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Observations From The Buffalo Auto Show

2011 Jaguar XJ

As my 17-year-old son Andy and I were lucky enough to find a free parking spot on Franklin Street, 200 feet or so from the Buffalo Convention Center door, I thought to myself, “So far, this is the best Buffalo Auto Show ever!” Then we got inside.

As an auto show attendee for the past 45 years or so, I realize that not everyone who goes is necessarily interested in the cars. There are, for example, the food concessions, the drink concessions (and this is the first year I’ve noticed guys—and yes, they were mostly guys—roaming the exhibition floor carrying beers), giveaways, celebrities, and demonstrations.

My first disappointment was entering and seeing a very large crowd in the front of the main lobby, then edging towards the attraction and finding out it was that stupid yellow VW Beetle with the chicken head which you see in ads for a Cheektowaga jeweler. “Hopefully,” I mumbled, “this isn’t going to be the highlight of the evening.”

Luckily, it wasn’t.

We turned to the right and entered one of the lower exhibition floors. Audi, Lexus, Infiniti, Mini, BMW—the higher end of the automotive spectrum. Circling the room counterclockwise we sat in a few cars and couldn’t help but notice how they smelled much better than my 1995 Buick station wagon. And they all had much more complicated-looking dashboards. “Pretty soon cars will be nothing more than big cell phones,” commented Andy. Cell phones/iPods might even be more on the money. Some cars have so many buttons and switches for the combo audio system/hands-free phone/GPS setup that it may soon be impossible to drive without a navigator just to keep track of everything.

We eventually reached the Mercedes-Benz display, where, as I sat in the E550 coupe, my head was brushing up against the ceiling. A car that size, at that price—$55,000—should be able to comfortably fit a guy six feet tall.

Just before leaving the room, I spotted what turned out to be my own high point of the show—the 2011 Jaguar XJL. It was most splendid in its rich black paint job, and as I looked upon this stunning piece of automotive machinery, I couldn’t help but wonder if I’d be happier driving it or wallowing in the vast expanse of its rear seat: “Home, Jeeves.” Available in March, prices will range from $72,500 to $115,000. Hmm.…perhaps I can put Andy to work somewhere and make this happen.

I won’t go so far to say the rest of the show was anticlimactic after seeing the Jag. There were some highlights: a) sitting in the Kia Forte, and commenting to Andy that “If I were buying a car right now, this might be it,” and he replied, “I wouldn’t mind at all if you traded the Buick for one of these”—a ringing teenage endorsement of the spiffy little Korean sedan, even if you ignore the fact that he probably wouldn’t mind if I traded the Buick for the discarded plate of wings we passed earlier in the lobby; b) the new Mazda2, which for some reason seemed to be totally ignored by most of the crowd; c) some of the colors, which were very out of the ordinary, including an Optic Green Metallic Jeep Patriot and a Moss Green Nissan Cube—there’s something about a lot of these green colors which I think might get tiring before the payment book is finished; d) the lone Corvette on the floor, which I didn’t see anyone give a second look to; and e) the Porsche display—every car was locked, and there didn’t seem to be anyone around to show you anything when we were there. Why did they bother?

All in all, it was good to see that, yes, people are still interested in new cars. And it’s good to see that some of the manufacturers are, too, and they’re trying really hard to keep up with the times. Better late than never.

Read “You Auto Know” every other week in Artvoice and more often on AV Daily at Plus check out Jim’s bolog:

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