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San Diego Auto Show - RonO's Ramblings

Dec. 30th, 2010 06:17 pm San Diego Auto Show

(FWIW, my Linux box died, and is taking longer to restore than I'd have expected - so this got posted directly to LiveJournal).

This morning, I headed down to the San Diego Auto Show.

I decided that I'd rather take advantage of my transit pass and take a bus than try driving down - which was probably a sensible option. At the least, it saved me money for gas and parking. However, the last express bus from Rancho Bernardo to downtown left at 7:30 in the morning. I got to the bus station and got into line reasonably well before the bus arrived. When it arrived, it was already packed. Unlike the bus I take to work, the bus downtown is usually quite full after its first stop in Escondido, and today was no exception. The driver told us that only three people would be able to board, and the rest would have to catch the bus that was waiting out of service at the station as a contingency. Unfortunately, I was number 3 (actually 4, but the third person choose to wait). So instead of getting the first choice of seats, I ended up taking one of the seats in the back row.

The trip down was fairly quick - taking advantage of the express lanes on I-15 until we reached CA-163 a bit less than half-way downtown. As we got downtown I tried to observe where the bus was going, and listen to the driver (as well as my book) so I could get off at Broadway and Kettner. I knew that I could get to the convention center from that intersection, having done it several times over the last two summers (once last summer, two or three times the summer before).

One concern about getting off there was that the Big Bay Balloon Parade was ending at Seaport village this morning, and was also starting at 10:00. But it wasn't even 8:30 yet, so while roads were already closed, there weren't any parade crowds. As I waited to cross Harbor drive by the Seaport Village trolley stop, two or three floats drove by on their way to the staging area, so I could claim to have seen some of the parade.

As I got to Seaport village, I tried to find the bookstore where I've gotten warm drinks before, but they weren't open yet. So I headed towards the convention center along the bay front, and found another place open and got something to drink. After I got near the convention center, I decided I needed to get the cash I hadn't gotten earlier. I enquired of my phone about a credit union and found one on the far end of The Gaslamp Quarter, but gave up and used a Bank of America ATM (for $3.00) instead. I returned to the convention center, waited about 15 or 20 minutes for the box office to open, got my discount (for having the coupon from the Sunday paper) ticket and headed inside to wait. Apparently the door I came through wasn't supposed to be open yet - even though nobody chased me out - since the rest of the crowd stayed outside until a bit before the 10:00 opening.

I came in about 10, and worked my way over to the nearer end of the hall (the end that it Hall H which is not used as part of the dealers' room - or whatever it is called - at Comic-Con). I looked around the green cars collection, taking a good look at the Nissan Leaf and some of the Toyota hybrids. I ended up signing up to get the flyers from the Toyota's mailed to me, which saved me some weight walking around.

I then headed over to Jeep's indoor obstacle course, and went ahead and signed in for a ride. I ended up sharing a ride (they don't let people drive over this course, the demonstrators have to) in a Grand Cherokee. The ride proved that the Grand Cherokee actually still has some real capability underneath its "urban assault vehicle" refinements since it made it up and down the 30-degree slope and over the various terrain obstacles without any trouble.

I then worked my way back across the show, looking mostly at the cars I might consider should my car (and its payments) suddenly disappear. I took a quick look at a couple of the Fords, a longer look at the Toyota hybrids - and confirmed that the Yaris was what I rented in Albuquerque in August. While looking at the Toyotas, I did ask about the disappearance of what I termed "the information overload screen" on the second generation Prius. I also overheard the salesperson talking about the current generation as though the original Prius with a trunk (sedan, coupe?) didn't exist, but choose not to interrupt and correct him.

I also took a look at the somewhat less mini Mini, as well as the Cooper. Both of these have a feature I cannot quite comprehend - the least useful (IMHO) gauge (the tachometer) on the car is placed centered over the steering wheel, and the speedometer is in the center of the console between the seats - a placement which seems backwards unless all of the gauges are centered on the console to allow for easier adaption between left- and right-hand drive.

I spent a bit of time in the Chevy area, mostly looking at the Volt. The Volt looks a lot better than the orignal pictures I saw (i.e. it is looking less like it was designed by the person or team who have been designing the Cadillacs recently, making them the - IMHO - ugliest line of cars available in the U.S.), but with a >$40,000.00 price tag, I don't think I could consider one.

I then worked my way through the rest of the show, looking briefly at the Jeep Wranglers which still seem to me (as a former 1995 Jeep Wrangler (YJ) owner) very un-Jeeplike in the interior (more UAV styling).

I tried to find the Hyundi test drive event behind the convention center, but after a long walk it looked like they were still setting up, so I gave up. I did head over the top of the convention center (shorter than walking back to the back entrance) and signed up for the Ford test drive. I took a drive in a Fussion hybrid which I might consider (again if I were unexpectedly in the market for a new car) if I could get over my aversion to trunks. I headed back into the show specifically to see how big the trunk and back seat of the Fussion was, and decided that it would definitely hold what we'd want to carry in the cases where Tara's Cube was too small - or at least come as close as any of the cars I semi-seriously looked at.

On the way back out towards The Gaslamp, I took a quick test drive of a Kia Optima. I ended up with the turbo model - which I drove a bit differently than I had the Fussion half-an-hour or so before, since it was a turbo.

I then entered The Gaslamp looking for lunch. After rejecting the idea of waiting for a table at one place (where I was also slightly concerned that my red University of New Mexico sweatshirt might attract unwanted attention from the purple Washington Huskies fans - mistaking it for a identically red Nebraska shirt), I ended up getting lunch at Mary Jane's coffee shop in The Hard Rock. Now I've eaten there a couple of times before, but both times it was masquerading as Cafè Deim and promoting SyFy during Comic-Con. So this was my first look at their normal menu. After rejecting a couple of salads which is what I probably should have gotten, I choose to get a 3 egg omelet (swiss cheese, "Magic Mushrooms" and ham), which was quite good. I was sitting at the low (coffee shop) counter, which is a bit far from the chairs for maximum comfort, but otherwise the experience was pretty good.

I then headed on up 5th further into the Gaslamp - passing several other places I would have considered for lunch if I'd been less hungry or less considering returning to the convention center. I eventually worked my way over to Horton Plaza since I'd decided that it was better to wait for the 3:00 (or a bit later) express bus rather than trying to catch the regular bus either downtown (I'm not sure where), or at Fassion Valley. But Horton Plaza couldn't really hold my interest, so I wandered around a bit, including taking a look at the lobby of the U.S. Grant hotel, before finally killing time at Sam Goody's (back in Horton Plaza) and Panera Bread.

Since I still had time to wait for my bus, I ended up heading up the bus route from 3rd, by Horton Plaza, to Kettner. As it turns out, this was a good move since the bus was almost empty at Kettner and standing room only by the time it left the stop at 3rd - with a lot of people getting on both at 3rd and at 1st by the court house.

After I got home and apologized to Tara for having turned my phone off (I've got to call T-Mobile and see if I can kick my subsidy back loose or if I need to order another a second new battery in less than a year) so I hadn't gotten either her call or her text.

I had a good day, and other than a bit of what is probably sunburn on my face (I know I should put sunscreen on every day, but I forget 99% of the time), I enjoyed myself. I've also hit the point that if I determine that I can (or need to) replace my Vue in a couple of years after it's paid off, I'd probably want to drive and consider The Nissan Leaf (forcing us to use Tara's Cube for longer drives), the plug-in Prius scheduled to come out in a year or so, the hybrid Toyota Highlander (if they weren't more than I really want to spend), or one of the two Ford hybrids.

I'm not fond of small cars (never felt as comfortable in most of the smallest cars - the Leaf and the Prius are about the smallest I'd not feel exposed in) and am skeptical about how much more milage a traditional internal combustion car could get without being a sub-compact. I am also unsure how wise one of the hyper-efficient diesels would be since I've seen very few stations around here that sell diesel - and most that do sell it for quite a premium which would make the cost-per-mile nearly comparable. I can add in that most of the ones currently available are from Volkswagon and after the problems we encountered with the Dasher - yes I know that was 30 years ago - I have very little trust for VW, Audi and Porsche vehicles not falling apart, at least in the passenger cabin.

But, as Tara will keep pointing out, if my car were paid off, we would still probably be better off keeping it even with my dropping like for it and its dropping value. The fact that after moving from flat Chicago to hilly San Diego it changed from a fairly efficient car with enough power for what I needed, into a marginally efficient underpowered car, is one complaint. It is also a real bear to back up - I almost hesitate to park it in garages or other tight spaces since it backs so badly - and has a horrible rear blind spot. And, it is just big enough to be problematic in the narrow parking spaces that seem to be so common around here.

Maybe if I go back to the auto show in two years (since it was two years ago I last went), I'll actually be in the market for something.

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