Hollywood may be a town of glitz and glam, but the brightest gems currently found in the city are the faceted headlights of the myriad vehicles on display at the 2018 Los Angeles Auto Show. We’ve been covering all the news and previews coming out of California this week – here are the highlights.
Best in Show
I really wasn’t sure about this thing. The preview photos looked fugly, and the photos out of the official reveal were no better. But then I walked over and actually had a look at it, and my impression of it is completely different in real life.
It looks badass.
Mopar’s making around 200 custom accessories for it, and with the mid-size truck segment seeing significant growth these days, it’s perfectly timed. They’re going to sell about a billion of these.
This is a tough one. Hyundai’s Palisade offers up ventilated middle-row seats, and that’s hard to ignore. But Jeep’s Gladiator takes the cake. Putting a bed on a Wrangler would have been enough for most buyers. Instead they turned the Wrangler into a pickup that has towing and payload capacities that rival many full-sizers. With the doors off and the windshield folded. And that’s an impressive effort.
Volkswagen brought out a cargo-van prototype of its upcoming I.D. Buzz electric van, along with an electric delivery bike, but I was all over the vintage van the company brought out on stage alongside it, done up as a delivery vehicle for Telefunken. It’s California: why wouldn’t you bring out a classic Vee-Dub van?
The car that stood out to me as the one I most wanted to hop in and drive home to Toronto is Porsche’s just-revealed 911. Throughout the day, my media peers had been posting photos of the 992-generation 911. As a known Porschephile, it stands to reason that it caught my eye, but standing next to it, I immediately realized the new 911 looks far better in person than it does in photos. Knowing that its performance exceeds the outgoing model is just the icing on the cake. Where are the keys?
Audi e-tron GT
Audi has been known for its purposeful and clean design work for decades, but the e-tron GT concept is stunning from every angle. The fact that it holds the promise of exciting performance (and good interior accommodations), gives hope for future EV cars.
While some of the other concepts in LA were all sharp angles and over-the-top design, Audi presented a vision to look forward to: an electrified sedan with clean, sweeping lines, an output of 590 combined system horsepower, an estimated range of 400 km on a single charge, and a targeted production date of late next year.
Infiniti Prototype 10
It’s surprising how few concept cars there are anymore, because automakers are mostly saving the cash and just bringing their new production vehicles out on stage. But Infiniti didn’t read that memo and showed the Prototype 10, its rendition of a “classic speedster” but with an electric drivetrain. This thing is stunning: it’s so sleek it looks like someone got molten metal to stay in the shape of a car.
Infiniti’s Prototype 10 was actually unveiled a couple of months ago, but here it is in LA, in the sheet metal – looking absolutely stunning. The single-seater is gorgeous, and hides an electrified powertrain. The saddest part of this car being a concept is knowing that if Infiniti were Ferrari, this car would have been built.
Best Production Vehicle
If Jeep doesn’t sell a boatload of these, I’ll eat one for dinner. The brilliance of the Gladiator is that Jeep aimed it squarely at its very loyal fan base, without softening anything up as a concession to pull in any customers who are still cross-shopping. It’s a Jeep that’s a truck, not a truck that’s a Jeep. It’s going to win over a lot of fans who are new to Jeep, but it already owns the hearts of those who live and breathe the brand.
Don’t get me wrong: I have concerns. I’m still not sold on the new Mazda3 hatchback’s emphatic C-pillar, and the tiny second-row window could make it problematic for families with small children. But Mazda keeps telling us it’s a brand on a “journey to premium”, and if they keep churning out redesigns as pretty as this one, people will follow along. The technology in that SkyActiv-X engine sounds promising, too.
I can’t pick the Jeep twice, so I’ll give this one to the new Mazda3. A compact sedan has no right looking this sleek and stylish. The lines on this car would have been reserved for a six-figure grand tourer just a decade ago. But here they are on a compact hatch that fits just about any budget. I don’t even care about the interior or the drivetrain. I could just stare at that shape all day.
Kia had a spruced-up (pre-production) version of its new 2020 Telluride on display that caught my eye every time I passed Kia’s display. The deep green hue alone was probably enough to stop me in my tracks, but the way this SUV had been done up with some butch off-road accessories (winch, rugged tires, snorkel), plus the Telluride’s blocky styling made it a pretty cool machine. Top all that off with inspiration from fashion designer Brandon Maxwell that includes interesting leather strapping and it’s one of my favs of the show.
Weirdest Auto Show Stand of All Time
Quantum physics? Art installations? A giant sign that says, “Don’t buy our cars”? Has Volvo gone out of their minds?
This year, they put together a stand for LA that has zero cars on it and instead opted to demonstrate their ideas behind bringing our lives into our cars – through an Android-driven infotainment system that’s in development to be as customizable as a smartphone; the Amazon Key service (which won’t be available in Canada for some time, so don’t get excited); and their Care by Volvo service that lets people pay a monthly fee to subscribe to a car rather than leasing or owning it (hence the “don’t buy our cars” thing).
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It’s all quite avant-garde and is certainly different. But if you’re hoping to sit down in a Volvo at your local auto show this winter, don’t worry: there will be cars at this year’s Canadian auto shows. This stand design isn’t coming north of the border.
Best Refuge for Beleaguered Millionaires (and Journalists)
Of all the impressive machines here, the sublime, quilted, creamy leather interior of Mercedes’ flagship sedan looked like the perfect place to climb inside and take a much-needed nap in the backseat.
Best Use of Psychedelics
Ford Econoline Van and Wagon, Modified by Galpin
These amazing throwbacks to the 1970s were hidden in a hall underneath the walkway between the two show halls. And while they look like they’ve been buried there for 50 years, they probably weren’t discarded under the stairs like a soiled napkin.
Ford actually sold vehicles just like this in the 1970s. Straight out of the dealer showroom. I’m not sure what they were thinking either, but I can smell the shag carpeting all the way from my hotel room. There must have been some serious mind-altering substances in play in the spray booth.
Best Earth-saving Show of Motorsport Might
Volkswagen I.D. R Pikes Peak
I’m a race fan at heart, so I always walk around auto show floors looking for evidence of the current state of motorsport. There isn’t a lot of conventional racing stuff on the floor at this year’s LA show, which is telling with regard to where automaker investment is going since several performance arms have head offices in the greater LA area.
The one brand that did put something front-and-centre is Volkswagen, who showed up with the I.D. R Pikes Peak electric race car that Romain Dumas drove earlier this year to shatter not only the electric-motor hill climb record but the overall record as well. It’s a welcome reminder that the upcoming electric revolution needn’t be slow or boring, and brands looking to hop on board with that message have options in racing.
Fastest Delivery to Grandma’s House
As a concept idea earlier this month, FCA’s SRT performance division turned the Challenger Hellcat Redeye into Santa’s new sleigh. It had some surprising details, like the eight zoomies coming out of the fenders. But the absolute best part of it was the antler-wearing Hellcat logo that adorned the front fenders and the grille. There’s more joy in that logo than coming down my chimney this year.
It’s been strange hearing Christmas carols and seeing all the sparkly decorations in warm and sunny LA, but Dodge’s whimsical display with a Hellcat sleigh suggests that whether Santa is feeling naughty or nice, he’ll be able to get his deliveries done in record time this year.