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Washington DC Auto Show, 2014

As auto shows go, Washington, DC isn’t known for major introductions or dashing new concept cars, so much as “policy summits,” political glad-handing, and greenwashing one-upsmanship. At what other show do major manufacturers bring their most exciting metal (I’m looking at you, 2015 Ford Mustang and Nissan GT-R), only to shove it into a back corner where it takes an Easter egg hunt to find them?


Front and center at this show are usually the staid “green” socially responsible offerings, usually gas/electric hybrids. Until range anxiety gets sorted-out (or we get a cost-effective way to do hydrogen), regular hybrids and “range extenders” will have to do.


The main entryway to the Walter E. Washington Convention Center is usually an indicator of which company is coming into the year with confidence, and this year it’s General Motors. To the left, GMC trucks; and to the right, Buick. Right after GMC on the aisle is a huge Chevy display – with Chevrolet bucking the trend of “hiding” the performance cars, and putting a variety of Camaros right out there for all to see, beckoning guests to look more closely and find the new Corvette Stingray located off the path. The Stingray did get a stage which to rest, at least. (Cadillac is somewhere downstairs, mixed in with the rest of the luxury brands. Blink as you pass by and you’ll miss it.)


Which brings us to the Chrysler/Fiat/Dodge/SRT/Jeep/Ram block in the middle of the hall on the main floor – and the one proper “all new for this year” car that we were able to examine inside and out: The Chrysler 200 S.

My impression of the 200 exterior was pretty simple: It's not a mind-blowing, Earth-shattering design - because it shouldn't be. This is a segment dominated by very boring cars (Camry, Camry, Camry, Sonata, Accord, Camry... you know the rest) so just looking good is already a plus. For that, the new 200 does well - it looks good, and doesn't bore me. Achievement unlocked.


When you let designers design, and engineers engineer, you get good stuff like this. It's nice to see Chrysler with a credible entry in the midsize arena. [This is a very brief summary; see A.J. Morning’s complete impressions of the 2015 Chrysler 200.]

We couldn’t help but notice the white Viper in the center of the floor, aimed defiantly towards the Chevy display, as if to say “let’s take it to the track.” And, that they will, at this weekend’s [as you’re reading this, last weekend’s] Daytona 24 Hours.


A few Ram Promasters were on display, and while reaction to its front-end was mixed, the low load floor (made possible by its being FWD) was universally liked by everyone who’s ever used a van for work.


It was nice to see the return of Camp Jeep, after a few years’ absence. A crowd favorite, the ride-along Jeep experience puts Wranglers and the new Cherokee Trailhawk through their paces on a simulated off-road course. Camp Jeep should be mandatory at every Jeep dealer, just to show prospective customers the difference between a real 4x4 and some of the AWD competition.


Ford did bring a new 2015 Mustang to the show, sort of. Stashed at the back corner of Ford’s big upstairs display, the new pony was locked, with a “Please do not touch the prototype vehicle” sticker in the window. Through the side windows, the interior looks pretty good, but it’s the body that really makes the case. Sitting side by side with a pair of ‘13/’14 models, the changes to the new car are easy to see. The roofline, the hood, every curve and panel in the body is changed – for the better, I’d say. It’s a tidier package overall, looking like 150 mph while it’s sitting still.


The Washington Auto Show has more than 700 new cars, trucks, minivans, and SUVs. It is in the Washington Convention Center, which covers two city blocks and has a Metro stop (Mt. Vernon Square, off the green and yellow lines).

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