2013 LA Auto Show in words and photos
This Mercedes-Benz AMG Vision Gran Turismo was the star of the show
This year the Los Angeles Auto Show decided to add a third day of previews, incorporating what they called the Connected Car Expo. Most of the attendees were paying customers, joining in day-long seminars. It would almost appear the event was over-sold as media were left on the LA Convention Center’s South Lobby floor to watch live steaming of the proceedings.
We did have a chance to have a close look at the merchandise – connectivity devices, software in action and in development, hardware and providers dotting the lobby floor. Oh, and there was also a display of Via electric trucks championed by “Maximum” Bob Lutz, the framer General Motors chairman.
Among the more interesting items during Tuesday’s connectivity expo reveals are Audi’s first 4G LTE service, launching in spring of 2014 solely with the four new A3 models that were also revealed later during the show. Audi is the first vehicle manufacturer to offer 4G connectivity to drivers and its system, used in a pop-up display provides access to a wide range of data for those drivers interested in quick downloads and access to social media.
Another innovation that piqued my interest – and will likely annoy any government agency wanting to learn more about the habits of a modern driver – is the Cyber Lock, which its maker touts as the next big thing – black box cyber security. It’s widely known that the federal government in the United States enjoys prying into the public’s privacy and intends to give itself access to vehicle “event data recorders” (EDL) in the coming future. To stop tampering and other electronic scanning, the Cyber Lock does just that – locks them out. It has key actuation and costs a rational $30, about the same as parking for two days in downtown Los Angeles.
Because I prefer connectivity with my car to come from its feedback to me as driver and because I drive a manual transmission car to gain that connectivity, much of the gizmos introduced during the Connected Car Expo are of little value to me. I did note the appearance of both Sprint and Verizon, hyping their connectivity tools and ready to jump head-first into this realm of vehicular infotainment. Cadillac showcased its OnStar program which keeps on humming along after all these years…
Enough of that!
Wednesday morning Motor Press Guild held its own version of Cars and Coffee, with a good variety of race cars, show cars and strange cars (heightened by the appearance of George Barris and his Batmobile). Food trucks were serving, coffee was flowing and it was a good way to get the long day started, thanks to the weather, which deteriorated through the show’s media days but stayed clear for this outdoor breakfast.
The star of Wednesday’s reveals was at the Mercedes-Benz stand. M-B designers created a new super sports car concept called the Mercedes-Benz AMG Vision Gran Turismo. It celebrates Play Station’s Gran Turismo 6 and has the kind of voluptuous lines and sheer extravagance that can’t help but draw the eye. Variegated LED lighting from inside the grille area was gorgeous, the flattened yet curving lines of the car had everyone reaching for their cameras to take photos of this beast.
Fitted with the AMG V8 biturbo engine, the Vision Gran Turismo delivers 577 horsepower and maximum torque of 590 lb-ft from its lightweight construction. With this kind of racing DNA, this concept vehicle begs to be made into a production (or at least racing-capable) road-going car.
Jaguar had two new vehicles on display: the F-Type coupe is Ian Callum’s latest design that captures both mind and heart and Jaguar’s pending small SUV, called C-X17 looks light, powerful and more fun than the usual offerings – as it should be from Jaguar.
Porsche then took the official wraps off its Macan petite SUV, which bears some resemblance to Cayenne but with more suitable proportions for Porsche fans. With its light weight, exceptional handling and economy, the Macan is sure to be a hit, particularly in Southern California. Porsche factory driver Patrick Long has already put his name in to own one, a great recommendation. Sorry, but I didn’t like any of the photos I took.
Nissan showed off its Nismo GT-R and trotted out Usain Bolt, the world’s fastest man to pose for photos in front of its fastest car. I opted not to wait in line for the photo op but took a picture of Mr Bolt for my files – please note this guy is rangy, much taller than I expected.
Kia introduced its first rear-wheel-drive business sedan called K900. Most likely mated to the Hyundai Equus platform (nobody ever said), it’s going to show up with a wide variety of bells, whistles – all at a price that should impress most people that thought they couldn’t afford a car of this type. We liked the rear seat adjustments and this car’s feeling of stability.
Honda keeps pushing alternative vehicle programs and, since they were first to mass market a hybrid with the 2000 Insight coupe (almost bought one last year) have every right to brag about being in vanguard with their plans. Of course, I miss the feel-good Honda cars they used to make but understand the demands of the marketplace and the fact that’s where the money lies.
Mini made the small car a bit bigger this year in its third iteration of the “new” Mini. As an owner of a first gene modern Mini and the former owner of the Alec Issigonis version of 1964, I’m not sure this is what I like to see in a Mini, but I’m sure they’ll sell a pile of ’em. Nice of Mini to place the speedo and tach together in front of the driver, but doesn’t that de-emphasize the “driver” part of driving a Mini? Just saying’.
Hyundai closed the day by introducing its hydrogen Tucson SUV and touting its remarkable terms: free maintenance and hydrogen for the duration of a lease with $2999 down and $499/month. Then the Korean brand upped the ante by taking the media down the sodden street (it was raining pretty hard by 5:30PM and dark, to boot) to Hotel Figueroa, where it had stilt walkers, belly dancers, Mediterranean food and music by Ziggy Marley. Hyundai knows how to do auto shows. And parties.
Thursday morning dawned wet – so it was good to hold breakfast inside. Because of the weather, it was difficult to get the newly named “Legislator of the Year” to the convention center early, so we did the right thing and headed for the halls. Green Car of the Year is the 2014 Honda Accord hybrid which, hopefully, will sell better than its predecessor – which came and went so quietly nobody knew it was even there!
As long, tiring and exciting Wednesday’s auto show had been, Thursday’s was definitely low key and easy by comparison. The best press conference was also the first as Infiniti detailed its Q30 concept hatch in an enticing salmon color. Just build it, I say! The closing press conference came from Volvo, who decided at the last minute to show off its V60 wagon, bringing the hatch (without SUV height) back to the USA.
We did get a nice drive through downtown Los Angeles in BMW’s i3 electric car, which is an easy and intuitive electric car. Very roomy with all of its motive equipment under the chassis or in the hatch area, the i3 is quiet and nice. All the i3 cars were dressed in a copper tone and had nice natural wood-trimmed dash areas. Liked it a lot!
One thing that’s bothersome about a lot of the cars shown is a definitive lack of diesel entries. As usual, everybody wants to talk about electric and/or hydrogen, but diesel is a grand solution for the here and now of ecology and economy without paying the price of having a bland car. Only VW, BMW and Mazda seem interested, with GM taking baby steps into the segment (Cruze diesel).
The rain stopped and we went home, carrying enough thumb drives to wade through for the next few days.
Words and photos by Anne Proffit