Los Angeles Auto Show
November is always a pretty exciting time for us gearheads, but this one in particular has proven to be especially memorable. Across the realm of international motorsport in this month alone, we’ve seen massively impressive feats achieved by the likes of: Marc Marquez, with our two-wheeled counterparts over at MotoGP, to become the first rookie to win a premier-class World Championship since Kenny Roberts in 1978; Jimmie Johnson in the NASCAR Sprint series, earning his sixth Cup title in the last eight years, leaving him only the legends of Richard Petty and the late Dale Earnhardt, with seven each, to chase for a claim at all-time greatness; lastly, we saw the return of Formula 1 to the US of A for the second year in a row, with the 2013 United States Grand Prix in Austin (check out our coverage of this year’s GP online at www.lax-magazine.com/betasite) and Sebastian Vettel, making good on his bid to become only the third man in history to win four consecutive Formula 1 Driver’s World Championships — all truly impressive stuff, indeed.
Which brings us to here: the automotive main event of the year for most Angelenos. A place where anyone and everyone can feast their eyes on the latest car candy and not only see, but feel what its really like to sit behind the wheel of rides we can only dream of owning, and salivate over the thought of what we might be lucky enough to test drive in the seasons to come. This year’s LA Auto Show was filled to the brim with fresh metal (and composite), featuring 56 new vehicle debuts and even 22 world-debut models from over a dozen different manufacturers. While we truly feel that each and every masterpiece of automotive engineering presented this year deserves its fair share of words in this column, allow us to spotlight a few of the ones that really got our engines revving.
With Audi’s introduction of the new A3 lineup, competition in the luxury compact segment is really heating up. Poised to take on the recently introduced Mercedes CLA and solidly rooted BMW 1-Series, the array of 2015 A3’s features not just an all-new sedan, but also a cabriolet and plug-in hybrid iteration as well — the first that Audi’s ever offered. Moreover, they’ll also be providing potential buyers with the option of a sportier package in the form of an S3 sedan. Vast as the lineup itself are the array of engines available to power them; all sharing in common the blueprint of a turbocharged inline-4, Audi will offer 1.8 and 2.0-liter gasoline variants, as well as a 2.0-liter clean diesel in the A3, making 170, 220, and 150hp respectively. S3 models are expected to have a juiced-up version of the 2.0T pumping out close to 300hp, which should make for a pretty fun little car — especially since all 3’s will have their power running through Audi’s venerable 6-speed DSG double-clutch gearboxes. Having efficiency in mind, FWD will be the standard with Quattro AWD available as an option.
Nothing makes a car better than an M placed next to its name, especially when we’re talking about one of Munich’s sexiest exports. We simply fell in love with the styling of the BMW 6-Series Gran Coupe last year, and since its introduction we’ve been chomping at the bit in anticipation of Motorsport’s reworked version. As expected, the M6 is easily visually discernable in comparison to the standard Gran Coupe, with gaping, angular intakes in the front fascia, bulging wheel arches, a carbon fiber roof, absolutely massive brakes, and a quad-tipped exhaust — you can tell the M6 GC is business. Even if the exterior treatments do nothing for you, the reworked interior equipped with sport seats, carbon fiber accents and a healthy dose of alcantara will undoubtedly win you over. Oh, and there’s also that 560hp 4.4-liter twin-turbo monster under the hood.
I’m not going to lie, the thing that first drew me to the Honda FCEV Concept when the cover came off was that it reminded me of Robocop… and I really like Robocop. Later on, while listening to Mr. Tetsuo Iwamura’s (President and CEO of American Honda Motor Co.) speech about the technical advancements and levels of efficiency the vehicle achieves, the draw then became exponentially stronger. Honda has been the industry leader in the pursuit of delivering fuel-cell (hydrogen gas powered) vehicles to the general public for the past decade, and the introduction of the FCEV Concept has brought them incrementally closer to their goal. Having released previous fuel-cell powered vehicles to government organizations and special lease customers on a test-only basis, Honda has developed their “FC Stack” that powers the FCEV to the point where the system is now fully contained in the engine bay, is capable of traveling over 300 miles on a single tank of hydrogen (which takes only around 3 minutes to refill), and is capable of operating in sub-zero temperatures. The prospect of future vehicles possessing those capabilities while emitting positively no emissions is quite intriguing in my eyes, kind of like Robocop.
Two years ago, we drooled over Jaguar’s CX-16 Coupe concept car that was unveiled at the 2011 LA Auto show. When they announced a production model was in the works and that it would be nearly identical to the concept right in front of us, we were absolutely ripe with anticipation. Fast forward to this summer, and Jaguar finally released the production breed of exotic cat we’d been waiting for what felt like an eternity to experience… as a convertible model. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with convertibles — I’m just a coupe kind of guy. But after the feelings of utter betrayal had subsided, a thorough examination of the F-Type revealed that it was still an amazing automobile, and that I’d just have to be patient and wait a little longer for the feline of my desires to be spawned… And here she is, guys and gals; I dare you to tell me it’s anything other than drop dead gorgeous! While not only being prettier and sportier than its convertible twin, it’s also more powerful. The top-of-the-range F-Type R Coupe gets an asphalt-shredding 550hp V8 engine — that’s 55 more ponies than the ‘vert, and it should be ready for sampling just in time for this summer.
Just over two decades ago, Kia broke into the US auto market with their introduction of a downright ugly, poorly assembled, absolute dud of a car — the Sephia. Drake isn’t the only one who started from the bottom. Packed with technology that was once only available on a Mercedes S-Class the K900 offers radar guided cruise control, a fully configurable 12.3-inch LCD instrument cluster, adaptive LED headlights, independent rear-seat climate control, and heated steering wheel…IN A KIA! The Korean automaker’s flagship sedan is constructed on the same platform as Hyundai’s feature-loaded Equus super-saloon, and allows buyers to choose from either a 3.8-liter V6 or 420hp 5.0-liter V8 power plant (the Equus is only offered in V8 trim). If it drives anywhere close to as good as its looks, Kia may have launched themselves into legitimate contention over the prototypical Lexus buyer’s wallet.
The Maserati Ghibli starts at $65,600. This means you can have yourself a brand new Italian-built luxury sports-sedan with an engine designed and crafted in the Ferrari engine factory, for around the same price as a BMW 550i, Lexus GS 450h, or Mercedes E550… MAN do we feel bad for those three. Not because they’re inferior cars (it’s likely that they’re actually higher-quality automobiles) but simply because none of them pack the same level of flair or panache as their new Italian running mate — and items with those attributes tend to sell in this town. Factor in that Maserati currently makes 35-40% of its US sales in California, and it becomes a safe bet that you’ll be seeing one (or more) at the valet stand quite soon. Offered with your choice of two 3.0-liter twin-turbocharged V6’s putting out 330 and 410hp respectively, and the option of rear, or all-wheel drive, provides flavors to suit all palates.
So, you must be curious what new trinkets Mercedes has in store for the next generation of their technological industry-leader. Try these on for size: Mercedes’ Magic Body Control uses a forward-facing camera to see upcoming bumps in the road, and adjusts the suspension in real-time to isolate shock absorption, the instrument cluster and COMAND infotainment screens combine to give the driver a whopping 24.6 inches of high-resolution real-estate, the new S-Class becomes the first production automobile to contain not even a single light bulb — with all illumination originating from hundreds of LEDs, and to top it all off; the cabin air can even be infused with fragrances of the drivers choice, via an integrated aromatherapy system. As feature loaded as it is, with increased power output from its biturbo V8, the S550 behemoth can reach 60mph in a whopping 4.8 seconds, which is probably faster than the sports car in your garage — opt for the 577hp S63 AMG 4MATIC and forget about it, as it’ll complete the 0-60 sprint in 3.8.
The new Mini Cooper Hardtop is a little bigger than the outgoing model, a little more powerful than the outgoing model and, somehow, a little cooler looking than the outgoing model. It could be the LED rings around the headlights, it could be the stalkier stance, or it could be the shorter windows — whatever it may be, the 2014 model just appears more like a streamlined coupe than a, well, box. The interior has undergone quite the overhaul as well, with the most notable difference being the migration of the gigantic center-mounted speedometer to a traditional location in the instrument cluster, allowing for an 8.8-inch infotainment screen on navigation-equipped models. Also notable are the new Hardtop’s highly-efficient turbocharged powertrain options, which include a 1.5-liter THREE cylinder offering 134hp in the base, and 2.0-liter 189hp four cylinder in the S; even cooler is the automatic transmission that uses GPS data to pre-select gears in preparation for upcoming hills — technology borrowed from another BMW sister-company, Rolls Royce.
When Porsche announced the Cayenne SUV a little over a decade ago, there were quite a few skeptics; when they said they were building a full-sized sedan, even more came out of the woodwork. Now that they’ve debuted the 2015 Macan compact SUV, there’s an unsurprising level of silence — because it’s become apparent that Porsche has the know-how to succeed regardless of where they venture. Built on the massively successful Q5 platform, the Macan shares slight resemblance to the Cayenne with its overall design being noticeably sportier than the Q5, BMW X3 and Mercedes GLK which with it will be competing; but where the Macan really sets itself apart is the interior — can you imagine piloting a compact SUV with the cabin layout of a 911? To us the prospect seems quite enjoyable; and if you opt for the 394hp Macan Turbo, trying to convince yourself you aren’t in a 911 could be next to futile.
There aren’t many cars that we like in convertible form as much as their hardtop counterparts — much less liking the topless version even more; but this Porsche 911 Turbo Cabriolet is as close to the top of our list as a Lamborghini Aventador Roadster. I can pretty much sum it up in one single stat line: the Cabriolet S has 560hp accelerates to 60mph in 3.1 seconds, and has a top speed of 195 — there simply aren’t more than a handful of convertibles out there that can do with the 911 can, and that’s what makes it so special. New on this iteration of 911 Cab is the addition of rear-wheel steering, and as always, it features fun-to-play-with active aerodynamics on the rear wing. If you can afford one you should buy one.