December 1, 2012 Leave a comment
The first day was packed with so many debuts, previews and hyperbole, it nearly wore me out. The last three posts contained material from the first day. Going back on the second day of press preview, things have calmed down and a few and a few surprises pleased.
Acura: This time there wasn’t much of a crowd around Acura’s new flagship and I understand why. Aside from a few high-tech tricks of the trade, I still can’t see why anyone would pay north of $50,000 for the RLX when the TL (based on the Honda Accord) looks as good, the interior is nearly as luxurious, it offers virtually the same technology and is nearly the same size. When I look at the new RLX, I should see “flaghship” all over. I don’t.
Audi: On day one, all Audis on the floor were in snow white, the color of green, I guess. And the big news was that the bosses in Ingolstadt were allowing Audi US to see more models with the corporate 3.0L V6 TDI engines. On day two, we got red for the racing models and black for the ones you drive to the opera. This lovely 2013 RS5 appeared and it’s just beautiful in person.
And since diesel was the theme of the first day, I happened to catch this fetching 2013 Q5 Hybrid on the floor. It’s Audi’s first gasoline-electric hybrid in the U.S., but it’s not cheap, starting at $51,795. It’s powered by the corporate 2.0L turbo gas engine and a 54 hp 40 kw 3-phase electric motor/generator. Fuel economy is modestly increased to a combined 26 mpg. It’s on sale now.
Fiat: In its relentless march to have an many colors and flavors of the same car as earthly possible, Fiat introduced a 500C Abarth. We already have Charlie Sheen advertising the coupe version of the 500 Abarth, I wonder which celebrity will get to advertise this one? Please, god, not JLo again.
The bigger news, so to speak, was the 2014 500L, an almost exact duplicate of the MINI Countryman. Finally, something that real Americans want: an SUV! I’m also sure that Fiat dealers will be thrilled to get their hands on something, anything that isn’t just another designer edition of the 500 coupe/cabriolet (see above). Fiat doesn’t play coy here either. The company is trying to duplicate MINI’s success in the U.S. The MINI Countryman accounts for more than a third of all MINI sales so far this year and accounts for nearly 100% of the increase in sales since it was introduced. Since Fiat is copying MINI, the 500L was inevitable.
GMC – GM’s luxury truck division didn’t have much to show us either. There were no new models, no concept cars. The best GMC could muster for the show was the addition of the Danali über luxury/styling package (translate: boatloads of profit) for the Acadia and Terrain.
Honda: Honda had some big news at the LA auto Show, but the company waited for the second day to unveil the 2013 Civic. While the news had already been leaked, the fact that it happened is astounding. After less than 18 months on the market, the all-new 2012 Civic was so universally panned that Honda rushed to give it an extensive makeover to the 2013 model.
The front and rear were completely restyled. Interior materials were upgraded and the dash was re-sorted to be more harmonious. Seats were reworked to be more comfortable. One hundred pounds of soundproofing was added and the glass was thickened to help reduce the road noise inside the cabin. All this was done without a hit to fuel economy too. Bluetooth, streaming audio, a USB charging port and a rear view camera are now standard. To top it off, the price only went up $160. The base Civic starts at $18,960.
And Honda isn’t waiting for the compliments to roll in. The refreshed 2013 Civic (Sedan, Coupe, Si and Hybrid variants) is already for sale at your friendly local Honda dealer.
Even though the Civic was hated by critics (its most faithful supporter, Consumer Reports, refused to recommend it), the car-buying public still ate it up. Through October, Honda has sold 254,716 Civics. It easily beats the Ford Focus, Hyundai Elantra, Chevy Cruze and it even beat the Toyota Corolla by more than 10,000 units. I’d be pretty pissed off if I bought a 2012 Civic – the 2013 is that much better. I took the 2013 Civic for a short drive while at the show, and while I still don’t fit well in a Civic (I haven’t in years), I found it to be fun, peppy and much more the car it should be. I can’t imagine sales not being even greater in the years to come.
It may be too early to tell, but this wake-up call to Honda may have helped Honda come in from the blandtastic wilderness and back to it’s “hip” and fun roots.
Jaguar: The press descended on the Jaguar press conference to introduce the new F-Type roadster because, aside from the usual hype for the Porsche Cayman, the F-Type was the rock star of the show. Sleek, slim and thoroughly modern, the F-Type was the physical and spiritual embodiment of the Jaguar brand. On Day 2, after the press was gone, I was able to not only sit inside it but take much better pictures.
Kia: It seems like Kia keeps introducing a new Forte every two years. The Korean Twins, Hyundai and Kia, are relentless in introducing fresh models that are the automotive triple threats: Great, distinctive styling, packed with the latest mechanical and infotainment technologies, at a price and with a warranty that undercuts the competition.
Lincoln: On the first day of press preview, Lincoln showed off its heritage vehicles that I covered in Part 1. Day two represented the future of the Lincoln Brand in the form of the 2013 MKZ. While it wasn’t a world preview, it was the first time the MKZ has been shown in L.A. The 2013 MKZ is the Lincoln version of the Ford Fusion. I think the Fusion looks better and is a much better value. You can get virtually all the advanced tech in Ford’s arsenal on the Fusion for thousands less that the MKZ. The only major difference is that the Lincoln can be ordered with a V6 while only 4-cylinder engines (including turbos) are available on the Ford.
I like almost everything about the MKZ except the grille. That alone would make me go for the Fusion, which has the Aston Martin gaping trapezoidal grille. I’ll add my voice to the chorus of enthusiasts who want Ford to make a proper rear-drive Lincoln flagship. Ford can do it with the new rear-drive platform that will debut on the 50th Anniversary 2015 Ford Mustang in the spring of 2014. Until Lincoln comes up with something else, the MKZ is going to have to carry the brand.
Mazda: Mazda had already showed off it’s terrific new 2014 Mazda6 sedan – with both the SkyActiv gasoline and diesel engines. What showed up on Day Two was a Concept CX-5 made for Actor/Racer Patrick Dempsey. Nice to be good-looking, famous and rich, right? You get free stuff thrown at you. Anway, this is one tricked-out CX-5 and it was irresistible.
Here’s a nice picture of the 2014 Mazda6 with the SkyActiv-G 2.5L turbo engine.
Mercedes-Benz: I almost lost my camera in this super sexy $230,000 2013 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG coupe. I had to take it out of my pocket to sit in the cockpit. Good thing this was press preview and someone turned it into the Mercedes information desk.
MINI: I thought I should include a couple better pictures of the new 2013 MINI Paceman – a rakish 3-door Countryman.
Porsche: In case the Porsche Panamera Turbo was too slow for you, Porsche added yet another range topper – the 2013 Panamera Turbo S. Starting at $175,300 (before freight), the Turbo S is good for 550 hp, zero to 60 in 3.6 seconds and tops out at 190 mph, if you can find a road or a track to go that fast.
Toyota: I covered the RAV4 in Part 3 of my auto show coverage. However, Toyota sneaked in its NS4 Concept. It’s not new, but it hasn’t been seen in LA. It’s supposed to foreshadow future hybrids, including the next-generation Prius.
The 2014 Highlander Hybrid also made an unexpected appearance. It looks very similar to the current Highlander, albeit with some updated styling cues.
I liked the roof rack on this 2013 Toyota 4Runner.
I drove the 2013 RAV4 EV and found it quiet, smooth and very easy to drive. Like all EVs, it’s hard to know it’s even on – watch for the green light on the dash! But with the electric drive, all the torque is available right from the start. It will cruise up to around 85 mpg in “Sport” mode, but that burns electrons fairly quickly. If you need something bigger than a Prius V and can live with the range anxiety of an EV, this may be the small SUV for you.