Pitt Auto Show Offers a Second Look at U.S. Concepts

Chrysler Nassau (Cars.com photo)

The Pittsburgh Auto Show, usually held in February, was postponed by more than two months because the convention center was broken. No, really: a truck drove through a loading bay and triggered a collapse of part of the floor. The good news is that the show opens today as scheduled. The tough news for the show’s organizers is that they’ve lost the “edge” in terms of dramatic unveilings and the like–after Detroit and New York, the energy around new and concept cars has fizzled a bit.

In some ways, though, that’s a good thing. The Pittsburgh show gives us a second look at some of the concept cars that made appearances at the earlier events, especially the ones from American manufacturers. The Chrysler Nassau, for example, didn’t grab headlines in Detroit: with all the new ideas and big-picture concepts out there, the relatively understated Nassau made less of a splash than the folks at Daimler Chrysler probably had hoped. Perhaps at Pittsburgh, the car will get the attention it deserves.

It’s an interesting concept, though you wouldn’t know it from the press release. Whoever thought it would be a good idea to pitch the Nassau by comparing it to English “shooting brakes” needs a stern talking-to from Doctor Z!

The core of the Nassau concept is simple, really. It’s a luxury sedan with a hatchback. See? No blather about “shooting brakes” is needed; it’s as easy as the old Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup commercials to understand. Two great tastes that taste great together.

Or you could think of it as a PT Cruiser that doesn’t look like a toy schoolbus. Or a station wagon that has a bit of flair. Or a lighter-weight crossover with the feel of a limo. The key to the Nassau is that it’s low-slung (and hence, presumably, nimble on the roads) and yet simultaneously roomy and flexible.

In other words, an idea whose time has come, right? Well, according to most of the automotive press, not so fast. Everyone from Car and Driver to Popular Mechanics is proclaiming the Nassau a false start. The hatchback concept, especially, has come in for some harsh criticism.

And so I’m interested in what the Pittsburgh crowds will think of the Nassau. The appeal of the design seems obvious to me–a car that can deliver the comfortable ride of a luxury sedan along with the flexibility and cargo capacity of a hatchback makes sense to anybody who’s tried to load a cart full of groceries into a car filled with dogs and kids. A lot of us Generation X’ers miss the giant station wagons of our childhood; the Nassau offers that kind of room without the top-heavy boxiness of the Honda Element or the Toyota Scion.

Gas prices aren’t going anywhere but up, at least for the near future. I think every automaker would do well to think about new solutions to the age-old question of how to balance comfort and efficiency. And given the theme of the Pittsburgh show, “Fantasy to Reality”, the Nassau seems like one interesting answer!

For more about the Pittsburgh Auto Show, check its website.

More about the Chrysler Nassau at MotorTrend.com.

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