Posts Tagged ‘A8’


The 2012 Los Angeles Auto Show opened today with a slew of introductions. I’ll try and go through as many as I can with some color commentary:

Art Center College of Design always has some excellent concepts that the automotive design students present.  This Hybrid Sports Bicycle (HSB) caught my eye. The concept design and body fabrication was done by Tomas Bubilek and the chassis design and fabrication was done by Michael R. Bowser.

Concept Hybrid Sports Bicycle presented by Art Center College of Design students.

I also liked this Mazda concept 3-D mock up:

Mazda Design Concept

Acura: Honda’s luxury brand has a lot of work to do to regain sales that its lost over the past decade by not focusing on a brand image and just phoning in the cars and going a little off the range with the famous Acura Beak aluminum grille.  Acura introduced a new flagship, the 2014 RLX. No, it’s not rear drive, and in some ways it seems like a face lifted all-wheel drive RL, but it does look better. I’m simply not impressed. Maybe it drives well.

2014 Acura RLX – Front. I do like the all-LED headlights.

Rear taillight detail for the 2014 Acura RLX. I like the light show in the rear too, if not the overall look of the tail.

The interior of the 2014 Acura RLX, the brand’s flagship.

Audi: Audi really had nothing new to show the world at the LA show, so instead we were graced with the announcement that Audi would sell the A6, A7, A8 and Q5 with a 3.0L V6 TDI engine. The clean diesel power plant will likely sell well given the significant increase in fuel economy over the gasoline analogs.  This lovely A8L TDI should get 24 mpg city and 36 highway — stunning numbers given the heft of Audi’s flagship.  The diesel engine is rated at 240 hp and 406 lb-ft of torque and powers all four wheels through an 8-speed ZF automatic.  Audi says it will do 0-60 in 6.4 seconds.

The 2014 Audi A8L TDI

This A8 had the rear seat package that makes for a very comfortable passenger. Check out the controls for the passenger!

The driver of this 2014 Audi A8L TDI is in the lap of luxury. Audi still sets the bar high for luxury interiors.

Bentley: If you want something a bit more rarefied than an Audi, the Volkswagen Group owns Bentley too. Not much new for LA, but we got another iteration of the company’s Continental GT. This is the “Speed” version with Bentley’s 6.0L twin turbo W12 engine making 616 ponies with 590 lb-ft of gut-wrenching torque to go from zero to 60 in 4 seconds flat and top out at 212 mpg. It’s at least $225,000.

2013 Bentley Continental GT Speed.

If you have a bit more money to burn, Bentley also showed the 2013 Mulsanne. It’s sort of the old school Bentley using a thoroughly updated 6.7L V8 making a healthy 505 hp and a stunning 752 lb-ft of torque. It is all channeled thorough the ZF 8-speed automatic used in several other VW Group products.  You get the feeling of a locomotive when you’re behind the wheel because the Mulsanne weights in at 5,700 lbs. Yikes! But if you can afford the $296,000 (before options), who cares?

2013 Bentley Mulsanne. Check out those Gatling Gun headlights!

You may not mind being stuck in LA traffic if you are sitting behind this wheel. Beautiful real wood and top quality switchgear.

BMW: Our friends from Munich showed off the latest iteration of their upcoming i3 electric car. The i3 Concept Coupe is really just the standard i3 less two doors and some length. Still, it looks nice. I’d love to know what the final production version will look like when it shows up sometime in 2014.

BMW i3 Concept Coupe, front.

BMW i3 Concept Coupe side, from the rear.

If you’re not as interested in the i3, BMW dragged out the i8 Concept that was last seen a year ago in Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol. So just to tease you again, here are some pictures. It won’t look quite this amazing and flamboyant when it finally shows up for sale, sometime after the i3 goes on sale.

BMW i8 Concept Hybrid.

The i8 Concept Hybrid certainly has the futuristic interior to match the great exterior.

How about a BMW you can actually buy? This 2013 Gran Coupe is certainly a looker, particular in this expensive matte finish:

This lovely 2013 BMW 650i Gran Coupe starts at $87,395. The Frozen Bronze Metallic paint is a $3,500 option.

The Gran Coupe has one of BMW’s most sumptuous and well-crafted interiors. You won’t (and shouldn’t) find any cheap plastics inside here.

BMW likes to show off expensive cars, and this auto show is no different. How about the M6 and M5 in the background? If six digit prices offend you, avert your eyes.

The price of the 2013 BMW M6 starts with a six digit number.

Buick: It was kind of lonely at the Buick booth. I mean, LA is not very friendly to Buick. There aren’t many Buick dealers and the brand hasn’t sold well here in decades.  GM’s wants its near-luxury marque to appeal to a budget-minded Lexus customer.  That’s a tough hill to climb, given the years of neglect and the 25 years Lexus has been honing its luxury credentials.

However, to entice younger buyers, Buick is introducing a small crossover called the Encore.  Opel sells a version of it called the Mokka in Europe and, like the Mokka,  the Encore is imported from GM’s South Korean subsidiary.

2013 Buick Encore

2013 Buick Encore – from the rear.

The interior of the Encore is nice, but built to a price. I mean, this is a car in the $20,000 range, so you can’t expect top quality plastics. GM did go to great lengths to make the colors pleasing and the dash is distinct, if not a stand-out.

Space isn’t bad for a little CUV. I’m not sure if a young family with no kids and a dog will want this of if empty-nest retired baby boomers will go for it. Time will tell.

Cadillac: Another GM division that’s got fresh product is Cadillac.  The all-important, all-new rear-drive ATS was introduced earlier this year to much fanfare and pretty good reviews. The ATS’ stated target is the BMW 328i and it’s the first time Cadillac has real skin in this game.  While the press is slobbering all over the ATS, I’m not impressed by the interior. The plastics feel cheap, the wood looks fake (even if it is real) and the shiny digital center console with the “Cadillac User Experience” (CUE) featured prominently only looks good when it’s turned on and the sun isn’t shining on it.  The hepatic touch-control feedback is overrated and feels clumsy. Certainly not something I’d like to futz with while driving. Maybe I’ll enjoy the driving experience.

2013 Cadillac ATS

The cockpit of the 2013 Cadillac ATS with CUE. This one looks better without the wood inserts.

The rear seat of the ATS isn’t any worse than the BMW 328i or the Mercedes-Benz C-Class.

Chevrolet: Not to be left out, GM’s mainstream division, Chevrolet, has new product too. First, the “big deal” is the 2014 Impala. It’s basically the Chevy version of the Buick LaCrosse and Cadillac XTS. It’s big and it looks it. No more rental fleet for this Impala, right? Time will tell.

The 2014 Chevy Impala. Big. New. But I just don’t care, sorry, guys.

Chevy picked LA to show off its new 2014 Spark EV.  The Spark is the smallest car Chevy’s ever sold. It’s a product of GM South Korea (a.k.a. Daewoo). It’s better than the Aveo, but still a bit too rental for me. The EV is a big deal because California requires all the major manufacturers to sell zero emissions vehicles by a certain date. I think the first two markets for the Spark EV will be California and Florida. What it has going for it is price. It’s cheap, as far as EVs go – below $25,000 after a federal tax credit.  The electric motor is good for 120 hp and a whopping 400 lb-ft of torque. The Spark EV is quick too – GM says zero to 60 is 8 seconds.  But the big news is the fast charging system. The Combo DC Fast-Charge system promises to deliver an 80% charge in just 20 minutes.  We haven’t seen range figures yet, but the magic target is usually 100 miles per charge.

2014 Chevrolet Spark EV

The 20 kWh lithium-ion battery pack adds a whopping 560 lbs to the Spark. But that weight on the floor should make for a great low center of gravity and add to stability.

The 2014 Spark EV is a bit spartan, but interior parts painted in the exterior color ads some visual interest. It’s not bad for the price point, but there are lots of hard plastics.

This 2013 Corvette ZR-1 is always a crowd-pleaser with its striking good looks, carbon fiber bits and a 6.2L LS9 V8 supercharged engine producing 638 hp and 604 lb-ft of torque. It can go from zero to 60 in 3.4 seconds and its top speed is 205 mph. Take that, Viper! A bargain at a base MSRP of $112,600.

2013 Corvette (C6) ZR-1 from its sexy rear.

The front end of the 2013 Corvette ZR-1. Next year, the all-new C7 (7th Gen) Corvette will be introduced to the world.

Prepare to yawn.  Here is the 2013 Malibu. It should be a contender in the large mid-size family sedan segment, doing battle with the likes of the Honda Accord, Toyota Camry, Nissan Altima, Ford Fusion and Hyundai Sonata; however, I think the Malibu will continue to find its place in the rental fleets.

Here it is: The all-new 2013 Chevy Malibu.

The best viewing angle for the 2013 ‘Bu is definitely from its rear.

It’s the best interior of any Malibu in the past 40 years, but that might be damning with faint praise.

Chevy recycled some concept cars too. Both the Code 130R and Tru 140S appeared nearly a year ago at the 2012 North American International Auto Show in Detroit last January. Nice to see them in the flesh, but they are old news. What remains to be seen is if GM will do anything with these concepts. Of particular interst is the small rear-drive platform for the Code 130R.

Chevy Code 130R Concept. Love the paint.

Chevy Tru 140S Concept

More to follow…..


It’s about time the Germans and Japanese had some competition at the top end of the luxury food chain.  There’s a chunk of prime red meat out there and finally, a big English cat has pounced and claimed its rightful share.

The 2011 Jaguar XJ L in Liquid Silver at the Pacific Design Center

Jaguar is no longer a mismanaged unit of the ill-fated British Leyland conglomerate or a starved luxury brand in Ford’s portfolio. The Jaguar Land Rover Group is owned by Tata Motors of India, whose controlling shareholder, billionaire Ratan Tata, is an avowed car guy with a keen sense of Jaguar’s heritage and its rightful place in the global automotive world. Under Tata’s stewardship, the Jaguar brand has a renewed sense of pride and passion and that shines in its new products.

For the 2010 model year, Jaguar’s design team, led by superstar design boss Ian Callum, graced the world with the stunning, all-new, XJ.  The avant-garde, futuristic design features a coupé-like roof line that blends seamlessly into the trunk. It really looks like a lithe, muscular jaguar leaping on its prey.

The Jag's stunning roofline is sexy from any angle. It belongs in front of the Pacific Design Center.

I picked up my gorgeous Liquid Silver XJ L at the West Hollywood location of Hornburg Jaguar Land Rover on the Sunset Strip, across the street from Hamburger Hamlet #1 and next to the fantastic newly-refreshed Luckman Building.

When you first sit in the car, you are in awe of the lavish use of flawless cow hides. A small army of seamstresses must have toiled endlessly to French-stitch practically every surface in leather.

The attention to detail is first rate.

The interior feels like the cabin of an expensive yacht. Elegant wood veneer sweeps the forward cabin and graces the rear doors and picnic tables. The headliner is upholstered in sumptuous, premium Suedecloth (similar to Alcantara).  Piano black plastic, plated aluminum and chrome accents surround the air vents, center console and arm rest controls. Phosphor-blue LED “halo” lights illuminate all the controls. Fit and finish is first class.

The 2011 Jag XJ's center console and steering wheel. Even the AC vents are covered in leather.

When you start the car, you realize that there are no dedicated analog or digital instruments. In place of the normal gauge cluster is a 12.3” thin film transistor (TFT)  liquid crystal display (LCD) that mimics the expected analog gauges (speedometer, tachometer, fuel, engine temperature, etc.).

Behind the wonderful steering wheel is the TFT screen. Before start up, it displays the Jag logo.

The center dash is dominated by a large, 8” full-color touch-screen that controls the entertainment, navigation, telephone and seat functions. Hold on, seat functions? Yes, in addition to the standard 20-way power three-person memory seats for the front seats, both front and rear seats are heated and cooled. And if that’s not enough, the front seats have back massage functions. All these standard luxury functions are controlled through the center multimedia touch screen. Heaven on Earth.

The analog clock is a jewel-like old-school touch above the very modern infotainment screen.

The XJ L’s standard four-zone automatic climate control system can be operated either by (1) the touch screen (2) the redundant “old school” controls on the dash, or (3) by voice command. The heated leather sports steering wheel (again, standard) is activated by a steering wheel-mounted switch.

The Xenon headlights got the obligatory LED eyeliner treatment, but it’s the  vertical taillights, with cat scratch-like strakes rendered in blood-red LEDs, that define the XJ’s design .  Heads turn when this car prowls the streets. It exudes a sense of graceful, modern luxury.

Note the verticle strakes illuminated in LEDs.

The taillights reach up to the black glass roof.

The list of standard features goes on: automatic headlights, rain sensing wipers, garage door opener, keyless entry and ignition, power trunk lid,  and a 600 watt infotainment system that includes hard drive navigation and music storage, stereo Bluetooth 2.0, iPod/iPhone direct connect outlets, HD and Sirius Satellite radio all with voice control. Amazing.

The spacious trunk has a small opening, but it's deep. It opens and closes with the touch of a button on a remote or on the trunk lid.

The only major option packages are the Bowers & Wilkins 1200 watt, 20 speaker, 15 channel sound system with Dolby Pro-Logic IIx ($2,300), a Visibility Package with Adaptive front headlamps and Intelligent High Beam, an Adaptive Cruise Control Package ($2,300) and Rear Seat Entertainment ($2,200).

While the body and interior are complete departures from the past, the aluminum space frame and greasy bits, including the drivetrain, are heavily reworked versions of the former XJ. Behind the new shiny interior veneer are controls and mechanical systems that are a mixture of old and new.

The new XJ is longer, wider, sleeker and sexier than ever.  The US market  gets six variants:  The XJ (standard 119.4 inch wheel base) and the  XJ L (long wheel-base with an extra 5 inches) are the base platforms and both come standard with Jag’s 5.0 liter naturally-aspirated, direct-injected V8 with a generous 385 hp and 380 lb-feet of torque.  Customers can opt for the Supercharged or the (special order only) Supersport package on either wheelbase. Both upgrades feature an Eaton supercharger that pumps up the standard 5.0 liter V8 to either 470 hp/424 lb-ft torque or 510 hp/461 lb-ft.

The 5.0 liter naturally-aspirated, direct-injected Jaguar V8 produces gobs of creamy torque.

A smooth, quiet, six-speed automatic with Jaguar Sequential Shift and steering wheel paddles is the only transmission on all models.  All variants are rear-drive only.  The ultra-cool JaguarDrive selector, a beautiful chrome knob that rises from the center console the moment you press the standard keyless ignition button, is easy to use and a delight to see. It never gets old.

There is no all-wheel drive option – at least not yet. That’s unusual because all its competitors, the Mercedes S-Class, the Audi A8, the BMW 7-series, the Porsche Panamera and the Lexus LS all offer awd as an option or standard equipment.  Jaguar leaves the inclement weather traction issues to the vast array of standard electronic stability and traction control nannies.

The basic XJ chassis is primed for more than just the luxurious, satin ride that you expect in a Jaguar.  It’s well-sorted and you feel in control in any driving condition. The (relatively) lightweight XJ L rockets from zero to 60 mph in only 5.4 seconds. Freeway passing is effortless.  When I slammed on the anti-lock brakes (no one was around), there was little nose dive and no fuss, just massive stopping power.

However, not all is perfect. I have a long list of nit picks and annoyances with the Jag. I thought there was too much interior bling – the chrome and piano black surfaces reflected in my eyes and I thought they looked almost like a Buick, save for the higher quality.  The rear windows didn’t roll all the way down. Then again, when you have four-zone climate control, who’s rolling the windows down?  Speaking of climate control, I think my tester had a flaw. I had to set the zones at 65 degrees in order to get the proper cooling level. I should be able to set it at 70 and forget it.

Rear seat climate control is set to 65 to cool the cabin down. It was only around 90 degrees in Palm Springs that day.

The only option on my car was a pricey ($3,500) set of 20 inch Orona Alloy wheels and performance, low-profile Dunlops. The base XJ chassis is already sport tuned, and the combination wheel/tire package made the standard (rear only) air suspension dance rather than float over bumps and increased road noise (although the interior is still very quiet by comparison to most cars).

The optional 19" wheels and low-profile Dunlop sport tires look great but detract from the luxury ride of the XJ L.

I found the simulated gauges to be gimmicky and a bit drab.  I wished for a digital compass in the rear view mirror. And while the navigation system worked well enough, I wanted to kill the electronic lawyers.

The touch screen wasn’t as responsive as I’m used to. In the age of the Apple iPhone and iPad, the graphic user interface (GUI) seemed unresponsive and slow. That’s an easy upgrade on future models.

Rear and side visibility was a problem; but you kind of get used to it over time. The steeply-raked (but insanely-stylish) black glass roof creates narrow side and rear windows with large blind spots, particularly when you’re backing up.  The helpful standard backup camera display flashes yellow and red trajectory lines, while frantically-beeping front and rear bumper-mounted ultra-sonic sensors warn of impending disaster. Danger, Will Robinson, danger! Where’s the volume control?

The steeply-raked rear window limits visibility; however, the back up camera and front and rear sensors make up for that.

In stark contrast, the always-on standard blind spot cameras with orange indicator icons embedded in the side mirrors were the model of quiet simplicity.  They simply flashed the visible warning icons without so much as a peep.

The key fob is like a bright, shiny ostrich egg designed to be soffited in a Hermès purse, not in a pants pocket. This should be a priority and easy fix on future model years.

The key is pretty, but it's much too big. It needs to go on a starvation diet pronto.

Fuel economy may not be a concern for people paying $80,000 or more for a car, but I was surprised at how well the muscular kitty sipped fuel.  On the highway, the trip computer told me I averaged 22 mpg, and in town,15 mpg – exactly what’s the EPA predicted.  It’s the first time I’ve ever got what the EPA estimated – highly unusual given my lead foot.  Over 300 miles, two-thirds on the highway, I averaged 17 mpg.  I may not have driven the posted speed limits.

So who is the target customer for this new-born Jag? In the past, the out-dated big Jags appealed mostly to affluent older women and elderly couples. Jag didn’t want to ditch its traditional, valuable customer base, but it needed a rebirth to appeal to a broader demographic in order to survive.

In this business, the ultimate product differentiator is design. There’s no question that the XJ’s design is as unique as it is beautiful. It’s inspirational and aspirational – a rare duo in the automotive universe. The Museum of Modern Art should put one in its permanent collection.

There is no bad angle for the Jaguar XJ

The leaping Jaguar hood ornament is gone. The chrome wire mesh grille with the Jaguar badge is better.

The magic of the new design is that it appeals to all ages and genders.  Dress it in Ebony black with a Jet black interior and it becomes a testosterone-dripping panther.  Opt for the softer Vapour Grey metallic with the Ivory and Truffle interior and it is befitting of the Ladies that Lunch set.  In a more neutral color like my Liquid Silver tester, either sex would feel comfortable behind the wheel.

The new XJ is a statement of style and sensibilities. It’s English. Who else puts wood veneer and chrome picnic tables on the back of the front seats for the lucky rear occupants?  Yeah, they’re mostly useless, but you expect them in a top-drawer Jaguar.

Chrome and wood veneer picnic tables are a signature design element for the big Jaguars.

At $79,700 ($83,200 with the wheels), the generous standard kit of the Jag XJ L makes it thousands less than similarly-equipped competitors.  If you’re choosing solely on style, look no further than the XJ. However, if you look deeper, I think the XJ lacks the gravitas, and depth of engineering of something like the Mercedes S550.

There is one last thing that may sway your opinion. Jaguar’s new “Platinum Coverage” factory warranty offers best-in-class coverage.  The new vehicle limited warranty is for 5 years or 50,000 miles (a year longer than the competition) and customers get complimentary scheduled maintenance, no-cost replacement of wear and tear items, and 24/7 roadside assistance.

The XJ is a deeply-personal expression of high style. For a growing number of people (sales are thirty times higher than last year), the new Jag is just the English ticket out of the German austerity.

A head-on shot of the 2011 Jaguar XJ L at the Pacific Design Center.

The Jag in front of the Ship House in Palm Springs.

The back seat compartment on the XJ L has an additional 5 inches of leg room. It's a nice place to spend time.

The Jag looks gigantic compared to the small Pontiac Solstice in the driveway of this modern home in Palm Springs.

Long, low and flat. Just like the house.

Perfectly centered.

This house was for sale, so we parked the Jag in the driveway and it looked at home.

Tow a travel trailer with your $80,000 Jaguar? It could happen.

Rear seat passengers are treated to lighted vanity mirrors.

The Liquid Silver XJ L looks at home in front of this aluminum-sided home.