The Washington Auto Show was back for 2022 and in spite of having been downsized like a 1977 Caprice, there was a lot to see. The high volume, popular nameplates like Ford, Toyota, Chevy, Stellantis (nee Fiat Chrysler) and Honda were all well represented. Still, VW, Buick, Cadillac, Mazda, and others were nowhere to be seen. Electric vehicles were very much in evidence and a delightful assortment of classic, custom, and high-end cars enlivened the experience. Most of our favorites this year were Ford products; and one especially tasty Hyundai that ticked all the right boxes.
Of course, we gravitated to the classics. The unquestioned champion of the show (at least to the MM crew) was a Mustang II Ghia notchback coupe, resplendent in avocado green. Being a top-of-the-line Ghia with a vinyl quarter roof and opera window it’s far more boulevardier than Bullit- think Thunderbird writ small. Love it or loathe it, the little ‘stang stood out; sporty personal luxury koop-ays are a lost breed, the few remaining in captivity should be preserved.
Another rare bird was this Lincoln Continental MKVII Convertible. Never offered by the factory our research indicates it was likely decapitated by Coach Builders Limited of High Springs, Florida. Don’t forget, the MKVII is a Fox Body car, just like the Mustang of the same period, a car that sold well in drop-top guise. Did Lincoln ever consider offering their own convertible Fox? Probably so, but why they didn’t is beyond the scope of this article. We just wish they had; the world deserves more convertible luxury cars.
Ford’s much anticipated new Maverick pickup impressed us, and apparently, a lot of other folks too, evidenced by the way show attendees clambered all over those on display. With its no-nonsense looks and accessible price (sub $30,000, nicely equipped), the Maverick captures the essence of the unpretentious compact pickups of the past but with a healthy dose of modern tech and comfort. It’s tempting to draw parallels with the newly introduced Hyundai Santa Cruz pickup (also on display at the show). The Santa Cruz comes off as an expensive lifestyle accessory by comparison. Likewise, Honda’s Ridgeline, worthy as it is, tries too hard to be an upmarket Acura in trim and price. Ford got the formula right with the Maverick, more power to them we say.
A surprise new car favorite was the Hyundai Elantra N-line. Your Editor in Chief’s boyfriend has been eyeing new sedans to replace his beloved six-speed Honda Accord Sport, and he has a specific checklist for what he wants in his next car. Namely: heated cloth seats, heated outside mirrors, and a manual transmission. Honda offers these things, but not all in the same car, and the new Camry, while undeniably better looking than in the past, cannot be had with a stick. He’d just about convinced himself that a Camry wouldn’t be THAT bad with an automatic when we stumbled on the sleek new Elantra N-Line.
Though the Elantra’s gaping maw of a grille does have a whiff of catfish about it, the overall looks of the car are handsome, even the aggressive creases on the side. But drivers won’t have to look at that when they’re defrosting their tails with heated seats, checking the view in the heated mirrors, and tapping the performance potential of the turbocharged engine with 276 horsepower and 289 pound-feet of torque. Fortunately, the car has a torque vectoring final drive to counter torque steer and improve cornering characteristics. I have a feeling that when the Accord’s time comes, there’ll be a blue Hyundai N-line in our driveway.
Auto shows, it’s argued, are dinosaurs and no longer relevant. With internet-based instant gratification, there is some merit to those remarks. However, online shopping is still unable to generate happy serendipity such as we felt when looking at a cute little Mustang II or discovering that Hyundai actually offered the new car we wished Honda did. Will big auto shows fade away? We hope not.