2018 Portland International Auto Show

Some things never change. I always enjoy my annual trip to the Portland International Auto Show to see the latest vehicles up close and personal. Car shows are great because you can look at, touch, and sit in almost every make and model available without fighting off the salespeople you find on a dealer’s lot.

But as I walked around the show this year, I was painfully aware times are changing. The car is dying, folks. People just don’t buy them like they used to. They are becoming more of a niche vehicle rather than the dominating force of the transportation business. Cars (coupes/sedans) will be with us for years to come and may even return to the top of the heap someday, but as of now, they are getting their butts kicked by crossovers.

Let’s start out with this new Buick Lacrosse Avenir. It had a very nice interior, and should be a bargain for buyers looking for entry level luxury.

This seems to be what buyers are looking for these days, crossovers. The Chevrolet display, like almost everyone else’s, was heavy on the trucks and utility vehicles This is the full size Traverse.

This is the slightly smaller Equinox.

The Cruze Sedan with the RS option is a sharp looking car.

I love this photo of a dad letting his son sit in a new Corvette. It sums up why car shows are such fun, but this picture causes me ask so many questions. Will he buy the ‘Vette and have years of motoring adventures with his son and his new convertible? Will he eventually give the slightly worn out or non running car to the son? And will that son lovingly restore the Corvette to the condition we see here, and give it back to his dad on his 80th birthday? Or will dad buy a silver CRV or RAV 4 like everybody else, and the son will only vaguely remember that car when he is in his 40s.

Like it or not, this seems to be the vehicle most regular Americans aspire to own these days. I guess it makes sense. It’s the full size American station wagon on steroids, with a big engine, tons of room and power, and a bit excessive overall. Bigger still has to be better, so this must be a good one.

Kia showed off their new Stinger. This rear wheel drive sports sedan looks like it might be a hit. It’s getting great reviews and is priced less than its competitors.

Nissan still draws enthusiastic crowds to see the newest GTR even though it’s getting pretty long in the tooth.

The Portland show used to get some of the cool concept cars from the Detroit show that is usually held a few weeks earlier. This year Nissan showed us a Rogue with a fancy vinyl wrap and some goofy plastic doodads attached to its body. This makes me sad.

The Jeep display had their new Wrangler,of course. It looks the same to me, but Jeep fans these seem to be quite happy with the all new model.

The Jeep Cherokee is one of those polarizing vehicles that you either love or hate. I like them, and this one looked pretty good in bright blue with matte black accents.

This Chrysler 300 isn’t dramatically different than the one I shot at the same show in 2003. It is however a rare, affordable rear wheel drive sedan with an available V8. I have a feeling the days are numbered for cars like this.

I’ve never owned one, and I know I’m in the minority, but I’m really not a fan of the typical domestic V8. But I definitely understand that the engine is as American as apple pie, and that’s why it bothers me to see it disappear. The future is going to be powered by electric or gas/electric hybrids and while I’m sure at least some of those those cars will still be lots of fun, people are going to miss seeing one of these under the hood.

Working our way into the future is this Mini Countryman plug in hybrid. It’s sporty and efficient, going from 0 to 60 in 6.7 seconds while still getting an EPA estimated 65 MPG.

This is a new Bullitt Mustang. You should buy one today and immediately park it in your garage. Try to drive it less than a hundred miles a year so you can sell it at a Barrett- Jackson auction in 2048. They make a whole bunch of other versions of the Mustang, if you actually like to drive just for fun.

A visit to the Honda display featured this nifty little Fit.

This is the 306 HP Honda Civic Type R. I once owned a 1981 Honda Civic that made considerably less power than that. It was also cheap enough that a guy who worked in a photo lab could afford a two-year old version of the car. My goodness, it’s amazing how times have changed.

Acura had one of their new NSXs there. I hear they don’t sell very well, but the Portland crowd seemed to like the car.

Maserati is trying to become a more mainstream manufacturer and I was surprised to see them move downstairs away from the luxury and European cars on the second floor where they usually have their display. This is the 2018 Gran Turismo. It has a naturally aspirated 454 HP V8 that revs to 7,500 RPM. That’s not exactly what I’d call a mainstream car.

The second floor of the Portland Convention Center featured the European and luxury brands.

This is the Volvo S90. I liked its subtle styling and Thor’s Hammer running lights. Like many of the cars at this year’s show, it was “plugged in” to display its running lights, digital dash and infotainment screens.

It was difficult to get a good picture of this BMW i8. Crowds of people kept walking in front of the car to touch the it’s matte black finish. While beautiful, I don’t think I would want a matte finished car. I still like a little gloss in my life.

Audi has an interesting lineup of cars these days. These two were quite good looking.

The new Lexus LC 500 is really beautiful despite all the crazy highlights on the car in this photo. Could that paint be too shiny?

The Lexus’s interior was warm and inviting. I don’t think I’d mind being stuck in Portland’s increasing traffic if I was in something like this.

In contrast, this is the interior of a luxury Range Rover. To me it looks like a dark and dreary place to spend so many hours behind the wheel. Once again this year, there were way too many vehicles that were painted silver with black interiors. Come on people; live your life in full color. Who wants to drive bland cars?

Another sign of the changing times was the “Tech Center.” This is where those futuristic electric cars and other alternative energy source cars were displayed. In past years this place would have been buzzing with activity. This year’s display was definitely more low key, as electric vehicles have become somewhat mainstream.

For example, the new Nissan leaf wasn’t shown in the Tech Center. It was with all the other Nissans displayed in the show. EV’s are now not to be hidden away with the quirky green cars, they can be presented right next to all the other cars in the lineup.

BMW chose to show their odd-looking i3 in the Tech Center while the sexy i8 joined the rest of their lineup in the main display.

The show always features motorcycles as well as cars. Let’s look at three ways to get a V-twin in 2018. The first is this Harley Davidson with its unique paint job.

If going fast in style is your thing, this Ducati 1299 Panigale should do nicely.

This Ducati Scrambler seems to combine the best of the other two bikes, and it’s the one I’d probably like the best. As Goldilocks said,  “This one is just right.”

This is a Can-Am Maverick. If you could get one of these legally on the road with a slightly more street oriented tire, it could become the poor man’s Aerial Nomad. It could also be the Myers Manx of modern times. This looks like it would be great fun if it wasn’t limited to being a very expensive toy.

This is a big car show, but we are getting near the end. Speaking of big, is there anywhere else in the world besides the USA where people actually drive things like this?

Massive trucks like this need equally over the top lights. It must be daylight 24/7 in this 2017 Chevy Silverado 3500 HD.

I will finish my photo essay with one of the best things about the Portland Auto Show. It’s the chance to see the cars that you only see if you live among the 1%. Unlike most of the rest of the cars in the show, you don’t sit in or even touch these ones.

Unless I hit the lottery, I won’t have to concern myself about which Lamborghini I would choose here. They were both gorgeous.

I go to quite a few automotive events every year and my radar is always looking for cool cars, yet this was the first time I’ve seen a McLaren in person.

While normally I would always go for the convertible, when it comes to Rolls Royces, the new sedan was stunning in person. I’d seen photos and videos before I saw it here, but in person it’s a very impressive car.

On the other hand if you think you need or deserve a car like this I probably wouldn’t be very comfortable around you. I’m a Ford Escort  wagon kind of guy.