Los Angeles Auto Show – November 2013

Of all the major Auto Shows that are held around the world, the one in Los Angeles, which takes place around the US Thanksgiving Holiday is among my favourites. For a start, the venue is not just easy to get to, with car parking on hand, literally a couple of minutes away from the Show entrance (although the cost has increased steadily and at $20 this year was more double my ticket cost!), but even in November, Los Angeles tends to enjoy several hours of sunshine just when daylight seems in particularly short supply at home, and then there is the fact that as the second largest Show of its type in America (after Detroit), it always features more than a few global as well as US market debuts, so there is plenty that is brand new to see. I’ve only missed it once in 10 years. Although a slightly odd quirk of event scheduling meant that the bi-annual Tokyo show ended up taking place concurrently, this ended up playing to everyone’s advantage, as both Porsche and MINI decided to exploit this and make a double-headed launch splash of 2 of the year’s most eagerly awaited cars. With both the Porsche Macan and the third generation MINI to see, this would have been a good event in its own right, but there was an awful lot more besides. So much, in fact, that I spent the entire day, all 11 hours of it, wandering around the halls, getting in and out of cars, talking to stand staff and taking the 949 photos that are presented in this report. So whilst I can’t bring you that November Californian weather, I can at least give a very good idea of what was on display. Enjoy!


No sign of the Concept NSX this time, which is often an encouraging sign that work is going on to get a concept into production (here’s hoping!) and the bizarre ZDX has been out to pasture, having been an utter sales catastrophe for Acura (fewer than 3000 were sold ever). So Star Billing here was being given to a new version of the new RLX, replacement for the latterly very slow selling RL (one time Honda Legend in Europe). The RLX  looks OK, in a rather non-descript way, but the press are struggling with a good reason to buy one, and note that it has become rather costly. Acura hope that lack of pizzazz might be remedied by the latest version shown here for the first time,  the RLX Sport Hybrid SH-AWD. While it retains the standard car’s 3.5-litre V6, it adds three electric motors, one 35-kW motor in front and two 27-kW motors at each rear wheel, for a grand total of 377 bhp. All-wheel drive is provided by a clever torque vectoring system, allowing the rear electric motors to increase torque or brake independently, based on driving conditions. A seven-speed, dual-clutch transmission, a first for Acura, is tasked with sorting everything out and transmitting power. The performance gains made by the Sport Hybrid are made more impressive by the fact that it’s more efficient than the V6 on its own. Fuel economy in city conditions is bumped from 20 mpg to 28 mpg, although highway economy gets a less substantial bump, moving from 31 to 32 mpg. All this technology is unlikely to come cheap, though, and that could be the rub.

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The rest of the range were also here. All painted in black, which is probably deliberate as it de-emphasises some of the, let’s say controversial, styling phase that Acura went through, with the TL being the most blatant example. Saloon cars are now the ILX, TSX (an Acura version of the Euro Accord, and with no plans to replace that car, an uncertain future ahead of it) and the TL, which is due for replacement in 2014.

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SUVs are the recently refreshed RDX and MDX. In toning down the styling, these have become rather bland.

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With no official presence from many of the other very high end manufacturers who used to attend the Show (until the 2008 credit crunch bit), Aston Martin have ended up with a nice large space at one end of the hall that contains the costly stuff, and they used this to full advantage with a row of cars representing each of the major models that they sell in America.

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Continuing a tradition which goes back 20 years, retailer Neiman Marcus announced a special limited edition model, and this year it is based on the newly announced Vanquish Volante. Priced at a lofty $344,500, the Vanquish Volante allegedly draws inspiration from the Prince Charles’ 1969 DB6 Volante. Limited to just 10 units, the Neiman Marcus edition will be among the first of Aston Martin’s 565bhp convertibles sold in the US market. Sporting Seychelles Blue paint and a black leather interior with blue accents, the Vanquish Volante’s mechanicals are unchanged from the standard car, making this an expensive style package. Even so, Neiman Marcus editions are known for selling out very quickly (the 100 Chevrolet Camaro Convertible examples offered in 2010 were all gone in just three minutes ), so it’s entirely likely that all ten of examples of the Neiman Marcus edition are spoken for, as orders opened back on October 23.

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I’ve learned from experience that the Audi stand tends to get very crowded, so this was one of the early ones I visited. Newcomer here were the latest A3 range of cars, with saloon versions of the A3 and S3 as well as Cabrio and the e-tron version of the Sportback. All were branded European spec models, as the range will not go on sale until well into 2014, as 2015 model year cars. The old A3 did not sell that well, but Audi are hoping for greater things with the new cars. The saloons were attracting a lot of interest, and I predict that although many will prefer the bold styling of the rival Mercedes CLA, once they realise that it is not only nothing like as cheap as Mercedes advertising suggests, but that the rear seat is practically inaccessible and unusable, then Audi have the perfect answer. We shall see.

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The Audi I most wanted to drive out of the place and blast into the distance was the RS7 which was parked temptingly on one corner of the stand. Too subtle for some, perhaps, but just right for me.

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Of course I would not refuse an R8, either and this V10 plus was attracting the customary amount of attention.

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Audi are finally importing a wider range of diesel models to the US, taking the gamble that Americans can be persuaded that this fuel is not smelly and the cars are not noisy and unreliable. Several of the regular cars on show were TDi models, but there were plenty of petrol ones as well, among the wide variety of more familiar designs displayed.

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A four car display here. And hats off to the very calm way in which one of the staff responded when some “youff” asked why there was a car called “Mullza – knee”. Scorn might have been appropriate, but she very politely told him how it was pronounced, and as she started to explain that it was a famous part of the Le Mans circuit, said youff scarpered, saying to his “friend”, “Well, how was I to know how it is called”! He did not look like the sort of person is ever like to be buying any Bentley, but these days, you never know!

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Another early port of call, as I figured that there were several cars on this stand that everyone would want to see. Actually, it never got truly crowded on the stand, which is a surprise. The two new electric cars, production versions of the i3 and i8 were both locked, so you could only inspect from the outside. I do like the i8, but am less sure about the i3 and it appeared to have a very odd lump of wood stuck across the top of the dash which just looked nasty.  I am sure both will do well in California, where Hybrid and Electric cars are popular.

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The Concept X4 was here, though there was nothing to suggest it was a Concept, so I suspect that this is actually very close to the production car that we will see in 2014. Plenty have written damning comments about this, and whilst I would not buy one, it looked OK to me. Given the success of the X6, which is in reality a less practical and more costly X5, then I suspect that there are plenty of people out there who will prefer one of these to an X3.

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There were 4 Series Coupe and Convertible models on show. Of the two, I preferred the open top car, which does look elegant.

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Far less elegant is the latest X5, which I think is a styling mess compared to the previous model. The US press have effused praise, unlike the UK press who – perhaps mistakenly – found the M50d cars that they tested to be rather disappointing.

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Disappointing is not a word you would use for the 2 M cars that were at the back of the stand. The M6 Gran Coupe is probably the most elegant BMW of the current range, and certainly the one – money no object – I would pick. It is pricey, but by gosh does it look good.

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A subset of the rest of the vast range were also on show, with the 3 represented by the Touring, the 3GT and the ActiveHybrid, and the 5 by a 535d which is new to America as well as a 5GT. There was no sign of the 1 Series (nor its replacement, the 2), or the X3 or X6.

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Centre of attention here was the 2014 facetlifted Regal, an Americanised version of the Insignia, which sports new front and back end styling and a revised interior.

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Also on show were the recently updated LaCrosse, the Astra-based Verano and the Encore and Enclave.

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All the buzz on this stand seemed to be around the brand new CTS, but it was not the star of the Cadillac stand for me. That accolade goes to the stunning Elmiraj Concept. I understand that Cadillac are agonising over whether to build it, or something very similar. The problem is that large coupes are very much a minority thing these days, as consumers all seem to want big and bulky SUVs, so being confident in the business case is not proving easy. It will be a shame if it does not make it, as it is one of the most elegant concept cars of the year.

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Then I decided that I did need to go and have another look at the CTS, having first seen it at New York in April. The American press have gone into hyperbole about this car, and maybe it will sell well in the domestic market, but not withstanding the lack of a diesel engine, which is a fatal omission for Europe, I don’t think more than a handful would have anything other than scorn for the mishmash of colours textures and surface on the inside. This is not a car to appeal to the staunchly conservative proponent of an E Class or an A6, and the market for a car like this, no matter how good it is to drive, without those attributes is pretty small.

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The Estate and Coupe versions of the old CTS continue for now, with some uncertainty as to whether either body style will be repeated in the new range. An example of each was on show.

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Making its show debut was the 2015 Escalade, Cadillac’s version of the new trio of models launched a few weeks ago, and due to go on sale in Spring 2014 as 2015 models. Looking more upscale than the Chevrolet and GMC models, as befits its higher price, this one will surely appeal to Escalade fans and horrify everyone else for its brash excesses just as the previous generations have been doing since 1999.

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The ELR was making another appearance, in advance of an imminent on sale date. This is best thought of (simplistically) as a Cadillac Coupe version of the Volt. With similar styling to the CTS Coupe, it certainly looks distinctive, but I suspect rear vision through the near horizontal window is somewhat limited.

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Also on show were the increasingly familiar ATS, the XTS and SRX Crossover models.

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Not surprisingly, the car that was attracting the most attention of anything in the entire show was the C7 Corvette. There were three examples on display, 2 Coupe and 1 Convertible, and there were always crowds around them. I saw my first one on the road earlier in the week, and this is a striking car. The interior is much improved, and according to the US press, it is fabulous to drive (mind you, they have said that about all previous versions even when they were not!). I do hope that Mr Hertz buys some so I can test one out.

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Another new Chevrolet that appealed was the SS. Of course this is really a Holden Commodore, and it is destined to sell in small volumes in the US., but it looks good, and will  no doubt drive well.

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The Camaro received a freshening of the front and rear end styling, which I have to say is not entirely to my taste. As well as the familiar Coupe and Convertible body styles the show cars included not just the 1LE model, but the return of the famous Z28 name.

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There were lots of examples of the rest of the passenger car range, from the small Spark (and its electric only EV version, sold only in California), through Aveo, Cruze,Volt, Malibu and Impala. This last was a real surprise for most people, as after years of being cheap and dowdy rental car fodder, the latest one has impressed all who have driven it. A saloon version of the Aveo RS was making its debut.

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Also shown were the SUV and Crossover models, the Equinox and recently refreshed Traverse.

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Commercially, the most significant vehicles on the Chevrolet stand were the trucks. The new Silverado models were first shown at the New York Show in April, but are now just starting to become available in the dealers and hence will be seen on the roads very soon. Big, and imposing, with a more brash front end design – which seems to be something that is being replicated by all the truck manufacturers at present – these machines are allegedly more efficient than their predecessors and certainly do boast a higher quality interior.

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Closely related are the new Tahoe and Suburban, which at first glance appear little changed from the outgoing models, but stare at them for a little longer, and they are sufficiently different that they will be easy enough to identify from the GM T900 models that have served since 2007.  Unlike the GMC and Cadillac versions, the Chevy models have a 5.3 litre engine. With 355bhp and 383 lb/ft of torque, it’s still more potent than the previous models’ engines, but is down considerably on the 420 bhp and 460 lb/ft of torque in the higher-end SUVs. Despite the lower power output, the 5.3 is fitted with the same suite of fuel-saving features found on the other models, including active fuel management with cylinder deactivation. In the cabin, the Chevrolet My Link system sits front and centre on higher-end models, complete with an 8″ touchscreen. Push-button start is the marque’s standard feature, although other items like power fold-flat seats, 20- and 22″ wheels are optional extras.

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Brand new for the Show was the 2015 Colorado truck, a smaller pick-up which marks Chevrolet’s re-entry into the mid sized truck sector and which will compete directly with the Toyota Tacoma and Ford Ranger. This seems to have been particularly well received and could do very well in the market.  A Lifeguard concept version was also on show, this one supposedly inspired by the local West Coast beaches, with its bed mounted surfboard rack and light bar.

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If the rumours are to be believed, Chrysler are saving their big launch for Detroit so all there was here were a series of familiar cars, with several of the 200 and 300 models as well as the Town & Country minivan.

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2014 marks Dodge’s Centenary, and so they have come up with a special limited edition Centenary version of both the Challenger and the Charger. They were displayed alongside each other, looking resplendent in their High Octane Red Pearl paintwork. There are all sorts of little touches to distinguish the cars, which will available in all the standard colours as well. The duo were presented alongside a “regular” Challenger R/T and a classic 1970 Challenger.

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Other Dodge models on show included the refreshed 2014 Durango, the neat looking Dart, some more Charger and Challenger models as well as Journey and a Grand Caravan.

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Nothing new here, unless you count further limited editions of the 500. And there were two of these. The first one, called 1957 Edition, which will only be offered in America, marks 57 years since the 1957 launch of the Nuova 500 did look rather cool, with its pastel hued paint, and retro styling cues.

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The second was the 500C GQ Edition, Chief among the exterior changes are 16″ gloss black alloys with red-trimmed centre caps, a more aggressive lower fascia and black-bucket headlamps, along with the requisite GQ badging. The model borrows the US spec Abarth 160 bhp 1.4 litre Multiair engine and a five-speed manual gearbox. As you’d expect with a GQ-branded product, due attention has been paid to the interior furnishings, including a matte-finish body-colour gauge cluster nacelle, and Nero black leather seats lifted by Alcantara inserts incorporating a Steam leatherette centre stripe and GQ embossing on the backrest.

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These were joined by examples of the rest of the US range, including the US Abarth version, the all electric 500e and the recently available 500L.

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A vast stand area, so hard to know where to begin. Let’s start with the Mustang. Next year is the Big 5 0 and there will be an all new model to celebrate the fact (rumoured to be revealed on December 5th), so this was one of the last shows for the current and popular model, There were a whole load of cars from the regular V6 and GT 5 litre models, through to the Shelby and a special creation made for SEMA as well as a classic 1966 GT350 to enjoy.

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Centrepiece of the whole stand was a concept Edge, which looked remarkably ready for production, even though Ford were using lots of “if” and  “might” in what they said about it. I have to confess to a certain disappointment in the reality compared to the pictures. The production car will be launched in 2014, and the Edge is destined to find its way to Europe as part of Ford’s plan to launch 25 new vehicles in Europe by 2015.

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There were lots and lots of production cars, from the little Fiesta, through Focus, C-Max and Fusion to Taurus, current Edge, Escape and Explorer as well as an Expedition and the latest Transit Connect vans. Ford were making quite a lot of their electric cars, though you do lose a lot of boot space in the Focus if you go for battery propulsion.

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Based on the Ford GT, this is a rather special machine indeed.

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Big news here, of course was the combination of the new truck, the Silverado, and its SUV relative the new Yukon, available in regular and XL guises. Compared to the rather brash Chevrolet and deliberately glitzy Escalade, these appeared quite well done.

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The familiar Acadia and Terrain were also on show.

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Most interesting car on the stand was this Concept Fuel Cell HCEV Vehicle. Allegedly, this is close to the upcoming fuel-cell electric vehicle that Honda will launch in the US and Japan in 2015, and in Europet. There is little doubt that there is an element of  bravery on display here, and Honda says the concept we see here hints at “a potential styling direction,” but it is hard to imagine which parts of this spaceship concept vehicle will be seen on the road one day. That means that the five-seater’s technical details are perhaps more important than how it looks, since this is where the car really tries to set itself apart. A range of more than 300 miles will be possible from a 100kW hydrogen fuel cell stack that has a power density of 3kW/L, which is 60-percent higher than it was before while being 33-percent smaller than the stack in the FCX Clarity that Honda have been testing on a limited basis over the past few years. Honda doesn’t get into the issue of a lack of fuel stations in its press release (there are only 10 public stations in the US at present), but it does say that the FCEV Concept could be refuelled in about three minutes using a 70 MPa system. The fuel stack’s small size means this is the first time a fuel-cell powertrain has been “packaged completely in the engine room of the vehicle,” Honda says, which means the company should be able to do a lot of interesting things with vehicle design, just as some EV designers can do today. Honda also says the compact size means there is “flexibility in the potential application of FC technology to multiple vehicle types in the future,” so if you don’t like the look of the concept unveiled today, keep your eyes peeled for something different.

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Hopefully that something different will look a bit more interesting that the array of current production Honda machines. I had arrived at the Show in a 2012 Civic, a car derided for being as cheap as Honda though they could get away with, only to find that they could not, as it was lambasted by the Press. An emergency facelift was rushed through within 12 months, and although that had been premiered at the 2012 Show, I had a renewed interest in comparing the revised interior with the car I had been driving for 24 hours. In fact, some more changes were made for the 2014 models, and this time Honda have also addressed the Coupe which was first shown at SEMA a few weeks ago and was making another appearance here. Suffice to say that although the interior design on the latest cars is the same, the quality of the materials is orders of magnitudes better. It will be interesting to see if they have made it any less anodyne to drive.

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The Accord was replaced a year ago, with a rather inoffensive, but slightly bland version, and there were plenty of these to inspect, including the production version of the Hybrid. Unmemorable to look at, perhaps, but this is still judged to be among the best cars in a highly competitive class. Hertz don’t carry many Hondas, but I will try to find one to test myself. There is a Coupe model which looks very similar to the old car, as well.

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The CrossTour lost its Accord badging for 2013 and carries on as before, with a front end based on the old Accord.

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Other Honda on show included the Fit (including the EV version), the big-selling CR-V, the Odyssey minivan and Pilot SUV.

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Although Hyundai did not have any completely new models, they did have some important changes to show off on their large stand. Hot off the press were the alterations to their big selling Elantra, which has received the mid-life facelift comprising detailed changes to the front and back, lights and wheel trims etc and the standardisation of the 197 bhp 2 litre engine in the GT (hatch) and Coupe as well as a new Sport sedan model.

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There was also something new for the Veloster, with a cheaper version of the Turbo, called R-Spec making its debut. Hyundai reason that many buyers of the Turbo model are more interested in the performance gains than anything else, and would rather spend their money on tuning accessories. (!). Only available with a manual gearbox, it does without proximity-key entry with push-button start, the premium gauge cluster, side-repeater mirrors, driver’s auto-up window, high-gloss interior trim and heated leather seats. It might be better if it did without the red-accented side skirts and front splitter which just look tacky.

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Hyundai have a very extensive range of product in the US, most of which we do not see in Europe, the exceptions being the Tucson (which we know as ix35) shown in regular and Fuel Cell guises and the Santa Fe Sport. A longer wheelbase version of this with space for 7 seats (and to my mind slightly better looking styling) is also available in the US.

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This could be one of the last shows for the current Sonata and Genesis as rumours persist that new versions of both will appear in the next few weeks.

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Flagship of the range is the Equus and there was one of these S Class-sized cars at the back of the stand. Beautifully finished, if a little bland, there is no doubt that you get a lot of car for not a lot of money.

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Other models on show included the rarely seen Azera and the diminutive Accent.

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Stand star here was the concept Q30, finished in a rather odd shade of pink which was apparently inspired by a visit to a German jewellery fair. Hmm! Not wow-ed by the styling either.

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Nor was I that taken by the Q50. It would seem that this car has not really hit the spot, with many lamenting it as not a patch on the outgoing and much loved G37.

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The rest of the range, with their new badging, were all there, so get used to QX50 (EX37), QX60 (JX37), QX 70 (FX37), QX80 (QX56) and Q70 (M37/50). The Hybrid version of the QX60 was among the vehicles displayed.

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Sebastian Vettel’s Red Bull Formula 1 car was on the stand,. You can tell that America knows (and probably cares) little about this particular form of motor-racing as some of the stuff the commentator was coming out with was just plain wrong.

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This stand was clearly going to be a highlight for me, as it was going to give me my first look at the newly unveiled F Type Coupe. I’m already a huge fan of the Convertible version, which I think is one of the best looking cars that has been made in many a year, and whose sound track is in some ways even better than its appearance. The F Type has generated lots of (positive) interest, so I anticipated that the stand would get busy, which meant that it is one of the first I went to. And anyway, I could contain my excitement no longer. I was not let down, with the sight of two Coupe models, a red one in the central display and a white one open to be sat in. I was not disappointed. This is a stunning car, and with prices promised to be £7000 less than the convertible model, I am sure that it will sell at least as fast as Jaguar can build them.

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Jaguar had another surprise for me, which was that the Concept C-X17, first shown at Frankfurt to critical acclaim ,was also on display. Newly repainted in silver, this car impressed me massively, too. I’m not in the market for an SUV, but if I were, this is the one I would want. And judging by what I heard, I am far from alone, with lots of people saying that they would buy it now if only they could. Jaguar would be crazy not to build something like this. And soon.

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Examples of the rest of the range included regular XF and the new XFR-S, the XJR and and XK.

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The new Cherokee has finally gone on sale, though I have yet to see a production car on the road. Get past the polarising looks, and I gather this is a very competent machine. It certainly sports an interior that is leagues better than its predecessor, and would now rate as a strength of the product rather than a huge weakness.

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The rest of the Jeep range was well represented, with several of the iconic Wrangler models on show, including the Willys Wheeler package, which is sort of a throwback to early CJ models, and wears “Willys” stickers on the bonnet. There’s also a gloss black grille, rock rails to protect the side sills, and unique 17″ black wheels wrapped in meaty BF Goodrich KM Mud Terrain tyres. For proper off-road prowess, this special edition uses a Dana 44 rear axle with a limited-slip differential and a 3.73 final drive ratio.

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It is a measure of the confidence that Kia now has that two of their new cars sit at the top of the range, entering market territory that they have not previously explored. The Cadenza is already on sale. This is a large premium saloon which is aimed fairly and squarely at the likes of the Buick LaCrosse, Ford Taurus and Toyota Avalon. With neat, if slightly unadventurous styling, and impeccable looking build quality, it will be fascinating to see how well it does. Early reviews I have read  have been pretty positive.

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Looking perhaps too similar is an even larger and more costly car, the K900. Sharing some of its underpinnings with the Hyundai Equus and Genesis, and sharing some of the same dimensions as well as the engines, is the US market version of the rear wheel drive Quoris, and will be offered with a 3.8 litre V6 and 5 litre V8, at prices starting from around $50,000. Whilst suggesting that this is an S Class Mercedes rival is taking things a little too far, Lexus should be very afraid, as all those who find their latest designs too ugly around the front, will find that the simple lines of the K900 could be right up their street. It is impressively roomy inside and beautifully finished. It does not really bring anything new – apart from Kia value – to the class, and I am sure that badge snobbery will remain a challenge, but it deserves to do well. We will see.

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Third new model is the second generation Soul, which premiered at the New York Show in April, but which has now gone on sale in the US, with European versions due next Spring. I was particularly interested in this one as I spent a couple of days earlier in the week driving the outgoing car (which I liked). This one is based on the latest Cee’d and whilst the interior is different to that car, it has much of the same design treatment and higher quality materials than the old Soul. It should continue to build on the huge success of the first generation car.

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As if that were not enough, there were mild facelifts evident on the Optima and Sportage. New lights and grilles are the clue.

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The 2014 Forte range is now complete with the 5 door and Koup versions joining the regular 4 door sedan.

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The Rio and Sorento were also on display, neither of which have been around in their current form for long, meaning that Kia has one of the newest ranges of all manufacturers.

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Another world debut, this one being for the long wheelbase Range Rover. When I first saw pictures, I was not convinced, but in reality, the conversion looks pretty good, and this version will certainly help to distance this car from the Range-Rover Sport.,  Land-Rover were also using the opportunity to show their new Autobiography Black specification. Available only with the long-wheelbase body, the Black model has a US starting price of $185,000, which compares with a starting price of just $84,195 for the “standard” version. For your extra $100,000 as well the LWB changes which bring you an extra 7.3″ of rear legroom and an extra eight degrees of incline when the individual rear seats are optioned. The LWB model also adds power rear sunshades and a panoramic sunroof. The Black model, meanwhile, is different all together. Exclusive to the US market and limited to just 100 units, the exterior of the Black has a new grille and blingy model-specific wheels, along with identifying badges. There’s also the availability of the stylish Valloire White paint shown on the Show car, which will be used on the first 25 Black models built, and which adds a cool $14,500 to the $185,000 starting price. And while the exterior tweaks are limited, it’s the cabin of this luxury limo that sees the biggest batch of upgrades. All four seats have their own memory, climate and massage controls, as well as 18-way adjustability for the front pair of seats. Passengers in back will enjoy 17 degrees of recline along with 10.2″ rear screens, with the passenger-side back seat as a deployable ottoman. LED mood lamps comes standard, and helps show off the exquisite wood and leather work of the SUV’s cabin.  The show example was on a display plinth, so you could not get close up, but when the doors were open, you could see that not only is there now a lot more space in the back, the luxury fittings go some way to justify the lofty price tag.

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There were examples of the rest of the range on show, with the latest Range-Rover Sport and Evoque joined by the older LR4 (Discovery) and LRS (Freelander),

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The US is Lexus’ most important market, so no surprise that they had a huge stand and that it was perpetually busy. The range of cars that Lexus offers in the US is larger than we see in Europe, and now that everything has adopted the spindle grille, they are remarkably difficult to tell apart especially from the front. I thought it was just me, but I heard countless people opining that they were looking at, say an IS with and without the F=Sport grille, only for someone to counter with. “no, that’s an IS and a GS”. Or may be it was an ES. After all the fuss created when the motoring mags raved about the new IS350, saying it beat the 3 series and other competitors, Lexus have unleashed the IS250, the version people actually buy, and what a surprise, it’s been declared as deeply disappointing with a particularly unimpressive engine. Anyway, there were several new IS models present, along with the old model IS-F, along with (I think memory tells me even I cannot be sure in recognising them), ES, GS and LS Saloons.

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The CT was also on show with its new grille the most obvious visible alternation. There have been plenty of under the skin changes, as well, with the intent of making it ride better and be a little less dull to drive.

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Lexus have an array of SUVs, too, and there was one example of each, RX, GX and LX The revised front on the GX looks particularly nasty.

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Centrepiece of the display was the striking LF-LC Concept.

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However, it was the LF-A that was drawing the biggest crowds. I was under the impression that production of this supercar had finished, but it is such a striking machine that few are going to complain at it making another show appearance.

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The new MKC was the star here. After the recent rash of rather boldly styled Lincoln models, this one looks quite restrained. Loosely based on an Escape (Kuga), but with a luxury interior and its own 2.3 litre Ecoboost engine, it may do well in the market. It needs to, as Ford Motor Company are still trying to find a new and successful direction for Lincoln, with rumours continuing to suggest that without a clear increase in sales, the future for the brand is not guaranteed.

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Everything else on the stand was familiar, ranging from last year’s new MKZ with its massive sunroof generating lots of comment through the MKS and MKT, the crossover MKX and the now rather elderly Navigator.

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For the past couple of years, Lotus have only offered the Evora to US customers, but the presence of the latest V6 Exige suggests that they may have a second  model to sell.

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With a massive increase in sales envisaged following the launch of the Ghibli, the show stand was opened up to allow everyone to get a look at the cars. Several examples of the delightful Ghibli were joined by a new Quattroporte and the familiar GranTurismo and GranCabrio.

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This was a stand I really wanted to visit, as I wanted to see if the reality of the new 3, available in Sedan and Hatch models, is as good as the pictures suggested. Let me tell you it is. By some margin, in my opinion, this is the best looking car in its class that is sold on the US market, and with a style that combines the current Mazda look with a hint of Alfa Giulietta about it (no bad thing), it is one of the most elegant C-segment cars the world over. The interior has taken a massive step forward in quality and ambience, too, rectifying one of Mazda’s less strong suits. The cars have not hit the rental fleets yet, but I am sure they will, and it is high on my list of machines ti sample. That said, I have little doubt that the sheep-like unimaginative US buyer will still flock to the dull Civic and Corolla when they should be looking here.

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I am also a big fan of the new 6 (also yet to appear on rental car duty) and there were several of these – available in sedan form only in America, but they are about to get a diesel version to join the petrol models – on show. Again looks good and a much nicer interior.

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With the great to drive CX9 (the best cross-over I’ve experienced) the well received CX5, and the pretty little 2 hatch and useful 5 as well as the popular MX5, Mazda have by far the most interesting and most able set of cars of all the Japanese manufacturers in my mind.

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You might have expected the real AMG Vision Gran Turismo Concept to take centre stage on the Mercedes stand, but instead it was tucked away towards the back, but the reason for this was that it was near a bank of games consoles. Given that it was designed as a virtual supercar for Sony’s Gran Turismo 6 simulation for Playstation 3 at the request of the game’s creator, Kazunori Yamauchi, that was perhaps a fitting location for the real version, though in reality it’s a 1:1-scale model with no powertrain.
In the game, the AMG Vision GT has a 577 bhp twin turbocharged V8 that pumps out 590 lb.ft of torque which would make this rather sizeable 3053lb machine go pretty quickly. The weight distribution is 46 percent front and 54 percent rear, which should endow it with good traction out of turns and sharp transitional handling. For a model car with no engine, it’s surprisingly functional. The motorized rear spoiler raises and lowers, the tail lights work and the LED grille is fully functional. But as the Gullwing doors weren’t opened, you could not get any view of the interior. There was a “driver,” however: a dummy sitting in the driver’s seat that resembles the character who drives Gran Turismo’s virtual cars.

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Mercedes have just launched the CLA in the US, and are majoring on the fact that it costs under $30,000. Well, it does if you order it in plain white with no options at all. And no-one will. It’s had a pretty luke warm reception in the US press, but not for the reasons I expected. They have mentioned, but not focused on the terrible rear seat access, and instead say that it lacks substance and feels cheap. Currently the US only gets the CLA 250 petrol, but the CLA 45 AMG was on show as well, pending an imminent on sale date.

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Based on the same platform is the new GLA, and there was a concept version of a potential GLA 45 AMG also on a display plinth as well as the confirmed GLA250. This was the first chance I have had to see one. It is very like an A Class inside and not that different outside. Mercedes are still being somewhat cagey about the production prospects of the AMG version, but I think it must be highly likely that a visually toned down version of what was shown will make commercial reality and probably not too far into the future.

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The B Class will also be coming to America, in Electric guise.

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The new S Class is already on sale, and there was an S65 AMG on a plinth, making its global debut as well a non AMG car that people could sit in.

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Sadly, it looks like the SLS AMG will cease production in 2014, so this Show marked the debut of the Final Series edition. Mercedes will only produce 350 units, including coupe and roadster variants, and once that run is over, that’s it, leaving the space in the range for a new AMG-developed sportscar that’ll be introduced next year. The Final Edition has no more power, not that the the standard 583 bhp is exactly a deficiency. It does get some fancy exterior visual and aerodynamic upgrades, such as an exposed carbon-fibre bonnet, front splitter and fixed rear spoiler. At full throttle, the SLS AMG GT Final Edition accelerates from 0-60 miles per hour in 3.6 seconds, and, as it continues to drive away at full bore, it’ll see 124 mph in 11.2 seconds on its way to an electronically limited top speed of 197 mph. AMG added forged alloy wheels to the car, and customers will be able to choose between two colour schemes: polished, high-sheen wheel faces with matte-black inlays or all matte black. Mercedes will offer optional tyres developed specially for the car which improve steering precision and grip.

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There were plenty of other examples of cars from Mercedes’ extensive range, from C Class through E to CLS, SLK, SL, ML and GL.

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MINI had the first stand inside the South Hall, and I expected it would get very busy, as it was hosting the global premiere of the third generation MINI, or “the New Original” as they appear to be calling it. Actually, it never did seem that busy, as show go-ers were far more interested in 2 models whose brand begins with C a bit further into the Hall. That meant I could easily get a good look at it. I have to say that I don’t like the styling. Despite MINI’s protests at some rather unflattering scoop photos published in the summer, the reality is that car has lost any vestige of the cheeky styling it had, with the new bulbous front end and too much fussy detailing especially on the Cooper S. Whilst it is nice to find that the instruments are now in front of the driver, where they can be read, and the binnacle moves up and down with the wheel, the rest of the interior is just fussily over done. There is negligible space in the back, and the boot remains as pathetic as ever. MINI faithful will doubtless love it, but I really cannot see how this model is going to attract large numbers of new fans to the brand.

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The rest of MINI’s extensive range was well covered with at least one example of all the current cars, ranging from the Clubman and Countryman through the open topped models to the ugly Coupe which does not appear to have found much love at all in style conscious California.

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There must have been lots of celebration going on behind the scenes as after a new model famine of several years, Mitsubishi had two completely new models to show off here. Both are familiar to Europeans who saw then earlier in the year, but at opposite ends of the range the new Outlander hits America now and the diminutive and very cheap (in all senses of the word) Mirage arrives as well. Will these two cars stop the continued sales erosion and predictions that Mitsubishi will be the next to exit the market following Suzuki’s withdrawal last year? Somehow I don’t think either has got what it takes, but at least it will give Mitsubishi some press coverage and there will be some buyers for whom these cars are just what they were seeking.

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The familiar iMIEV, Lancer Saloon and Sportback and Outlander Sport were also on display.

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One of the raised areas on this large stand contained a showing of 3 NISMO cars, evidence that Nissan intends to make of this sporting side of their portfolio. The familiar 370Z was joined by a production ready Juke Nismo RS, which has an upgrade in power to 215 bhp, and there was a concept Sentra Nismo with a 240bhp engine (up 110 bhp on the standard car) as well as suspension upgrades and the obvious body kit.

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Attracting more attention were the yet again facelifted GT-R cars, with two on show, one in the new for 2015 colour of red with genuine 18 carat gold flake in the paintwork and the Nismo version, with its astonishing levels of performance occupying .another of the display turntable positions.

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Take a good look at the new Rogue, as Europe will get this car as the new X-TraiI next spring. The new interior is noticeably more upmarket feeling than the old one, and there are now seats for 7, although the rear most row is only really for kids. When I was looking at the car, 2 of the stand staff decided to experiment, and I can confirm that adults can get in the back, and provided you don’t mind your knees being most of the way to your chin, even sit there for a while.

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The rest of the range was also present, from the new Versa Note, through Sentra, Altima and Maxima saloons, the Murano and Pathfinder SUVs and the massive high roof NV2500 Van.

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As in previous years, Porsche had their own hall. I know from experience that it can get very busy, and with the global launch of the Macan, that was likely to prove to be the case this year. I decided to make it my first stop, but was turned away at the door, as for some period of time, it was closed for a private function. When I went back late in the day, I found it was closed again, this time for another function, which on further questioning turned out to be for dealers and press, who were being shown the Macan and wined on glasses of bubbly, whilst the people who might actually spend money on the cars were being kept away. The doorkeepers promised that the hall would reopen at 9pm,. A few minutes later than that, it did, but a vast crowd then surged in, and the private guests were all still there. I went away again, returning as a very last thing just 20 minutes before the show closed, which gave me a chance to see something of the cars, but not to sit in the Macans. I have to say that such behaviour, closing off to the public on public days, with no warning that you are going to do it (the hall had been open during the late morning and early afternoon) sends all the wrong signals, as the very embarrassed Porsche employee did say to me when she said what was going on.

There were 4 Macan on show in the public area, and needless to say they were attracting a lot of attention. I was amazed to discover that there was a whole separate part of the Porsche hall called the Macan Lounge, which had more cars in it, but was invitation only.  The only reason I guess why the press and dealers could not have used that is that there were so many of them. So, I cannot comment on the inside of the Macan, but I can tell you that it appears less bulky than the pics suggest and despite the similar front end styling, is very easy to distinguish from a Cayenne. I am sure it will sell well, doubtless becoming the brand’s best seller.

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There was a production 918 Spider on display, too. But it was in a separate enclosure, which only selected invited guests could access. The rest of us had to look through the glass panels at the side to get a glimpse.

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Access to the quartet of 911 models, thankfully, was unrestricted, and these comprised the newly released 911 Turbo Cabriolet, shown in “regular” and S guises, as well as a GT3 and the special 50 model.

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A reminder of 911s of yesteryear, or rather specifically a 930 Turbo Cabrio, was positioned outside the Hall.

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The latest 981 model Boxster and Cayman are now established in the market, and there was one example of each on show.

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The display also included the recently facelifted Panamera, including the new eHybrid car, and the popular Cayenne.

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This is the branding used for what formerly were called Dodge Trucks, and an array of the familiar 1500 and 2500 models on show, as well as the recently released RamMaster, something that Europeans may recognise as an Americanised version of the Fiat Ducato.

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Saleen has been tuning performance cars and building racecars for 30 years now, and to mark the occasion, launched a limited production line called SA-30. Based on the Muscle Car Trio of Ford Mustang, Chevrolet Camaro and Dodge Challenger, Saleen will build 10 of  each SA-30 model at a base price of $95,000. For that money, buyers will get upgraded suspension, brakes and engines, and while the power figures have not been released for the SA-30 620 Camaro and SA-30 570 Challenger models, the SA-30 302 Mustang will be the top performer with 625 bhpr. Each car will be painted in a custom pearl white hue with black and yellow accents, and get white wheels shrouding yellow powder-coated brake calipers. Inside, the SA-30 offerings will all get a proper Saleen interior with black leather and white Alcantara on the seats, along with the expected smattering of SA-30 badges. On all three SA-30 models, customers will have various options available to further customize their cars, including a rear-seat delete option that transforms each car’s cabin into a race-inspired interior with a chassis-strengthening rear cross brace. Perhaps the coolest feature of all, though, is the Saleen Frost-Touch Glass that is an option on the SA-30 302 Mustang. Similar to the Sky Control roof first introduced on Mercedes’ SLK, the Saleen Frost-Touch Glass allows the Mustang’s optional glass roof and rear window to be switched from transparent to opaque at the push of a button.

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Interesting though the trio of SA-30s were, it was the S7, a supercar made between 2000 and 2004,  at the back of the stand that everyone really wanted to see.

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There was also an example of the first of a planned series of 250 Mustang Premier Heritage Edition cars.

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Nothing new on the Scion stand, but thanks to the FR-S, which is the US name for the Toyota GT-86, there were always plenty of people looking at the cars. They were mostly focused on the FR-S, though, with far less interest in the little iQ, the boxy xB and XD and the tC Coupe.

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A special display showed three versions of the Mustang, the GT350, GT500 and SuperSnake as well as a Shelby Focus and the mad F150 based Raptor.

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Nothing new on the Smart stand, so they dug out the wacky concept that they showed a year ago to try to liven things up. America really has not taken to the Smart at all, convinced that the cars are not safe, so every Smart stand always has a display trying to show the Safety Cell and how the car actually is safe. The zany Smart for Jeremy limited edition car was making another appearance.

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The new performance branding for Chrysler Group cars, this is the moniker used for the latest Viper GTS. It remains as dramatic to look at as ever. The show car featured the Anodized Carbon Special Edition Package,  complete with its “metallic matte” bodywork. Apart from the paint, this special edition Viper comes with five-spoke “Rattler” wheels, gloss black badges, and a satin black finish on the exhaust bezel. The interior you’ll find to be blacker than the Earl of Hell’s waistcoat, with the exception of some tasteful orange accent stitching (as seen on the Viper TA). Nappa leather, Alcantara and carbon fibre abound inside the car, as well.

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Everyone had high hopes for the new WRX, and had them cruelly dashed when what was unveiled was little more than a thinly modified Impreza Sedan. It  had better to drive well, if reputation is to be salvaged. The outgoing WRX was also on show.

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There was a Legacy Concept as well, produced, it is said, to mark the 25th anniversary of the model. A new model is expected in 2015, but there is no point in getting too excited about it, as the production car probably won’t look anything like the displayed concept!

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That said, sales of Subaru in America continue to go up, so these rather gawky and now rather bland cars clearly have their appeal, even if it is somewhat concentrated in the snow belt states. A full array of Impreza, Forester, Legacy and Outback cars were on show, including the latest XV Hybrid.

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A vast stand by the entrance to the West Hall, and there was always lots going on with floor shows and cheesey competitions. I did have to snigger when a duo were prattling on about how “sporty” the new Corolla is. Frankly, it is about as sporty as my toothbrush, but that’s probably just what a lot of customers want. The interior is less cheap and unpleasant looking than the old model, and there is more space in the back thanks to a 5″ stretch in the wheelbase, but the real test will be whether they have put any feel (just “some” would be an improvement) in the steering. I am sure it will sell as well as its predecessor, but frankly, this remains automotive white goods.

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As, it has to be said is the Camry.

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And the RAV4, which is the first UV. Calling it an SUV is a misnomer, as the “S” stands for “Sport” and there is nothing “Sport” about this rather gawky appliance.

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A new Highlander goes on sale in a few weeks time. Bigger than the outgoing model, I wonder if it will be better as opposed to different?

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Toyota has a very strong reputation for Hybrid technology, and nowhere more so than in California, so as well as full range of Prius models including the little Prius C and the larger Prius V, there was a plug-in hybrid and the regular car and hybrid versions of the Avalon and Camry.

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In addition there was an electric RAV4. Based on the previous model, this one is built by Tesla for Toyota and is only sold in California.

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Other road cars included the Yaris, the Venza and the Avalon

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The trucks were well represented, with the Tacoma and the new (and super ugly) Tundra much in evidence.

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A trio of NASCAR and Funnycars based loosely on the Camry were tucked away at the back of the stand., whereas the Le Mans racer was in a very prominent position on the corner of the stand nearest to the entrance to the entire Hall.

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It says something when the US launch of Golf VII, which was the case here, in advance of a Spring 2014 on sale date was confined to a single three door model discretely display at the back of the stand, an eGolf which was making its global debut and a GTi tucked away in a corner.

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Best selling VW in America is the Jetta and there were several of these on show including the GLi (with Golf GTi levels of power) and a Hybrid as well as a TDi.

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The US built Passat has increased sales of this large family car quite significantly over its German built predecessor, so there was one of these to look at.

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Other models included a number of Beetles and the familiar CC, Eos, Tiguan and Touareg.

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Centrepiece was the Concept CrossBlue SUV. This looks quite neat. Rumour has it that something rather similar is already scheduled to become a production vehicle in due course.

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A very large stand, but with not many cars on it! The V60 is finally going to go on sale in the US, so this had pride of place on the stand.

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Other cars included the long running S80, V70 and XC90 as well as the recently facelifted S60 and XC60.

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A special display in one of the smaller areas between halls contained a quartet of cars that had been designed in California, along with a whole load of material reminding us that numerous concept and production cars have indeed come from the drawing boards, or rather screens, of designers in the State. The four show cars included the very neat looking Honda Gear, the not quite so convincing Kia Cross GT, a Mazda and a Hyundai Veloster.

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No official presence for Ferrari, Lamborghini, McLaren or Rolls-Royce but there were examples from each of these ranges on the Euro Exotics stand. Some were more original than others!

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This is the area under the main South Hall reserved for After Market and Tuning stuff. I had a quick wander around, and noted that it was not completely full, but what was there was sufficiently bleugh that I have the camera a rest until I emerged to go back upstairs again.


One of the world’s best and most renowned auto museums, the Petersen is to be found a few miles away from the show. Ambitious plans to clad the external faces of the museum with a most striking new surface were unveiled earlier in the year, and information about this was posted on one side of the Petersen display. Of more interest, though were the duo of Jaguars that were being shown. A brand new F Type was parked up by one of the genuine 1956 XKSS cars. The museum houses a special Jaguar display for the coming months.

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……. there was this bizarre creation, the Youabian Puma. In a prominent position at the top of the stairs just inside the West entrance, not even the preview of pictures that I had seen online quite prepared me for this. The biggest surprise is that it is huge. Far larger than I had anticipated.  This weird-looking, four-seat convertible is a full 242″ long, 93″wide and 72″ tall, riding on a 163.5″ wheelbase, which makes it significantly larger than a Bentley Mulsanne. It rides on 20″ chrome wheels wrapped in 44″tyres. And man, is it ugly. According to the Los Angeles-based manufacturer, the Puma was “conceptualized for those individuals who dare to be different than the ordinary. Those who go a step beyond achieving and dreaming the best that they can be.” The car’s creator has said that he does not consider it to be a roadster, convertible, SUV, or anything else – it is simply a “pleasure vehicle.” Power comes from a 7.0 litre V8 (a version of GM’s LS7), putting out 505 bhp and 470 lb/ft of torque, mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. That apparently allows the Puma to accelerate to 60 miles per hour in 5.9 seconds, and it will reportedly return 14 miles per gallon in the city and 22 mpg highway. It rides on an aluminium and steel chassis, with a body made of aluminium and fibreglass composites. Inside, the Puma is loaded to the gills with creature comforts, with a cabin that’s somehow less ostentatious than the car’s exterior. It even has goodies like Bluetooth, voice-activated navigation, Sirius XM satellite radio, xenon headlamps and more. The interior colours can also be fully customized to the buyer’s specific desires, and the interior – folding hardtop included – is basically ripped straight out of a Volvo C70. And the best part? The Puma costs – wait for it – $1.1 million. It is tempting to say “only in LA”

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And with that, and 11 hours of exploring all that there was to see in the 2013 LA Auto Show, I staggered back to the car, drove to the hotel and collapsed exhausted into bed, to dream of those 2 lovely Jaguars.

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