2013 Los Angeles Auto ShowPosted on November 25th, 2013
Green and red hot
By Nina Russin
I can’t think of a city in the United States where cars have a bigger impact on lifestyle and culture than they do in Los Angeles. Although the LA freeway system is the second largest in the nation behind New York, the city is dead last in terms of freeway lanes per resident.
As a result, Angeleans live in their cars; much of the time sitting in traffic. So it’s a no brainer that the City of Angels is obsessed with green technology. Aside from air quality concerns, the cost of constant refueling can drain a person’s bank account.
The first of the four major auto shows held in the US between September and April, the 2013 LA show featured Hyundai’s fuel cell version of the Tucson, Honda’s FCEV concept, the 2014 Lexus CT 200h, Audi A3 TDI and plug-in hybrid and BMW i3 coupe concept.
On the opposite end of the spectrum were the sports cars. Jaguar delighted with the coupe version of its sexy F-Type, Mercedes pulled the blankets off the Vision Gran Turismo, Nissan debuted the 2015 GT-R NISMO, and Maserati unveiled the new Ghibli. Olympic hundred meter gold medalist, Usain Bolt was on hand with Nissan, adding his own personal brand of sizzle.
Personally, I like the yin/yang mix. The auto industry is not without a conscience, but that it also has passion. Auto shows have traditionally been places to dream, going back to the idea cars of the 1930s and dream cars of the 1950s and 60s. Without concept cars, auto shows would be, frankly, sexless.
It was a bold move for Hyundai to introduce the first mass produced fuel cell car, even though availability is limited to Southern California, at least for now. Hyundai has been working internally on proprietary fuel cell technology for some time, similar to the strategy Toyota used in developing its hybrid system. Prototype versions of the Tucson compact crossover fuel cell vehicle have covered 2.4 million miles in testing, including extreme temperatures.
The production vehicle, already on sale in Korea, comes to the US in 2014. Customers can lease the car for $2,999 down and $499 per month, which includes unlimited hydrogen refueling. Leasees also benefit from a valet maintenance program, in which the dealer picks up the vehicle from the driver’s home and provides a free loaner.
While Hyundai focused on production, Honda stepped beyond its FCX Clarity fuel cell car to the FCEV concept: a new fuel cell vehicle that promises a 60 percent improvement in efficiency over the FCX, with a driving range of 300 miles. Refueling takes about three minutes. Honda plans to launch the new car in the United States, Japan and Europe in 2015.
BMW unveiled the coupe version of the i3 electric car: a slightly longer, sportier variation of the five-door car. Driving range is 100 miles.
Audi’s all-new 2015 A3 lineup will include both clean diesel and plug-in hybrid variants. The sedan rolls out in the spring of 2014, followed by the clean diesel version of the sedan in the fall. The plug-in hybrid, known as the A3 Sportback e-tron, comes to market in 2015.
Ian Callum knows how to steal a show. Last year, Jaguar’s Director of Design brought oohs and ahs when he unveiled the swoopy F-Type cabriolet. This year, it was the coupe’s turn.
My personal opinion is that Callum is one of the most talented designers in the industry. He has a feel for the vehicle surface that others seem to miss. Both coupe and cabriolet designs have a sense of timelessness as well, similar to what Larry Shinoda accomplished in the original Corvette Sting Ray, or Raymond Loewy in the Avanti.
The newest F-Type doesn’t disappoint in the power department either, with the V-8-powered F-Type R delivering a whopping 550 horsepower and four second zero-to-sixty acceleration.
Mercedes-Benz unveiled its own piece of eye candy: the swoopy Vision Gran Turismo, with its long hood, tall wheels and grille reminiscent of the first SL.
Nissan’s newest GT-R supercar was one of three new NISMO models unveiled in LA. The term, NISMO, is short for Nissan Motorsports. The newest GT-R delivers 600 horsepower, and is the fourth model in the GT-R lineup. The GT-R was joined on stage by a NISMO version of the Juke subcompact crossover and NISMO Sentra sedan concept.
Subaru took the wraps off its WRX sport sedan. A favorite among WRC enthusiasts, the 2015 WRX features a stiffer, more responsive chassis, 268-horsepower two-liter turbocharged engine and torque vectoring system to reduce understeer. Buyers can choose between six-speed manual and a sport lineartronic automatic transmission with two manual modes.
Also of note
Porsche unveiled the Macan compact crossover, throwing its hat into what is arguably the fastest growing segment of the crossover market. Pricing starts at $50,895.
Kia unveiled the K900 luxury sedan, with pricing starting in the $50,000 range. The midsized Colorado returns to the Chevrolet lineup for 2015, competing against the Toyota Tacoma and Nissan Frontier.
The Los Angeles Auto Show takes place at the Convention Center in downtown LA, and runs through December 1.
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