The BMW i8 Spyder Concept

The BMW i8 Spyder Concept (November 30, 2012)

Awash in all shades of green, the 2012 L.A. Auto Show is an international showcase of the most advanced eco-friendly new models in the world. Car-crazy Southern California is, after all, a hotbed of green consciousness as well as the world capital of all things automotive. And this year’s lineup is a dramatic statement of how far the rapidly expanding green segments have come.

Dozens of the hottest new green rides are on display in the convention center — from clean-diesel luxury to all-electric cars and plug-in hybrids — joined by nearly 20 sporty, stylish gas-sippers getting upward of 40 mpg.

“The green technology innovations demonstrated by automakers around the world continue to attract the attention of the car-buying public,” said Andy Fuzesi, general manager of the L.A. Auto Show. “We’re excited to be able to provide one of the world’s best stages for manufacturers to display their very latest achievements that match virtually every budget.”

Along came a Spyder

We’ve seen the future, and it’s smoking hot. Behold the BMW i8 Spyder plug-in, a spectacular (some say downright breathtaking) example of the rapid evolution of this nascent electric segment in terms of technological innovation, luxury amenities and bold design.

This sexy eco-friendly beast is built on a sturdy lightweight carbon frame and packs the new BMW eDrive system, offering high performance and agility with full torque from the electric motor at all times, from idling up to its top acceleration, all precisely controlled by a highly intelligent power manage-
ment system.

This technology is at the vanguard of the brand’s vision for urban-based mobile sustainability.

To the Max

Spearheading Ford’s expanded green lineup, the C-Max Energi plug-in — an innovative compact utility vehicle that operates as a straight-up EV with an overnight charge — headlines three new Ford rides debuting at the show.

Unlike most plug-ins, the Energi’s small onboard gas engine kicks in at higher speeds to help the electric motor with acceleration and power, instead of merely recharging the motor’s batteries. Advanced technology on the C-Max includes hands-free liftgate (activated by foot) and voice command. Also joining this new plug-in line is the Ford Fusion Energi.

Rounding out the new Ford lineup is a Focus Electric, a full EV version of the new-look Focus compact hatchback that goes up to 100 miles on a full charge. 

The Fiat 500e also takes a bow, an all-electric version of the popular and sporty subcompact 500.

Honda chimes in with the unveiling of its slick new Accord plug-in. The popular Accord line — available as a coupe or sedan — has been redesigned, a bit smaller than the old version.

A clean sweep

Far from the dirty old diesel models of decades past, clean diesel vehicles produce exceptionally low emissions and high miles per gallon. Helping fuel its upscale popularity, this gasless segment trends heavily toward luxury and high performance.

Take the all-new Mercedes-Benz GLK 250 BlueTec, a show-stopper that’s part of a push from the German icon to bring eight new diesel models to the U.S. by 2014. No surprise, considering American drivers are warming up to this green option — U.S. clean-diesel sales were up 27.5% during the first half of 2012.

The range of diesel models is becoming more varied, as well. Bringing a distinctly retro slant to the segment — but with a sleek modern twist — Volkswagen shows off its all-new 2013 Beetle Convertible, which gets up to 41 mpg through a 2-liter I-4 diesel engine that generates 140 horsepower and no lack of California cool.

Totally gassed

One of the most promising — and affordable — paths to fuel independence is the growing family of stylish and peppy four-cylinder rides that get up to 40 mpg and beyond. And the L.A. Auto Show is ground zero for these small wonders, many offering a retro flourish — a far cry from boxy, beige compacts of years past.

Sporting an exotic Italian flair in a small package, the 2013 Fiat 500 Abarth Cabriolet exudes aggressive rally styling. Fiat’s award-winning MultiAir intercooled turbocharged engine generates 160 horsepower yet gets up to 34 miles per gallon fuel efficiency (which is no small feat). 

The Dodge Dart Aero is an all-new small sedan that resurrects the familiar American nameplate in a distinctly global package (it’s based on an Alfa Romeo sold in Europe). Packing a 1.4-liter Fiat MultiAir turbo engine, the four-door Dart gets a surprising thrifty 41 mpg. And it absolutely begs for customization.

 

 

BOB YOUNG
Custom Publishing Writer