The Los Angeles Auto Show this year features more than fifty global and North American debuts plus more than a thousand cars, trucks and whatever else keeps the freeways and streets gridlocked here in Los Angeles 24×7.
Click to launch our guide to the best of the show.
This year’s show seemed a lot more low-key to us than previous years. What with the economy still on the rebound, there just seem to be a lot fewer jaw-dropping concepts this year. The economy, combined with the fact that the Frankfurt show just passed and the Detroit show is just around the corner, makes the LA show all about what you can drive now, or in the next few months. Here are our top picks from the show.
Jaguar C-X16 Concept
Jaguar design chief Ian Callum said the C-X16 was a highly feasible concept car and that, yes, it was coming to Los Angeles show to gauge the reaction to the concept. We have no beef with this modern day update to the famed E-Types of the past. The C-X16 Concept is a sleek looking hybrid that features a supercharged 3.0-liter V6 engine paired to an electric motor and mated to an 8-speed transmission. Jag says it produces 468 horsepower and 505 lb-ft torque, a 0-60 time of 4.4 seconds and a top speed of a 186 mph. We love the looks and the lines, especially that sweeping roofline and the wide and muscular rear haunches. “It’s the rear of the car that’s the best part,” says Callum cheekily, “it’s also the part that most people will see…”
2013 Lincoln MKT
Los Angeles is the epicenter of the luxury car market, and Lincoln couldn’t have picked a better place to show off their updated MKT. With a sleeker and more aggressive front fascia, an updated 3.7 liter V-6 engine – up to 300 horsepower from 268 – and an updated interior, the MKT presents its first peek at the new look of Lincoln. What really sets the MKT apart is mostly under the hood with the addition of Lincoln-only underpinnings, namely, a new Lincoln Drive Control that gives the driver the choice of three driving modes – Normal, Sport, and one called Comfort that adjusts the suspension for better handling. Rumor has it Lincoln will be showing an all-new concept at the Detroit show this January, but the MKT presents a compelling – and refreshed – restart to the American luxury market.
Land Rover DC100
Building upon both the heritage and the future of the Land Rover Brand, the DC100 presents the future look for the Defender workhorse. Land Rover designer and Chief Creative Officer Gerry McGovern describes the Defender’s ethos as ‘…simple, friendly and approachable, and handed down from one generation to the next. The Defender is indestructible and a car for all seasons, a truly go-anywhere vehicle.” The DC100 is still a work in progress; we can look forward to seeing a Defender replacement sometime around 2017.
Subaru BRZ-STI Concept
Subaru showed their long-gestating BRZ rear-wheel drive coupe – created in conjunction with Toyota – in LA, this time in a new STI form. Featuring a 2.0-liter horizontally-opposed four-cylinder direct fuel-injection Boxer engine created just for the BRZ, this sleek coupe – all carbon-fiber roof and lightweight wheels – looks like a surefire winner. While we love the concept painted up in Subaru STI Blue, we yearned for a set of gold BBS wheels to complete the package.
While the FR-S – basically the sister car to the BRZ – was first shown at the New York Show last spring, we like the fact of seeing two separate cars from one germ of an idea. The FR-S looks aggressive, which bodes well for the future of Scion as it looks to re-capture the youth market it once owned.
2013 Cadillac XTS
Cadillac finally put the death nail into the DTS/STS combo with their new XTS. Slotted next to the CTS, this front-wheel drive Caddy brings back the glory days of the Miami Beach Gold Package and Tonneau top combo. We like the look and feel of the XTS and the 300 horsepower 3.6-liter V6 seems like no slouch either. Add Cadillac’s new CUE Infotainment system and you have a winner for any generation.
2013 Porsche Panamera GTS
Once a year, it seems, Porsche rolls out a new variant of one of their models. With an all-new 911 already on deck, this year’s lucky winner was the Panamera with its new GTS model. The GTS has a larger 4.8-liter V8 with a swell 30 horsepower bump over the 4S – 430 from 400 – a 0-60 time of 4.3 seconds and a top speed of 178 mph. Porsche gave the GTS all the bells and whistles – a seven-speed dual-clutch PDK automatic, a standard Sport Chrono Package with launch control and a whole slew of suspension, shock, wheel and brake upgrades. It’s also been lowered ten millimeters. Sometimes, more is more.
Expect a full review of the 911 soon, but this all-new model – referred to internally as the 991 – is larger, faster and has a lot more power than the previous generation. Lest we forget, the 911 comes equipped with an extra gear, in the form of Porsche’s first 7-speed manual transmission. The 911 looks gorgeous, but we expect to see the streets of LA littered with 991s this time next year.
2012 Mercedes-Benz ML63 AMG
Like a hammer encased in lead, the ML63 AMG is large, overwhelming, over the top, and utterly useless. We love it! Nothing embodies Los Angeles like a giant gas guzzling SUV, especially an AMG version equipped with a 5.5-liter Biturbo V-8 with 518 horsepower and 516 lb-ft of torque. A monster in soccer mom’s clothing.
VW Beetle R
The new Beetle R sure looks like fun — maybe it’s the fact it’s all dressed up in giant rear wings, bigger wheels and tires, with a wider, lower stance and quad exhausts. We had a long conversation with Tim Mahoney, Chief Marketing Officer at Volkswagen and he told us that the Beetle R was an important part of the VW brand and that it represented the brand’s “power of German engineering philosophy”. “The Beetle R”, Mahoney said, is “a passionate car that is filled with emotion and it proves that German engineering can be a little wild too.” We agree.
2012 Fiat Abarth
Adorably bonkers! Take a Fiat 500, add a MultiAir 1.4-liter turbocharged engine that delivers an estimated 160 horsepower and 170 lb.-ft. of torque – a 59 percent increase in power over base 1.4-liter engine – a tricked-out body kit, a tuned suspension and brake package and you have the makings of a hot hatch revolution. We’ve been waiting for this model, for some odd reason, to come to the states for a long time. We can wait to drive it early next year.
2013 Shelby Mustang GT500
An aluminum 5.8-liter supercharged V8 that produces 650 horsepower and 600 lb.-ft. of torque, an upgraded powertrain and cooling system, an over-the-top body package, and a top speed of over 200 MPH, all fresh off the dealer lot, make this the most audacious Mustang since the halcyon days of the 1960s Pony car wars. Insane, all around.
BMW presented their vision of the future with a matching set of concept cars. The all-electric i3 and the gas-electric hybrid, the i8. The i3 Concept is a swell looking compact electric vehicle that BMW said was designed for congested city driving. We think the “coach” style doors, its wide open interior layout and carbon fiber ‘life module’ – basically a carbon fiber monocoque to protect the passengers – makes for a neat little electric package. The concept is a test run for the production i3 model, set to début in 2013. Exterior designer Richard Kim said, “the i3 was a different kind of design process than any other process I had worked on before. The i3 was a ground up, first of its kind model. We had cutting edge technology and we had to think in a cutting edge way. Everything was new, even the sketching and designing. We had to streamline the entire design process. With the i3 design, we set out to create an expansive room, sitting on top of a very thin profile and that allowed design freedom.”
The sleek looking gas-electric i8 sports coupe is built around the same carbon fiber ‘life module’ idea as the i3. Kim, said the high strength of the carbon fiber enabled the massive hinged door. The i8 is about ‘efficiency, performance, technology and emotion are all in perfect balance.’ said Kim. The i8 is set to go on sale in 2014.
Bentley Mulsanne Executive Interior Concept
The LA show was the American début of Bentley’s Mulsanne Executive Interior Concept. The Mulsanne features a phantasmagoria of multimedia connectivity. To wit: the backseat passengers in the Mulsanne each have their own Apple iPad workstations integrated into retractable picnic tables attached to the front seats, a slew of keyboards, and rear-seat screens. A Mac Mini encased in leather is in the trunk and powers the multimedia systems. Add to that all of the sumptuous materials that make a Bentley a Bentley and you have the ne plus ultra of the Mulsanne lineup. Bentley said it took more than 170 hours to create the concept, which can be added to your Bentley as a 100,000 Euro option. What we loved the most though was the yachting-style veneer on the interior woods that blends both light and dark contrasting tones throughout the cabin and makes the Mulsanne seem more like a techno-laden steamship than a ultra-posh sedan.