Lightning Quick Summary of the Houston Auto Show

New BMW 5-series Gran Turismo = stunner, inside & out. Was happy to see roof-rack slots are back for the 5-series (presumably the new sedan out later this year will have them as well).

BMW 7-series = nicer than the previous generation, also quite surprised to see roof-rack slots in for this model.

All Audis = beautiful design on the exterior, meh on the inside. You can do better, Audi… make me feel like I’m giving up something if I go buy a BMW.

Cadillac CTS, CTS-V and CTS SportWagon = much nicer than I expected. Exterior is sharp, interior is nicely done and about on par with the BMW 3-series as it should be. CTS-V is slightly nicer on the inside.

New Camaro = too bad they kept the name, because eventually this car will be in every trailer park making the new ones look horrible. Extremely well done car, inside & out. Back-seat only for midgets and a large trunk with one of the smallest hatches I’ve ever seen on a car. Totally not practical, but totally awesome. Even the V6 version looks good.

New Grand Sport version of the Corvette = much, much sharper looking in person than I expected. Tempting, tempting…

New Mercedes-Benz E-Class sedan & coupe = absolutely gorgeous on the outside and a total letdown on the inside. Not even as nice as a BMW 3-series, let alone a 5-series. These were the E-350 versions, so hopefully the V8 and AMG versions will remedy some of that. Having a total display floor size of an average size guest bedroom doesn’t help showing off the cars.

All Acuras = couldn’t be more boring if they tried. Interiors remind me of cheap GM cars from the early 90s. Exteriors only a boy racer wanna-be could love. The new ZDX was interesting but had rear-doors that would make you yearn for the spaciousness of a Camaro.

A Year of Motion

The end of the year is always a good time for reflection. One of the things I always do is look at how much time and distance I’ve spent in a car or on a bicycle.

2009 was a record year for riding in a cars at just over 21,000 miles, just over my previous record driving year of 2008 which was around 19,000 miles.

On the bicycles, I only managed 2,000 miles, significantly less than my 2008 peak of 2,700 miles.

iPod installation in the car

Due to recent negative events with XM Radio’s customer service, I no longer have an XM subscription in any of my vehicles. In the truck there is an auxiliary input jack, so feeding music from an iPod is a no-brainer. But in the Corvette, there was no such option. GM never really provided a great solution for it, but luckily the aftermarket came to the rescue.

One of the better options is a device called the Lockpick that intelligently interfaces with the various radio interfaces in GM vehicles. The Corvette Lockpick they provide interfaces directly with the navigation radio in all 6th generation Corvettes so I ordered it to try it out.

Installation turned out to be incredibly simple. The unit ties into the wiring harness that feeds the XM Radio brain. In the convertible model, the brain is hidden behind the waterfall, located between the seats. Removing the waterfall is straight-forward, and then you are left with a simple wire routing problem.

In the end, I decided to locate the Lockpick unit itself on the carpeted area behind the waterfall. I used sticky-tape velcro to keep the unit attached to the carpet, and then ran the wiring harness to the XM Radio unit in order to attach the Y-connector that feeds into the Lockpick itself. The wiring harness that connects to the iPod also has to be routed, and I decided in the end to locate the iPod in the glove box rather than the center console. Access to the center console would require some cutting for a clean installtion look, and plus it tends to get rather hot inside so I was worried about shortening the life of the iPod a bit too much to locate it there.

Luckily the glove box had a space for a switch that wasn’t installed with my option packages, so it made a perfect place to feed the wiring harness. From there, I routed the wiring harness into the dash and then underneath the center console and feed it directly to the waterfall area. The final result is a perfectly clean and hidden installation with no permanent modifications needed to the car.

The Lockpick unit itself works great, although the control system is a quirky. The lower right-hand button in the XM Radio menu activates the iPod. Once activated, the Category up and down buttons control your playlist selection, and then seek forward and back buttons control the current song playing within the playlist. The info button displays the song information as you would expect. It’s quirky, but works extremely well.

Hello, my name is Chad and I have an addiction…

I am, quite simply put, addicted to shiny new cars.

It has been almost two whole years since I’ve purchased a new vehicle and the itch has returned, and when it does it’s all consuming until it has been scratched. I will now be obsessing over cars until either I buy another one, or something else takes my mind off of them.

When I drove home from Austin this Friday night, I saw a nice new shiny BMW M5 sedan that I shadowed the entire way. I really wanted one of these when the new generation came out, and in┬ámany ways I think it would be the perfect vehicle to replace the two I currently drive. The price for a new one is a bit obscene and used ones are as hard to find as gold, and the 17 MPG freeway rating is worse than my Tahoe, so I have yet to pull the trigger. And yet, I’ve come very close to doing exactly that.

I’ve also always wanted a Porsche 911. Much like the BMW, a new one is so overpriced that I’ve always found other vehicles that were “better” for a much lower price. And yet, I know I need to have one someday just to see. I see several folks locally that have theirs with a bike rack on top, so I could conceivably replace both vehicles I drive today with one. I’ve heard automotive experts say again and again that the base 911 Carrera is the best of all the 911 models, given its relatively simplicity, but it would be so hard to “settle” with just that instead of an S or Turbo. I’ll ignore the GTx models for obvious reasons…

But it isn’t just the super fast expensive cars that get my attention. I’d love to buy a new Volkswagen Jetta Sportwagen TDI right now, too. This is a great little machine, and would make an excellent daily driver and bike carrier. VW’s new TDI engine is an outstanding work of engineering resulting some rather amazing real world fuel economy figures. Clearly, from my other choices and current vehicles, fuel economy is very important to me…

One day, I should just give in and buy a used car. I still have never done it. My very first car was used, but it was my parents old beater that I inherited. All of my other vehicles since then have been new – a whopping 9 since 1991, and 11 if you count the two we’ve bought for my wife in that same period. And, if I could really stop being dumb about it all, I should just stop buying vehicles all together. I should really just now be breaking in my 2nd car…

But, oooh, they’re so shiny.