9 things you need to see at the LA Auto Show
I will start by saying that I'm biased when it comes to the LA Auto Show. I love everything about it. The cars, the media receptions, the networking events and Los Angeles. It might not be the prettiest city in the world but it's always entertaining.
This year's show features a lot of interesting cars and even though electric-powered vehicles play a key role, they are not as omnipresent as you might think. Having said that, both the Mustang Mach-E and the Taycan, arguably two of the most important cars this year, are indeed electric. But there's more.
As ever, the Germans brought everything. Audi is here with the entire line-up including the all-new RS7, RS Q8 and the e-Tron. Mercedes brought the new GLB, the GLE 63 and the wonderful concept Vision Simplex. Then there's Lincoln with the new Corsair, a compact crossover starting at around $36,000, and KIA with the new Seltos. Infiniti has the best stand of them all in terms of ambiance and vibe, in my opinion, because it is visually stunning and infinitely welcoming. Lexus brought the amazing LF-30 concept and Kia has brought the weird Habaniro concept. Dodge celebrated the Challenger in style by giving it a 50th Anniversary edition. Alfa Romeo brought its F1 car. There's the Supra, of course.
The best writer in the world once said that editing is crucial because "what you to choose to leave out is as important as what you put in", which is why I've carefully selected "only" nine things you really can't miss at this year's LA Auto Show. It was much harder than I thought.
A lot of people are going to have an opinion on this. It is an all-electric crossover SUV, which is fine, but they called it a "Mustang". It's not the end of the world but I totally understand why some might not like this. The Mach-E features key elements of the Mustang design language, the taillights for example, and some pretty cool rims. I'm no fan of SUVs in general but it's not as bad as you think.
Inside you'll find a completely different world. Clean, minimalist design with a digital instrument cluster and a giant 15.5-inch vertical display. The doors open at the push of a button but, if you're into this geek stuff, you can select a passcode to open them.
As ever with EVs, the 0-60 time is impressive (3.something seconds), and the car makes 459 hp and 612 torques. The range is 250 miles.
It is a completely different world and a completely different era. I'd never call it a "new" Mustang, just a different one. Still, if you want to see it, check out the West Hall at the show.
Porsche Taycan & 99x
Not so long ago, Porsche made a bold decision by leaving endurance racing, something they were very good at, to prioritize Formula E. This speaks volumes about their intentions. Porsche going electric is a bit like Tag Heuer making a smartwatch, they have history and heritage and a name to preserve. And this means they don't it unless they're absolutely positive this is the way to go.
You'll find Porsche at the Petree Hall (west) with both the Taycan and the 99X which is going to be competing in the upcoming Formula E season. Formula E cars are broadly the same in terms of shape because of regulations it's all about the livery. At the end of the day it's down to personal taste but any FE car is spectacular to behold.
Then there's the Taycan. This is a Game-Changing car for both Porsche and the automotive industry because yes it's going to be supremely expensive but it is first and foremost a Porsche, no matter what's under the hood, and this means competitors have to take it seriously. Outside, it vaguely resembles the Panamera. Inside, you'll find five screens. There's a digital instrument cluster, an infotainment display in the dashboard plus another one for climate control in the centre console. Then there's an extra (optional) screen in front of the passenger riding shotgun and there's also a tiny screen for passengers in the rear seats.
The Taycan is available in several different specs, the fastest of which (the Turbo S, yeah I know) does 0-60 in under 2.8 seconds and puts out 750 hp and 775 torques.
BMW Vision M Next
Yeah, yeah, the front grille. I hear you. Thing is, whatever else you may think of its design, BMW is one of the most important manufacturers in the world so when they come up with a concept like the Vision M, it deserves your attention.
The Vision M Next is a styling and engineering exercise to illuminate the road ahead for the Munich-based brand. I wouldn't call it beautiful but it is very striking to look at. It isn't supposed to be contained or subtle.
It is powered by a hybrid system with two electric units, one at each axle, along with a turbocharged inline-4 for a combined power output of 600 hp. The driver can select different driving modes on the the steering wheel, including one called "Boost+" Mode, which gives you more power.
The BMW stand features the usual array of M-badged cars, including the new M8 Competition, and the soon-to-be retired i8. Ah yes, there's also the gorgeous IFE.20 Formula E car.
Acura Type S
We've been waiting for so long to see the "Type S" nomenclature again and now it is finally happening and, guess what, it's not going to be electric.
The new Type S takes the form of a rather gorgeous sedan with a slender body and forged carbon elements. The bad news is this is an extremely complicated and expensive process so you won't be seeing this in the future production vehicle. The good news is that the shape will remain basically the same except for a couple of things here and there. The wing mirrors are definitely going to go, replaced by conventional (and bigger) ones, the lights are probably going to change as well, chiefly because of regulations, but that's about it.
Acura says that the Type S is going to be powered by the TLX 3.5 L V6 engine. They say it could be either a hybrid or a standard ICE, or both, but the TXL is going to be there.
I like it a lot, partly because of the forged carbon and the big-a*s exhaust tips, but chiefly because it is a real-world car, not some million-hp concept powered by 78 electric engines.
Land Rover Defender
The new Defender is a big deal. The original Defender was introduced in the 80s but it traces its roots back to the Land Rover series introduced in 1948 and that means that it has been sold, pretty much unchanged, for 68 years running. Land Rover has been working on it for so long and there's so much at stake.
It features several elements you'll probably recognize from the old Defender such as the three individual taillights, the foldable centre fron seat, the hood protections and lettering and the spare tire on the rear door.
In terms of spec and trims, it is available both as 90 and 110, and there's something called the "Adventure Accessory Pack", which makes it look like you're ready to ford streams and drive through the rainforest. The 2020 Defender is powered by the "Ingenium" engines, including a 6-cylinder turbodiesel. I still haven't decided whether I like it or not, but it's definitely worth a look.
Corvette Stingray C8
I'll get straight to the point: if I had to pick one car and one only out of the show, it'd have to be the Corvette.
I can't even begin to stress how important it is that somebody actually built a car like the C8. Let's start with the looks. Forget where the engine is, it is a truly spectacular car, low and slender and yet compact, the large side scoops alone are worth the ticket. The pointy nose and the stance do the rest.
Praise doesn't end there because the C8 is powered by a naturally aspirated 6.2 L LT2 V8 making 495 hp and and 465 lb-ft of torque. No hybrid, no electricity, no nonsense, just a good ol' V8 powering a relatively lightweight car.
Everything about it is amazing, even the interior. The cockpit is driver-centric and the interior is upholstered in leather, sports fabric and/or Alcantara. It definitely feels premium, a tangible upgrade from the previous models. There's also a wide selection for wheels, trims, paint options and accessories.
It does 0-60 in around 3 seconds and it has a top speed of 194 mph. And the best thing about it is that it does all this and more with a starting price of around $60,000.
Naked Carbon Bugatti EB110SS by Dauer
This is one of the rarest and most incredible cars I've ever seen. Only 139 EB110s were built in the early 1990s and only five of which were made of carbon fibre and this is the only one that hasn't been painted over.
In 1995, Bugatti had gone bankrupt and Dauer Sportwagen, a Nuremberg-based automotive company, bought the remaining assets and components from the company. Five EB110 were given more power and a carbon fibre body, including the one you see here.
This EB110 is about 550 lbs (225 kg) lighter than a "standard" EB and even though it is powered by the same quad-turbo 3.5 L V12 engine, it now produces 705 hp.
It is in mint condition and the owner (AlphaLuxe) told me they recently received an 8-figure offer at the Quail but turned it down. I can see why.
Mercedes Vision Simplex
A few months ago, Mercedes-Benz introduced this concept car that hails back to a revolutionary car first built in 1901. It's called the Vision Simplex and it is gorgeous, much bigger than it looks in the pictures, and the attention to detail is uncanny.
The Simplex traces its roots to the 1901 Daimler 35 PS, first unveiled during the Nice Race Week. It had a lower centre of gravity, it was wider and lighter than most cars, and the engine was a 5.9 L 4-cylinder.
The Vision Simplex is a 2-seater open top car with no doors and no windscreen built on a monocoque frame. The front of the concept is white, while the back half is black, to match the design of the original vehicle. Several details are painted gold and there are hundreds of mini 3-point stars on the wheels. The interior features a bench front seat in azure blue upholstery, gold and white elements here and there, and dials of nautical inspiration.
It is beautiful. Make sure you've got plenty of storage space in your smartphone for pictures.
Karma Automotive is based in California but owned by a Chinese mega-group and it essentially rose from the ashes of now defunct Fisker Automotive. Fisker, founded by American-Danish business Henrik Fisker, debuted the Karma at the 2008 North American Motor Show but after selling around 2,400 units, Fisker went bankrupt in 2012.
Karma is here with two models, the Revero GT, which looks remarkably like the original Karma (chiefly because it was designed by Henrik Fisker himself, and the SC1 Vision, a roofless hypercar concept.
It's hard to tell whether the project is financially viable or not but both cars look great. The Revero is currently on sale, you can actually go out and buy it, and the latest model features a hybrid unit producing a combined 536 hp.
What cars are you looking forward to at this year's Show?