Posts Tagged ‘Audi’


Sometimes prayers are answered. The rest of the world has had the pleasure of powerful, clean and ultra-efficient diesel engines for decades. The Germans, masters of diesel technology, steadfastly refused to bring diesel power to the U.S. market because they don’t think that we will buy them.

School_Bus_diesel_ExhaustThey do have a point. I mean, ask the average American driver about diesel and they conjure up images of billowing clouds of black, noxious smoke, belching trucks and busses and the dreaded diesel chatter. Even people not alive during the 1970s or 1980s have a visceral negative reaction to diesel, probably a byproduct of their parents’ prejudices or maybe from getting stuck behind a diesel school bus on a two lane road with no passing possibilities. Roll up the windows and press the recirculation button.

But the whole diesel question kind of goes back to the chicken and the egg paradox. We aren’t going to buy diesel-powered cars if they aren’t available, right? And what do we make of the fact that, for many years, Volkswagen dealers have been quietly selling out of every TDI (VW-speak for turbo-charged direct injection diesel technology) model they can get in inventory?  Conclusion: There is a small, but growing market for diesel power and efficiency.

VW EA288 2.0L TDI engine

VW EA288 2.0L TDI engine

The fact is that diesel power never left the truck market. Diesel is still the engine of choice for heavy-duty pickup trucks that need lots of low-end torque for towing and carrying heavy cargo. Almost all big rigs are still diesel-powered.

For most of the 1980s, 1990s an early 2000s, gasoline was so cheap in the U.S. that manufacturers didn’t see the need to offer efficient diesel models. Diesel engines are more expensive to manufacture and are heavier than their gasoline counterparts.  Pollution control regulations also killed diesel offerings as most couldn’t meet California’s emission standards and without sales in California, it didn’t make economic sense to federalize a diesel engine.

And then there was the dirty diesel fuel itself. It wasn’t until 2007 that the U.S. implemented ultra-low sulfur (15 ppm) diesel fuel, a necessary step before European diesel engines could function properly.

The cleaner diesel set the stage for a renaissance of European (mostly German) diesel-powered cars to return to the U.S. and to meet ever-increasing federal and California emissions standards. In California (and the states that follow California emissions laws), a diesel-powered car must meet the same standards as a gasoline-powered car.

Up until 2013, if you wanted a 4-cylinder turbo-diesel powered-car, you had to buy a front-drive Volkswagen (the Audi A3 TDI was discontinued in 2013).

2015 Volkswagen Golf TDI

2015 Volkswagen Golf TDI

To help boost corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) rating, the Germans have chosen V6 diesel power for their larger, heavier SUVs such as the Mercedes-Benz ML350  and GL350 BlueTec, the BMW X5 xDrive35d, VW Touareg TDI, the Audi Q7 TDI and the Porsche Cayenne Diesel.  However, the seemingly-obvious application of a high-mpg 4-cylinder diesel for volume models like the Audi A4, BMW 3-series and Mercedes C-Class was inexplicably absent.

2014 Mercedes-Benz ML350 BlueTEC has a 3.0L V6 twin turbo diesel engine making

2014 Mercedes-Benz ML350 BlueTEC has a 3.0L V6 twin turbo diesel engine delivers 240 hp and a massive 455 lb-ft of torque and is EPA rated at 20/23/28 mpg.

That’s all finally changing for the 2014 model year.

Over the summer, Mercedes-Benz introduced a 2.1L 4-cylider twin-turbo diesel engine in the 2014 GLK250 BlueTEC and now, the same engine is in the 2014 E250 BlueTEC sedan, which went on sale last month. I’ve driven the GLK250 BT and loved it, so I have no doubt that the same engine, making 195 hp and a whopping 396 lb-ft of torque, will be fully-capable in the new E250 BT. Both models use Mercedes’ excellent 7-speed automatic transmission with adaptive logic.

2014 Mercedes-Benz E250 BlueTEC

2014 Mercedes-Benz E250 BlueTEC

But what should turn heads is the EPA numbers for the rear-drive 2014 Mercedes E250 BlueTEC sedan: 28 mpg city, 45 mpg highway, 34 mpg combined. That’s right, this 4,200 pound sedan offers fuel economy better than most hybrids, and if you drive mostly highway miles, you will likely do better than 45 mpg.  Mercedes also priced the diesel E-Class as its entry-level model, $500 less than the $52,825 E350 V6 which tops out at 30 mpg and sucks down premium fuel, which is often the same price as diesel.

Not to be outdone – finally some competition – BMW introduced its first 4-cylinder diesel engine in the US market in the 2014 3-Series. The 328d sedan enlists a brilliant 2.0L turbo-diesel engine making 180 hp and 280 lb-ft of torque. A ZF 8-speed automatic is standard.  The 328d is EPA rated at 32/37/45. That’s far better than 328i which is rated at 23/27/35. The 328d, starting at $39,525, is $1,300 more than the 328i. However, if you drive around 12,000 miles a year, you could easily recoup the diesel premium in three years.

BMW 2.0L Dual Turbo diesel engine.

BMW 2.0L Dual Turbo diesel engine.

2014 BMW 328d Sedan

2014 BMW 328d Sedan

It’s a mystery why anyone would buy BMW’s ActiveHybrid 3, which uses a hybrid gasoline-electric powertrain, when it gets only 33 mpg highway and starts at $50,825, a whopping $11,300 more than the 328d. Oh wait, I forgot. No one is buying the ActiveHybrid 3 and dealers can’t give them away – what few actually exist.

More German luxury diesel competition is either here today or coming soon. Audi already sells 3.0L V6 TDI variants of the A6, A7, A8, Q5 and Q7.  In 2014, we should see an Audi A4 2.0LTDI (probably a 2015 model).  In addition, Audi has hinted at gracing our market with a 2.0L TDI version of the lovely A4 Allroad wagon.

2014 Audi A6 TDI

2014 Audi A6 TDI

The all-new (Gen-4) 2015 Mercedes-Benz C-Class, to be built for the North American market at Mercedes’ Vance, Alabama plant, will likely get 2.1L BlueTEC diesel engine. If it does, its power and fuel economy could trump the BMW 328d. Unfortunately, the wagon variant of the C-Class won’t likely be sold in the US.

Leaked image of the 2015 Mercedes-Benz C-Class

Leaked image of the 2015 Mercedes-Benz C-Class

Porsche already sells a diesel Cayenne running a specially-tuned version of VW’s corporate 3.0L V6 TDI engine. The Porsche version has 240 hp with a staggering 406 lb-ft of torque.

2014 Porsche Cayenne Diesel

2014 Porsche Cayenne Diesel

The 2015 Porsche Macan, a baby Cayenne based on the Audi Q5, will get its world debut at the upcoming 2013 LA Auto Show.  Starting at around $40,000, when the Macan goes on sale early in 2014, it is likely to become the best-selling Porsche, feeding Americans’ insatiable desire for compact crossovers.  Of course, there will be a diesel Macan (a given for the European market) running the same 3.0L V6 diesel found in the Cayenne Diesel; but it’s not likely to be sold in the US — at least not immediately.  I think the Macan Diesel will come to the US, maybe a year from now, possibly as a 2016 model.  I’d like to see it with the VW corporate 2.0L TDI engine; but I don’t think that’s going to happen unless Audi drops one into the Q5.

2015 Porsche Macan

2015 Porsche Macan

2015 Porsche Macan

2015 Porsche Macan

I saved my favorite diesel development for last. BMW has always made a sweet compact 3-Series sports wagon. However, in the US, it’s been on the endangered species list for a while now.

As background, BMW used to sell a fantastic 5-Series mid-size wagon in the US; however, in 2009, it was discontinued in favor of the butt-ugly 5 GT (big mistake) and the few wagon customers were either forced to visit a Mercedes-Benz dealer for the E-Class wagon or buy BMW’s X5 SUV.

When BMW introduced the sixth-generation (F30) 3-series in 2012, the company also announced plans for a 3 GT. The 3 GT has a longer wheelbase, 4-doors, extra back-seat room (mostly for the Chinese market) and a hatchback with extra cargo space.

Wagon lovers feared the worst. Oh god, is BMW going to force a 3 GT on us? Didn’t they get the hint when no one wanted the 5 GT? Maybe the powers-that-be heard the prayers of us wagon-lovers and for the 2014 model year, the 3-Series Sports Wagon returns to BMW’s US lineup.

But it gets better – the award-winning 2.0L TwinTurbo diesel engine is available in the form of the 328d xDrive Sports Wagon. You lose a couple miles per gallon to the all-wheel drive system, but it’s that rare beast that will likely remain on the endangered list as long as it’s for sale. But for now, it’s the Holy Grail for wagon-lovers.

2014 BMW 328d xDrive Sports Wagon

2014 BMW 328d xDrive Sports Wagon

You have to look closely to see the "d" in the badge for the BMW 328d. The exterior is indistinguishable from the gas-powered 328i.

You have to look closely to see the “d” in the badge for the BMW 328d. The exterior is indistinguishable from the gas-powered 328i.

BMW 3-series wagons have always been compact, fun and full of utility. I like the styling better than the X1, although the X1 has more cargo capacity.  The 328d wagon drives better than the X1.

BMW 3-series wagons have always been compact, fun and full of utility. I like the styling better than the X1, although the X1 has more cargo capacity. The 328d wagon drives better than the X1.

I drove the 2014 328d xDrive Sports Wagon (starting at $43,875) and it was sublime. The average driver wouldn’t have a clue that it was diesel powered. You barely hear the distinctive diesel low frequency throbbing and engine and standard 8-speed automatic transmission work in perfect, steady harmony acceleration across the entire RPM range. It feels faster than the 328i (even if it isn’t) and with the urea-based injection system scrubbing the emissions, there is absolutely no diesel exhaust odor.

I’m feeling faint and nearly powerless to resist ordering a 328d – you may need to wake me from this little wagon’s intoxicating charms with a real whiff of diesel. Right now, it’s the most delicious diesel-powered car on the market.

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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.