Friday, November 30, 2007

San Francisco International Auto Show

Lou and I took the Caltrain to San Francisco International Auto Show at Moscone Convention Center. We haven’t been to a new car auto show since 1986 just before we bought Lou’s Volvo. We’re starting to look at new cars just in case we need to replace it.

Easy trip up to SF. On the walk to the convention center we stopped by a ceramic shop that Lou wanted to go see. Turns out there isn’t so much more there and the prices aren’t that much less that Lou wont just use her usual shops closer to home.

We stopped for brunch at Mel’s dinner next to the convention center, but outside the high convention center prices. We shared a pot roast sandwich and had tea.

Tango Electric Car.JPG
When we entered the show the first car we saw was only half a car. The Tango is a well built four wheel car that is about as wide as a motorcycle. It carries two people, though a tad cramped. Lou and I fit inside with moderate use of a shoe horn. It’s performance is similar to a drag racer. It’s an all electric vehicle that has a two hundred mile range on its batteries. Oddly enough, it’s extremely stable even though it is so narrow due to the batteries being so low to the ground under the seats. Parking is no problem and lane splitting is supposed OK too. Interesting vehicle, but, it costs over $100,000. Not good for us. George Clooney can afford it, we can’t. We’ll wait for the price to drop, and drop, and drop.

We looked over a number of garage built all electric and electric hybrids with supplemental batteries. All look interesting but I’m not really interested in an odd vehicle.

We talked a lot with the Toyota people about their hybrids. They are supposedly testing a new fleet of hybrids with extra batteries for use on battery only for most use. They sound interesting. Many have been built by others but Toyota is interested in the bigger market so price/performance are more important to them. The current Prius looks good. Excellent gas mileage but is too short on two things important to us. Safety (only 4 stars of 5) and can’t be towed on all four wheels, needs a dolly. So on we went.

Suzuki SX4.JPG
We looked at the Suziki SX4 SUV. Good mileage (24 city 30 highway) and low cost ($15-17k) . Excellent warranty and safety rating. Can be towed on four wheels flat. It is a smaller SUV and therefore lighter (only 28-2900 lbs).

Mazda Tribute.JPG
Next stop, the Mazda Tribute SUV Hybrid Electric Vehicle (HEV). It gets good mileage (34 city and 30 highway). It’s reasonably priced ($25K+). Has good safety ratings of 5 for everybody except the driver which is 4. It can be towed on all four wheels. The Tribute is identical to the Mercury Mariner and Ford Escape but as shown at this show was $8k cheaper. That price difference may have been just the superficial features we don’t want anyway like an electric drivers seat, a backup camera and ultrasonic bump warning system and a couple of more speakers for the stereo. This one is our favorite because it meets our criteria and is roomy enough without getting too big.

Saturn had their Vue HEV. Not much info yet and we couldn’t touch it.

Jeep Treo.JPG
I liked an older Jeep Treo concept vehicle. It’s just what we need, a three person car. I’m not sure where the third bicycle would go?

The Xbox Car.JPG
Now this isn't too practical! Raise the hood, project your Xbox game on the underside of the raised hood and drive along merrily?

It was fun looking at all these cars but most of them we wouldn't have because they are so poorly designed and non functional. There was the small handful of serviceable vehicles and a show like this is the only way to auto shop!

We walked up to Chinatown for dinner at the Silver Restaurant it wasn’t as good as in the past. Must be new owners.

The train ride home was a little long. We arrived at the station at about 6:25 pm. The first train that stopped at our station in Palo Alto would have left at 6:56pm. Two other trains that wouldn’t stop there were to leave at 6:14 and 6:27. But, some problem existed on the tracks and four trains were stacked up just down the track and three here at the station. The 5:56 train that would stop at our station was still sitting there and passengers were moving from the 6:14 train to it because the 6:14 had been cancelled. About 6:35 the train left the station, moving slowly and waiting at stations and along the route due to the delayed trains ahead. The train was packed and we didn’t have a seat, along with many others standing in the isles and sitting on the stairs. People were taking it well. Many parties were started when beers were opened. The man next to us opened his bottle of a nice wine with the corkscrew he had just bought. I assume all the booze was intended for use after their arrival home but they were going to do what they could to forget the delays. We got a seat after a couple of station stops. We arrived home after about an hour and a half ride which normally takes one hour. Our arrival time at our station was actually a couple of minutes before the train we intended to take, the 6:56pm train, would have arrived so we really weren’t delayed at all.

We now are a little better prepared in the event we need to replace Lou's Volvo. It is getting a little older (21 years) and a little higher mileage (over 300K). From the show we learned we like the Mazda Tribute HEV (same as Mercury Mariner and Ford Escape). We also liked the Suzuki SX4. It gets good mileage but is a bit smaller. We have never really considered ourselves as SUV people even to the point of ridiculing them on occasion. I guess we've changed? Cars sure have.

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