Driving the EcoXperience at the 2009 Detroit Auto Show


It might be hard to believe from the photos, but a tree grows in Cobo Hall at the North American International Auto Show here in Detroit. Well, “grows” is probably too strong a word for trees planted into dirt along with a few flowers, but the idea is to give consumers a chance to drive some of the many new hybrid models that have come out recently or will come out soon.

It’s no Space Mountain, let me tell you. Closer to Autopia, I’d say.

I hopped into a Saturn Vue 2 Mode Hybrid and was indeed impressed by the silent ride (I had to keep the speed down to around 5 mph). It’s a fairly short course — maybe a quarter mile for the two laps I made — with the only real excitement being a surprise waterfall from the basement ceiling at Cobo. Apparently an air-conditioner line had broken somewhere (perhaps it burst in the Arctic temps here) and sent water cascading down into the display.

“We’re turning it into a pond,” my ride-along hybrid expert volunteered as we negotiated around the falling water and the scrambling workers and groundskeepers.

Beyond the Chevy Tahoe Hybrid, Ford Fusion Hybrid and Cadillac Escalade Hybrid, the true star at the display was a right-hand-drive Mitsubishi iMiev all-electric car, which most of the journalists in line were waiting to drive. It’s very golf-cart-like, but certainly seemed like the most fun offering on the course.

On the other hand, the trees and flowers that lined the track helped me forget the Iditarod I faced on the drive from the airport to the hotel last night.

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