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Los Angeles Auto Show

2018 Los Angeles Auto Show: A DriveWays Report…

by Frank A. Aukofer

Los Angeles, Calif. —Volkswagen and Volvo appeared as the Yin and Yang of Automobility LA, the curtain raiser for the annual Los Angeles Auto Show.

compressJeff-0873Volkswagen displayed a block-long clutch of 36 museum-quality and new Bugs dating from the early years after World War II until the 1970s, as well as to honor the final passing of the beloved Beetle. The 2019 models — a coupe and a convertible — are the last.

Volvo, on the other hand, staked out a large and almost empty space, bragging that it was a world first at the LA Show without a single car on the stand. The point was to demonstrate Volvo’s vision of what the future car might be. More on that later.

Volvo Cars at Automobility LA - This is not a car
Volvo Cars at Automobility LA – This is not a car

The two unusual efforts by the manufacturers summarized the multiple-personality character of this year’s show, as when Honda unveiled the Passport crossover alongside its new Talon, a side-by-side off-roader. The show runs through Dec. 9, 2018.

Another major effort: With the backdrop of a tiny house powered by a Nissan Leaf electric car, the company crammed a half-day of big picture views by knowledgeable speakers and panels on the future of what it calls Intelligent Mobility, with the goal of zero emissions and zero fatalities.

The discussions by the experts of a motorized electric future, adaptive technologies and innovations would fill a fat magazine. But it all seemed more of an altruistic education forum than a typical auto show sales pitch.

compressJIM_1858One example: a “fireside chat” about, and rides on, Lime Scooters, one of the companies producing the electric scooters that seem to be popping up everywhere in urban America as an alternative to standard and powered bicycles, skateboards, roller blades and Segways.

One intriguing notion: When self-driving vehicles are perfected and widespread—still a long way off—it could solve parking problems. Your car would drive you to the supermarket or store, drive itself back home and then return to pick you up.

For those interested, most of the information and discussions can be found at #NissanFuturesLA, @NissanUSA, @Nissan Electric and Nissan USA on Facebook.

To enhance that, stroll with us as we mosey through the LA Auto Show, including the Technology Center, which consisted of a very large tent covering a side street and a lineup of food trucks that served different ethnic breakfasts to assorted journalists and hangers-on.

compressJIM_9511The breakfasts were so-so but the array of old Volkswagens could bring tears to the eyes of the guys and gals who had never owned one but wished they had. It seemed as if anyone who ever had a Type 113 Standard or other Bug felt a personal connection to what one book called “Small Wonder.”

Walk to the South Hall at the Convention Center and pass Audi, Lincoln, Acura and Infiniti. Turn right into empty space with Volvo signs. What happened? Had the vehicles been in accidents?

Nope. At the back was an alcove with a small open pod for four people with reclining chairs and a table in between.

It was a mockup of the passenger area of a future self-driving automobile: no steering wheel, controls or instruments. Simply a quiet, climate-controlled space for relaxation and transportation.

compressJIM_1632Without an engine or wheels, this Volvo wasn’t going anywhere. But it wasn’t alone. Over in the West Hall was a large area for Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, which included a customized Dodge Challenger, bright red, with no top and, instead of wheels, skis underneath.

This was a whimsical vision of the high-tech future of Santa Claus’s sleigh on Christmas Eve and Day, delivering gifts to millions of kids around the world.

But this one wasn’t going anywhere either. With no way to get that 800 horsepower to the ground — or snow — it looked as if Santa needed to hook up Dasher, Dancer, Vixen and the others anyway. The Dodge Boys had thoughtfully provided tow hooks on the skis.

compressJIM_1598There were several other head shakers. Kia displayed a version of its high-performance Stinger — except that it had right-hand drive and the colors of the Queensland, Australia, Police Service. Interesting but not many potential sales here.

Another was the humongous Karlmann King, looking something like a stealth bomber with a matte gray paint job, angled body panels everywhere and, at $2.2 million, billed as the world’s most expensive SUV.

There were plenty of more conventional machines as well, including a Hyundai Nexo, sitting almost unnoticed in the crowd as Hyundai did a glitzy introduction of the Palisade, its new midsize three-row SUV. The Nexo is a hydrogen powered SUV, not introduced yet.

compressJeff-6077Over at Hyundai’s sister company’s stand, Kia rolled out its version of the Palisade, called the Telluride. But it focused most of the presentation on the latest version of its quirky and popular Soul.

And Nissan was not completely altruistic. It used the LA Auto Show to introduce its new Murano Crossover and Maxima sports sedan, which of course it would like to sell in very large numbers.AutoMobilityLA_SAB-black

Images (c) Automobility LA

2017’s Outstanding New Vehicles: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

Recently, members of the North American Car of the Year organization selected the best 2017 vehicles to compete for three prestigious honors: Car of the Year, Utility of the Year and Truck of the Year.

The jury consists of up to 60 automotive journalists, male and female, from the United States and Canada. All are dues-paying members, independent of any connections to vehicle manufacturers.

Until this year, there were two awards: Car and Truck of the Year. But with the proliferation of crossover SUVs a new category was added.

Although every manufacturer around the world will tout something as new for the 2017 model year, the jurors consider only those that are “new or substantially changed.” They must be “benchmarks in their segments based on factors including innovation, design, safety, handling, driver satisfaction and value for the dollar.”

Journalist jurors vote in secret and the results are tallied, in a process similar to the film Academy Awards, by the Deloitte and Touche accounting firm.

The competition is stiff, with 16 cars, 12 utility vehicles and four pickup trucks vying for the honors. Among cars, there’s a broad range topped by the Acura NSX super car, the Porsche 718 Boxster and Cayman sports cars, and the all-new flagship of the new Genesis brand from Hyundai, the G90.

Utility vehicles range from the all-new Chrysler Pacifica minivan to the Kia Sportage. The four trucks include two from Ford—the F-Series Super Duty, the first major revision of this truck in 18 years, and the brutal F-150 Raptor off-roader. The innovative Honda Ridgeline and the Nissan Titan full-size V8 complete the group.

Regardless of which vehicles win, the entire list can be considered as the best in the business. One winner in each category will be announced at the North American International Automobile Show in Detroit on Jan. 9.

Following is a rundown on the nominees, along with brief comments:

Among the 16 nominated cars, some jurors, citing affordability, questioned the inclusion of the 573-hp hybrid Acura NSX, a superb two-seater but with a price tag that easily can top $200,000. The scintillating 300-hp Porsche Boxster ($79,440 with options) and 350-hp Cayman ($90,060), also are pricey two-seaters.

There are five full-size luxury cars on the list and one that comes close to that designation. The latter is the new Kia Cadenza, which in Limited trim has a price tag of $44,890 but exhibits luxury safety items and features.

Other luxury cars are the Cadillac CT6, Buick LaCrosse, Lincoln Continental and Volvo S90. The last ($53,945-$66,105 Inscription trim) is an all-new car from the Swedish manufacture that carries the same powertrain as the Volvo XC90, which won Truck of the Year last year.

Few have driven the Continental but the Caddy CT6, priced from about $55,000 to $67,000, cossets the driver in lavish luxury; the Buick ($41,000 to about $50,000) is posh but somewhat less so. Compact sedans include the high achievers Audi A4 ($40,350-$54,275) and Jaguar XE ($52,695-$61,385), along with the new Hyundai Elantra, a surprise high performer in its Sport version, which starts at a mere $22,485 and tops out at $24,885.

Remaining car competitors are the superb new Mercedes-Benz E-Class midsize sedan ($55,575 for the E300 4Matic); the Toyota Prius Prime plug-in hybrid ($28,000-$34,000), with an estimated equivalent of 133 mpg, and two new hatchbacks from Chevrolet—the all-electric Bolt   ($37,495-$41,780 before rebates), with a highway range of about 200 miles, and the well-appointed Cruze ($22,765-$26,870).

There are two outliers in the utility vehicle category. One is the only minivan—the all-new, innovative Chrysler Pacifica ($29,590-$47,150). The other is the three-row Nissan Armada ($43,395-$60,985), which is the only true SUV in the group, built on a truck chassis.

All other entries are classified as crossover SUVs, built like cars with unit bodies. There are four three-row models: luxury Audi Q7 ($55,750-$68,925) and Mercedes-Benz GLS-Class (in GLS450 trim $69,625-$78,550); downsized but more appealing GMC Acadia (in Denali trim $47,485-$52,285), and the luxury wannabe Mazda CX-9 ($34,220-$42,215).

Midsize two-row crossovers include the Chinese built Buick Envision ($34,990-$43,425) and Cadillac XT-5 ($55,385-$67,260).

There are four compact crossovers: the best-selling Honda CR-V (prices not available), with a new turbocharged engine; luxury Infiniti QX30 ($37,945-$43,745), which is based on the Mercedes-Benz GLA; luxury high-performance Jaguar F-Pace ($46,595-$71,435), and the stylish and competitive Kia Sportage ($34,859 in SX AWD trim).

The pickup trucks are a disparate group. The new aluminum Ford Super Duty in F-350 4X4 Crew Cab trim can be outfitted like a luxury car—but with a $77,835 price tag. The Ford F-150 Raptor ($49,520-$66,495) is purpose-built to tackle long-distance off-road races. The new Titan V8 encompasses a lineup of new Nissan trucks that includes the off-road capable Pro-X ($46,215-$52,885). Most unusual is the Honda Ridgeline ($30,375-$43,770), a competitive midsize truck that has car-like qualities.

UPDATE: On November 15 during the Motor Press Guild Breakfast at the Los Angeles Auto Show, NACTOY announced its three finalists in each category for 2017.

The finalists are:

Car of the Year:

  • Chevrolet Bolt
  • Genesis G90
  • Volvo S90

Truck of the Year:

  • Ford F-Series Super Duty
  • Honda Ridgeline
  • Nissan Titan

Utility of the Year:

  • Chrysler Pacifica
  • Jaguar F-Pace
  • Mazda CX-9

Winners will be announced at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit on January 9, 2017.

Los Angeles Auto Show and the Concept Car

by Tod Mesirow

The LA Auto Show is one of those annual events that just feels like the right thing in the right place- and once they moved it to November, the right time as well. A great opportunity to see some old classics thanks to a display organized by the Motor Press Guild, and of course the perfect opportunity to see the newest, latest, and greatest from all the world’s car manufacturers. I went with KCRW’s Steve Chiotakis to experience the show in person.

Hear Tod’s story on KCRW.

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