Anaheim California is home to the happiest place on earth. Normally it is associated with a place were a man-sized mouse invites guests to leave today and enter a land of yesterday, tomorrow and fantasy. From October fourth through the eighth however, the mouse was over-shadowed by a convention center filled with over 500 pieces of automotive wonder. Yes visitors still saw yesterday, tomorrow and fantasy, but this show focused mainly on today's automotive reality.
I suppose yesterday was represented by the street rods and classics displayed downstairs in the aftermarket section, today was still there, the majority of cars on display can all be seen at your local dealership. Tomorrow would be the few select concept cars that were scattered about. Lastly we could say the fantasy element was either my thoughts of owning the Lamborghini LP640 while watching its unveiling, or poor Buick thinking anyone was there to see anything they had on display. I guess to Buick's credit we can at least say that they brought their newest and most relevant offerings, which is more than we can say for Volkswagen and Audi but we will get into that later.
As already mentioned, this is a very consumer based show. Even though Southern California is the largest market for several European manufacturers, they still don't show much interest in the Orange County show. Ferrari showed up with three cars stuffed into an area that was probably meant for two. Porsche was represented by a local dealership that haphazardly arranged a few cars downstairs in the aftermarket area amongst the sea of modded STIs and blinged out Hummers.
Audi had a decent display, showing off most of their offerings but I was very disappointed by the lack of an RS4. My consolation was being able to check out the spectacular S6. The A6 has always struck me as being Audi's most unremarkable model. Not that there is anything wrong with it, just nothing that exciting. The new S6 has changed my mind entirely. The interior is chock full of enough carbon fiber and aluminum trim to keep any techie race fan's eyes occupied for hours, while the supportive seats and ample leather provide a luxurious setting to enjoy the sounds of the V10 under the hood.
I couldn't walk away from Audi without spending some time with the A3. I am a huge GTI fan; I have owned a few, driven many and never been disappointed. From a looks stand point the A3 to me, looks more like a GTI than the current GTI does. It has that aggressive boxy look that is utilitarian and sporty all at the same time. The interior is incredible, who doesn't love a turbo four, it's close to perfection. My problem is, I can't spend 30 grand on a "GTI". If for 30 I got a 2.0T Quattro version, that would be a whole different story, until then I will just keep saying hi to the A3 at opportunities like this.
I was looking forward to seeing the new BMW M Coupe at the show. Apparently it had the same previous engagement as the RS4. The M5 an M6 were both on display, looking very menacing and overshadowing the assortment of 3 series cars that seemed to take up most of the show space. I had previously seen the new 335, but it was still nice to see it next to the 3-series sedans for comparison. More than ever before, there is a big difference between the coupe and sedan versions of the 3-series. Some details of the sedan are more pleasing than coupe, but both have strengths and weaknesses. With the 335 now being equipped with a fantastic twin turbo inline six, I am anxious to see how they could possibly out do it with the V8 M3.
Mercedes probably had the largest display of any of the Europeans and I would also say the most depth in their product line. It seemed as though they had brought at least one of each and two of some just to be safe. The AMG models were gorgeous as always. The E63 and SLK55 really stood out to me. Both cars strike me as the types of vehicles I would actually want to own. The S-class and CLS remind me more of something you would be driven in, instead of something you drive. I just don't need a vehicle that large.
Volkswagen had the most interactive display at the show. Looking as if they ordered their display area straight out of an IKEA catalog, it was very young and modern. Show goers could play a GTI themed video game, or create their own GTI models and then fit them to a slot-car chassis and race their friends. I asked one of the VW representatives why they weren't showing a four door GTI. I figured since that was the newest GTI available, this would be a great time to show it off. Apparently non were available for the show. I have seen a few driving around lately, apparently those people customers planned a little further ahead than whomever organized VW's show effort. They did have one single EOS, which looked remarkably better than the models they had on display at last years LA Show. I guess I should mention the Passat models they had stuck in a corner, but they seemed very nonchalant about them, so I will take the same attitude.
At the end of the day I found myself thinking about all the cars I wished I would have seen, but apparently were too busy to put in an appearance. I realize that this show isn't nearly as important as the upcoming LA show, but I would think the European Manufacturers would be more willing to put a little effort into a show in their largest market's own backyard. Would I recommend this show to friends, definitely. Any convention center filled with cars is a good time for car fans. This show is fairly new, and maybe if the locals show more interest, the manufacturers will respond.