Los Angeles Auto Show – November 2008

After Detroit, the Los Angeles Auto Show is probably the next most important auto show in America. In an effort to increase the number of US and world launches at the show, it was moved from a slot in early January to one in late November a couple of years ago, and now the car makers are taking some notice. Even allowing for the particularly depressed state of the US domestic manufacturers and the fact that most of the worlds makers are struggling in recession hit 2008, there were several brand new cars to see, some unveiled literally for the press events at the start of the show. The show did feel just that bit less exciting than previous ones, even though there was something of interest and new on just about every stand. Every single manufacturer was making a huge play around fuel economy and their green credentials, with hybrid technologies dominant more pervasively than ever before. I spent the whole of the first public opening day at the show, and bring you this report, presented by maker, in alphabetical order.
We might as well start with some of the ugliest cars of the show. The RL (Legend) has been facelifted, to make it less anonymous and to bring it into line with the rest of the range. Not sure that they hit both the marks with the resulting product.
Then there’s the new TSX, which is an Acura version of the new European Honda Accord. Again, rather fussy to look at.
However, the piece de resistance is the positively revolting TL. What on earth possessed Acura to think anyone could like this styling horror completely escapes me. Talking to the stand staff, it seems it escapes just about everyone else, too, and they kept insisting how good it is to drive and in an effort to deflect criticism of the gawky looks. They did admit that rather more people had told them they could not stand the appearance than actually liked it. So, refreshing honesty, if nothing else!
By comparison, last year’s SUV duo of the RDX and MDX look quite restrained.
A new name on me. Claimed to be a car with all the drama of Italian styling, but with American style build quality….. hmm, yes! Looks OK, though.
This was one of the first stands I came to, as it featured in the hall for exotic cars. Nothing new to see, but the whole range was represented.

One of the most popular stands in the entire show. Almost all the cars were finished in brilliant white, which made for a light and vibrant display. One that was not, and one of my favourites of the day was the facelifted S6. This car looks absolutely stunning in brilliant red (not that I am biased, of course!), and the splitter effect at the rear is subtle enough to add further distinction to the car without going over the top.
The other newcomer not finished in white was the Q5. I’m still not entirely convinced by this car, and it will have to battle with the Mercedes GLK as well as established opposition from BMW and Lexus to succeed in the market
Latest A4
A3 Sportback

This featured in a special showing, on a design stand, down in lobby area of the basement. The BAT11 car is a recent tribute to the BAT series from the 1950s.

Four cars representing the current range were on show here, including the latest Flying Spur version.
Tucked away towards the back of the hall was the BMW stand. Pride of place went, unsurprisingly, to the new 7 Series. Although this is visually rather less controversial than the E65 model, I was less than impressed by the aggressive egg-box grille on these cars.
Stand goers seemed less than impressed by the X6, and I heard lots of rather negative comments about this car. There were still crowds around it whenever I was on the stand, though, so it cannot be all bad. I was rather more impressed by the lovely classic 328 found lurking at the back of the stand.

With a slimmed down range of just three production cars, it was left to the Riviera Concept car to take the limelight here. Designed in China, where Buick has a strong following, this car is quite unlike the rather staid production models.
Lucerne Sedan

Following the news that the CTS Coupe has been postponed into 2010, to save launch costs, the only brand new car on show was the 2010 CTS Wagon which I had seen at Paris. The person on the stand was spouting the most dreadful rubbish about this car, claiming that it has all the versatility of an SUV. It’s an estate car with a heavily sloping roof line, for heaven’s sake!
Several examples of the regular CTS were here too. There was a CTS-V, but the camera seems to have picked up a regular model
A vast stand area, but it seemed somewhat empty. Tucked away at the back was a display of 2 production ready Camaros. The stand staff were pointing out that these cars are indeed, as Chevrolet claimed, 95% the same as the concept cars which were doing the rounds of all the world’s auto shows for a couple of years. As the cars were on a display, close up access was not possible, but they certainly seem to cross the line successfully in maintaining the visual effect of the 1967 model while being thoroughly modern.
Right next to the Camaro was the most powerful version of the Corvette, the recently launched ZR1.
The Volt occupied pride of place in one of the special turntable areas, complete with sample charging lead attached to the nearside front wing.
Available now is the Traverse, Chevrolet’s version of the much lauded “Lambda” design SUV (Buick Enclave, GMC Acadia and Saturn Outlook), and looking rather smart. A world away from the old Uplander mini-van which this vehicle effectively replaces
A full range of production models was on show.
HHR – Chevrolet’s take on the PT Cruiser, and newly presented in SS format.
Sharing a stand area with Dodge, this part of the stand was little frequented, with just a series of production cars to inspect. The Sebring Convertibles appeared to be sporting a new grille design. Different, but not necessarily any better.
The PT Cruiser lives on for another year, at least.
The 300C remains the most desirable car in the Chrysler portfolio.
Despite announcing an imminent end to production, the Aspen SUV was on show, with much being made of the Hybrid technology.
25 years ago, Minivans were Chrysler Corp’s salvation, and the latest models were on show, here in plush(er) Town and Country trim
One of the most popular cars in the entire show was the new Challenger, around which there were crowds all day long. Many people were saying that prefer it to the Camaro, its most obvious rival. This is the Hemi-engined SRT model.
This is the lesser powered V6 model.
Dodge’s EV, a car based on the Lotus Europa looked very striking in its yellow paint finish.
The Zeo concept car staged yet another appearance
Of the other production cars, probably the Charger is the most desirable.
The Journey
Grand Voyager
The new Ram pickup was on show. Not perhaps the best time to be launching a gargantuan pickup.
The very first stand that I got to was Ferrari. Pride of place goes to the new California model, with 2 cars on show. One, in red, with the roof down and a pale blue one with roof up. The styling of this car has grown on me, and it does look better in the metal (and in red) than the early launch photos suggested.
The rest of the range was on display, too.
The 430 Scuderia
Regular 430
599 GTB
612 Scaglietti

Centre of attention here was the 2010 Ford Mustang. Although claimed to be “all new”, this looks like a fairly extensive facelift of the model that has been around for the past 4 years. The car goes on sale in March 2009, with the first ones due down the production line in early January. It was certainly capturing a lot of attention, with throngs of people around the cars all the way up to closing time. Whereas there may be some debate about the aesthetic merit of the new styling, there is no denying the leap forward in the quality of the interior, which is a massive improvement on the rather low rent trim that features today.
A Bullitt version of the current model was shown alongside the facelifted cars
Also debuting was the 2010 model the Ford Fusion. Here, I was even less convinced that the facelift is a visual improvement, with a more pronounced and very bold grille at the front and extended light clusters at the rear. Ford were making huge publicity about how the hybrid model is the most economical in its class, and were handing out free “t” shirts to showgoers who could win a $20 gas coupon if they were spotted wearing them during the show.
Ford were showing the Verve Sedan concept car, promising that this will go on sale in the US as a 2011 model year car.
The Flex has only just gone on sale, and there were several somewhat “personalised” versions of this on the stand, along with one standard model.
The latest Focus is a reskin of the original 1998 model, available as a 2 or 4 door sedan only.
Although the future from this brand is frequently called into question, it is still alive, and producing a range of SUVs and trucks. None of these are what you would call small.
One of the most dramatic supercars of the recent times, the Apollo looks even more striking in bright orange.
Whilst inspecting the new Insight – officially a concept version – I was cornered by a video crew who wanted to record people’s impressions of the car. Look out for what I said on Honda’s website very soon (unless they got better soundbites from other people later in the day, of course!).
The CRZ staged another show appearance.
Rather less production ready was this concept, the FC Sport Concept, a sports car featuring Fuel Cell technology:
New production model is the 2009 Pilot, complete with a rather dominant grille.
The hydrogen fuel cell FCX-Clarity is now on the roads as part of a controlled trial, with a limited number of cars on the roads of Southern California.
Nothing new here. and the one manufacturer who was making few claims about fuel efficiency and green-ness.

Genesis was the main talking point here, with several cars on the stand
The Genesis Coupe was also on show, and seemed to be very well received. It does not look significantly bigger than the outgoing Coupe/Tiburon model. The show car was labelled as a prototype, but it looked production ready.
Also labelled a prototype was the Elantra wagon, which appears to be the i30 Estate from Europe. Whether the i30 Hatch will make it to the US to replace the Elantra sedan is less clear.
A real concept car is the iMove.
Production cars included:
Santa Fe
Latest car here is the G37 Cabrio, which looks rather good, and if it drives like the sedan and coupe, will be rather good.
Some of the models from this range will make it to Europe in 2009. That includes the EX35:
It does not include the massive QX56, which is just too big for European roads (and fuel prices)
The new XF was the most important car on this stand, and seemed to be generating a lot of positive comments from everyone, praised in particular for its design and appearance.
Still elegant is the XJ, of course:

The extensive range of Jeeps featured near the entrance to the South Hall, but with the exception of the Jeep ev and a concept car, seen before, all were production models well established in the market.
Latest offering here is the Soul, a car which I really rather like. With its chunky styling, and planned low market price, this one could do rather well when it goes on sale next Spring.
The rest of the US range was well represented, too.

No sign of the Estoque, so the stand simply featured coupe and open versions of the familiar Gallardo and Murcielago, the LP560/4 Spider version of the former making its debut.
Examples of all the current range were on show
The new RX series was only officially unveiled for Press Day, so is brand new. A cautious evolution of the outgoing model, it looks quite smart. In talking to the stand staff, I got the special show offer of a test drive next time I am in Los Angeles, after the car goes on sale in March 2009.
Also debuting was the IS250 Cabrio. Not perhaps the best styled car of its type, and with Infiniti launching a direct rival, it will be interesting to see which one wins out in the market.
Project GS was something that was novel to look at, but one has to wonder how practical it really is
A special display from the hall of after-market and tuned cars. Positively horrid.
Though worse was to come…….

The 2010 MKZ was the newcomer here, and the styling changes are less pronounced than on the Fusion, so seem all the more successful.
The MKS is still fresh to the market, and looks a world away from the TownCar it was supposed to (but does not) replace.

A turntable showed off the Evora at its best.
The two-Eleven was also on show here.
Proof, should any be needed, that money does not buy you taste. These 2 desecrations of desirable cars are just appalling! Utterly appalling..
A four car stand of loveliness, with 2 of the GranTurismos and 2 Quattoportes to admire, and covet.
Pride of place here went to the new 3 Sedan. Visually quite similar to the outgoing model, but with what appears to be Mazda’s latest “smiling grille”, this car looked rather good. Interior quality has taken a massive leap, too.
The US-market 6 has just gone on sale, and is different from the European cars. Offered only as a 4 door, this car has grown quite a bit, and has also been the beneficiary of the new upmarket interior. I will be interested to try one when it hits the rental car fleets as it surely will.
Mazda now has a strong and attractive range of cars on offer. Here is the Tribute, their version of the Ford Escape
The CX-9
The GLK occupied centre stage here, with one production car, a Brabus version, and various “modified” things that were shown at SEMA, which my camera refused to recognise.
The SL65 Black looks quite unlike the donor SL Series in the flesh. Shame this rather purposeful beast is not quite as good on the road as one might have though, if the press are to be believed.
By contrast, the regular AMG version looks almost tame!
Lurking at the back of the stand was the McLaren SLR at what will probably be one of its last shows, as production of the final cars completes soon.
The Concept Fascination staged a further appearance, a portent of some of the styling features of the forthcoming new E Class, allegedly

Only a small stand area for the Ford-clone that is struggling to establish and retain an identity. Only item of note was the facelifted 2010 Milan. The changes here are even more subtle than the Fusion and MKZ.
The current 2009 model was also on show.
The long lived Grand Marquis seems to survive on, and on and on……..
Mini e was on the stand, and from the outside looks like the regular car, but with the backseats replaced by a power pack. The JCW car was getting a lot of attention, too. Opinions do seem to vary as to whether this is a Mini “too far” or whether it is the best of breed.

Bit of a forgotten marque in the US, but with the latest Lancer shown in lots of guises.
The Eclipse is a dramatically styled sports coupe.
The Outlander was also on show

Lots to see here. After a year of publicity for the GT-R, it was, unsurprisingly, the new 370Z that hogged the limelight. A lone car was on the stand, on a turntable, so a close up inspection was not possible. I am still not entirely convinced by the new look, but the interior does seem to be rather less low-rent looking.
Second debut was for the Cube, a new version of which will go on sale officially outside Japan, in 2009.
This was the first time I had seen the new Maxima. Less dramatic, perhaps, than the outgoing model, it also seems to feature the odd shaped front light treatment that is one of the styling cues of the 370Z.
The latest Murano was on show – not an improvement in the looks department. The smaller Rogue does look somewhat better, in my opinion.
Familiar models were also on display.
The Altima
The Sentra
Slipped quietly onto the stand, as a production car, is the new G3. This is simply the Pontiac version of the Chevy Aveo, and has been on sale in Canada for a while. the Pontiac grille seems to work better on this car than the new Aveo front end.
The G8 has now been on the market for some months, though I have yet to see many on the roads. A monumental improvement over the old Grand Prix – not that this is much of an achievement, as that car was decidedly sub-prime in its capabilities.
Billed as a concept was the pick-up version. It was while looking at this that I was asked if I was an Aussie………. not something that I have encountered on the West Coast for a while, but it turned out the stand staff were all from Michigan.
The Solstice remains a good looking sports car.
There’s now a Coupe version as well.
Good looking is not the epithet to apply to the latest Vibe, a thinly disguised version of the Toyota Matrix.
G5 Coupe

Porsche have their own hall at the show. First car to see was a piece of heritage, the 550 Spider.
The latest versions of the Boxster and Cayman were making their world debut here.
The 911 range was modified in the summer, and this was a chance to see the changes close up.
The Cayenne is now a familiar car, and must be next in-line for a freshening.

An example of each of the three cars in Rolls-Royce’s range here.
No sign of the 9.4X Concept which has become a regular at motor shows, but the Air Concept was to be seen.
Nothing else new on display, though the 9.7X will not be familiar to Europeans, based on the Chevrolet Trailblazer/GMC Envoy
Concept car showing here was of the Flextreme, a vehicle that was shown in Europe, branded an Opel, and painted silver.
Saturn is looking increasingly like the US personifcation of Opel, with these vehicles, familiar to Europeans
For now, the Aura remains…… I drove one last year, and rather liked it. The rumours are that it will be replaced by a version of the Insignia in about 2011.
This time, Scion was located in the main hall, but they still featured the same sort of display with cars stacked up high above the stand. Down on the ground, the familiar xB, xD and tC models could be inspected close up.
Three of these distinctive Dutch supercars could be found on the stand.
Nothing new to see here, as even the latest Forester has been on sale for some months.
The US gets a rather gawky 4 door Impreza as well as the 5 door hatch. This is the WRX version
One of the few stands with no newcomers at all.

Brand new is the Venza – a Camry-based crossover vehicle. The crowds seem to spot that, too, and all thought it would be worthy, but dull. The customised versions on the stand did not really change the perception, and just looked rather silly.
Dull is definitely the latest Corolla, which has had a very luke warm reaction from the US press.
The new Matrix is far from pretty, either
The full range of vehicles was on show, ranging from the Yaris…….
……….. to the rather larger, such as these Tundra trucks
No sign of Golf VI here. It was left to the Routan to provide something new to see. Essentially a VW version of the Dodge/Chrysler mini-vans, I have to say that the massive improvement in interior quality could make this the minivan of choice, if that is your thing.

A lone XC60 was on the stand
Otherwise, it was a case of another showing for the familiar products from the range.
So, a good day out. Lots to see, despite the current troubles of the automotive sector. Someone did ask me for the my “Car of the Show”, and I found that strangely difficult to answer. The supercars were nice, of course, but I have to say that I was strangely attracted to that bright red Audi S6……… clearly, I did make the right choice with my own new car a few months, ago!
2010-01-07 20:01:38

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