The Auto Channel
The Largest Independent Automotive Research Resource
Official Website of the New Car Buyer

2009 Detroit Auto Show - The Best and Worsts


By Steve Purdy
Detroit Bureau
The Auto Channel

Mercury Grand Marquis (select to view enlarged photo)

MOST ANACHRONISTIC VEHICLE – Can you believe they are still building the Mercury Grand Marquis. That rear-wheel drive design must be 50 years old by now but there are still buyers out there I guess. The Ford version, Crown Victoria, is still being made for cop and fleet cars and they even build the Lincoln Town Car by contract for limo fleets. The big rear-drive Fords are not dead yet.

MOST ANACHRONISTIC BRAND Hummer, to be sure. While the designs of the H2 and H3 (the H1 went away a few years ago) and the purpose for each may still be relevant to a few (off road capability is respectable) the brand’s designs have always been garish and overdone. Now they are becoming superfluous as well.


BEST DESIGNED DISPLAY – Head and shoulders above the competition, Audi had the best display both because of the architecture and the carefully selected spread of cars. With bright, aesthetically pleasing, massive shapes and cars limited to nicely balanced colors – mostly white cars with one red sports car and a red, white and silver race car for accent. Audi also won two respected design awards for the sports car and concept sedan - well deserved, indeed.

MOST INCONGRUOUS – Perhaps the bio-fueled Bentley Continental gets this accolade. Why does it matter if this big, beautiful car runs on bio-fuel?

2009 Mini convertible(select to view enlarged photo)

MOST FUN DISPLAY Mini always seems to be the most fun. Though there is much less interactivity this year, their ice-block house design is cool. The Mini models – racing edition, sport wagon and now convertible set the tone of fun and the display blends right in.

Ford Fusion Hybrid(select to view enlarged photo)

MOST SIGNIFICANT VEHICLE INTRODUCTION – While some believe the Taurus is most significant because it is Ford’s bread-and-butter car, I’ll go with the new Ford Fusion Hybrid. At over 40-mpg, it is going to keep Old Henry’s company in the long-term hunt.

Cadillac Converj (select to view enlarged photo)

BEST CONCEPT CAR – Certainly we find way fewer concept cars from which to choose. For me the Cadillac Converj runs away with this one – essentially what a Volt would look like as a sleek Cadillac coupe. So what if its name is a little silly.

tesla convertible (select to view enlarged photo)

MOST IMPROVED – The two Silicon Valley-sourced electric cars – Fisker and Tesla. Both were pie-in-the-sky last year and production ready this year. Fisker is presenting an attainable (80-grand or so) luxury sport sedan with great style. And Tesla has both a practical sports car and a contract in-hand to produce electric power units for the new Smart Fortwo electric.


MOST DEPRESSING – The New Chryslerdisplay, perhaps the most unadorned display ever to appear at the Detroit Auto Show from the company that until just this year had been famous for the most bold and brash events and displays.

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

MOST UNEXPECTED – The first time ever privately owned car has been displayed on the main floor – Dr. Gary Kaberle, originally from near Greenville, MI has designed a reproduction of one of the legendary Alfa Romeo Bat cars with the help of Italian Design firm Bertone. The fascinating story is too involved to tell here but we’ll do that in print one of these days.

BIGGEST NEWS Chrysler is selling the PT Cruiser tooling to a Chinese auto maker giving one of the longest running models and even longer life.


WORST OF SHOW – I couldn’t find anything at the show that deserves this designation.

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

BEST MONEY-IS-NO-OBJECT CAR– I’m going with the Audi R8 V10 on this one. Yes the AMG Mercedes SL-Class costs more and has the Mercedes ambiance but I agree with the right-brainers of the Eyes on Design awards judging team that the Audi is the best design of all the production cars at the show. Besides, this one is red – and I’m partial to red sports cars.

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

LUSTIEST CAR – Perhaps it’s because I’m an older guy but lust is getting to be a retro thing for me so this award goes to the rumbling, grumbling Ford Shelby GT500 Mustang. Carroll Shelby himself, now 88-years-old and on his second heart, was there to punctuate its introduction.

Cadillac Converj (select to view enlarged photo)

BEST OF SHOW – While I hate to follow the crowd, and I don’t consider myself a partisan, sometimes there is an obvious winner and I’ll agree with many others that the Cadillac Converj is that car. By the way – last year my choice was the CTS Coupe. Cadillac is on a roll in my view.