Archive for December, 2012

Goldilocks would like the 2013 BMW X1

Posted: December 20, 2012 in BMW
Tags: ,

In just a few months, BMW’s diminutive 2013 X1 SAV (sports activity vehicle, in BMW-speak), is gaining in popularity despite a minimal amount of advertising and promotion. Why? Easy! It’s the right size, right price and right fuel economy in a very popular and growing category of vehicle – the compact crossover. It’s a winner on paper as well as from the driver’s seat.

The 2013 BMW X1 is the smallest Sports Activity Vehicle (X) in the line up.  If you want a smaller crossover, you have to buy the MINI Countryman. Stick with the X1.

The 2013 BMW X1 is the smallest Sports Activity Vehicle (X) in the line up. If you want a smaller crossover, you have to buy the MINI Countryman. Stick with the X1.

While the X1 is new to the US market (sales began in August), it’s been on-sale in Europe since 2009. It was supposed to be here 18 months ago, but BMW didn’t want it competing with the launch of the 2nd generation X3. There’s much more profit in the US-built X3 than the German-built X1.

The X1 is based on the last-generation BMW 3-series wagon and it’s made in the same factory with other 3-series derivatives in Leipzig, Germany. It’s also the only X vehicle not assembled in BMW’s sprawling Spartanburg, South Carolina facility.

The front of the 2013 BMW X1 xDrive28i is distinctively BMW. The badging is a mouthful.

The front of the 2013 BMW X1 xDrive28i is distinctively BMW. The badging is a mouthful.

Available in “sDrive” (standard, rear-wheel drive) or “xDrive” (BMW’s intelligent all-wheel drive system), the X1 is the least expensive BMW offered in the States, starting at $31,545 (including a $895 destination and handling charge).

If you see it by itself, it doesn’t look that small, but park it next to the X3 or X5, and the size difference is significant. It’s smaller than an Honda CR-V. It’s also only a couple inches taller than the 328i sedan, but in the minds of SUV-crazy Americans, the X1 still qualifies as an SUV, not a dreaded and much-maligned station wagon. That status alone should guarantee sales to exceed the 3er wagon when it arrives next year.

The X1 is just tall enough to qualify as an SUV. The rear kick plate is supposed to establish off-road creds; but it's more style than substance. The X1 is, at best, good for soft roads, plowed mountain roads, bad weather, etc.

The X1 is just tall enough to qualify as an SUV. The rear kick plate is supposed to establish off-road creds; but it’s more style than substance. The X1 is, at best, good for soft roads, plowed mountain roads, bad weather, etc.

The compact size continues inside. However, there is plenty of leg, head and shoulder room for front seat occupants and my tall frame fit easily. The cabin is very-well built and has a tailored look, like a fine Italian suit. The colors blend well, the plastics and other materials are of high quality. Once you get below the normal sight lines, you can see and feel the cost cutting. Frankly, I like the X1’s interior better than the 328i sedan. One major ding is that the cup holders are all too small and awkwardly placed. The Germans hate cup holders.

Occupants are tucked neatly in the the X1.

Occupants are tucked neatly in the the X1. The Fineline Bay Matte Wood trim – pictured above – looks quite nice (and real) when you see it.

These cup holders are small by American standards and they are located by your elbow, not exactly in a convenient location.

These cup holders are small by American standards and they are located by your elbow, not exactly in a convenient location.

More detail of the dash in the X1. I like it better than the all-new 2012 328i sedan.

More detail of the dash in the X1. I like it better than the all-new 2012 328i sedan. The colors, textures and flowing lines work very well, in my opinion.

The cargo space is also limited – 25 cubic feet with the seats up, 56 with them down. But the standard 40-20-40 split flat-folding rear seats allows for a very versatile interior. There is some flat storage space under the rear cargo floor as there is no spare. Rear seat leg room is tight, as you’d expect in a small vehicle.

This is the cargo area of the X1 xDrive35i with the seats folded down.  There is plenty of space for most small families , couples or singles.

This is the cargo area of the X1 xDrive35i with the seats folded down. There is plenty of space for most small families , couples or singles.

I drove the X1 xDrive28i. The powertrain is the now-familiar N20 2.0L direct inject, dual-turbo 4-cylinder engine making 241 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque mated to the telepathic ZF 8-speed automatic found in almost all BMW vehicles. The X1 is a little slower to 60 mph than the sedan primarily due to the extra 400+ pounds. Motor Trend pegs it at 6.4 seconds.

BMW's four cylinder 2.0L direct-inject dual turbo engine in the X1

BMW’s four cylinder 2.0L direct-inject dual turbo engine in the X1

The X1’s powertrain had no hint of turbo lag and whether crawling in heavy traffic or punching hard to get on the freeway, there seemed to be sufficient power. For those who want a completely different experience, the X1 also is available with BMW’s outstanding 3.0L dual-turbo inline six making 300 hp and 300 lb-ft of torque. The X1 xDrive35i starts at $39,345, a healthy $7,800 premium over the base X1. I doubt BMW will sell many of them as the base 2.0L engine is terrific and delivers 25% better fuel economy. Plus, if you have that kind of money, you’ll probably get an X3.

The back seats are nicely detailed, but a bit flat and legroom is tight.  Only a child would fit comfortably in the middle seat.

The back seats are nicely detailed, but a bit flat and legroom is tight. Only a child would fit comfortably in the middle seat.

The steering was light and sporty, not lethargic and the 4-wheel anti-lock disc brakes felt firm and linear. The turning radius was tight too – a distinct advantage over some front-drive competitors.

BMW wants to show the versatility of the X1. You can cram a lot of stuff in the back and with xDrive, you can navigate the sand of a beach.

BMW wants to show the versatility of the X1. You can cram a lot of stuff in the back and with xDrive, you can navigate the sand of a beach.

I found the X1 to be an excellent, manageable size – terrific for urban areas where parking can be tight. Visibility was pretty good too. The ride height may not please all SUV drivers as it doesn’t provide the prestigious leather throne experience of a larger, taller vehicle like a Range Rover.

The X1 is a slightly taller 3-series wagon. It's the right size for a very large number of customers.

The X1 is a slightly taller 3-series wagon. It’s the right size for a very large number of customers.

Fuel economy is quite respectable for this class of car. The xDrive28i model I drove is rated at 22 city, 33 highway, 26 combined. That’s only a 2 mpg penalty over the 28 mpg for the rear-drive sDrive28i. In fact, compared to the Honda CR-V 2.4L, the Ford Escape 2.0L Ecoboost, the Acura RDX 3.5L V6 and the Mercedes-Benz GLK 350 3.5L V6, the X1 bests all of them, whether in 2- or all-wheel drive configuration.

A comparison of similar-sized compact SUVs from the FuelEconomy.gov website.

A comparison of similar-sized compact SUVs from the FuelEconomy.gov website.

I found all the controls on the X1 intuitive and familiar, perhaps because I’ve owned two BMWs in the past. The iDrive infotainment navigation system is better than ever, with some short cut buttons now surrounding the mouse-like controller knob in the center console. I found the menus easy to navigate, but with my long arms, I had to crunch my hand backward to work controller knob. Most people won’t have a problem with this and you can get used to it.

The cabin of the X1 looks a bit tight, but there is plenty of front seat room and all controls are easily accessible.

The cabin of the X1 looks a bit tight, but there is plenty of front seat room and all controls are easily accessible.

One of my biggest complaints about all BMWs is the wholesale use of run-flat tires that are extremely stiff and unforgiving over rough surfaces, particularly with the sports suspension. Your spine is punished for wanting to enjoy the Ultimate Driving Experience.

This problem seemed muted in the X1 I drove. First, the all-season tires are slightly more forgiving and run-flat technology has progressed. Second, of the four X1 model lines – X1 sDrive28i, X Line, Sport Line and M Sport Line – only the latter adds the sports suspension, performance run-flat tires and sports power seats for an extra $3,000. I have a feeling that the M Sport Line model would renew my complaints about ride quality and comfort and I doubt many budget-conscious X1 buyers really care about the sports suspension.

For my money, I’d opt for the Sports Line model which, for $1,900, buys you BMW’s excellent sports seats with 8-way power adjustments for both the driver and passenger. The driver’s side gets a 3-person memory function (including side mirrors) and a nicer set of 18” wheels for the all-season tires.

As with all BMWs, the list of optional equipment is long, and many things that you’d think should be standard are optional. For example, BMW wants $120 for the small satin chrome steering wheel paddle-shifters. You have to pay $895 to upgrade to the excellent Harman Kardon sound system and another $350 for satellite radio with a 1 year subscription.

BMW's electronic shifter - found in most new BMWs - is easy to use once you get used to it. Note the third swing-out cup holder for either the passenger or driver. It's right in the way of the passenger's knee. It's beautifully-engineered, but not terribly sturdy.

BMW’s electronic shifter – found in most new BMWs – is easy to use once you get used to it. Note the third swing-out cup holder for either the passenger or driver. It’s right in the way of the passenger’s knee. It’s beautifully-engineered, but not terribly sturdy.

The Premium Package is almost a must, regardless of the model line you choose. It adds luxury amenities you’d expect in any premium car: Universal garage door opener, digital compass, auto-dimming mirrors, leather seats with power adjustment and memory and a panoramic sunroof. Depending on the model, that can run you a whopping $3,950. The $2,500 Technology Package adds a voice-controlled navigation. That’s painful, but that’s BMW.

The rear badge of the X1.

The rear badge of the X1.

A rear view camera should be standard on any luxury SUV – it’s standard on the 2012 Honda Civic – but BMW makes you buy a $950 Driver Assistant Package which includes park distance control. Oh, but in order to select that package, you are required to opt for the pricey $2,500 Technology Package. The head aches.

The aluminum satin roof rails are a $250 option. They do look nice.

The aluminum satin roof rails are a $250 option. They do look nice. The panoramic moonroof, part of the pricey Premium Package, gives the cabin an airy and open feel.

It’s important to note that all BMWs come with BMW Ultimate Service which covers all scheduled maintenance and routine wear items (except tires) for the 4 year/50,000 warranty period. I can’t emphasize what a powerful sales tool this is for BMW as it hooks in new and returning customers.

I think that as inventories build up, and awareness of the the X1 grows, it will become a very popular vehicle for BMW. It’s close in size to the Honda CR-V and Ford Escape – both of which sell over 200,000 units a year. If the X1 can capture a fraction of that market, it will be an unqualified success. And as Goldilocks would say, it’s “just right.”


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.

2014 Acura RLX with its blazing LED headlights.

2014 Acura RLX with its blazing LED headlights.

 

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.

2013 Audi RS5 starts at $70,000.

2013 Audi RS5 starts at $70,000.

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.

The 2014 Audi Q5 Hybrid. The badge on the back is one of the only ways to distinguish the regular Q5 from this Hybrid.

The 2013 Audi Q5 Hybrid. The badge on the back is one of the only ways to distinguish the regular Q5 from this Hybrid.

 

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.

2013 Fiat 500C Abarth

2013 Fiat 500C Abarth

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.

2014 Fiat 500L. From almost any angle, it reminds you of the Countryman.

2014 Fiat 500L. From almost any angle, it reminds you of the Countryman.

The 500L still has the face of a 500, but definitely bulked up. It's not so small any longer!

The 500L still has the face of a 500, but definitely bulked up. It’s not so small any longer!

The rear of the 2014 500L shows that it has big cargo aspirations.

The rear of the 2014 500L shows that it has big cargo aspirations. That’s a pretty big badge, huh? With a butt this big, I don’t know if the badging had to match the size.

The interior of the 500L is one large pile of cheap plastic. It doesn't look bad, but then you start to touch it and tap it and  you can feel and hear how cheap it is. Pricing hasn't yet been announced, but you can be sure it will be close to the Countryman.

The interior of the 500L is one large pile of cheap plastic. It doesn’t look bad, but then you start to touch it and tap it, you can feel and hear how cheap it is. That doesn’t bode well for road noise either – a problem that plagues the MINI. Pricing hasn’t yet been announced, but you can be sure it will be close to the Countryman.

 

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.

The 2013 Acadia has been updated with a better interior and some styling changes as have the other GM Lambda-based SUVS, the Chevy Traverse and Buick Enclave. The addition of the Denali trim level to the Acadia adds to the sticker price as well as GMC profits.

The 2013 Acadia has been updated with a better interior and some styling changes as have the other GM Lambda-based SUVs, the Chevy Traverse and Buick Enclave. The addition of the Denali trim level to the Acadia adds to the sticker price as well as GMC’s profits.

2013 Terrain Denali. I know someone must buy these, but it wasn't attracting much press attention at the show.

2013 Terrain Denali. I know someone must buy these, but it wasn’t attracting much press attention at the show.

 

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.

The 2013 Honda Civic is on the right. It certainly has more detail and personality than the 2012 model. It more resembles the new Accord.

The 2013 Honda Civic is on the right. It certainly has more detail and personality than the 2012 model. It more resembles the new Accord.

The taillights of the 2013 Civic, on the right, have been extended into the trunk. There is more chrome too. Again, it no longer looks like a 10 year old Camry, it looks more like the 2013 Accord, which is a good thing.

The taillights of the 2013 Civic, on the right, have been extended into the trunk. There is more chrome too. Again, it no longer looks like a 10 year old Camry, it looks more like the 2013 Accord, which is a good thing.

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.

Lighting wasn't great, but this was the 2013 Civic Sedan on display at the show.

Lighting wasn’t great, but this was the 2013 Civic Sedan on display at the show.

The 2013 redesign of the Civic puts Honda squarely back in the game with the very hot competition.

The 2013 redesign of the Civic puts Honda squarely back in the game with the very hot competition.

Even the color schemes have changed in the 2013 Honda Civic.

Even the interior color schemes have changed in the 2013 Honda Civic.

The 2013 Honda Civic Si gets a blacked-out grille for a more sporty look.

The 2013 Honda Civic Si gets a blacked-out grille for a more sporty look.

 

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.

The blue Jaguar 2014 F-Type S has the supercharged 3.0L V6 making 380 hp / 339 lb-ft torque.

The blue Jaguar 2014 F-Type S has the supercharged 3.0L V6 making 380 hp / 339 lb-ft torque.

2014 Jaguar F-Type S

2014 Jaguar F-Type S

Center console of the 2014 Jaguar F-Type S. The shifter is very BMW and it uses the same ZF 8-speed automatic as the BMW. All good things.

Center console of the 2014 Jaguar F-Type S. The shifter is very BMW and it uses the same ZF 8-speed automatic as the BMW. All good things.

The cabin of the 2014 Jaguar F-Type S is beautifully-crafted and the switchgear is substantial and jewel-like.

The cabin of the 2014 Jaguar F-Type S is beautifully-crafted and the switchgear is substantial and jewel-like.

The very orange 2014 Jaguar F-Type V8S has a supercharged 5.0L V8 making 495 hp / 460 lb-ft torque. And damn, it looks GREAT in orange.

The very orange 2014 Jaguar F-Type V8S has a supercharged 5.0L V8 making 495 hp / 460 lb-ft torque. And damn, it looks GREAT in orange.

There is no bad angle for the Jag F-Type.

There is no bad angle for the Jag F-Type.

The slim taillights and integrated spoiler of the Jaguar F-Type are sublime.

The slim taillights and integrated spoiler of the Jaguar F-Type are sublime.

 

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.

2014 Kia Forte Sedan

2014 Kia Forte Sedan

The 2014 Kia Forte loses some of its "German" looks in favor of some Asian flavor. However, I still prefer its looks over the Hyundai Elantra (and I like the Elantra).

The 2014 Kia Forte loses some of its “German” looks in favor of some Asian flavor. However, I still prefer its looks over the Hyundai Elantra (and I like the Elantra).

Check out the detail on the 2014 Forte. The quarter glass is often blacked out with plastic with the side mirror attached. Kia went with the mirror mounted on the door (like some expensive German cars) and used glass instead of cheap plastic. Nice touch.

Check out the detail on the 2014 Forte. The quarter glass is often blacked out with plastic with the side mirror attached. Kia went with the mirror mounted on the door (like some expensive German cars) and used glass instead of cheap plastic. Nice touch.

The interior of the 2014 Kia Forte looks well sorted. While the plastics are cheap, textured and soft-touch surfaces imbue a richer, more upscale feeling. The center console has lost some of its angle towards the driver, but a bit still remains.

The interior of the 2014 Forte Koup is nearly identical to the 5-door and sedan.

The interior of the 2014 Forte Koup is nearly identical to the 5-door and sedan. This model lacks the navigation system, but the contrasting stitching on the steering wheel and seats is a nice touch.

I like the taillight styling better on the 2014 Forte Koup.

I like the taillight styling better on the 2014 Forte Koup.

Always nice to know that Kia hasn't abandoned the 5-door hatchback format.

Always nice to know that Kia hasn’t abandoned the 5-door hatchback format.

 

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.

2013 Lincoln MKZ

2013 Lincoln MKZ. This loaded model was $46,750 and the price can go over $50,000 easily.

The rear of the 2013 MKZ is decidedly better than the front and you can see some Lincoln heritage in the taillights that run the full width of the rear.

The rear of the 2013 MKZ is decidedly better than the front and you can see some Lincoln heritage in the taillights that run the full width of the rear.

The interior of the Lincoln MKZ looks a bit too similar to the Ford Fusion except for one major change. The center console shifter is gone and the transmission is operated by electronic push-buttons on the upper left portion of the center dash. I'd rather have the floor shifter.

The interior of the Lincoln MKZ looks a bit too similar to the Ford Fusion except for one major change. The center console shifter is gone and the transmission is operated by electronic push-buttons on the upper left portion of the center dash. I’d rather have the floor shifter.

Ford thinks that this optional panoramic sliding glass roof will be a popular defining feature of the MKZ. Except you can get a similar one on the Ford Fusion. It is slick and the black glass is a great contrast with the silver paint.

Ford thinks that this optional panoramic sliding glass roof will be a popular defining feature of the MKZ. Except you can get a similar one on the Ford Fusion. It is slick and the black glass is a great contrast with the silver paint.

Here’s something that I haven’t seen in a long time. A rear fender-mounted antenna. Apparently with the sliding glass roof, Ford couldn’t find a way to integrate a decent quality AM/FM antenna into the windows or the roof. You can see the small black pod which is the satellite radio antenna on the lower center of the rear window.

 

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.

A 2013 Mazda CX-5 custom built for Patrick Dempsey.

A 2013 Mazda CX-5 custom built for Patrick Dempsey.

Nice custom bike rack for Mr. Dempsey's 2013 CX-5.

Nice custom bike rack for Mr. Dempsey’s 2013 CX-5.

Here’s a nice picture of the 2014 Mazda6 with the SkyActiv-G 2.5L turbo engine.

2014 Mazda6 SkyActiv-G

2014 Mazda6 SkyActiv-G

I can't resist another picture of the 2014 Mazda6 SkyActiv-D. It's a diesel and it's really coming to the US market!

I can’t resist another picture of the 2014 Mazda6 SkyActiv-D. It’s a diesel and it’s really coming to the US market!

Here's a closer look at the SkyActiv-D badge on this 2014 Mazda6.

Here’s a closer look at the SkyActiv-D badge on this 2014 Mazda6.

 

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.

2013 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG Coupe. Ah, those fantastic Gullwing doors!

2013 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG Coupe. Ah, those fantastic Gullwing doors!


MINI: I thought I should include a couple better pictures of the new 2013 MINI Paceman – a rakish 3-door Countryman.

MINI's 2013 Paceman does cut a nice silhouette and it has all the cargo space of its 4-door brother.

MINI’s 2013 Cooper S Paceman does cut a nice silhouette and it has all the cargo space of its 4-door brother.

The interior of the 2013 Paceman is typical MINI Countryman.

The interior of the 2013 Paceman is typical MINI Countryman.

The 2013 Paceman is distinctly a MINI. Fiat envy's the image that BMW's MINI division was able to cultivate worldwide.

The 2013 Paceman is distinctly a MINI. Fiat envies the image that BMW’s MINI division was able to cultivate worldwide.

 

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.

The cabin of the 2013 Panamera Turbo S is of very high quality, as it should be.

The cabin of the 2013 Panamera Turbo S is of very high quality, as it should be.

The behind of the 2013 Panamera Turbo S is still a too bulbous, but it does make for good rear headroom.

The behind of the 2013 Panamera Turbo S is still a too bulbous, but it does make for good rear headroom.

These are the seat and HVAC controls for the back seat passenger in the Panamera Turbo S. First class accommodations for four only.

These are the seat and HVAC controls for the back seat passenger in the Panamera Turbo S. First class accommodations for four only.

 

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 Toyota NS4 Concept

The Toyota NS4 Concept

The 2014 Highlander Hybrid also made an unexpected appearance.  It looks very similar to the current Highlander, albeit with some updated styling cues.

The 2014 Toyota Highlander Hybrid.

The 2014 Toyota Highlander Hybrid.

The interior of the 2014 Highlander Hybrid looks upgraded and comfortable.

I liked the roof rack on this 2013 Toyota 4Runner.

2013 Toyota 4-Runner. I applaud Toyota for keeping the 4-runner with a roll-down rear window. There aren't many of those left. Most SUVs have fixed glass, and a couple have pop-up windows, but the roll-down is best.

2013 Toyota 4-Runner. I applaud Toyota for keeping the 4-runner with a roll-down rear window. There aren’t many of those left. Most SUVs have fixed glass, and a couple have pop-up windows, but the roll-down is best.

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.

Toyota - 2013 RAV4 EV Front Left

The 2013 RAV4 EV. It’s goes for $50,000 before the federal tax credit. The batteries are by Tesla. It has a range in excess of 100 miles.