Posts Tagged ‘Toyota’


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.


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.