Los Angeles Auto Show – November 2011

Of all the Auto Shows I have attended, I think Los Angeles is in many ways my favourite. For a start, it just never seems to get as crowded as Frankfurt or Paris, and it is such an easy venue, with ample car parking within a couple of minutes walk to the entry gates. Now that the show is far enough away from the Detroit event, there are plenty of new model launches, either for the American market, or indeed global premieres. Then there is the climate – November in Southern California is a perfect escape from the onset of a European winter, though writing this today when there has been an amazing amount of rain in one day just shows that even in Los Angeles, it can get wet. In fact, it was as a result of this storm coming in, that I decided to maximise days out in the sun, and hence ended up attending the show on Saturday and not a work day. For the first couple of hours, it was pleasantly quiet, and it then filled up. Although lots of people did leave by mid afternoon, plenty more were still arriving, so it was still pretty busy right up to closing time. However, I was able to get a good look at everything on show, and present alphabetically my findings below:  

Following last year’s launch of the Fiat 500 to the American market, this show marked the debut of the Abarth version. Before tries to tell me that even the manufacturer calls these cars Fiat in the US, and indeed it is true that all the publicity I had seen online did indeed refer to a “Fiat 500 Abarth”, I can assure you that there are no Fiat badges on the US cars, and the brochures that I acquired also are Abarth and not Fiat. Unlike Europe, I am sure the cars will be sold through US Fiat dealers, though. Anyway, enough of the name. What of the car? The sole surprise for me was to find that the turbo boost gauge, rather than sitting on top of the dash, is mounted down to the left of the speedometer. Otherwise, the same modifications as apply to American Fiat 500s apply: different seats, different switches for the electric windows, a glove box where European cars get a parcel shelf, and the revised bumpers and lights. More significantly, the US cars come with the MultiAir engine, which puts out 160 bhp. No prices yet, though they were talking around $25,000, which means the car will not be quite the bargain in the US that it is in UK. That said, all three models on he stand were creating a lot of interest, and I only heard positive comments – to which I added more than a few of my own, of course!

For some reason, all the Acura on the stand were painted black, and the lighting was poor. Maybe it was to hide their challenging looks?

The one exception was this concept TSX, which the stand staff wanted us all to say was particularly sporty. I’m sorry, but it’s just a rebadged and re-grilled Accord and that’s not “sporty” these days, at all!
A dealer supported stand, there were a number of the latest cars on show, ranging from the V8 and V12 Vantage, to the Virage which has only just reached the US, and centrepiece of the display was a One-77.

A busy stand, as Audi stands always are, but at least I could see everything on it, unlike Frankfurt. Most interest was being generated by the eTron Spider.

There was an R8GT Spider immediately behind it.
The S6, S7 and S8 were all on show, and as I could not see these at all at Frannkfurt, this was my first look. I’m afraid I did not like the S6, and the colour did not help, but the S7 was just lovely. It’s not going to happen, as it will be too expensive for our car scheme, and white would not look so good in Europe, but this was just my sort of car. I gave it my “production car of the show” award
There were plenty of other more familiar cars, generally always thronged with people.

Three cars on the Bentley stand: the Mulsanne and the latest versions of the GT Continental Coupe and GTC Convertible

Most interest should have been with the i3 and i8 concept cars, which made an appearance here.

However, when there is a new M5 alongside an M3, guess where the crowds actually were?
Other cars on the stand included the electric version of the 1 series which is “coming”.
Newest of the four models in the Buick range is the Verano, a mid sized saloon that shares its underpinnings with the Cruze. Looks neat and the write ups have been very favourable.

The Regal GS has just gone on sale, and was being promoted hard as a sports family sedan.  
World debut for the XTS, a large saloon that replaces the STS and DTS. Cadillac were being a little coy about quite a few of the details, but did point out that it is smaller than either car that it replaces. It will be available in front or four wheel drive. The styling is odd, as there is no real overhang at the back, even though they cited a sizeable boot as one of the features.

This ELR was on show alongside, and was billed not as a concept but “for real”, though there was even less information about it.
The Ciel was a Concept.
There were examples of each of the production models, many of them finished in an odd matt metallised black colour.
A huge stand area for Chevrolet. Yet to make its US production debut is the Spark, and three pre-production models were on show.

The Sonic is the next size up, and it has recently gone on sale.
Cruze is now well established and looks quite neat.
The 2013 Malibu was shown alongside its outgoing 2011 model namesake.
Several examples of the Volt were on show.
There were also plenty of Camaros, but these were very popular and I could not get near them. This Hot Wheels prototype was described as a Concept.
There were several trucks, too, including the Silverado models.
There was no clear division between the Chrysler and the Dodge stand this year, even though with the exception of the Town & Country/Grand Caravan mini-vans, all the other products are unique to one range or the other. Last year saw the upgrade of the unloved Sebring into the 200, and there were sedan and convertible models on show. I have seen very few of these on the road, so wonder if the upgrade has been successful in generating new interest in the cars.

My favourite Dodge is the Challenger, and there were several on the stand.

I also like the latest Charger, which has particularly distinctive rear lights, as could be seen on the new Super Bee model.
Last year saw the launch of the new Durango, a car which looks good and which has been better received by the press than the Ford Explorer, which is its most immediate rival.
Other models in the range, including the Avenger, Journey and Grand Caravan were all revised a year ago, with new interiors being the most notable improvement.
The unloved Nitro has been discontinued, and production of the equally ill-regarded Caliber has just ceased so neither was on show.

A confident presence from Fiat, with several 500s, in both regular and 500C format. I’ve seen quite a few of these on the roads during this trip, and learn that about 20,000 have been sold.

I was less keen on this one, though, which had been subjected to an upgrade from the Mopar catalogue.
First public showing for the new Escape, and it looks good. The interior is very like the new Focus, and that is not so good as that thing is a laden with more buttons than are good for it, and rumour has it that the Ford Sync My-Touch technology works only sometimes, as well as being too complicated.

Ford will have some electric vehicles on sale in 2012, and they showed a C-Max and a Focus so equipped.
They also expect to be selling ST version of the Fiesta and Focus, and concept versions of both were on show, and looked good, in their confident colour schemes.
Mustang has been modified a bit, again, with the GT500 being the headline grabbing model. Boss 302 and regular cars were also on show. Keeping up with all the different variants is hard work!  
The Flex has been subjected to a facelift too. I am not sure that I think the new grille is an improvement.
All the other models were well represented, from Fiesta and Focus in both their hatch and sedan guises, through the Fusion and Taurus saloons to the recently launched Explorer.
Last show for the old Escape, a long version of which was on the stand.
There were plenty of trucks, with F150, F250 and F350 all displayed.
Nothing new on this stand, but representatives of everything from the boxy Terrain up to the heavy duty Sierras were on show.

I’ve seen a few of the latest Civics on the road and have to say that especially from the back, this is a bland looking car. The press have been very critical of the car, citing a cynical effort at cost cutting and trying to get away with “just barely good enough”. Sales have been very variable, as Honda suffered badly from the Tsunami, which meant that there were no supplies of the new car just after they launched it, and then some months it has sold strongly, while in others, it has struggled. I was not impressed.

I liked the new CR-V more than I thought I would. However, this would seem also to be a “just barely good enough” car, with the view that it will face formidable competition from Ford and Mazda and that is even before the next generation Toyota RAV4 arrives, which is alleged to be imminent.
Honda were making much of their various different available fuel technologies, with the Fit EV staging another appearance, alongside the Clarity FC-X Hydrogen car.
The rest of the range were all presented. A new Accord is expected in 2012, so this may one of the last shows for the outgoing car, whose Coupe is quite good looking. The saloon is just anonymously bland.
Although Honda seem pretty much to have given up on the enthusiast for whom they did so much in the past, there were a couple of reminders of a more sporting tradition on their stand.
The new Azera was the big news here.

This was a good chance to catch up with many of the other new models that have appeared in the past few months, including the latest Accent, Elantra and Sonata.
New model here was the JX35, a mid-sized family crossover vehicle that looks neat enough, and with plenty of Infiniti styling cues.

Examples of all the rest of the range were on show.
Star of the Show for me was on this stand: the C-X16. I loved it in silver at Frankfurt, but it looks even better in white. Just build it, Jaguar. Please!

Sadly, not so impressed with the production newcomer the XK-RS, which just looks messy with the add on bits unique to this model.
Most of these cars were given a good work over last year, with new interiors making a big difference to them. The Compass received a new front end to get rid of the previous gawky look and the Grand Cherokee was an all new model. Accordingly, there was nothing new here, just a reminder of the range.

How things have changed. Kia, once the butt of many unkind comments, had a large stand, and it was always busy. The Kia GT Concept was one of the highlights. This is a good looking car, and Kia would be well advised to build something like it. It could help with their image transformation.

The mid-sized Optima, launched a year ago, has been helping, too. This is a very striking looking car.
New for 2012 is the latest Rio, shown in the hatchback version we see in Europe and a saloon.
The Forte is now well established, and the 5 door and Koup models were on show.  
The Defender concepts were making another appearance here. I still think that the 3 door one has an uncanny resemblance to a Skoda Yeti.

Three of the new Evoques were on show. Unlike in Europe, where it is nigh on impossible to get near them at shows at present, such is the interest in the car, these seemed to be attracting only moderate levels of interest, and I heard the inevitable “it is just too small” from countless people (mind you, I heard that about a lot of other cars as well during the day).  
Lexus has a vast range of cars in the US, far more than in Europe, but most of them are not that interesting. There is an exception and that was the LF-A which was star of the stand, as it always is whenever it appears on show.

The new GS was on show, too. Neat enough, and will doubtless appeal in the same way that the old one did, but I can’t see it taking many conquest sales from the Germans.
Refreshed versions of the MKS sedan and MKT crossover were the big news here. The changes are fairly subtle, and as these cars do not sell in large numbers, it is not the case that I am particularly familiar with the details of the outgoing cars.

The huge Navigator was creating a lot of interest, with regular and long wheel base cars on the stand.
Talking point on the stand was this 1940 Hot Rod, which had belonged initially to Edsel Ford.
US sales of the Elise and Exige ended a year ago, so the only car that Lotus US can sell is the Evora. Four of them were on the stand.

This is the Mexican sports car which when reviewed on Top Gear led to some remarks about stereotypes of the car’s home country, and an ensuing strong diplomatic protest.

Star attraction was the new CX5, a small SUV to replace the elderly Tribute. Looks good.

The 3 has been facelifted during the year and some of the 2012 models have the SkyActiv engine in them.
This version of the MX5 was described by someone on the stand as mere eye-candy rather than something with serious production intent.
Other models on show included the diminutive 2.
This was a busy stand, with a number of new models. The only ones that I could photograph were those on special display units, and these included the ML63 AMG version of the latest ML Series, the C63 AMG Black Series Coupe, the latest SLK in AMG format and the SLS Roadster.

The new Mini Coupe was making its US debut here. I still cannot get on with the styling of this at all!

There were examples of the rest of the range, too.  
Give them credit: they have not given up, but with little that is new, it must be hard working to sell these cars. The Outlander Sport – known as the ASX in Europe – was launched a few months ago, but otherwise a familiar diet of Galant, Outlander and Lancer is served up, with the little iMIEV an oddity even without its fake wood panelling.

Centrepiece of the stand was this rather odd concept car, the SportAir..  
Although I cannot recall ever seeing a US plated Morgan on the streets of America, there were several of these cars on the stand, so I assume that there is a market for them.

Three cars were selected for turntable appearances, though only one of them is truly new: the 2012 Versa. Currently available only in saloon form, this car is being promoted as the roomiest in its class, which may be true, but it would seem that the interior has taken a backwards step in quality compared to the outgoing model, and the press have noted their disappointment. I have to say that when I first saw pictures of this car earlier in the year, I was very unimpressed, but it does look a little better in the metal.

The Murano CC was on another turntable. This looked better than last year’s example, and the script that went with it seemed less full of hyperbolic PR guff. I’ve yet to see any on the road, though.
Third turntable car was the Leaf.
There were examples of each of the other models in Nissan’s range, from Sentra and Altima sedans to the Juke, Rogue, Muran and Pathfinder Crossovers, the huge Quest minivan, the Titan pickup and the very sporty GT-R.
As in previous years, Porsche had their own separate hall, to one side of the main thoroughfare connecting the entrance area to the West Hall. I know from experience that even though this gives Porsche a lot of space, it can get very crowded, so this was the very first place I visited once the gates opened at 9am and I was in the show. This gave me the chance to have a good look at the 2 debutants: the new version of the 911 and the Panamera GTS.  Although I had seen the latest 911 at Frankfurt, the cars were on a display area, and so it was only from a distance, whereas this time, I could get close up. Previously published pictures do not really do justice to the car, as it is not as wide or bulky as you might have thought. The Panamera, though? Well, familiarity does not make it look any more elegant to my eyes!

There were representative examples of the rest of what is now an extensive range of cars, including a track ready 911 GT3 RS.  
Now a brand in its own right, there were plenty of examples of these chunky trucks to see.

A three car stand, at the opposite end of the Concours Hall to once stablemate, Bentley, there were two Ghosts and a Drophead to admire.

A completely different appearance to the stand, after years of having cars in racks on one side of the display, and the highlight was the centrepiece the FR-S, which Europeans think of as a Toyota, but which will wear Scion badges in America.

The iQ also undergoes a change of branding for the American market.
Other Scions included the xD and tC models.   
Battling on in the US, despite low sales and a perception that their cars are slow and unsafe. Nothing new to see, but plenty of examples of the ForTwo and the Safety Cell were on display.

There was only really one car that everyone wanted to see on this stand: the prototype BRZ, appearing for the first time with its body covering the frame that was shown at Frankfurt. Looks good.

Not sure that “looks good” applies to anything else that Subaru make. The new Impreza was on show alongside the outgoing model. The interior has taken a step forward in quality terms, for sure.
Familiar models from the rest of the range were also on show.
Toyota had a vast stand, reflecting the large range of cars and trucks they offer. The Big News was the new Camry, a replacement for the best selling car in America. As before there are variations for the grille and lights depending on the model, including the faintly ridiculous “Sport” look.

Also new is the Yaris, which will be sold only in hatchback format, the saloon having been discontinued.
The Prius family is expanding, with the Prius V having just gone on sale and a Plug-In Hybrid version due next year.
Other more familiar models included these:
Toyota also had a reminder that they do participate in motor sport, and there was an example of the record breaking Land Speed Record Prius.
Recently crowned “Car of the Year” by Motor Trend, this was my first chance to look at the US model Passat, a different car from the one that is sold in Europe. It is more spacious inside, and despite the reason for making a different car being to make it cheaper, it still comes across as a quality product inside. Nice.

Three examples of the New New Beetle, including the Beetle R were on show. There is more headroom and luggage space in this than the previous car, and I am even getting used to the looks.
The CC was never linked to the Passat name in the US, being sold as a stand alone model. This was the chance to assess the facelift.   
Other recent cars included the latest Jetta and the Touareg Hybrid
Volvo had the Concept You on show again. I like this car.

There was one example of each of the current range, which no longer includes the S40, V50 or V70, meaning there is a focus more on XC models, as well as the latest S60 which is sold in petrol engined format only.
Located down below the rest of the halls, is the Kentia Hall, which promises a mix of tuned, customised, classic and racing cars. What you get is mostly the first two, and ample proof that for are far too many people where the ratios of taste and money can all too easily get reversed.

This was the only chance to see supercars such as the Veyron, Aventador and 458 Italia at the show. Pity that they had all been “improved”.

There were worse, though. Far worse.
I think my prize for the most foul creation – and it had plenty of competition- goes to this horror.
There was not much that was related to motorsport and racing, but I did find these.
There was even less that could be considered “classic”.
This was, as ever, an excellent show. Los Angeles is an awfully long way to go for a motor show, but when there is so much to see, and relatively less crowding than you get elsewhere, the opportunity to take a holiday and take in the show is just too good to miss. I have already earmarked the dates for 2012.
2011-11-21 05:28:12

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