As we write this, we have just returned from the Detroit International Auto Show, and are preparing to make a quick turnaround and head to the four-auction carnival in Arizona. If one had to choose between the two places, certainly the baking heat of January in the Southwest would win over the blustery cold of the Midwest.
However, the allure of a major auto show has nothing to do with its location, but everything to do with vision. For the first time in years, the array of production and concept cars displayed by the manufacturers in Detroit demonstrated a commitment to imagination and style. For too long, enthusiasts have had to watch as the vehicles dominating the displays and the showrooms have been either Honda Accord/Ford Taurus "my vanilla is whiter than yours" variants, or Chevrolet Suburban/Ford Excursion offerings in the "mine is bigger than yours" vein. Hardly the stuff of gearheads' dreams.
But there's been a shift. The new Mercedes Vision SLA is a striking, rule-breaking (when was the last time you saw exposed shock towers on a car?) compact sports car. Even if full of visual references to the SLR-Roadster show car, it shows that a car can be small of stature but large of impact.