The BMW i8 Spyder Concept

The BMW i8 Spyder Concept (November 30, 2012)

As the world’s largest auto market, Los Angeles has long been prized by manufacturers. But when the L.A. Auto Show moved forward from January to November in 2006, making it the first major North American show of the season, the city became even more attractive to automakers as a stage for important unveilings. 

Here’s a peek at some of the more than 50 new models making their world, North American or auto show debuts at this year’s L.A. Auto Show.

North American Debut: BMW i8 Spyder 

This third vehicle from BMW’s sustainability-focused i sub-brand fulfils almost all of the criteria of an auto show showstopper. It’s new and rare (a concept car, making its North American debut downtown); exotic (a swoopy roadster with scissor doors that make it look like it belongs in “Tron”); expensive (expected to cost even more than the $130,000 coupe version when it goes on sale as a 2015 model); fast (its top speed is electronically limited to 155 mph); and stuffed with trendy tech (it’s a plug-in hybrid with a three-cylinder turbo-diesel engine with fuel economy expected to be in the 70 mpg range). BMW is keen to prove that green vehicles can be fun, and this topless show car — which reportedly can hit 62 mph from a standing start in five seconds — should silence naysayers.

North American Debut: Bentley Continental GT3 

A decade after the storied British marque debuted its image-changing Continental GT concept, Bentley is revealing its Continental GT3 race car. Based on the company’s fastest-ever road car, the GT Speed, the GT3 (though billed as a concept) should be seeing the checkered flag by the end of next year — just in time to celebrate the 10th anniversary of Bentley’s historic sixth 24 Hours of Le Mans victory in 2003. The GT3 adopts a rear-wheel-drive chassis (to meet race regulations), a wider body, side-facing exhaust and an enormous rear wing. Draped in track-ready livery, it’s a nod to Bentley’s often overlooked racing heritage (including consecutive Le Mans wins 1927 to ’30) and a further step away from its cars’ traditionally stately — and stuffy — aura.

World Debut: Chevrolet Spark EV 

Three generations of Chevrolet’s Spark city car have be sold worldwide under various names since 1998, but it only appeared in U.S. dealerships in July. Stateside sales of the South Korea-made Spark have been brisk ever since. Edmunds.com reported it the fastest-selling car in the country in its first month here. The Spark EV will be available in just a handful of states, of which only California is confirmed. Powered by a nanophosphate lithium-ion battery pack and an 85-kW electric motor, it will be General Motors’ first all-electric passenger vehicle marketed in the U.S. since its EV1 was controversially discontinued in 2003.

North American Debut: Land Rover Range Rover 

British four-wheel-drive specialist Land Rover currently offers just six models, and seldom announces major updates to these. So the North American debut of a new Range Rover — a large luxury SUV first introduced in 1970 and only now entering its fourth generation — is news indeed. Though more sculpted and tapered than its predecessor, the 2013 RR has actually grown a little. But an aluminum monocoque structure makes its body a staggering 39% lighter than the outgoing model’s steel skeleton, with better performance (0 to 60 mph in 5.1 seconds) and fuel economy (a predicted small improvement on the 2012’s 14 mpg combined city/highway). For $82,650, the 2013 Range Rover delivers an unmatched marriage of style, power and off-road prowess.

World Debut: Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG Black Edition

Only two-door Mercs qualify for Black Series upgrades (which include weight reduction, exterior enhancements and engine modifications) at Germany’s AMG Performance Studio. The SLS AMG Black Edition is the fifth high-end MBZ to enjoy this treatment, and the results are both wild and wonderful. Making its world debut at the L.A. show, this latest take on the gull-wing-doored SLS sheds 154 pounds of curb weight, breaches the 600-horsepower barrier without breaking a sweat and maxes out at 196 mph. Though no pricing has been announced for this ultimate take on an already super supercar, most of us are unlikely to ever get near one outside of an auto show.

World Debut: Ford Fiesta ST 

Though America came late to Ford’s Fiesta (a front-wheel-drive supermini that debuted overseas in 1976), it’s sure to love this high-performance ST variant. The Fiesta ST has been confirmed for European release next year, and its unveiling at the L.A. Auto Show suggests that it may soon be on sale here too (albeit likely as a five-door rather than the three-door scheduled for Europe). This peppy pistol will be powered by a 180-horsepower turbocharged 1.6-liter EcoBoost four-cylinder engine married to a six-speed manual transmission, making it the most powerful subcompact currently available. Expect Recaro seats and other sporty enhancements within.

World Debut: Volkswagen Beetle Convertible

The third-generation VW Beetle, introduced last year, goes topless for the first time at the L.A. show and should be in dealerships shortly thereafter. The 2013 Beetle Convertible’s soft top retains the flattened roof line of the 2012 Coupe (which is longer, wider and lower than its New Beetle predecessor) when in place, and lies entirely flat when stowed, improving rear visibility. This latest incarnation of the iconic ragtop, which first appeared as the Type 15 in 1949, stashes its top in just 10 seconds and features VW’s Automatic Rollover Support System (two roll-over bars concealed behind the rear bench seat, activated by the same computer that deploys the airbags in the case of an accident).

World Debut: Toyota RAV4

Toyota’s RAV4 was the first car-based crossover available stateside (its name stands for “Recreational Active Vehicle with 4-wheel drive”) when it arrived here in 1995, so the unveiling of its fourth generation at the L.A. show should have necks craning and cameras flashing. Based on the same platform as the Japanese manufacturer’s big-selling Camry sedan, this latest RAV4 appears to be more streamlined than the outgoing model, with a Camry-like front fascia and an overhead liftgate — a change from the side-hinged tailgate and rear-mounted spare wheel of the current version. There has been speculation that the new RAV4 will drop the third-row seating and V-6 engines currently available. But all will be revealed downtown.

 

 

PAUL ROGERS
Custom Publishing Writer