Posts Tagged ‘SkyActiv’


Have you seen the all-new 2014 Mazda 6? If you haven’t you really should. The new 6’s “Kodo” design language instantly vaults it from a forgotten mid-size family sedan to a flashy alternative to the likes of the ho-hum Big Three from Japan – the Toyota Camry, Honda Accord and Nissan Altima.

The 2014 Mazda 6 in Soul Red (its signature color, according to Mazda).

The 2014 Mazda 6 in Soul Red (its signature color, according to Mazda).

Previously joined at the hip with Ford (Ford owned 1/3 of Mazda), the last-generation Mazda 6 was based on the Ford Fusion. Both were rather unremarkable and, by all accounts, the lucrative mid-size market had passed over Mazda.  In 2012, for every Mazda 6 sold, Toyota sold 12 Camrys and Honda sold 10 Accords.

Introduced for the 2013 model year, the Fusion represented a quantum leap forward in styling for mid-size, mid-price family sedans. This is a 2014 Fusion.

Introduced for the 2013 model year, the Fusion represented a quantum leap forward in styling for mid-size, mid-price family sedans. This is a 2014 Fusion.

Last year, Ford shook up the mid-size family sedan segment with its sensational 2013 Fusion. Sporting an Aston-Martin inspired nose and swoopy 4-door “coupe” styling, the Fusion instantly vaulted Ford into mainstream consciousness. Great styling can sell a car without spending a dollar on marketing.

While the rear of the 6 looks similar to other Japanese sedans, it manages to be distinctive with all those creases and curves.

While the rear of the 6 looks similar to other Japanese sedans, it manages to be distinctive with all those creases and curves.

Together with the new Fusion, the 2014 Mazda 6 represents a new paradigm in what was once the blandest segment of the automotive industry: The mid-size family sedan. The corporate fleet car. The airport rental.

The 2014 Mazda 6 in Blue Reflex

The 2014 Mazda 6 in Blue Reflex

Left to its own devices, without the development dollars or meddling influences of outside managers, Mazda’s engineers cooked up the company’s SkyActiv smorgasbord of technologies to create a complete automotive banquet.

The umbrella term “SKYACTIV” (I hate the all-caps) includes the use of ultra-high tensile steel, lighter and stronger wheels, direct gas injection, high compression, lower-friction materials, i-Eloop (yeah, another loopy name) regenerative braking and the new SkyActiv-Drive 6-speed automatic transmission with faster shifts, lower friction and smarter software.

Mazda's 2.5L SKYACTIV-G engine.

Mazda’s 2.5L SKYACTIV-G engine.

All you really need to know is that it works in perfect harmony.  The new 2.5L 4-cylinder Sky-G direct-injected gas engine makes 184 hp and 185 lb-ft of torque. (It’s also the only engine currently available.) Coupled with the 6-speed SkyDrive automatic, the Mazda 6 is rated at 38 mpg on the highway (26/30/38). If you opt for the Grand Touring model with the Technology Package (that includes i-Eloop regenerative braking), all the fuel economy numbers are pushed up by 2 mpg, which allows the Mazda 6 coveted 40 mpg bragging rights.

The styling is muscular and sleek, like a cheetah waiting to pounce. The designers used some slick tricks to make the hood look longer – like a rear-drive car. The roof slopes in like those far more expensive 4-door coupe models such as the Volkswagen CC or the Mercedes-Benz CLS. The taut metal is creased and molded with evocative purpose under Mazda’s Kodo design theme – which Mazda says loosely translates to “Soul of Motion” to showcase the “graceful movement of nature.” Yeah, I can see eyes rolling now.

If you skip all the designer hyper-babble and just step back and enjoy the view, you know it all works beautifully. This great design starts at $21,000 – proving that mass market, mass segment transportation doesn’t have to a boring appliance.

Mazda only has two choices for the interior: Somber Black or Bright Almond (which looks white) . Something in between like grey or tan/saddle would be nice.

Mazda only has two choices for the interior: Somber Black or Bright Almond (which looks white) . Something in between like grey or tan/saddle would be nice.

The Mazda 6 feels and drives lighter than other mid-size sedans. The new electric power steering was light, but communicative and you could easily toss it into curves and turns. The leather-wrapped steering wheel felt great in my hands.

The chassis seemed tight but flexible. It was able to soak up road imperfections with ease and without fluster. I didn’t feel punished like I do when driving a BMW with its rock-hard run-flat tires.

I don’t love everything about the new 6. I found the engine a bit lacking in low-end torque and it had to be pushed hard to move quickly. A turbo would perk up this excellent engine and I’m sure Mazda engineers are working on one (even if they say they aren’t).

Inside, some of the plastics felt cheap, particularly in the base model. The 5.8” full-color touch-screen infotainment and navigation screen worked well, but felt small compared to the 8” MyFord Touch unit in the Ford Fusion or the 8.4” U-Connect screen in my Dodge Charger.

This is the "Almond" interior. It looks off-white in person and while I like it, I think it would show dirt quickly.

This is the “Almond” interior. It looks off-white in person and while I like it, I think it would show dirt quickly.

There were lots of dead buttons and I hate that. Of course the answer to this problem is to pop for the top-of-the-line Grand Touring (GT) model with all the option boxes ticked. Then there are no dead buttons to remind you that something was missing.

I think that the $30,490 GT with the $2,080 Technology package is a real bargain, considering the raft of cool tech all bundled together. In fact, for many years now, Mazda has led the way in loading expensive luxury technology into affordable mainstream products like its volume-leader Mazda 3.

The list of useful, affordable high-tech features is long and impressive:

  • Dual-zone automatic climate control
  • 19-inch aluminum-alloy wheels with premium finish
  • 8-way power-adjustable driver’s seat with power lumbar adjustment and memory settings
  • 4-way power-adjustable passenger’s seat
  • Dual power side mirrors with integrated turn signal indicators
  • Power windows with driver’s one-touch-down/up feature
  • Tilt and telescopic steering wheel (manual)
  • Steering-wheel-mounted audio and cruise controls
  • Advanced front air bags, front side-impact air bags and side-impact air curtains
  • Dynamic Stability Control (DSC)** & Traction Control System (TCS)
  • Auto-dimming rearview mirror with HomeLink
  • Auto-dimming driver’s side mirror
  • Rear seat heat and A/C vents
  • Blind Spot Monitoring System
  • Rear Cross Traffic Alert
  • Hill launch assist
  • Bluetooth® hands-free phone and audio streaming
  • 5.8″ full-color touch-screen display
  • Back-up camera
  • HD Radio
  • Pandora Internet radio
  • SMS text message audio delivery and reply
  • Power sliding glass moonroof
  • Bi-Xenon headlights with auto on/off
  • LED daytime running lights
  • Auto rain-sensing wipers
  • Steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters
  • Mazda Advanced Keyless Entry with push-button start
  • Navigation system with real-time traffic updates
  • Heated front seats
  • Leather-trimmed seats
  • Bose® Centerpoint® Surround Sound Audio System with 11 speakers (including subwoofer)
  • SiriusXM Satellite Radio with 4-month trial subscription to the Sirius Select Package
  • Smart City Brake Support
  • Advanced Technology Package (Grand Touring trim level) $2,080:
  •      Radar Cruise Control
  •      Forward Obstruction Warning
  •      I-Eloop regenerative braking system with capacitor storage
  •      Lane departure warning
  •      Automatic high beams
  • Remote Engine Start – $575
  • Rear Parking Sensors – $475

There are only a couple of things I’d like to see on this list. Cooled front seats would be nice, particular in warmer climates like we have in Los Angeles. All four windows should be one-touch up/down – it costs nearly pennies.  A thinner smart key would be better for pants pockets.

Do I want it? No, but that’s just me. I’m waiting for a different power plant. Before the end of 2013, Mazda will introduce its first diesel engine in the U.S. market. The all-new SkyActiv-D is reported to be a gem, boasting the world’s lowest-compression ratio. The low compression ratio cuts emissions enough to eliminate the need for expensive exhaust treatments and it meets both European and U.S. standards.

The 2.2 liter engine gets a two-stage turbocharging system with a small turbine that boosts low-end torque while a larger turbo increases high-end horsepower.  It should produce around 173 hp and a whopping 310 lb-ft of torque. The diesel should deliver stellar mpg. Car and Driver reported an estimated highway 43 mpg while Popular Science predicted 56 highway mpg.  With the 6’s 16.4 gallon tank, it could have a hybrid-busting 700+ mile cruising range. That’s what I want!


Mazda: Mazda has struggled to compete against much larger rivals both in Japan, its home market, and in the US, it’s largest market. First, long-time partner and partial owner, Ford, divested its ownership interest in Mazda, ending some platform and engineering sharing agreements. Then the Great Recession hit, draining Mazda of precious resources needed for future product development.

Deep inside Mazda’s R&D facilities in Hiroshima, engineers worked non-stop to develop a new line of engines, transmissions and technologies that would lead the company into a much more cleaner and fuel efficient future.  Although Mazda lacks the hybrid technology of its larger competitors, it came up with a family of new engines and transmissions marketed under the unfortunate banner of “SkyActiv” technology.  The new drivetrains combine direct injection, variable valve timing, turbocharging, reduced friction, and smarter 6-speed transmissions to bring marquee fuel efficiency to its new models.

First up last year was the CX-5 small crossover that competes in one of the hottest market segments dominated by the likes of the Honda CR-V, Ford Escape and Toyota RAV4.  This year, Mazda is introducing the completely redesigned 2014 Mazda6 mid-size family sedan, that finally seems poised to capture consumers’ attention from perennial favorites like the Camry, Accord, Altima, Fusion, Optima and Sonata.  The sexy styling reminds me of Ford’s new Fusion – something that may not be as coincidental since the last-generation Ford Fusion and Mazda6 shared the same platform.

The standard engine for the 2014 Mazda6 will be Mazda’s SkyActiv-G 2.5L 16-valve turbocharged 4-cylinder gasoline engine good for 184 hp and 185 lb-ft of torque. Most will be sold with a six-speed automatic, although a six-speed manual will be available on lower trims. EPA figures haven’t been released  yet, but Mazda expects highway fuel economy to beat 35 mpg.

However, the most important  introduction will be the SkyActiv-D engine, a modern 2.2L 4-cylinder turbo-diesel engine that burns clean enough to need no additional NOx aftertreatments.  This promises the fuel economy of a hybrid without all the expensive batteries and dual electric-gas drivetrains.  Expect to see highway fuel economy better than 40 mpg and a substantial increase in city economy over the gasoline counterpart.

The 2014 Mazda6 with SkyActiv-D technology.  It should be available by mid-2013.

The 2014 Mazda6 with SkyActiv-D technology. It should be available by mid-2013.

The front of the 2014 Mazda6 sedan.

The front of the 2014 Mazda6 sedan.

The rear of the 2014 Mazda6 diesel sedan.

The rear of the 2014 Mazda6 diesel sedan. Mazda calls its new styling language “KODO” – Soul of Motion.

The interior of the 2014 Mazda6.

The interior of the 2014 Mazda6. The plastics look and feel class-leading and the switchgear feels precise and well-made.

 

Mercedes-Benz: The largest single market for Mercedes-Benz worldwide is Southern California (thank you Fletcher-Jones in Newport Beach), so you’d think Mercedes might introduce some important products here. You’d be wrong.  While I very much like the 2014 SLS AMG Black Series, it’s not like this is a volume car. It gets a few upgrades to the “standard” SLS AMG package, but the engine is the same 6.2L hand-built AMG V8 good for 622 hp and 468 lb-ft of torque.  The  AMG Speedshift dual clutch 7-speed sports transmission, is the same but slightly upgraded. For the extra $100,000+, the Black Series gets ceramic-composite brakes, adaptive performance suspension, lighter alloy wheels, special performance tires that wear out even faster than the standard tires. As you’d expect, it’s also the fastest SLS, leaping from a standstill to 60 mph in 3.5 seconds – performance you are sure to need while crawling on the 405 at 8:30 am.

Sure we will see a few of them in LA, but they will be owned by collectors with a dozen other exotic cars in their home garage or by misbehaving  scions of Saudi royalty.  The US price hasn’t been announced, however, in Germany it will be 249,900 euros, or around $322,846 at current exchange rates. Get in line now.

2014 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG Black Series

2014 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG Black Series

That rear wing is a sure giveaway that this 2014 SLS AMG is the Black Series, not the run-of-the-mill SLS Gullwing.

That rear wing is a sure giveaway that this 2014 SLS AMG is the Black Series, not the run-of-the-mill SLS Gullwing.

Mercedes showed one concept truck, the Ener-G-Force Concept Fuel Cell Vehicle. It’s said to foreshadow the styling on an upcoming “baby” G-class SUV, perhaps built on the new A-Class front drive architecture. But this is no baby. It’s quite big – bigger than the tank-like G-wagon (short for Geländewagen or cross-country vehicle) that Mercedes has been producing in substantially the same form since 1979.

The styling is quite flamboyant while fluidly-sculptural. I even like the designer LED headlights in the outline of a “G.”  Overhangs are practically non-existent and this thing looks like it could climb over a Range Rover or through the hills and craters of the moon. The built-in front winch is very slick.  Of course, a fuel-cell drivetrain is unlikely for any production car, at least in the near future, but it does hint at possibilities in the next couple of decades when the costs of fuel cells comes down and you can buy a hydrogen refill at every “gas” station. I have more pictures of this that I will include in another LA Auto Show post.

The Ener-G-Force Concept SUV from Mercedes-Benz.

The Ener-G-Force Concept SUV from Mercedes-Benz.

MINI: BMW’s British unit didn’t have any real news for Los Angeles.  It was the first show for the 2013 Paceman, a 2-door version of the widely-popular Countryman SUV that has been the backbone of MINI in the U.S. since its introduction.

2013 MINI Cooper S Paceman.

2013 MINI Cooper S Paceman.

For some reason, the marketeers at MINI thought they needed some “news” for Los Angeles and cooked up the a variant of the Clubman 3-door wagon called the Clubvan. Essentially it’s a Clubman without the rear seats that can be used as a mini panel van. This is from the Answer to the Question That No One Asked department.

2013 Mini Cooper S Clubvan.

2013 Mini Cooper S Clubvan.

Nissan: Not much new from our friends at Nissan. The 2013 Altima was introduced and went on sale months ago.  I’m not a fan of the evolution of the exterior; however, I was impressed with the look, feel, materials and quality of the interior. Now I just need to be motivated to test drive one.  Nissan insists on using continuously-variable transmissions (CVTs) and I’d much prefer a 6-speed automatic in this kind of car.  I think Altima’s interior is excellent – better than the new Accord, but the Honda name will sell more units.

2013 Nissan Altima

2013 Nissan Altima

2013 Nissan Altima interior.

2013 Nissan Altima interior.

Nissan completely redesigned the 2013 Pathfinder too. No longer is it a bulky truck, made for off-road duties but civilized enough for the more likely on-road family-hauling. The all-new Pathfinder – which shares almost everything with its more expensive cousin, the Infiniti JX – is a 7-passenger crossover with car-based rather than truck-based credentials.  This is the Pathfinder’s first major auto show, but, like the Altima, it was introduced a couple of months ago and is already on-sale at your local dealer.

2013 Nissan Pathfinder - front

2013 Nissan Pathfinder – front

2013 Nissan Pathfinder - Side. She's a big girl. Good thing you can get a "Bird's-Eye" camera system that shows you the outside from all angles.

2013 Nissan Pathfinder – Side. She’s a big girl. Good thing you can get a “Bird’s-Eye” camera system that shows you the outside from all angles.  It reminds me of the Chevy Traverse, which has been in the market for almost 5 years now.

The 2013 Nissan Pathfinder shares much in common with other Nissan products. There are lots of buttons here, but all seem logical and easy to grab.

The 2013 Nissan Pathfinder shares much in common with other Nissan products. There are lots of buttons here, but all seem logical and easy to grab. I’m never a fan of plastic-looking wood.

Nissan’s big reveal was an updated GT-R sports car. You’d be hard pressed to tell the difference between this 2014 model and the 2013 model.

2014 Nissan GT-R rear.

2014 Nissan GT-R rear. It’s still Godzilla in a suit. And still over $100,000.

2014 Nissan GT-R interior. Still nice. Still six digits.

2014 Nissan GT-R interior. The carbon fiber (yes, it’s real) is a nice touch for the GT-R.

Porsche: Although pictures had been leaked ahead of the LA Auto Show, the big news was the 2013 Porsche Cayman. The Cayman, the hardtop version of the Boxster, always appears several months after the introduction of a new Boxster, so it wasn’t as much of a surprise as it was just a treat to see in person. The Cayman starts at $52,600. The Cayman S starts at $63,800. Unfortunately, like every Porsche, you have to add at least $20,000 of options to make it the car you’d like it to be. Porsche can teach a doctorate level class in nickle and diming.

2013 Porsche Cayman

2013 Porsche Cayman

2013 Porsche Cayman.

2013 Porsche Cayman. Like the Boxster, the rear spoiler is integrated with the taillights and center stop light. The lines flow beautifully.

The interior of the 2013 Cayman is nearly identical to the Boxster - which is a good thing.

The interior of the 2013 Cayman is nearly identical to the Boxster – which is a good thing. This Cayman had the 6-speed manual shifter but the upgraded 2-tone leather interior and Porsche’s excellent navigation system.

The side scoops that are accentuated with the deep creases in Cayman's door sheet metal, is how the engine breathes.

The side scoops that are accentuated with the deep creases in Cayman’s door sheet metal, is how the engine breathes.

This screaming yellow Porsche is the Cayman S. It also took center stage with the “base” Cayman above. The engines and transmissions are identical to those found in the Boxster and Boxster S.

That big lump in the back of the 2013 Cayman S is the engine cover. Like the Boxster, the Cayman has a mid-mount engine which makes it the best handling Porsche. Just don't say that to the Germans at the show as they will always tell you that the 911 is the best. All the car magazines say otherwise.

That big lump in the back of the 2013 Cayman S is the engine cover. Like the Boxster, the Cayman has a mid-mount engine which makes it the best handling Porsche. Just don’t say that to the Germans at the show as they will always tell you that the 911 is the best. All the car magazines say otherwise.

You could call it the Convertible Cayman or just the Boxster.  I love this 2013 Boxster S this special silver color.

You could call it the Convertible Cayman or just the Boxster. I love this 2013 Boxster S in this special GT Silver Metallic color.

There was no sticker on this 2013 Boxster S; however with the PDK transmission, navigation, power seats, full leather, etc., there is probably another $25,000 in options added to the base $60,900.

There was no sticker on this 2013 Boxster S; however with the PDK transmission, navigation, power seats, full leather, etc., there is probably another $25,000 in options added to the base $60,900.

Another previously announced Porsche is the Cayenne Diesel, which starts at $55,750 (a relative bargain in the Porsche Universe). Power comes from a Porsche-tuned version of the VW Group’s 3.0-liter V6 turbo-diesel engine with a common-rail injection system. Its turbocharger features Variable Turbine Geometry (VTG). The EPA has rated the Cayenne Diesel at 20 mpg city, 29 mpg highway. That sure beats the Cayenne S with a V8 rated at 16 city, 22 highway.

Except for the diesel badge, the 2013 Cayenne Diesel looks almost exactly like the Cayenne V6.

Except for the small diesel badges on the front side fenders, the 2013 Cayenne Diesel looks almost exactly like the Cayenne V6.

2013 Cayenne Diesel

2013 Cayenne Diesel

Also making its North American debut is the 911 Carrera4, 4s and Cabriolet variants.

2013 Porsche 911 Carrera 4S Cabriolet

2013 Porsche 911 Carrera 4S Cabriolet

Except for a special torque split gauge, in the instrument panel, the interior of the 911 Carrera 4S is the same as the "regular" 911 Carrera.

Except for a special torque split gauge, in the instrument panel, the interior of the 911 Carrera 4S is the same as the “regular” 911 Carrera.

Range Rover:  Now that Land Rover has made Range Rover its own sub-brand,  the name Land Rover was almost non-existent at Press Preview. All emphasis was on the 2013 Range Rover which is trickling into dealerships as the LA Auto Show opens.

2013 Range Rover HSE

2013 Range Rover HSE

The split clam-shell that makes for a good picnic table hasn't changed for the new Rangy.  This black one is the top-of-the-line Range Rover Supercharged Autobiography.

The split clam-shell that makes for a good picnic table hasn’t changed for the new Rangy. This black one is the top-of-the-line Range Rover Supercharged Autobiography.

The instrument panel and dash of the 2013 Range Rover Supercharged Autobiography

The instrument panel and dash of the 2013 Range Rover Supercharged Autobiography. I don’t like the “magic” cylinder that rises out of the console to shift between Drive, Reverse and Park. It’s clumsy in practice and more gimmicky than useful.

The oddities of the last Range Rover have carried over to the new one. The memory seat buttons are on the arm rest where the window switches should be.

The oddities of the last Range Rover have carried over to the new one. The memory seat buttons are on the arm rest where the window switches should be.

The Range Rover's window switches are on top of the window sill, in a very awkward position. I know it's "tradition" but this one needs to be thrown out.

The Range Rover’s window switches are on top of the window sill, in a very awkward position. I know it’s “tradition” but this one needs to be thrown out.

Smart: The diminutive smart fortwo hasn’t been updated much since its introduction 3 years ago. Colors and options change and Mercedes says it’s updated the horrible automated manual transmission, but it still jerks around with little finesse.

The big news for the LA Auto Show was the 2013 fortwo ED (electric drive). Apparently there were so many bad reviews of the 2012 (and first) version of the car that the whole electric drive system has been revised and the battery range has been extended to around 68 miles. The coupe version starts at $25,750 (before the $7,500 federal tax credit) Smart also offers a 240 volt home charger for $1,300.

2013 smart fortwo ED (electric drive) coupe. Base price $25,750.

2013 smart fortwo ED (electric drive) cabriolet. Base price $28,750 (before federal tax credit).

The smart ED bicycle is a fantastic design. The reps told me that it will be sold in the U.S., but there is no specific launch date. It will be expensive, probably in the $3,500 range.

The smart ED bicycle is a fantastic design. The reps told me that it will be sold in the U.S., but there is no specific launch date. It will be expensive, probably in the $3,500 range.

Just for fun, smart showed a Jeremy Scott designed Special Edition of the fortwo. You won’t miss this one coming at you.

smart fortwo Jeremy Scott Concept

smart fortwo Jeremy Scott Special Edition. I think this thing is actually a driver that is used to promote both the smart brand and the Los Angeles-based designer.

Check out this interior of the smart fortwo Jeremy Scott Special Edition. No expense was spared here.

Check out this interior of the smart fortwo Jeremy Scott Special Edition. No expense was spared here.

Subaru:  I keep hoping that Subaru will find its way in the design and styling department, but each time a new model rolls out, I’m disappointed.  The media dutifully attended Subaru’s introduction of the 2014 Forester, but there wasn’t much buzz or hurried Tweets of the homely model that was unveiled this week.  The Forester is basically a tall Impreza wagon

2014 Subaru Forester - Front. Is it that different from the current model?

2014 Subaru Forester – Front. Is it that different from the current model?

Here's the 2014 Subaru Forester from the rear. Again, no new ground broken here.  I think that Subaru likes the formula for the Forester and is going to stick with it as long as customers keep buying it.

Here’s the 2014 Subaru Forester from the rear. Again, no new ground broken here. I think that Subaru likes the formula for the Forester and is going to stick with it as long as customers keep buying it.

The interior of the 2014 Subaru Forester is mostly lifted from the Impreza. The infotainment system is easy to use, but lags behind the competition.

The interior of the 2014 Subaru Forester is mostly lifted from the Impreza. The infotainment system is easy to use, but lags behind the competition.

Toyota:  When Toyota introduced the RAV4 in 1996, it was the first small SUV based on a car (the Corolla) platform. The small crossover segment is red hot. The Honda Civic, Ford Escape and RAV4 each sell more than 200,000 units a year. A few generations later and well over a million units sold, Toyota rolled out the 2013 RAV4 for its world premiere at the LA Auto Show.  The simple fact of the matter is that Toyota had to keep up with the competition. Ford has a new Escape that is selling very well. Honda redesigned its CR-V a year ago and it too is burning up the sales charts. As of September 2012, Honda had sold 100,000 more CR-Vs than the RAV4. The new little SUV aims to reverse that trend.

2013 Toyota RAV4 SUV. The looks are fresh, if not exciting.

2013 Toyota RAV4 SUV. The looks are fresh, if not exciting.

2013 Toyota RAV4 side-rear. Note that the spare tire has moved from the rear door to under the cargo floor. The rear tailgate is now hinged at the top like the competition.

2013 Toyota RAV4 side-rear. Note that the spare tire has moved from the rear door to under the cargo floor. The rear tailgate is now hinged at the top like the competition.

The 2013 RAV4's interior looks and feels upgraded. While there is still lots of cheap plastic, soft-touch and textured panels populate the areas you see/touch the most.

The 2013 RAV4’s interior looks and feels upgraded. While there is still lots of cheap plastic, soft-touch and textured panels populate the areas you see/touch the most.

The RAV4's dash has many horizontal layers that I think work. The center controls are easy to reach and mix both hard knobs and buttons with some functions on the touch screen.

The RAV4’s dash has many horizontal layers that I think work. The center controls are easy to reach and mix both hard knobs and buttons with some functions on the touch screen.

Volkswagen: VW finally introduced the convertible version of the Beetle. It will be on sale just in time for convertible season in sunny states like California. All the engine options are the same as on the Beetle – 2.5L 5-cylinder, 2.0L Turbo and 2.0L TDI. The top faithfully recreates almost the exact silhouette of the hardtop Beetle and it lays nearly flat; however you still have to cover it yourself with a piece of snap-in vinyl. Prices start at $24,495.

2013 VW Beetle Convertible. This one has the 2.0L turbo gasoline engine.

2013 VW Beetle Convertible. This one has the 2.0L turbo gasoline engine.

The 2013 VW Beetle Convertible has better rear visibility than the last version. However, the top still doesn't lay perfectly flat.

The 2013 VW Beetle Convertible has better rear visibility than the last version. However, the top still doesn’t lay perfectly flat.

The interior of the 2013 VW Beetle Convertible is pretty much the same a the hardtop version. The color-matching interior parts is a nice touch.

The interior of the 2013 VW Beetle Convertible is pretty much the same a the hardtop version. The color-matching interior parts is a nice touch.

VW also showed its first gasoline-electric hybrid car, the 2013 Jetta Hybrid. It starts at $24,995.  VW mates a 1.4L turbocharged and direct-injected TSI gasoline engine to an electric motor. The combination is good for 170 hp and 184 lb-ft of torque.   A 7-speed dual clutch transmission is standard. VW says the 2013 Jetta Hybrid will drive up to 44 mph in EV mode, zero to 60 in 9 seconds flat and deliver a combined 45 mpg.  It should be arriving in VW showrooms now.

2013 Jetta Hybrid

2013 Jetta Hybrid SEL Premium

The interior of the 2014 Jetta Hybrid looks like a nicely upgraded Jetta - much closer to the Jetta GLI. I hope it gets better fuel economy that the company's TDI models.

The interior of the 2013 Jetta Hybrid SEL Premium looks very nice. It should for around $32,000. At least you can get automatic climate control in this Jetta!

Volvo: Poor Volvo. Ever since Ford dumped Volvo to the Chinese, Volvo North America has been starved for new product. The best the company could muster at the show was a custom-built Concept S60 with Polestar performance upgrades. It has a 2.0L inline 6 cylinder turbo engine making an astounding 508 hp with a close-ratio 6-speed manual transmission. Power is routed to all wheels through a 4th generation Haldex XWD system. It can race from zero to 60 in 3.7 seconds and the top speed is 186 mph. The cost is said to be around $300,000.  Volvo is testing interest in a  performance version of the S60, but it would have to be much less than $300k to get me interested.

This is the Volvo S60 Polestar Concept Car. Would you buy one?

This is the Volvo S60 Polestar Concept Car. Would you buy one?

Volvo Concept S60 Polestar from the rear.

Volvo Concept S60 Polestar from the rear.