2010 Denver Auto Show: A little light at the end of the tunnel | SummitDaily.com

2010 Denver Auto Show: A little light at the end of the tunnel

Andy Stonehouse
summit daily auto writer
Special to the Daily The retooled Buick Regal is GM's attempt to take on Lexus and the European sedans.

While the past few years’ worth of Denver Auto Shows have been increasingly grim affairs, this year’s event – running at the Colorado Convention Center through Sunday – might serve to demonstrate a slightly more upbeat mood in the car business.

Granted, 2009’s extremely unpleasant economic circumstances helped necessitate some probably long overdue changes in both the domestic and import auto world.

And nowhere are those reconfigurations more evident than in the streamlined offerings at the General Motors displays. As PR officials noted during Wednesday’s press preview, the full-scale disappearance of many of its storied brands (Hummer, Pontiac and Saturn included) has resulted in a more concentrated effort on the part of GM’s remaining lines.

But those who guessed that high gas prices and general recessionary austerity might mean a crop of gas-miserly machines will have to wait a bit; GM’s wave of downsized autos (including the Cruze and the super-tiny Chevy Spark, as well as the largely electric Volt) are still on the horizon.

Instead, this year’s auto show is a showcase for big and brawny: An all-new 2011 GMC Sierra HD three-quarter-ton pickup was on display, packing an optional 6.6-liter Duramax diesel putting out a whopping 397-horsepower and 765 lb. ft. of torque.

Riding on an all-new chassis and frame, the Sierra’s diesel mill has been crafted with both an 11 percent increase in fuel efficiency (the 19 miles per gallon means you can get nearly 700 miles on one tank of diesel) and an eye to high country practicality (the beefed-up specs mean a snowplowing package is compatible with every one of the HD model trucks).

With an eye to affluent contractors and company bosses (who we understand are still out there and still affluent), Sierra is also available in an upscale Denali package, featuring near-Cadillac levels of interior finish and comfort.

Over at the Buick display, GM also showed signs of its attempts to move that brand from a geriatric-friendly backwater to a progressive, performance-oriented business. To that end, the 2011 Buick Regal appears as a stylish, midsize sports sedan, crafted to aggressively take on both the European imports and Lexus.

Admittedly, the Regal – essentially a retooled Opel Insignia, 2009’s European Car of the Year – looks a hell of a lot like a Lexus, with overstated, swoopy curves on the body line, a tall, flat decklid and shape and size somewhere between a Lexus ES and a GS. Initial versions of the Regal will be manufactured in Germany, until domestic production begins.

Enclave comes with either a 2.4-liter standard engine or a sparky, 220-horsepower turbocharged engine (both are capable of as many as 29 mpg on the highway).

And the interior, resplendent with cashmere-colored leather and loads of technological niceties (including an optional harmon-kardon stereo setup) is of course highly soundproofed. It’s crafted as an enthusiast’s vehicle, however; those who’d like to check it out can sign up for a ride-and-drive event at the show.

Over at the Ford display, the proudly profitable team at the Blue Oval had a few goodies of their own to show off, including the most fantastically ominous and hulking Super Duty truck ever crafted (its front grill now looks like a chrome-plated bank vault). Not to be outdone by the GM folks, Ford’s mammoth truck is available with a 390-horsepower 6.7-liter diesel, the cumulative effect being a vehicle that looks like it could easily tow the Pepsi Center off its foundation.

The Lincoln MKX and the Ford Edge both get major makeovers, with an eye to massively forward-looking but driver-friendly technology. In the Edge, the “My Ford Touch” system features an impressive array of user-adjustable information screens, TV remote control-styled buttons on the steering wheel and even an all-black, touch-sensitive set of climate controls built into a Sony-branded console that looks like high-end stereo equipment.

Properly equipped, the system can turn your entire car into a wi-fi hotspot; there’s rumors of a future update which will allow you to do Twitter updates using the touchscreen, which may be one of the clearest signs of the coming apocalypse.

Members of the local Rocky Mountain Automotive Press group also announced their annual awards, honoring the Volvo XC60, the Dodge Ram truck, the Buick LaCrosse and the Ford Fusion Hybrid.

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