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Studs and Duds – Los Angeles Auto Show: Sometimes an automaker unveils a new car to hoots, hollers, applause and cheers. Other times, crickets chirp as the assembled journalists look around nervously, their eyes asking each other, “Do we applaud now?” Hey, they can’t all be winners, but many are, and to help you separate the two we present our list of Studs and Duds for the 2007 Los Angeles Auto Show.
by Keith Buglewicz
Photo credit: Staff
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Stud: Dodge Viper SRT10 ACR
Let’s make this simple for you. 600 horsepower. Track-ready suspension. Styling that’s so in-your-face that’s practically shouting nose-to-nose at you. You can even order it with the air conditioning deleted to save a few pounds. The ACR is the race version of the Viper, the one you buy when you’re ready to shuck all the pretense and really wring out your skills against fellow pros. It’s not for everyone, but then again, neither is the Viper. So why is it a stud? It’s an even badder-ass Viper. How could it not be a stud?
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Dud: Chevrolet Aveo5
It’s not that we dislike the Aveo so much. It’s just that, in the subcompact class, there are much better offerings. Like, for example, um...everybody else’s car. It’s unrefined, slow, not very attractive, and didn’t offer as much driving pleasure for the money as, say, a Honda Fit, Toyota Yaris or a motorized wheelbarrow. To top it off, its estimated fuel economy is actually lower than the much larger and more comfortable Honda Civic (34 mpg vs. 36 mpg city). Chevy loyalists may flock to it, but smart shoppers will continue to look elsewhere.
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Stud: Honda FCX Clarity
Honda has put its money where its mouth is with the FCX Clarity. After announcing that it would build a hydrogen-powered fuel-cell vehicle based off the 2005 FCX Concept that was shown in Tokyo that year, it has actually done it. Admittedly, the Clarity will only be available in the Southern California region, where there is a relatively plentiful supply of hydrogen refueling stations...a whole three of them! However, if the company makes good on its development of home hydrogen refining stations, the Clarity’s sales could be completely unfettered. Going where no automaker has gone before is about as studly as it gets.
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Dud: Chrysler Aspen Hemi Hybrid
Yes, we know that we just voted the full-size Chevy Tahoe Hybrid our 2008 Editor’s Choice award for best hybrid. And, yes, we’re aware that the same basic technology exists here in the Aspen Hemi Hybrid. So why is one an award winner, while the other is a dud? Simple. The Tahoe is a truck that delivers on its promise of style, utility and comfort. The Aspen is a Durango with Chrysler badges on it. We were unimpressed with the Aspen when we drove it earlier this year, and we remain so now. Besides, a hybrid Hemi? You may as well dot the “i” with hearts.
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Stud: Hyundai Genesis Concept Coupe
So we didn’t get the hoped-for 350-horsepower V-8 engine. Big deal. What we did get was a stylish coupe “concept” (it’s really the production car with an aftermarket-style body kit) with front-engine, rear-drive, a six-speed manual, sport suspension, and a 300 horsepower V-6 engine. Sound familiar? Maybe, Nissan Z-car familiar? Yes, the Koreans have taken aim at the famously lettered sports car, and on paper it looks like it could be darn close to a bull’s-eye. Not only is the Genesis Coupe studly in its own right, but the whole company is showing its studitude by producing such a car.
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Dud: Jaguar XF
Poor Jaguar. It just wants to be loved, and it tries so hard. The fact that there’s so much riding on the XF sedan makes the fact that the nose looks like a 10-year-old Chrysler Concorde that much more painful. We’ll admit that it looks better in person, but it doesn’t have that special something, that “Jaguarness” that it so desperately needs. Instead, it looks like it could have come from the styling houses of Lexus or Infiniti. We’re guessing it’s an association that fans of leapers and growlers aren’t willing to make.
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Stud: Lincoln MKS
One of our editors is so frustrated with Lincoln that it actually angers him that the company’s lineup is so dysfunctional. But wait...what’s this? A modern shape, clean lines, an interior that doesn’t look like it scraped the bottom of the Ford parts bin? This could be something good, and by all accounts, it is. Lincoln’s MKS breaks with the most recent tradition of doing little more than rebadging Ford products by giving the MKS a distinct character and style. We wish the V-8 would be available sooner, but for now, it’s good to see that Lincoln not only has a pulse, but that it’s strong.
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Dud: Dodge Journey
It’s not that the Journey is a bad car. On paper it sounds pretty nice. It’s just that pretty much every recent Dodge has sounded good on paper, but been significantly compromised on pavement, and there lies the rub. See, the Journey is based on the same platform as the Dodge Avenger, a car that left us cold time and again. The powertrain is pulled from the new minivans, including the schizophrenic six-speed automatic transmission. Inside, well, we’ve seen a lot of gray plastic in recent Dodge products, and we see a lot more here. Note to Dodge: A crosshair grille does not make a winning crossover.
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Stud: Nissan GT-R
There hasn’t been a Japanese car this studly since the original Acura NSX. When Carlos himself – as in Carlos Ghosn, the president of Nissan – drives the car on stage, you know that it’s important. When Nissan has the biggest display in recent memory of any manufacturer at the L.A. show, you know it means business. When it finally decides to sell its 473-horsepower all-wheel drive, affordable supercar in the United States, well, our jaws drop in amazement as we cheer it on. We wish Nissan had found a better way to deal with speculators than by crippling the warranty, but still, it’s a hell of a car.
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Dud: Volvo ReCharge
Volvo’s heart is in the right place with the ReCharge. Similar to the Chevrolet Volt concept, it uses a gasoline engine to recharge its battery pack on the fly, and uses the stylish C30 as a basis. Unfortunately, it’s so much like the Volt, and so contrary to the “ya, really, ve are fahn” image that Volvo is trying to cultivate with the C30 that it falls on its face. The whole “eat your veggies” message is driven home by the paint scheme: the green wheels on a white body look like so many lima beans piled on a plate.
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