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Some Gems, Clunkers And Head Scratchers At The 2012 Chicago Auto Show

By Benjy Lipsman in Arts & Entertainment on Feb 13, 2012 8:00PM

Our feet are still sore from braving the crowds and walking the million square feet of floor Saturday at the 2012 Chicago Auto Show. We saw damn near every one of the thousand vehicles on display.

We fell in love with some of the available models and concepts on display. The new Cadillac Ciel concept oozes with that massive presence an American luxury car should. If this ever makes it to production, we can expect the rappers and athletes to trade in their Bentleys and Escalades for this bold 4-door drop top. The Kia GT, which appears to be a future iteration of their popular mid-size Optima sedan, is sleeker than sedans costing many times its likely price.

As for cars imminently hitting showroom floors, we were won over by the re-designed BMW 3-series: this has long been our dream car. The Mazda CX-5 SUV has a city-friendly small footprint, but looks more rugged than many of the "cute-utes." Both models hit dealers within a few weeks. We were also impressed with the curvy 2013 Ford Fusion, which is the best looking American sedan to hit the roads since before the oil crises. While we're not huge fans of the new Mercedes SL convertible's boxier re-design, we were intrigued by the matte gray finish. Mercedes seems to be looking to its most famous SL driver, Steve Jobs, for inspiration as the car's exterior looked like a giant MacBook.

There are a lot of boring cars on the road, and more joining the party. Most of the Japanese line-ups have little to get excited over, other than gas milage. Honda and Toyota remain snoozers, while Mitsubishi's current line-up is so bland we didn't even realize they were still selling stateside. It's no wonder that the Koreans are eating their Japanese brethren for lunch of late. If Lincoln is banking on a rebirth with the upcoming MKS, they're in big trouble. While their impressive show display was all Mad Men their new car is more Golden Girls. The sedan may appeal to the retiree crowd and rental fleets, but does nothing to enhance the brand's image with (slightly) younger buyers like Buick and Cadillac have done. We also think upcoming SUVs from Nissan -- the Infiniti JX and the Pathfinder -- get lost in the sea of people movers.

Another Nissan SUV left us scratching our head. The Murano Crosscabriolet is a 2-door convertible SUV that looks as odd as it is impractical. We're still trying to figure out who might be the market for an SUV with only two doors, no storage space or roof, none of the elegance of a traditional car-based drop top, and a $45,000 price tag. We also were a bit confused by Volvo You concept. The brand has shaken off the image of boring, boxy cars with sleeker designs in recent years. But the bulbous nose of this concept doesn't seem likely to appeal to anybody.

The Chicago Auto Show continues through next Sunday, so if you'd like to check out the cars yourself you've got time. We're contemplating a second, weeknight visit to get another look without the massive weekend crowds.