I have always maintained that driving other people’s cars is the holy grail of the car world, and that is why I have wanted to be any automotive journalist. Going from that measurement, the blog is already a huge success! I decided to visit the Sacramento International Auto Show (SIAS) so I could get some material for the blog, and the manufacturers were doing ride-and drives. Not only was I able to drive the new Jeep Renegade Trailhawk, but also the futuristic BMW i3. Okay, okay, they may not be press cars, but it was still a fun experience. So, as the second and final part of my coverage on the SIAS, and as this weeks ‘review’, I will give my thoughts on the show itself, as well as my first impressions on the two cars I drove.
The Sacramento International Auto Show: Where is the Food?
The SIAS takes place at the California Exposition grounds, where the State Fair takes place. Parking is a non-issue, although it did cost $10. Free parking was available to those willing to walk. Entrance was $13 a person, however you can feel better about yourself for coming, as all entry fees benefited various charities. Upon entering, there was an electric vehicle ride and drive, where I was able to drive the BMW i3. While I was admittedly in line to drive the Fiat 500E , which I have heard great things about, this was still a strong start for the show. After my little drive, detailed below, I grabbed a map and hit the show.
You entered along the right-hand side, where they shove all the non-manufacturers. Coincidentally, this makes it the most interesting part of the show for most people. In this cluster of buildings, there was something for everyone. If you like classic Americana, then the Studebaker club and Camaro club fit that ticket, whereas those more into technology could spectate Remote Control Drifting, which was actually really neat. For those who want to go even older than Studebaker, the Sacramento Car Museum had an exhibit of horseless carriages and antique motorcycles for viewing. For those who prescribe to a Roadkill way of life, so to speak, there were both a series of LeMons racers, as well as a number of modern Hot Rods from local shop Twisted Images.
After leaving this area, the show became much more commercialized. Apart from the zones curated by the Eurovision club—essentially just a fantastic Cars and Coffee showing—the rest of the show was reserved for dealers or manufacturers. None of this mattered because I was hungry. Really hungry. This is perhaps the greatest failing of the show: all of the food is tucked away, hidden. I saw the entirety of my show while I walked around looking for food. Granted, I only took glances at everything at this point but the fact that I had to undertake a search for food speaks to its placement. While horrendous, this allowed me to pick and choose from what was offered by the various manufactures because I had seen it all. Fiat-Chrysler had the least amount of lines for their drives, so I hopped in to drive the Renegade and tried out Ford’s driving simulator. While you can read more about the Renegade below, the simulator was so crap, that that is the review I feel it warrants. If you have ever used a steering wheel with Gran Turismo 3 or later, you have the same experience.
The main benefit to the manufacture side of the show, was being able to see all the ‘Hero’ cars, as well as the up-and-coming models. An example would be the Ford building, which not only featured the new, dramatic, Mustang GT350 and Focus RS, but also the more pedestrian 2017 Heavy-Duty trucks, and the revived Lincoln Continental. Acura was showcasing its new NSX, and the Bentley Bentayga was present elsewhere as well. Overall, while not as much an ‘International Auto Show’ as venues like Los Angles or Paris, this event did bring numerous models out for public viewing. While seeing a Bentley or Ford GT on the internet is one thing, seeing it polished for a show, in person, is a whole new experience. Even if the money didn’t go to charity, this would make the show worth it. Oh, and when you do find the food, get the pizza.
BMW i3 First Impressions: The Future
I did not want to drive the BMW i3. It had skinny tires, a strange face, and a certain “Whole Foods” air about it. As such, at the electric car display, I got in line to drive the Fiat 500E, a car I have heard is a blast. And then the Fiat took a nail in one of its Eco tires. As I sat their twiddling my thumbs in the Fiat line, I was graciously offered to jump into the i3 line, or start at the back of one of the other cars’ lines. I didn’t want to spend my whole day at an electric car stand, so I hopped in the BMW. My very first impression of sitting in the car: Holy Cow, this is nice, immediately followed by, “Wow. This is what the future is like”. And it is. The BMW feels like the future. With a dash made of a Hemp composite, and the screen floating above it, the view out of the car is unceasingly pleasant.
I did not get to drive it very far (maybe a half mile), but it handled well, accelerated briskly for a city, and stopped pleasantly enough. The regenerative braking did make itself known off throttle. Mine was equipped with a range extender, so while it might have been heavier, it did not affect my time with the car. The one part of the future that is weird? The shift lever has attempted to re-invent the column shifter, with a very confusing result. Nothing seems to ‘slot’ into spot, returning to a central, neutral location. While I am sure it would be easy to get used to, I have to wonder if it needed to be changed. Despite this flaw, the BMW i3 left me impressed, and I look forward to potentially getting to try it again for a more comprehensive opinion.
Jeep Renegade Trailhawk: Unable to Soar
I had all the clues I needed laid out in front of me. No one was in line to drive the Jeep Renegade, it was parked in the shade like it was going to be sitting for a while, and my employee couldn’t be found. Regardless, I got in the 2017 Jeep Renegade Trailhawk, featuring the 2.4L Tigershark motor and Fiat-Chrysler’s 9-speed gearbox, and prepared to drive around the course. The interior was actually a fairly pleasant spot to be, although the jacked-up seating position of the Trailhawk off-road special made me feel a little silly in such a small car. Despite this, the seats were comfortable, and it looked like an interior I could live with every day. Sadly, I would merely be living with it, and not necessarily enjoy it, which begs to question its actual quality.
The course I was taken on was the most comprehensive of the day. It featured emergency stops, straights for acceleration, some slight bumps, and a bit of a slalom. Despite being comprehensive, or perhaps because of it, I found myself not enjoying the Renegade. As a car, the high seating on offer made me feel ridiculous, and I was happy there was no traffic out with me. I feel if I could put the Trailhawk off of the road, and let it taste some dirt, I would gain a lot more love for the car. As it stands, I can’t see the purpose of such a vehicle.
The Two Cars:
|2017 BMW i3
MSRP: From $42,400
Range: 80 to 114 mi battery-only
Battery: 22-33 kWh 353-360 V lithium-ion
Horsepower: 170 hp
Battery charge time: 18h at 110V, 3 to 4.5h at 220V, 0.5 to 0.75h at 440V
|2017 Jeep Renegade
MSRP: From $26,645
MPG: 21 city / 29 highway
Towing capacity: 2,000 lbs
Engine: 2.4 L 4-cylinder
Horsepower: 180 hp
Curb weight: 3,573 lbs
Dimensions: 167″ L x 74″ W x 67″ H
I recently recieved a degree in History from the University of Nevada, Reno.