upon entering the Convention Center, the Auto Show chose two luxury companies to welcome the crowds.   Lexus and Mercedes, legendary for their engineering, luxury, and price tags shined as the first stop.  Lexus seemed to outshine the juggernaut Mercedes, mostly due to the beautiful and powerful ISF sedan.  At $56,000 and change the ISF has a 416 horsepower 5.0 liter V8.  The Benz sedan in the same class as the ISF is the E-Class which, fully loaded (AMG version), is about $88,000.  In a time of economic crunch the victory goes to Lexus. .

Moving from the atrium to the show’s main hall included stops in two small areas with custom rides.  The small exhibits had some of the shows most outrageous rides like 50 Cent’s white on white Bentley Continental or a near 2000 horsepower Mustang GT 500 Twin Turbo.  Other customs included a Nissan GTR from Japan, steering wheel on the right and all, as well as custom choppers and crotch rockets.

The main hall housed the car companies for the everyman like GM, Ford, and Honda as well as more upscale vehicles like Volvo and Acura.  One of the most crowded companies had to be Chevrolet.  With four examples of their soon to be released Camaro, the newest and most powerful version of the Corvette ever, and a slew of vehicles getting 30 MPG plus, Chevy had quite the crowd in their floor space (on the Thursday I went of course).  The biggest pull seemed to be the Camaro. With four versions announced, Chevy looks to be aiming the Camaro at the new drivers as well as the fat wallet wielding mid-life crisis crowd.   “The V6 model has 304 horsepower and a price tag in the low thirties. As the power moves up so does the price with the LS7 version being in the low $40,000 range,”  said a GM representative.

The 2009 Camaro which is modeled after it’s 1969 brethren is making it’s return to the Chevy line up since the beloved muscle car was ousted due to slumping sales in 2002.  The new ZR1 Corvette also turned heads with its 610 horsepower, post 200 MPH top speed, and most of all it’s $120,000 price tag.  Chevrolet also has cars for the normal human like the Malibu sedan or the Cobalt SS, which was rated by Car and Driver as the best small performance car for the money thanks to its stiff suspension, 260 horsepower 2.0 liter turbo engine, and 30 MPG rating all for a car around $20,000.  Oddly absent, however, was the Volt, GM’s electric car which doesn’t use gas until 40 miles into a drive thanks to its revolutionary battery.  “The Volt is in Washington for testing,” said a GM representative.  Many experts are saying GM is hanging their hat on the Volt and its ability to be not only affordable but reliable.  Hopefully the crowd will be a sign of hope for the floundering GM Corporation.

Another big crowd in the main hall was housed around all-wheel drive masterminds Subaru.  In the past, Subaru has been known for dependable performance-driven vehicles, despite some mundane styling.  However, it seems Subaru has plans for both beauty and function with their new model line.   The new Forrester and Tribeca aren’t the grocery grabbers they once were; each got an aggressive styling upgrade making them more akin with Subaru performance.  The new Impreza was also a head turner. Moving away from the four door car style of the WRX, Subaru brought back the 5 door hatch back version of the car along with a more integrated, though no smaller, hood scoop.  The base Impreza comes with a 2.0L 150 horsepower four cylinder but the legendary STI model is propelled by a 2.0L twin scroll turbo engine pumping out 304 horsepower.  Add in substantial stiffness and suspension upgrades and the new Impreza is a great buy from about $18,000 to $35,000.  Finally, Subaru’s ace in the hole was their Legacy sedan.  A sporty car with luxury styling, it had a custom brushed metallic paint job that was attracting more than a few curious onlookers.

Other highlights of the main floor included a look at the new Dodge Challenger.  Dodge released the modern muscle car this summer in hopes of beating Chevy’s new Camaro to the punch.  The Challenger looks sweet with it’s old school body lines and light bar tail light but the bland interior and underpowered base model hurt a bit.  The 2009 Acura TL also brought turning heads by mixing power, performance, and edgy style to the mid-level luxury class.  Another great entry into the same class as Acura’s TL is Hyundai’s Genesis.  The Genesis offers superb almost German styling and couples that with luxury and an engine that’ll have the Genesis going from 0-60 faster than a Porche Boxster.  Finally the struggling college student can breathe easy with impressive cars from Volkswagon, Toyota, and Saturn.  The Rabbit, Yaris, and Astra are all offered nicely equipped for under $17,000.

Whether the goal is to have a good time, look for a possible new car, or faint over the price tag of a Lamborghini the Philadelphia International Auto Show always has something for everyone.  Not to mention the fact that the Convention Center is part of Market East Station and right across from Reading Terminal Market.   Take a train, get some lunch, and prepare to sit in about a million cars, all for the fun of it.


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