Highlights and Trends from the 2017 Los Angeles Auto Show
There was a lot to see and do this week at the 2017 Los Angeles Auto Show, aka “Automobility 2017”. Between the 27 debuts, reveals, launches, or announcements since Tuesday, we saw dozens of new and exciting vehicles scattered across the Los Angeles Convention Center from nearly every manufacturer you can think of, as well as a few you probably haven’t heard of before!
Hybrids, EVs, and Autonomous Cars
The first big trend of the LA Auto Show was hybrids and electric vehicles. Although that may sound a bit drab, we wouldn’t complain too much about driving things like the new Volkswagen I.D. Buzz EV concept, in addition to the I.D. Hatchback and I.D. Crozz crossover. These EV concepts all ditch traditional steering wheels and seating arrangements in favor of autonomy and passenger comfort. The Buzz is definitely our favorite of the bunch, perfectly blending old-school vibes with new-school design, plus, we love the little floating gnome on the dash.
Although it was announced over the summer, Nissan brought their newly redesigned Leaf EV to LA. The fresh styling better integrates with the rest of Nissan’s car design language, and although handsome, the Leaf does lose some of its quirky identity in the transformation from ugly duckling to full-grown duck. With significantly more power and torque on hand, the second-generation Leaf now boasts nearly double the range of the original model and roughly 40% more than the latest update to the outgoing version of the Leaf. The Leaf also receives some nice driving aids in the form of ProPilot that is an advanced version of adaptive cruise control that offers semi-autonomous driving and can also help with parking. And despite all the new features and technology, Nissan managed to drop the price $690 compared to the old model, to just under $30,000.
On the other end of the spectrum, Mercedes-AMG had the US debut of the new Project One hypercar. Utilizing a hybrid drivetrain that combines the 1.6-liter V6 from the Mercedes-Petronas F1 car with a layer of batteries to power the KERS (kinetic energy recovery system), the Project One delivers north of 1,000 hp while revving up to 11,000 RPM. Meanwhile, numerous electric motors will do everything from spooling the turbo to powering the wheels, providing up to 15 miles of fully-electric driving range. Instead of autonomy, the Project One is meant to be driven, mostly around a race track although Mercedes has ensured that the car is also street legal. Although only 50 of the 275 Project Ones being built will be coming to the US, the entire production run has already been spoken for, despite the multi-million dollar price tag.
Jaguar also brought out a one-make racecar version of their new I-Pace electric hatchback concept. Decked out with wild graphics and stripes on the bright turquoise paint, the I-Pace looked properly racy with its aggressive carbon fiber splitters, diffusers, and wing. Given the technology behind the I-Pace has largely been borrowed from Jaguar’s efforts in Formula E, it’s likely that this one-make series full of I-Paces racing around the track will be a blast to watch. Meanwhile, the “standard” I-Pace concept car was looking sharp and close to being production ready. Land Rover also had a few plug-in hybrids of their Range Rover line on display, which should offer extended range and fuel economy while maintaining the typical standards of quality and luxury that customers are used to.
Perhaps one of our favorite EV vehicles at the show was the Bollinger B1. Although the general shape is more similar to a few appliance boxes taped together, the first ride from fledgling Bollinger Motors is a Land-Rover-Defender-esque offroad SUV offers unique packaging with multiple body configurations, creative storage, and cargo-carrying solutions, and about 200 miles of range. With 360 hp and 472 lb-ft of torque on tap being sent to all four wheels, the electric motors send 100-percent of the torque to the wheels from zero RPM, making it exceptionally good in tricky off-road situations. The B1 also offers 15″ of ground clearance and 10″ of suspension travel. It should handle better than your average off-road vehicle too, given its 50/50 weight distribution and low center of gravity. Most interesting however is how the vehicle is designed to carry long, skinny payloads, such a 2×4’s with pass-through front and rear tailgates, with a completely open area in between the seats to maximize carrying capacity. This is one of those vehicles that just has tons of interesting things going for it but will, unfortunately, be so rare as to never actually see one in use.
Crossovers of all sizes and shapes
At each of the major auto shows we attend, we notice more and more crossovers popping up. The LA Auto Show was no different with a number of new crossovers that will likely generate huge sales numbers for the brands they represent. First and foremost, the new Subaru Ascent made a big splash as the biggest vehicle in Subaru’s history. With 7 seats and 19 cupholders, the Ascent has tons of room for people, dogs, drinks, and life in general. With a new 2.4-liter turbocharged Boxer engine delivering 260 hp through a CVT transmission, the Ascent shouldn’t have any problems getting around. Interior materials seem upgraded compared to other Subaru models, but that’s to be expected with prices starting in the low-$30,000s. The new family-oriented model adds plenty of new technology such as Android Auto and Apple CarPlay in addition to an integrated 4G LTE WiFi hotspot and plenty of USB ports. Even Subaru’s clever EyeSight safety system has been updated with a new heads-up display. We’re excited for deliveries to start in early 2018 and it’s sure to add to the success that Subaru has been seeing in recent years.
We also saw two compact crossovers from Nissan and Hyundai, with the Kicks and the Kona, respectively. The new Nissan Kicks will replace the controversial but popular Juke with a more traditionally-styled crossover, although we’re not sure what the plural of “Kicks” will be. Kickses? Kickssssss? No idea… But there’s plenty of tech inside with things like Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, and although the small crossover should be pretty easy to maneuver on its own, Nissan included their Around View Monitor system to help get it into tight spaces. Stay tuned for deliveries to start in a bevy of wild colors in Spring 2018.
But while Nissan went conventional with the Kicks, Hyundai channeled their inner wackiness into the new Kona. The styling is best described as aggressively quirky and to be honest, we like it. It looks funky, rugged, and fun and we hope it drives like it looks. The Kona comes standard with a 147-hp, naturally aspirated, 2.0-liter inline four while a 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder is also available with 175 hp being sent through Hyundai’s dual-clutch automatic.
Moving upscale, Lincoln Motor Company debuted two new crossovers in LA: the refreshed 2019 MKC and the new replacement for the MKX, the 2019 Nautilus. Both cars come standard with a 245-hp, 2.0-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder but the MKC is available with a 285-hp, 2.3-liter four-cylinder shared with the Mustang and Focus RS, while the larger Nautilus gets a bigger still 2.7-liter, turbocharged six-cylinder delivering a healthy 335 hp. Both models are also available as part of Lincoln’s Black Label series which offers upgraded interior and exterior finishes, as well as additional luxury features.
The Sports Car Arms Race
The other trend we picked up on that was in full-force at this year’s LA Auto Show is the horsepower and lap times war being waged between a number of manufacturers right now. We already talked about the Mercedes-AMG Project One that will likely be the untouchable, track record-breaking machine, but other interesting contenders include the new 700-hp Porsche GT2 RS and the 755-hp Corvette ZR1. Chevy was also showing off the 650-hp Camaro ZL1 1LE while Ford brought no less than three of its new Ford GTs on display amongst a host of high-powered NASCAR stock cars. Aston Martin also had the new 507-hp Vantage on display in the wild Lime Essence paint. Porsche unveiled two highly capable new sports cars in the 718 Boxster and Cayman GTS models that debuted here, as well as our first glimpse of the new GT3 Touring model which ditches the traditional wing for a more street-friendly setup.
Although you’d be hard-pressed to call it a sports car, Jaguar also showed off the XE SVO Project 8 super sedan that recently just claimed the quickest lap time around the Nurburgring for a production sedan, clocking just 7:21. With less weight and more power (592 hp in total), the sexy Jag will eclipse the 200 MPH barrier as well. Unfortunately, production will be limited to just 300 cars worldwide, so outside of a show like this one, you’re unlikely to see one on the road.
Additionally, Maserati has updated nearly their entire lineup with a redesigned GranTurismo, and both GranSport and GranLusso trims for the Ghibli and Quattroporte. The end result is the most modern and cohesive lineup the brand has ever had.
Design that matters
After years of bad retro designs (PT Cruiser or HHR, anyone?) it’s nice to see a return to form across the industry with lots of brands putting out elegant designs. This is perhaps most apparent at Mazda where the new Mazda6 looks elegant and beautifully proportioned. Inside, the cockpit layout is as classy as it is functional, with minimal buttons or switches to clutter up the dash. Under the hood, the 2.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder from the CX-9 makes an appearance, producing 250 hp.
Mazda also displayed what could easily take the cake as the most beautiful concept car of the show with the Vision Concept. The sleek, fluid four-door coupe shows the future of Mazda’s design language and if upcoming Mazdas truly share this styling, the future looks bright, indeed! There are even rumors that the Vision Concept will bring back the rotary engine!
Mercedes-Benz also debuted its new four-door coupe, the 2019 CLS. A mix of sleek body lines with angular, aggressive headlights and taillights, the new CLS shows the next generation of modern Mercedes-Benz design language. Perhaps most excitingly, we’re looking forward to the brand’s new 362-hp twin-turbo straight-6 engine that debuts in the CLS along with a powerful 48-volt battery that supports mild hybrid boosting to increase fuel economy.
Audi also took a new take on their classic A8 sedan with an all-new model for 2018. As expected, it’s packed with tech, both inside and out, including level 3 autonomous driving capabilities that will allow it to cruise along in traffic while the driver reads the newspaper. Design elements like the new full-width tail lights that span from corner to corner also look great, even if they do break from usual Audi traditions.
The new Audi RS5 also looks the part, with big, bulging fenders that nod to the powerful twin-turbo 2.9-liter V6 under the hood producing 450-hp. It’s a surprisingly subtle car, to be honest, but it’s as handsome as it is fast with a 0-60 MPH time of under 4 seconds and a top speed of 174 MPH.
In addition to the debut of the all-new Kicks, Nissan also showed off a bunch of their best-selling vehicles that highlight their partnership with Star Wars. Each Nissan was built to resemble a different vehicle from the Star Wars universe and they were scattered throughout the LA Convention Center. With wings, droids, blasters, and hologram projectors, it was quite the sight to see!