Los Angeles Auto Show – November 2014

The Los Angeles Auto Show has been held since 1907 and although for many years it was perceived as a regional show, aimed at the local Southern Californian market, in recent times its significance has increased considerably, especially once it was moved from an early January date that always came just before the higher profile North American International Auto Show held in Detroit, which is still American’s flagship car show. Now timed around the Thanksgiving weekend in late November, it is guaranteed to include a number of world and US debuts of its own. It is an easy show to visit, held in the Convention Centre just south of the Downtown area where the 10 and the 110 freeways intersect. With ample parking on site, and the displays in two large halls and a couple of smaller ones, it is not the fatigue inducing proposition that are some of the larger Continental Europe Motor Shows. I’ve been attending it every year since 2004, having missed just one show in that time (2005 when I went to Detroit instead), and although work no longer takes me to Los Angeles as it did for the first years that I went to the Show, I now use its timing as an excuse for a few days of Californian sunshine just as the days back home are getting short and grey. 2014 was no exception and I booked a flight timed so I could get to the Show at the end of a weeks’ visit, and be out before America started the great move around the country that is Thanksgiving. With something like 34 World Debuts  and a similar number of American ones, it was clear that there was going to be plenty of interest even for someone who had been at the Paris Show less than two months earlier. And so it proved, as this extensive report will illustrate:


Although it is not sold as a separate brand in America, it is in reality a different company within the Fiat Group, so worthy of a position right at the head of the report. There was just one Abarth model on the stand, a 500C.

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After years of inflicting a series of cars that had been brutally savaged with the Ugly Stick, Acura have finally accepted that if they made their cars look a little less, well, let’s say distinctive, they might find it easier to sell a few more, especially if they also improve the driving dynamics. In other words, getting back to where they were around 10 years ago. Signs that this strategy might just work are evident in the new TLX. Replacing the willfully hideous TL and the slightly smaller TSX, this sports saloon goes head to head against the Cadillac CTS, Infiniti Q50 and the German trio of 3 Series, C Class and A4, among others, and all the signs are that this is a worthy contender, with plenty of reasons why you might consider one.

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The smaller ILX was here sporting a subtle facelift. This one is based on the Civic, and was greeted with less than complete enthusiasm when launched a couple of years ago. There’s certainly nothing wrong with the way it looks, but then that was not the problem, it was more around the way it drove which whilst sound enough did little to set new standards in the market. Will this one be better? We will see. The ILX Hybrid version has been discontinued and the antiquated pairing of the base 2.0 litre  four-cylinder and five-speed automatic has been updated by slotting in the standard powertrain of the TLX. The 2.4 litre four-cylinder produces 201 bhp and 180 lb/ft of torque, with peak output arriving at 3,600 rpm. The ILX also benefits from the same eight-speed, dual-clutch transmission found in the TLX. Unfortunately, the slick-shifting six-speed manual transmission has been discontinued. Powertrain tweaks aside, Acura has tweaked the styling a bit, with alterations to both the front and the back. Acura’s love-it-or-hate-it JewelEye headlights have been grafted onto the ILX, while the grille, a traditional weak point for the brand, is perhaps one of the best we’ve seen out of the company in several years. The rear taillights also received some attention, although it was the back bumper that saw the biggest update, with the lower section getting a sportier look. Acura will also add a new A-Spec package for 2016, which replaces the standard 17″ wheels with 18s, adds “Euro-style” stitching to the steering wheel and adds black Lux Suede inserts to the seats, along with a flurry of smaller aesthetic tweaks. The A-Spec can be added alongside the existing Premium and Technology Packs.

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Top of the range in Sedan guise is the RLX, the luxury car which took over from the old RL/Legend last year. Neat and inoffensive enough, this one did not exactly wow the press when launched, which is a shame, as if I wanted a luxury Japanese model in this class, I would far rather one of these than the gawky Lexus.

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The two SUV vehicles in the range, the RDX and larger MDX, have both been refreshed within the last couple of years., and are practical vehicles with their own appeal.

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Final vehicle on show was the racing TL which is one means by which Acura will hope to inject some more image into the brand.

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It’s been a long time since there has been an Alfa Romeo on sale in America. But finally, after promises of a return to the market have faded away, there is now a car available for American buyers, the stunning 4C Competizione. Whilst Americans struggle to pronounce its name (though further struggles to come elsewhere in the show!), all could appreciate its beauty. The US press have generally been positive about its dynamic attributes, though I have read plenty of complaints about the lack of weight-adding standard equipment. I think they may have missed the point. This is not intended to be a luxury sports car!

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At one of the Concourse Hall was a stand with a number of Astons on it, ranging from an N420 version of the familiar V8 Vantage model, through a DB9 and Vanquish to the latest Rapide.

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This was the first stand I visited, as it was right by the entrance through which I arrived in the South Hall. Despite what you might conclude from the photos, the stand was generally quite busy, but nothing like to the extent that you get at European shows, so it was perfectly possible to get a good look at the cars on show. The one I really wanted to see was the centre piece of a three car display across the back of the stand, and that was the Prologue concept car. We are told that this marks a radical departure for the styling of future Audi. Well, “radical” is rather too strong a word, as there is plenty of family resemblance, but there are also some neat details which I look forward to seeing in the next generation A6, A7 and A8, as I understand we will in 2016/2017.

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Alongside it was an A7 H-Tron, an interesting plug-in hybrid model Audi that is hydrogen powered, one of a number of cars from several different manufacturers showing how they will embark on a different fuel technology from those with which we are familiar. On the plug-in side, the H-Tron has an 8.8-kWh lithium-ion battery that can power the car for up to 31 miles on battery power. With electric motors on both axles – it’s a Quattro, after all, but a through-the-road hybrid with electronic torque distribution management – the A7 H-Tron uses a hydrogen fuel cell and four (!) H2 tanks to offer about 62 miles per gallon equivalent. Audi says the overall fuel cell stack efficiency is “as high as 60 percent” while the electric motors operate at 95 percent efficiency. Efficiently turning all of that electricity into movement means the A7 Sportback H-Tron Quattro has a total power output of 398.3 lb/ft of torque. The 4,299 lbs concept can allegedly go from 0-62 miles per hour in 7.9 seconds and has a top speed of 112 mph. The car’s total range is 311 miles.

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To the right of the Prologue was the open version of the third generation TT. Looking very much like its predecessor, but with sharper and neater details, this car will go on sale a few months after the Coupe version, an example of which was also making its US debut.

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Although Audi’s range in the US market is not as extensive as it is in Europe, it still covers far more than can be accommodated even on a large stand such as this one, so there was generally only one example of each model type. Exception to this was the A3 based range. America does not get the 3 door Hatchback, and currently the 5 door Sportback is only available in e-tron Hybrid guise. It was joined by the 4 door Sedan and the open topped Cabrio.

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With the next generation A4 expected to make its debut at the 2015 Geneva Show, this was one of the last of the major Auto Shows where we would see the B8 based models, and a smart looking 2.0 T petrol car, the best selling model from the US range, was the representative of this model.

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This is also likely to be the last appearance for the R8, a supercar which still pulls just as many crowds now as it did when first presented in 2007. The show car was a V10 engined Competition model.

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S model Audis were much in evidence, with the S3, S6, S7 and S8 all on show. The former pair were making their US debut in mildly updated form. All three have considerable appeal to me.

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American does not get many of the RS models, but they do have this, the RS5 Cabrio. Lovely!

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There were also “regular” A6 and A7 cars on show, and these seemed to attracting lots of interest. In the minds of the American press, if not the British, the A6 is deemed to be a class leader, regularly beating the current 5 Series in comparison tests. Both were shown TDi format.

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The SUV models were not forgotten with one example of each of the Q3, Q5 and Q7.

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Four cars on the Bentley stand. Three of them were familiar. Two of them were saloons, with the new Mulsanne Speed joining the Flying Spur, and there was Continental GT V8S all looking good.

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However, it was the fourth car that was the most interesting. Effectively a Mulsanne Convertible, this concept was called Grand Convertible, and it shared the familiar twin turbocharged 6.75 litre V8 engine with the Mulsanne. Officially described as a concept, word is that it is destined for production soon. Very imposing, and better looking than the saloon on which it is based.

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Another Continental GT was on the Exotic Euro Cars stand.

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At a European show, a BMW stand tends to be one of the very busiest but just as with Audi, that is not quite the case in America, even though there were plenty of cars on show here with lots of appeal to the enthusiast. Many of them were models which will not have been seen by Americans before, with a couple of US debuts and a couple of global ones. The latter two were the M versions of the latest X5 and X6. If you like these SUVS, both of which are far from subtle or pretty in the classically accepted sense of the word, then you will probably be a fan of these. I did note that the prices quoted for them in US $ are actually slightly lower in sheer figures than they are in British £, meaning that there is every likelihood that they will sell quite strongly in America. At around $95,000 for the X6M, that’s a lot of money, but at the quoted £93,070 for the UK market cars they should remain a mercifully rare sight.

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Almost hiding behind the SUVs was the latest M4 Coupe, though you could hardly miss its bright orange paintwork. A rather more discrete grey Cabrio version was also on the stand.

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New to America was the 2 Series Convertible, a car which will find that it only has the Audi A3/S3 Cabrio as a rival, with anyone else who had a small cabrio having abandoned this sector of the market.

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The X4 made its debut earlier in the year, and it does look very much like a slightly scaled down X6. The second generation X6 in non M guise was also here. Not for me, either of them.

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Much more to my taste was the i8 which was hiding in one corner of the stand. This futuristic looking sports car does seem to have grabbed everyone’s imagination, and lead times are currently extending ever further out, as even at the car’s high price, there are no shortage of people who just want one.

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I gather there are also growing lead times on the 4 Gran Coupe, a more stylish and practical, and significantly more costly version of the familiar 3 Series.  A 328i and a 3 Active Hybrid model were there was as a comparison point.

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The X5 was being shown in eDrive guise again, as it was at Paris.

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The 6 Series was shown in three different versions: the 650i Cabrio, the very elegant 6 Series Gran Coupe in M6 form and as an Alpina. The last two of these look hugely desirable to me.

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Tucked away at one end of the stand was the 7 Series.

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Final BMW on show was the i3. I would expect Californians to take to this car in some quantity, given their enthusiasm for Hybrid cars, though of course they may think that this one is simply too small.

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An additional i8 was to be seen on the Exotic Euro Cars stand.


I felt a bit sorry for the people on the Buick stand, as they had nothing new at all to show, and whilst all the 5 models in the range are worthy, there was nothing much to bring people to see what they had to offer compared to all the surrounding displays. The little Encore, a close relative of the Mokka has found a niche in the market, though it is bound to come under pressure when the very similar, if less well equipped Chevrolet Trax version hits the streets next year.

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The Verano is effectively an Astra saloon, though it hides it well. A neat looking car, this is nicely finished, and offers an interior quality that you don’t often find in cars of this size.

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The Regal was facelifted a year ago and the regular and GS models were both on show.

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More familiar, as they have been around for some time now, albeit both of them freshened in the recent past, were the LaCrosse saloon and the Enclave crossover.

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Cadillac’s big news was the launch of the ATS-V model, available in both Sedan and Coupe formats. The ingredients are certainly promising. The 3.6 litre six cylinder engine puts out 455 bhp and 445 lb/ft, enough to give the car a quoted 0 – 60 acceleration time of 3.9 seconds and a top speed of 185 mph. The cars were on an angle plinth, so you could not actually get in them. Once they go on sale, Cadillac hope lots of people will, in preference to a BMW M3/M4 or C63 AMG Mercedes. Whether they will remains to be seen. No doubt the American press will tell us that these cars are better than the German rivals, as they did with the new CTS when it was launched last year, but then buyers will suggest they think otherwise and sales will be moderate.

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The regular ATS model was joined by a Coupe model earlier in the year. Neatly styled, this one looks very much like the previous CTS Coupe, with a very steeply sloped rear roof line which limits rear headroom and makes sure that there is no precisely zero rear visibility. Style triumphs over function, for sure.

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Also new during 2014 is the latest Escalade. Although a quick glance might suggest that this version is very similar to the old car, a closer inspection reveals that it is indeed completely different in detail both inside and out. As before, the Escalade is available in standard (which is huge) and XLT (even longer) guises.

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The CTS was launched a year ago, and it was heralded as an excellent car, so I am a little surprised that I have hardly seen any out on the roads. The sales figures suggest that they are out there, though. There were a couple of them on display here.

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Also shown was the largest saloon currently in the range, the XTS.

Cadillac’s ELR is essentially a Volt under that stylish Coupe body. With a much higher price tag than the Chevrolet, as well as the packaging compromises of its sleek body, this is never going to be a volume model. It will be interesting to see just how well it does sell in the coming months.

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Oldest model in the Cadillac lineup now is the SRX, which dates back to 2010. Rumours suggest that a replacement is not  that far away, and it will be one of the first Cadillacs to take up the new naming schema when it does appear.

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Chevrolet had a big stand, as you might expect, with lots to see, ranging from the diminutive Spark to the latest versions of the massive trucks. Starting at the bottom of the range, then, was the Spark, available in California in an electric EV version as well as the regular 1.2 petrol model. I sampled the latter on a trip out to LA in September and was far from impressed. The EV versions are proving popular as rental cars for those who just want to pop across the city and back and may make more sense if you can live with the 80 mile range.

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Next up is the Sonic, offered in 4 door saloon and 5 door hatchback.

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Everyone had been expecting the mid sized Cruze to be replaced during 2014, but instead it was given a light facelift, stroked with if not the ugly stick certainly the awkward one. The new grille treatment is not something that I have seen anyone enthuse about and I am not going to contradict everyone else’s opinions, as I also do not find it an improvement.

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The Volt might have bombed in Europe, but it has sold more strongly in America, sufficiently so for Chevrolet to design a replacement, which is rumoured to be going to make its debut at the 205 Detroit Show, thus making this the last appearance of the current model.

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Completing the saloon car range are the Malibu and Impala. The latter has impressed everyone with just how much of an advance it is on what went before, and is now appearing in the rental fleets in some quantity, so I look forward to finding out for myself just how good it is.

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Turning to the SUVs and Crossovers, the news here is the Trax. This is a Chevrolet version of the Buick Encore, and will be sold for around $4000 less than its stablemate. With the fleet only Captiva now out of production, I expect this one will appear in the rental fleets in quantity in 2015.

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Sitting above it in the range are the Equinox and the Traverse, both well established and capable models.

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The large Tahoe and Suburban were replaced earlier in the year and this was a chance to have a look at the latest cars and to compare them with their predecessors. I did note that the rear most row of seats in the Tahoe suffers the same problem as the previous generation, with the seat sitting low on the floor, leaving nowhere for your legs apart from to find your knees near your chin. The larger Suburban does not suffer in the same way as the seat is mounted higher up, and with the extra length, has more space anyway. In all other respects, the new models looked like an advance on what went before, with a higher quality feel to the trim.

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Although there is a visual resemblance, the trucks are more different from the Tahoe and Suburban than they used to be. These are. of course, Chevrolet’s biggest selling vehicles, and it is important that they get the right. With a new Ford F150 following hot on the heels of these refreshed in 2013 leviathans, customers have never had it so good. They are vast. though.

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Slightly smaller is the Colorado, new for the 2015 model year, and in big demand already. A concept version was making its world debut along with the production models. Called the Colorado ZR2, the concept brings back the name used on off-road-tuned S-10 and Blazer models in the 1990s and 2000s. The ZR2 has a track that’s four inches wider than the Colorado Z71, which is currently the line’s most capable off-roader. The ZR2 is fitted with a new grille, power-dome bonnet, custom wheel flares and off-road-style front end that reduces overhang and has flip-out aluminium tow hooks. It’s all slathered in an outdoorsy hue dubbed Cyprus Green. There are electronic locking front and rear differentials, skid plates and mono-tube coilover shock absorbers. It all rolls (or crawls) on 275/65R18 off-road tyres wrapped around custom 18″ aluminium wheels. There’s also a spare tyre assembly mounted in the bed, which has a spray-in liner and 48″ lift jack should things go afoul on the trail. Power comes from the 2.8-litre Duramax diesel engine making 181 bhp and 369 lb/ft of torque. This engine will arrive later in the year in the production Colorado.

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A new Camaro is not far away, so this was a “last hurrah” for the current one, with two examples tucked away in one corner of the stand.

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On an adjoining plinth was another concept, the Chaparral EX Vision.  This has been produced as part of the Vision Gran Turismo series of concepts that has let a number of companies go wild with completely imaginary concepts for Gran Turismo. For Chevrolet’s crack at the idea, it has taken a page out of its performance past with the Chaparral Can-Am racers of the ’60s and ’70s, with its designers having reinterpreted that period look for the future of motorsports as the Chaparral 2X. The design takes inspiration from someone in a flying suit with head down and arms outstretched, an influence you can really see that in the vehicle’s shape. The driver lies facedown inside with the instruments projected onto a visor. Unfortunately, the powertrain here is a complete flight of fancy and works purely in the video game world. It imagines a laser propelled by lithium-ion batteries and an air-powered generation to make 900 bhp. The 2X has a theoretical top speed of 240 miles per hour and hits 60 mph in a lightning-quick 1.5 seconds.

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However, it was the Corvette Stingrays the other side of the Chaparral that were really drawing the crowds, with the ZO6 being the real magnet. The Americans are making much of just blisteringly fast this car is. It would seem as if it was been civilised somewhat in the road manners department as well, as raw speed is all very well, but that does not make a car a Porsche beater, despite what a jingoistic US press might want us all to believe. By all accounts, he gap is closing with the C7 generation cars, but there is still a very clear gap, and that is certainly true when you look at the interior. Better, but still not as good as rival products.

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One of the few surprises for the show was the facelifted 300. Although we all knew it was coming, no-one quite knew what to expect. The answer is a new front end with a larger grille and the lights are redesigned. That doesn’t seem like much, but when taken collectively, they give the car a more menacing glare. The inside is freshened with a new 7″  in-cluster display, better-quality materials and an updated suite of available Uconnect features, and there’s a bevy of new active safety features available, too. The engine line continues with the 3.6 litre  V6 and the 5.7 litre V8, though they are now both paired with Chrysler’s eight-speed automatic. The car also received a Sport mode button, which changes the tuning for the steering, engine and transmission, while providing a rear bias for all-wheel drive models. Pricing starts at $31,395, just as it did for the 2014 model. I sampled a 300C back in September and liked it, finding it preferable to the Avalon and LaCrosse.

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I also tested the latest 200 on that trip, and this is a world away from the previous generation model. Now a real competitor class honours, this car looks and goes well, something you could never honestly say about its predecessor.

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The Town and Country is the other model in the range.


Dodge is being positioned as the more sporting of the US brands, and the revisions to the Charger make the point quite clearly. This is a refresh, but with a new front end and revisions to the back, the cars look quite different. Of course the Hellcat version, with 707 bhp, the most powerful 4 door saloon in existence, was the one everyone wanted to see. I suspect that really everyone wanted to hear it, but that will have to be for another day.

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The Challenger has been revised for 2015, as well. Sensibly, the looks have only been tweaked, as there was nothing wrong with them. The new interior is a massive improvement, and if the car drives better as well, as I gather it does, this will be a hard car to ignore when tempted by a Mustang or a Camaro.

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The Dart is a car that promised much but has not quite delivered, just lacking the final few percent in a class with some very capable rivals. Shame as it looks good.

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Completing the range were examples of the Journey and Grand Caravan.

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There has not been an official Ferrari stand at this event for some years now, but there were a couple of models on the Exotic Euro Cars stand, a California, 1 458 Italia  and an F12 Berlinetta.

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The 500X was making its US debut here, so there was another chance for me to have a look at what we are told will be the final car in the extended 500 range.

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The 500L went on sale in the US in 2013 and has had some mixed reviews. Rental car customers don’t seem keen, even though it is a roomy car.

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There were plenty of the regular 500 models on show, with a variety ranging from an Abarth 500C model (badged as a Fiat in the US) through some limited edition models to a 500e, the all electric version only sold in California.

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One of the surprises of the show, perhaps, was this. Former Aston Martin design chief and founder of the ill-fated Fisker Automotive, Hendrik Fisker has teamed up with Galpin Auto Sports, a part of the Galpin Motors Group who own the largest Ford dealership in the world (It’s in Los Angeles) to produce a new model, called the Rocket. I don’t think I had been expecting the result to look quite so much like a Mustang as it does. Inspired by famous Shelby Mustangs of the 1960s, this one has a body almost entirely handmade in carbon fibre, with a long bonnet, faired arches, special side skirts, a race-style front splitter and a special hexagonal carbon grille, along with an integrated rear spoiler and enlarged aero diffuser. 15″ Brembo brakes sit behind uniquely styled alloy wheels and much modified all independent suspension. Motive power comes from a specially built supercharged version of Ford’s quad cam V8, which should make it one of the most potent Mustangs ever. Plans are to build around 100 cars a year.

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Ford had a truly vast stand, reflecting the wide range of vehicles that they sell, from diminutive Fiesta to the large F Series Pickup trucks that lead the sales charts. So where to begin? Making its world debut was the latest version of the Explorer. The current model, whilst representing a big advance on what went before, did not exactly wow the press, with lots of disappointment expressed from things such as the lack of space in such a big car to the way it drives. At first glance, there does not appear to be much that has changed apart from a grille that looks like it has been borrowed from a Range-Rover. Whilst there isn’t anything radical about the new exterior styling to draw in the eye, what has been updated is meaningful, and a new Platinum trim level, which will slot in above Sport and Limited trims, is noteworthy. The biggest item that’s new for 2016, though, is found under the bonnet, with a 2.3 litre  EcoBoost four-cylinder taking over where the previous 2.0 litre unit left off. With 270 bhp and 300 lb/ft of torque, the new slightly larger engine boasts 13 percent more horses and 11 percent more torque than the old engine, and Ford expects no fuel economy penalty. There’s no official EPA rating yet, but Ford says the 2.3-litre engine should hit 28 miles per gallon on the highway, just as the 2.0 did last year. The new 2.3 EcoBoost will be available on base, XLT and Limited trim levels. A 3.5 litre V6, estimated at 290 bhpand 255 lb/ft, remains standard, and the 365 bhp EcoBoost 3.5 is standard on Sport and Platinum models. All engines are mated to a six-speed automatic transmission, and four-wheel drive is available across the range, even on the 2.3 EcoBoost (the older 2.0 EcoBoost could only be paired with front-wheel drive). Platinum trim brings the Explorer in line with the likes of Denali from GMC and Summit from Jeep. The Explorer Platinum’s brushed aluminium exterior trim and standard 20″  wheels give the Explorer a distinctive look and the interior is definitely a step up from what’s previously been available in the Explorer – the automaker says the Explorer Platinum boasts the softest leather ever used in a Ford vehicle – and the traditional Ford Blue Oval on the steering wheel is no longer blue on this top trim, instead being brushed aluminium like the exterior bits.
Technology updates for the 2016 model year run include new exterior camera systems that now feature washers, automated parking systems that can both help park and then later help pull back out of the spot, a hands-free tailgate and active grille shutters that adjust to control aerodynamics and airflow. Whilst this mid-term update will not fix everything, it should make the vehicle far more appealing.

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Poised to go on sale imminently is the latest Edge. I have to say that I’m not that keen on the styling, which looks a bit awkward, but I have no doubt that this will be a good car to drive.

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Current Edge and Explorer models were also on show

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One that I do look forward to sampling sooner rather than later is the new Mustang, which is just hitting the dealers and some of the rental car fleets. Making its debut here was the latest Shelby GT350 which joins the V6 and GT cars that were first shown nearly a year ago. Ford had expanded outside into a separate display area with a whole row of Mustangs so everyone could have a good look. The interior does look to be a significant improvement on the old one, so that’s one weakness certainly addressed.

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An example of the original GT350 was on show as well.

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The 2015 Focus was appearing here, with the tidied up front end sporting the large Aston-like grille, and simplified interior. The former is an improvement, and the latter, whilst better, is still not going to give its rivals sleepless nights. It’s a fussy mess.

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The Fiesta went through a similar sort of restyle last year and there were examples of the range, from the highly rated ST to the US market Sedan here.

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The Fusion has been on sale for a couple of years and is well established, with a wide range of models available including the Hybrid.

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Sold only as a Hybrid and the all-electric Energi is the C-Max and the facelifted version of that model was shown in advance of it going on sale in 2015.

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Other familiar products on show included the larger Taurus, the entry level Escape SUV and the lightly freshened Expedition.

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There were plenty of commercial vehicles here, including the brand new F150 and F250, with their lighter-weight aluminium bodies.

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The Transit is now part of the US range, taking the place of the old E Series vans, and the smaller Connect models being offered as small vans and people carriers as they are in Europe.

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Most of the model on GMC’s stand were painted in a photographically dull Graphite Grey colour, which did not necessarily show them off at their best. The GMC range mirror the truck and CUV end of what Chevrolet offer, with a range of very similar models, with just different details and trim specifications to distinguish them. Top of the tree are the Sierra trucks, vast monsters just like the Chevy Silverado, also new in the last few months.

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New this year is the Canyon, a GMC version of the Chevrolet Colorado.

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Passenger vehicle offerings range from the rather slab styled Terrain through the larger Acadia to the full-sized Yukon and Yukon XL models.

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Latest Honda to go on sale is the third generation Fit. A close relative of the Jazz that is expected in Europe in 2015, this small hatchback looks rather awkward in its styling from some angles, and my impression was that the interior does not feel as roomy as the tardis-like first and second generation versions.

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Coming soon is the HR-V, a small crossover based on the Fit, and called Vezel in Japan where it has been on sale for a while. Compare this with the rival Mazda CX3 also launched at the show and then decide whether Honda have lost the plot or not!

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They certainly did with the Civic when the 2012 model was given a right roasting by the press. To their credit, they worked hard and brought out a revised version just a year later which was much better than the unduly cheap and ill-conceived model that they had tried to get away with and this generation Civic is now established, probably mid life-cycle.

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The Accord was refreshed a couple of years ago, and is still doing well. Not exciting, it is very competent, even if it does have very strong competition these days.

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The slightly odd CrossTour version based on the old Accord lives on, without Accord branding.

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Among the Crossovers, the popular CR-V has just had a mild facelift, which does not make it look one jot better, and it sits in the range with the Pilot and the Odyssey Minivan.

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Some of Hyundai’s offerings will be familiar to Europeans, and other models will not be, as there are quite a few cars offered to American buyers that are not sold in Europe. Most significant among these is the Sonata, which has just had a refresh. The styling has been toned down a bit from the previous model, and opinions seem mixed on whether the resulting car is really that much of an advance on what went before, or not. It was ranked top of the class by USA Today who ran a report on mid-sized saloons whilst I was in the US. Only way to find out for sure is to try one myself.

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Another recently refreshed model is the Genesis. This one is planned for sale in Europe, though I can’t imagine that it will sell in significant volume. The old car was deeply impressive, getting very close to many of the standards sets by the 5 Series and E Class.

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Lower down the range, Hyundai offer the Elantra. The Coupe model was short lived, so the range now comprises the Sedan and the GT. The latter looks awfully like what Europeans know as the i30.

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Below this, and the entry point for the range is the Accent, sold in Sedan and Hatch versions. I ended up with the former as a rental car after visiting the show and can report that although not exciting, it is a competent and perfectly acceptable motorcar in a way that some of its predecessors were not.

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The SUVs are more familiar, though in the case of the Tucson, we know it as the ix35. As well as a regular petrol powered model, Hyundai had their hydrogen powered fuel cell version on show, and now ready for sale.

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The Santa Fe is offered in 5 seater Sport and 7 seater guises.

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Another model that we see (occasionally, as it is not a big seller) is the Veloster, a rather quirky sports coupe with its asymmetrical sides, with one door on one side and two on the other.

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The Azera is one of those cars which is perfectly worthy but now sitting well under the radar. Squeezed into the range now between the Sonata and the Genesis, this is a front wheel drive car that offers lots of value, but not quite the driving experience of the marginally more costly Genesis.

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Top of the Hyundai tree is the Equus, a high end luxury saloon that rivals the Lexus LS460 and to an extent cars like the S Class Mercedes, though persuading people outside Korea that a car with a Hyundai badge can do that remains a task to be completed.

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Centre of the Infiniti stand was the Q80 Inspiration, as it had been at Paris. This time the lighting was a little less gloomy, so I could get a better look. Infiniti say that “Inspiration” is different from “Concept”, the former giving more of a clue as to something that will emerge in production form in the not too distant future. So, look for a range topping sedan that appears in 2016 or so, with some of the styling flourishes of this slightly odd looking machine.

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Let’s hope it is better received than the Q50 which, by common consent is one of the biggest disappointments of recent launches. Following on the heels of the much loved G37, this rather insipid looking machine has failed to win much praise even in America, and it is not hard to see why. Stuffing it with pointless technology like the computer controlled steering did not help matters.

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Next up in the refresh of the range, we are told is a replacement for the model now known as G60, but originally the G37 Coupe and Convertible. Let’s hope that Infiniti pull off something better than a Q50 Coupe.

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The Q70 is not exactly wowing the world, either. Shown here was the long wheelbase Q70L, a car initially produced for the Chinese market.

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There was nothing new among the SUVs, with QX50, 60, 70 and 80 all on show.

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After my frustration at not being able to get onto the Jaguar stand at the recent Paris Show., I was pleased to discover there was no such access limitation here. That did mean that it was quite difficult to get to the cars, as there was a real buzz around the latest models, especially the F Type. Making their debuts here were an AWD version and a V6 model with a manual gearbox. Let’s hope that enough people actually buy the car in this guise, as if they don’t, then you can be sure that we will never get another manual transmission-ed car.

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Centrepiece of the stand was a Concept 7 model.

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Also on the stand were examples of the familiar XJ and XF saloon models.

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Not yet on sale in the US is the small Renegade, but a couple of these Italian made machines were on display to give a foretaste of what is to come.

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The elderly Compass and Patriot were still here, though these are very much in the autumn of their years, now, expected to be put out pasture once the Renegade is up to speed.

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The European reviews of the Cherokee have not been that kind, partly because of the pricing, which is on the high side of ambitious, but in America, the vehicle has been well received and is selling decently.

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Also on the stand were the Grand Cherokee and the Wrangler.

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The GT4 Stinger concept was making another appearance, so once again I took the opportunity to suggest to the stand staff that they should ensure this car gets built. I think it looks absolutely terrific and would be just the sort of image car that Kia so desperately needs to get people to realise what a bunch of great cars they now make.

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This was the first chance I got to inspect the new Sedona. Wow! after the rather low budget feel to the old one, this one has a very nicely presented interior, that knocks the Toyota Sienna into last week, or even last year! There are plenty of practical touches as well, so although the market for the Minivan has shrunk in favour of the SUV, if there is any justice, this one should get a significant share.

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The same comments largely apply to the new third generation Sorento. Preserving much of the good looking second generation car, this one is all new and promises much. It certainly looks better than pretty much all of its rivals.

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Last year Kia added the luxury Cadenza and the K900 to the top of the range. Not surprisingly, these are not big sellers though both are good looking cars. I am not sure that the special effects treatment of the K900 were entirely successful, but otherwise these cars look good in a way that should have Lexus out with their notebooks to record how it should be done.

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The Soul is an important car for Kia in the US, heading its class in the sales stats. The EV version is just going on sale, adding further capability to the range of petrol powered models.

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The stand also contained examples of the rest of the range from entry level Rio, through the Forte family of saloon, hatch and Koup, the Optima and the popular Sportage.

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The new Huracan was on one corner of the Exotic Euro Cars stand

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Land-Rover shared half of their stand with Jaguar, but there was ample space to see the latest range, with the new Discovery Sport the star attraction. This car looks fantastic inside and out and should do much to win over new buyers as well as re-enthusing those who were rather disappointed by the outgoing Freelander (LR2, in US speak).

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The stand also featured the Discovery Vision concept. You can see the clear linkage with the smaller Sport model.

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The current Discovery, known as the LR4 was also on display.

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America is by some measure the most important market for Japanese brand Lexus, with more of these cars purchased in 1 month in the US than across the whole of Europe in 9 months. That stems from the fact that a much larger range of vehicles are offered than Europeans can buy, though looking at the ones we don’t get. you can see why they are denied to European buyers, as I don’t think offering them would do much to persuade more of us to buy Lexus products. Lexus are hoping that their new SUV, the NX might change that. One of the most “marmite” styled cars of 2014, I somehow doubt it will change things much, as I have come across far more people who think it is utterly hideous than ones who actually like it. I am certainly no fan. Apparently, it does not drive very well, either. But I can bet that this will still sell in America.

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Equally bold in the styling department is the new RC, a Coupe which in RC-F guise would like to think of itself as a rival to the M4. It might drive quite well, but you’d have to love the looks to want one in preference to the BMW.

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Any hope that what Lexus call their “emotional” styling might be toned down on their next set of products can be abandoned when you see the LF-C2 Concept, which is said to provide a clue as to what we can expect to see next. Just as Acura have finally admitted that ugly does not sell cars, Lexus seem hell-bent on trying to persuade us that they know better than their customers.

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The CT200h has had a rough time in Europe, thanks largely to its rough ride, which is deemed by all who drive it to be unacceptable. Americans don’t seem to have the same issue with the car.

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Saloon models in the range encompass the IS, the ES, GS and LS.

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There are also plenty of SUVs which extend from the RX that is familiar in Europe through the GX to the gargantuan LX.

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I was slightly surprised to find a couple of older models on show: the IS-C is based on the old IS Saloon that was superceded a couple of years ago, and the LF-A, Lexus’ attention grabbing supercar, whilst very worthy of a place on merit, I assumed had ceased production a while back. Needless to say, it was the car that was attracting by far the most attention on this vast stand.

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Still struggling to come up with an identity and relevance, Lincoln had a couple of new and rather sharp looking SUVs on their stand which may just help out. The one you can buy now is the MKC, a version of the Escape which looks massively better than the rather awkward Ford.

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Coming soon will be the new MKX, and this was shown along with the current and soon to be superceded model.

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The gargantuan Navigator has undergone a light facelift for 2015. New lights at front and back, along with a new grille make it easy to distinguish from the current model, and the inside has had an update too with a TFT dash display.

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There were a number of examples of the rather striking MKZ on the stand as well. The interior of this car is very nicely done, I think, but the external styling will be more a matter of taste that some will find just a little too unusual.

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The US is an important market for Maserati, with sales likely to break the 10,000 units for the first time ever, so I was rather hoping that there might be a really special display for the Centenary. There was not, but there were examples of all the current range, available for anyone to inspect, as the stand had open access. This gave me another chance to drool over the Ghibli, as well as to look longingly at the Quattroporte, GranTurismo and Gran Cabrio cars.

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However, it was the Alfieri concept which was really pulling the crowds, and who can be surprised at that. I’ve seen this a number of times now during the year, and every time I do, I appreciate it all the more. A production version, scheduled for 2016, is promised. Let’s hope it does not look very different from this.

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My favourite Japanese brand, and by some huge margin, there was lots I wanted to see here. Highlight for me was not the new MX5, though. I’ve seen this a couple of times before, and whilst the looks are growing on me, this is one Mazda which I don’t think they have got quite right when you look at it. They are still being a bit cagey about the mechanicals, with details to come nearer the on-sale date mid next year, but there were three cars on show, only one of which was off-limits on a turntable.

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The production car that many rated as their “car of the show” is the little CX3. This is, in my opinion, the best looking car in its class, by a long way, and with the new found more upscale interiors that Mazda are putting in their cars, it could well dominate in every regard from the way it drives, to the way it feels to sit in. Very impressive.

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Mild facelifts had been applied to the 6 and the CX5, in both cases, improvements to the interior quality being high on the list. Fortunately, the urge to tinker with the outside styling – a strength of both models – had been resisted.

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The 3 was new a year ago, and it is disappointing to report that you still don’t see many on US roads. I think this is also the class looker, and if it drives as well as it is said to, would be my pick of cars in the small family saloon class.

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With a new 2 model already premiered elsewhere, I was expecting to see it here, but instead we got the old car, still a great looking hatchback. Joining it was the 5, a car that is also in its final months of duty on the US market.

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Finally, the large CX9, one of the best cars to drive in its class was on display.

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No stand for McLaren., but there was an example of the 12C on the Exotic Euro Cars stand.

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Just as in Paris, Mercedes had an open stand with access to all the cars available to every one (though some of them were locked!), so it was possible to get a much better look at the new Mercedes-AMG GT than I was able to do last time I was in the vicinity. Two were presented on the stand, one in a display area, one in an alcove at the back of the stand. We know now that this is an incredible car to drive, so whether you lust after one may just depend on whether you like the looks or not. I still think that the very long bonnet is not particularly well balanced with the rest of the proportions, but there are lots of nice details from other angles, and I am sure that the car will sell strongly.

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Although Mercedes had made no secret of the fact that this show would see the reappearance of the Maybach name, no-one was quite sure exactly what to expect. The Mercedes-Maybach S600, to give the car its official name, is an extra long wheel base version of the familiar S Class, with a different grille and some distinctive, but quite subtle touches to tell the world that this is Top Dog from the range. Inside there is a redesigned interior and the rear seats are electronically adjustable as they were in the old Maybach 57 and 62. It comes with the 6 litre V12 engine only. It is expected to come at a premium of around £10 – 15,000 over the regular S600L, making it around £155,000 when UK sales. Question is whether, for this sector of the market, the upgrades are almost too subtle or not.

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Mercedes were also showing the S550 Plug-In Hybrid model in America for the first time. This model joins the current US range of S550, S600, S63 AMG and S65 AMG. The S550 PHEV pairs a 3.0 litre  twin-turbo V6 to an 80-kW electric motor, meaning that the S550 PHEV packs a combined 436 bhp and 479 lb/ft of torque to reach 62 in just 5.2 seconds, top out at 130 miles per hour or drive up to 20 miles on electric mode alone. On the European combined cycle, it’ll return an impressive 84 miles per gallon, all the while never skimping on the luxury.

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The S Class Coupe is only just going on sale. A very elegant car from the back, with overtones of the Alfa GT, this machine is likely to sell well to the affluent, as especially in S63 AMG guise as seen here, it does not come cheap.

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Although the A Class will not be offered to American buyers, at least not for now, the GLA is about to be, so there was one example of this rather gawky and not particularly well received by the European press models on show. Mercedes elected to show the top of the range GLA 45 AMG, a car which seems not just very pricey but really rather pointless. Will Americans buy it?

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Also sporting AMG badges was the CLS 63 AMG 4Matic, this recently updated version making its US debut here.

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The B Class has just gone on sale, and indeed I followed one into the parking garage. US buyers only get it in electric guise for now.

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Two examples of the W205 model C Class were here, a regular C300 Sedan which you could go out and buy now and the mouth-watering C63 AMG that was first seen in Paris a few weeks ago. Whether this car can beat the latest BMW M3 and M4 is one of the questions that enthusiasts the world over will be itching to get answered in early 2015.

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More established models on show from Mercedes’ extensive range included the CLA 45 AMG, a brace of sports cars with SLK and SL, and several of the SUVs, with GLK, ML, GL and G Class.

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Final Mercedes was an E350 Estate car, in Sport trim.

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Star attraction here was the MINI you can’t buy, the Superleggera Concept that was first shown at Villa d’Este earlier in the year. Common consent was that this is a great looking car, even if surprisingly few Americans seemed to have any idea how to say “superleggera”.

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Newest production model was the car that is rather awkwardly titled the Hardtop 4 door, in other words the 5 door MINI. I’d already inspected one of these at Paris, where In concluded that rear seat access is restricted as the door is very short but once in, there is that bit extra space which makes this a car that people can actually ride in the back of, and in all other respects it is a MINI, so if you like the brand, you will like this one, and if not, well you won’t be won over by it.

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The third generation three door models are now starting to appear on the world’s roads. I, and plenty of others, still think that the nose job is simply bad, and the higher spec models are even worse than the One (which America does not get) and the Cooper. Worryingly, perhaps, US sales are down significantly this year, and that is not really attributable to the model change, so has the tide turned on this popular fashion statement car?

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There were examples of all the rest of the range on show, too.

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Much to the surprise of many, Mitsubishi keeps going and sales are actually on the rise, even though the range of cars that are offered is much reduced from the days of the Galant and the Eclipse. They are no more, leaving the core products in SUV terrain, the Outlander and Outlander Sport.

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That old stager, the Lancer, keeps going, though for how much longer is unclear. One of the oldest designs on the market, this was never that good even when new, but it does still sell.

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The iMIEV is a very niche offering. A small city car offered only in electric guise, this is an expensive oddity.

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The Mirage was added to the range in 2013 and was lambasted for its low rent quality feeling, but it has found some buyers.

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The future is represented by the concept XR-PHEV which was making its US debut.

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Three cars on the Morgan stand: a pair of the Three-Wheeler and one of the long lived Roadster models.

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A new name, but not quite a new car. Anyone who remembers the Coda EV, a bold effort at putting an all electric powertrain in an old Chinese design called a Hafaei Saibao, which never got far off the ground before the company ran out of money, will recognise this. Now branded Mullen 700e, it is another effort to try again. There will be some updates from the original Coda, notably in the battery, but if you didn’t like the Coda before, you probably won’t like the 700e now. Richard Curtis Jr., the consolidated president of Mullen Technologies and previously a Coda dealer in California, is very bullish about the prospects for the car, saying that when the Coda Sedan was available, it sold well. I’m not sure that 117 units, admittedly only in the State of California really counts as “selling well”, but you do need some belief in your product. “Coda did a good job developing the car,” he said. “[They spent] $400 million, it’s a nice car, it worked well but when they got to the starting line, it died.” Curtis said he still gets multiple emails or calls every day from people asking if they can buy a Coda. Curtis and some partners bought the assets from Coda Automotive for an undisclosed amount (it was “a bargain,” Curtis said) a while back and has since sold about 50 of the leftover cars. Coda Cars had interest from potential manufacturing partners in Turkey and China before it was sold to Mullen about three months ago. That’s why Coda Cars is now a Mullen Technologies company, and why the EV bears the Mullen 700e badge. The two vehicles on display here are still basically Coda vehicles, but Curtis has said that once the decision to restart production has been made, new vehicles could be rolling off the line in 90 days from the former Coda plant in Harbin, China. Looking forward, Curtis says that US production could happen as the volume goes up. “We’ve talked to a few different states about building in their states and maybe giving us an incentive,” he said, naming Michigan and Nevada. Those new cars will have bigger batteries, still made by Lishen. While the original cars has a 31-kWh battery pack, the 700e will have a 40-kWh pack and Mullen and Lishen are working on a 50-kWh pack. Other difference include 16″ low rolling resistance tires (instead of 17″ low profile tyres) and undercladding on the back end. Those changes turn the original 125-mile car into a 150-mile car, Curtis said, and with the new 40-kWh pack, it’s over 180 miles. With the 50 kWh, that jumps to over 200 miles. Curtis also said that he was going to look at revised design sketches for the new vehicle during the show and that, “When we finally go into production, we’ll have a new front and back.” Mullen still has 85 old cars that are just waiting on new battery packs. When they go on sale, the price tag will look a lot like the Coda, too. Plans are to try to price it at what the same level as the original car, which started at $44,900 before the MSRP was dropped to $39,900.

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The raised display area in the middle of this large stand contained two cars, the all new Murano and the Nismo RS version of the familiar Juke. The Murano goes on sale in early December, and we are still waiting for first drive reports. I hope it is more like the first generation car, which was fun, than the second, which was rather ordinary. We shall see.

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The array of volume selling Nissans stretches from the entry level Versa Sedan and Note, through the Sentra and Altima to the Maxima, a car rumoured for replacement in 2014, but no new version of which has yet shown its face. I’ve driven all of these, and found them all to be agreeable machines, leagues better than the equivalent Toyota if not quite best in class.

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The Crossover range starts with the funky Juke, which received a minor update earlier in the year in line with the changes made to the European models. The Juke is now available from the Nissan Color Studio. This gives customers an extreme degree of control when it comes to the styling of their Juke. For a price, Nissan will allow customers to choose individual colours for ten different parts of the Juke, including the rear spoiler, mirror caps, headlight surrounds, door sills and the wheels. While a fashionable mind might be able to create something rather cool, the potential for abuse here is extremely high. I have to say that the results as displayed on the stand were not to everyone’s taste.

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Further up the range are the Rogue and the Pathfinder, bot worthy but slightly dull machines, if truth be told. The Rogue is a very close relative of the European X-Trail, a car which many hoped would build on the excellence of the Qashqai, an expectation it did not quite deliver.

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It was the sports cars that were attracting the most attention, with the 370Z Nismo and GT-R pulling lots of people onto the stand.

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The BladeGlider concept was making another show appearance.

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Tucked away around the back was the Leaf, a very successful all electric car which has done particularly well in the US market, but also sold elsewhere. Over 150,000 Leafs (Leaves?) have now been built.

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Also displayed was the NV200 van, a small workhorse that looks a bit on the narrow side, especially by US market standards and the very boxy Quest Minivan.

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As in previous years, Porsche had their own Hall. Unlike previous years, though, it was neither impossibly busy, nor completely closed off as happened in 2013 when German media were deemed more important than the paying public. Entering the Petree Hall, the first car you saw was a GT3 version of the 911.

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Porsche have announced GTS versions of almost all the very latest range during the year, with 911 and Cayenne models making their debuts at the show, and to mark the fact they had a line of GTS models, all painted red around one side of the hall.

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Centre of attention at one end of the hall, though, was a 918 Spyder. It’s not often you get the chance to get close to one of these amazing machines, and so it was good that this one had not been enclosed in a separate by invite only area as it had been in 2013.

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The 918 Spyder sat between a couple of other Hybrid technology models, the latest Cayenne S e-Hybrid and the Panamera S e-Hybrid.

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The rest of the hall contained representative example of the extensive range of models from the Cayenne and Macan SUVs to the Boxster and Cayman, 911 and Panamera cars.

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The range of RAM trucks and vans has filled out with more of the Fiat based products being added at the bottom of the range, so there are some familiar looking machines with different noses on them to join the high end 1500 and 2500 trucks.

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Highlight for me was to see an S7 in the metal. What I did not know was that I would see another one, out on the street, just 24 hours later. These are rare cars.

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Also on show were Saleen conversions of the Mustang, Camaro and Challenger as well as the Tesla Model S

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Oh dear. Take one Toyota Auris and do this to it. The iM Concept presages an addition to the Scion range in 2015, and my guess is that it will actually look far more like the Auris than this thing. iM apparently means Individuality and Modern, at least one of which is completely inappropriate for the Auris!

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The rest of Scion’s stand comprised the familiar products, of xB and xD small boxy wagons, the tiny iQ, the tC Coupe and the FR-S.

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Just one SRT on show, as that is all that is made with this badging, the car we all still think of as the Viper.

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Whilst Subaru sales in Europe have dwindled to negligible, in America they continue to rise, with nearly 500,000 units sold year to date, making them the 9th best selling brand on the market. Most significant cars on the stand were the new generation Legacy and Outback models. These seem like a solid advance on the old models, with slightly less clumsy styling and a better quality interior, but unless I have missed something, the Subaru-ness that made them distinctive and god to drive that was present a couple of generations back is banished, and these are really rather bland cars, with standard AWD being the only thing to make them stand out. Clearly that’s what appeals to America, and equally why they just don’t sell in Europe any more.

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The Impreza has just returned to the UK market, and is destined to be a rare sight, so here was a chance to remind myself what the current one looks like. Again, worthy but dull.

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The XV is really an Impreza Outback, and this is now offered as a Hybrid as well as the regular petrol model.

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The WRX is positioned as a separate model, though most people were disappointed when it appeared with a body that is so clearly an Impreza modified a bit rather than a model in its own right, which is what we were led to expect when concept versions were shown.

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Rounding off the range. now that the Tribeca is no more, is the latest Forester.

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Mirai is the Japanese word for “future”. It is also the name chosen for their new hydrogen fuel cell powered car. If this is the future of car design, then heaven help us. By common consent, this would seem fair game to be declared the most hideous new car of 2014. Truly, one has to wonder what on earth is going on at the Toyota styling studios, as this truly abhorrent, even worse than the ghastly designs coming out of sister company Lexus, and that is saying something. It would be a pity if the abhorrent looks clouded one’s judgement of the technology, which is impressive. The car will be available on a very limited basis in late 2015.

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Although the Mirai was the worst visual polluter, several other Toyotas have been given a bolder look. Starting with the Yaris, an inoffensive little hatchback which has had a ridiculous nose job in an effort to try to attract more interest. Hmm!

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And then there is the new front on the Prius V. Yuck!

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Toyota played it a lot safer with the refreshed Camry. Just two years after the latest generation car went on sale, it has been the beneficiary of so complete a set of changes that it is almost a new car. Although it is selling well, no doubt the fact that it habitually comes bottom of every comparison test suggests that Toyota know that they need to do better to keep the buyers loyal to what has been the best selling passenger car in America almost every year since 1997. Have they done enough? Well, it still seems to be bottom of the comparison tests, but the outside is an improvement and so is the interior. The issue, I believe, is that it is still terminally dull and soggy to drive.

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There was just one example of the Corolla on display. I’ve not driven the latest one yet, but am assured that it is a significant improvement over what went before. It needed to be.

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I’ve also managed to avoid the RAV4. 20 years ago, when the first model was launched, this was a funky machine that was good to drive and had a certain coolness to it. Now it is a dull bland SUV – but which sells in significant quantity, so you have to conclude that this is what the market wants, even if I don’t.

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The market also wants the Prius, and there were a couple of the regular models as well as the smaller Prius C on show. The latter was branded “concept”, which is code for pre-production version of a slightly facelifted car that will be available shortly.

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The i-Road was making an appearance here. I am not quite sure what Americans made of this.

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Other models from the extensive range included the Venza, the Avalon, the latest Sienna minivan and Highlander and 4Runner SUVs as well as the vast Sequoia.

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Despite what you might think, Toyota and MotorSport are not complete oxymorons, and a “Camry” does compete in Nascar. Here is a reminder. It was joined by an Indy pace car version.

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Attracting more attention than any of the production vehicles, though, as this concept for a replacement for the much missed Supra.

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Tucked away in a corner were three historic Toyota from the nearby Toyota Museum including an early Land Cruiser and the legendary 2000GT

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The car I wanted to see here was the newly announced Golf R SportWagon, ie Estate, which combines the extra versatility of the Estate bodyshell with the acclaimed Golf R mechanicals. Although it had featured in the press day publicity, mindful of how VW pulled one of their most interesting vehicles at Paris, I did wonder if it would be on show, especially as it would seem that the car is unlikely to be sold to Americans. Thankfully, it was still there, and I can confirm that it looks just as compelling as the spec suggests it might.

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Joining it was the 400R Concept. What starts as a normal Golf R gets even better with a more aggressive appearance, big wheels, some tasteful neon yellow accents, and a whole mess of power. The original concept packed 395 bhp from an overblown 2.0 litre  turbo-four, though the most recent reports suggest a production version could produce over 400 bhp. To keep it all in line, the concept has all-wheel drive. And inside, it’s the same functional, comfortable Golf. Rumours persist that VW will build something not dissimilar to this in the coming years, as their response to the uber-hot hatches from Mercedes, Audi and BMW. Let’s hope they do.

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The chances of this one being built must be close to the square root of zero. It is a Sony Golf concept and it is definitely from the more imaginative end of concept car design.

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Golf VII has only just gone on sale in America, two years after reaching much of the rest of the world, so claiming it as “all new” seemed a bit like a time warp. More impressive is the fact that the range has just been awarded Motor Trend’s coveted “Car of the Year” title. A number of different production models were on show, including an R, the SportWagon (an Estate, and with Golf badging this time unlike the Jetta moniker that its predecessor bore), the eGolf and the TDi

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When “new” Beetle was launched in 1999, it was an instant hit and for a while it was “the” car to be seen in for many fashionistas, but this being a fickle part of the market, demand quickly tailed off and the car bumps along in the sales charts now, achieving worthy but not remarkable sales success. VW America are trying to resurrect interest in a car which was largely aimed at their market, so as well as the regular Hatch and Cabrio models, there was a rally version on shown.

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There were plenty of familiar VWs on show, too, ranging from the top selling (in America) Jetta and Passat, through the CC and the long running Tiguan and Touareg.

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Not surprisingly, the new XC90 was the star of the Volvo stand. There were a couple on display, and unlike Paris, where they were constantly mobbed, I was able to get up close, sit inside and to take some photos. This allowed me to confirm that this ought to be a real hit for the Swedish manufacturer as the car looks good, has a very impressive and high quality interior, as well as plenty of practical touches. We’ve had a long wait for this car, but it seems it will turn out to have been worth it.

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Unlike Paris, there were examples of the rest of the range also on the stand. Making its world debut was the CrossCountry version of the V60, which has a slightly raised ride height, higher profile tyres, front and rear skid plates, bumper extenders and lower body cladding much in the same way that the older XC70 models does. It was shown alongside the regular V60 cars.

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Also on show were the familiar S60,  XC60, XC70 and S80 which have been on sale for a while.

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The Petersen Museum had a display tucked up in the corner of the first floor above the west entrance. As well as advertising the new look to the museum which will be revealed shortly, they had two cars on show, both Maseratis in honour of the marque’s centenary. Both were Quattroporte models, from the first and most current generations. Splendid.

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This striking machine was called the Black Pearl. There was not much information about it, but from what I can tell, it has a bespoke body on Jaguar mechanicals.

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A number of small displays were in the Foyer of the South Hall, too. Centrepiece was an array of customised Lexus models. As if the standard cars are not repulsive enough, just look at these!

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Larte Design had some customised Infiniti models on show. Not to my taste at all, but I am sure there are plenty of people who will enjoy the alterations.

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Volvo were showing off their “self driving” technology with this pair of cars.

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This duo of 1956 Ford Thunderbird and Plymouth Prowler were on show by themselves in the foyer.

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Whilst this might not have been a vintage show in terms of new car launches, this was still a great day out. I did not quite arrive in time for the opening, but I did stay until closing time at 10pm, by which time my energy levels were as seriously depleted as the state of charge on my camera batteries. By that time, I felt I had been able to have a good look at everyone on show, and sit in and poke more vehicles than is often possible at one of the major Auto Shows, thanks in no small part to the fact that this event was never particularly crowded, a fact for which the photographer was also particularly grateful. As ever, I look forward to getting the chance to try some of the new cars that I saw here on the road, and with a tally of over 30 US rental cars in the past year, that will surely be the case in the coming months.

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