At every L.A. Auto Show there are a few vehicles that seem to have a flock of craning admirers perched permanently around them. These can be the latest incarnations of popular models, jaw-dropping supercars or weird and wonderful concept creations. Let’s take a look at 11 star attractions at this year’s L.A. Auto Show worth waiting in line for. Want to see more? Visit www.latimes.com/custompublishing/laautoshow.
AUDI R8 GT SPYDER
Making its North American debut at the L.A. show, the R8 GT Spyder is a lightweight droptop version of the now-iconic R8. Like the GT Coupe, only 333 individually numbered GT Spyders will be offered worldwide. The GT Spyder will use the same 560-horsepower V-10 powerplant as the hardtop and should boast similar performance numbers (zero to 60 mph in around 3.6 seconds, 197 mph top speed). Though the R8 GT Spyder will probably sell for more than $200,000, expect this exclusive take on an already very exclusive supercar to sell out fast.
BMW i8 CONCEPT
Another North American debut, the i8 is the flagship 2+2 supercar of BMW’s new “i” sub-brand, which is devoted to developing low-emission vehicles. This curvy plug-in hybrid concept, which catapults from zero to 62 mph in less than five seconds and has its top speed electronically restricted to 155 mph, is proof that sustainable mobility can be sexy. With sufficient cabin space for four people and predicted real-world fuel economy of 33 to 47 mpg, the i8 — due in dealerships in 2014 — is looking like a best-of-all-worlds wondercar that seriously raises the bar for the competition.
CHEVROLET CAMARO ZL1 CONVERTIBLE
Sunny SoCal makes a perfect setting for Chevrolet’s unveiling of its most powerful convertible to date: the 580-horsepower ZL1. Chevy engineers apparently went to great lengths, including incorporating an array of braces and reinforcements, to ensure that the soft-top ZL1 will harness its 556 pound-feet of torque just as ably as its sister coupe.
CADILLAC CIEL CONCEPT
Cadillac’s elegant Ciel concept recalls the company’s classic comfy cruisers of old while boldly launching the brand into the future. Squint your eyes and this formidable four-door convertible — complete with rear-hinged suicide doors — wouldn’t look out of place in “Grease,” but beneath its skin is an utterly contemporary 3.6-liter V-6 engine paired with a hybrid system that utilizes lithium-ion battery technology. Inside, pampering touches like aromatherapy controls, connectivity options for all four bucket seats and automatically retracting blankets confirm that the Ciel (which means “sky” in French) is bringing Cadillac’s high-end grand touring heritage firmly into the here and now.
DOK-ING is a Croatian company established in 1991 to produce unmanned ground vehicles intended for unexploded ordnance removal, firefighting and mining. Now they’re parading an impressive prototype three-seat electric city car, the XD, which makes its North American debut at the L.A. show. Thanks to its low drag coefficient, the bug-like XD can travel more than 155 miles on a single charge of its lithium iron phosphate batteries. With scissor doors, McLaren F1-style staggered seating and a claimed zero-to-62 mph time of 4.2 seconds (for the four-motored XD4 version), the XD is a bold yet credible concept that could well go mainstream.
JAGUAR C-X16 CONCEPT
Also making its North American debut at the L.A. show, Jaguar’s stunning C-X16 concept is a meeting of the sensuous and sustainable in one fascinating hybrid sports car. The British company says the C-X16 is the smallest car they’ve made since the 1950s, and this partially explains the staggering performance wrung from its 375-horsepower V-6 gasoline engine and 94-horsepower electric motor. We’re talking zero to 62 mph in 4.4 seconds, a top speed of 186 mph with 50 to 75 mph acceleration in 2.1 seconds, aided by a “Push to Pass” hybrid boost function. If even some of the C-X16’s inspiration makes its way into production Jags, the cat will be truly back.
KIA GT CONCEPT
With this, its first foray into rear-wheel-drive sports cars, Korean automaker Kia is hinting that it might follow in Hyundai’s footsteps by venturing upmarket. The Kia GT concept reflects something of a trend for four-door coupes of late. It looks almost Maserati-ish, with an elongated hood and bold rear haunches. The lack of a B-pillar combined with rear-hinged suicide doors eases entry into the car’s gorgeously uncluttered cabin, while jet-age rearview cameras and propeller-like wheels highlight a not-so-subtle aeronautics influence. A 390-horsepower 3.3-liter V-6 engine should ensure that the GT’s performance lives up to its aesthetic promise.
LAND ROVER DC100 CONCEPT
Land Rover’s Defender off-road utility vehicle has been in production since 1983, and the British company estimates that three-quarters of the nearly 2 million units produced to date remain in use. So, as a step toward creating a new-generation Defender (due in 2015), the DC100 concept has a lot to live up to. Though Land Rover stressed that the DC100 making its North American debut is not even close to production-ready, its upright silhouette suggests that the Defender’s iconic boxy shape will remain. Future design possibilities displayed on the DC100 include a truly James Bond-like driver-activated spiked tire system and “Wade Aid” sonar technology to assess water depth.
LOTUS EXIGE R-GT
Thirty years since winning the World Rally Championship, Lotus is returning to this most demanding of motorsports with the Exige R-GT — basically a standard Exige sports car prepped for all the rigors and rules of rallying — outfitted with a steel roll cage, a 3.5-liter V-6 engine brought down to 300 horsepower by a race-required air restrictor, added ballast to achieve the Championship-mandated 2,645 pounds, upgraded brakes, a roof-mounted air scoop and additional fog lights. The tastefully tricked-out Exige R-GT attracts longing looks from wannabe racers and devoted tuners alike.
The first sports car designed and made in Mexico, the Lotus-inspired Mastretta MXT transcends its parts-bin components and kit-car background (not to mention the controversial drubbing it received on Britain’s “Top Gear” TV show in January) with sheer eye-watering performance. The mid-engined rear-wheel-driven MXT milks maximum thrills out of a turbocharged 250-horsepower four-cylinder Ford Duratec engine by using a lightweight aluminum chassis. It achieves zero to 62 mph in 4.9 seconds and a top speed of 143 mph. $58,000 might seem pricey for a largely unproven marque, but the Mastretta MXT is a handmade exotic that will be produced in minuscule numbers — just 25 to 30 this year.
MORGAN 3 WHEELER
When it debuted more than a century ago, the Morgan Three-Wheeler helped abolish the well-to-do’s monopoly on motoring. Essentially a motorcycle engine in a lightweight topless chassis with, yes, three wheels (a single one at the rear transmitting power with two up front for, you know, steering), it was a relatively affordable, face-rippling riot of a ride. Six decades since the Three-Wheeler ceased production, its reimagined successor, the 3 Wheeler, is making its North American entrance at the L.A. show. The new version launches to 60 mph in an estimated 4.5 seconds with all the visceral charm of a vintage fighter plane and, in California, requires only a regular driver’s license.
— Paul Rogers, Custom Publishing Writer