Overview: Gotta love an Aston Martin DBS. Especially now that it has the optional Touchtronic 2 transmission. Its a six-speed automatic replete with the facility to pull magnesium alloy, leather-trimmed paddles which are mounted on the steering column to select ratios. Or the driver can just leave it in D. Theres also a Sport mode in which the gear is held longer before shifting up and then blips the throttle to match engine revs when down-shifting.
Our take: Not so long ago, the preferred option would have been a manual, but this type of transmission now offers the best of both worlds.
Overview: The Audi A6 sedan is a seriously good piece of kit, perilously close to being underrated by the general public. Perhaps this 2009 model might blow the cars trumpet a little louder. It has a supercharger rigged up to a new 3.0-liter V-6, so its good for 286 hp. This power hits the road via Audis signature Quattro all-wheel drive system. The A6 also has had the subtlest of styling revisions for 2009.
Our take: This is the first time a supercharger has been used by Audi since, oh, some time in the 1930s. It makes power comparable to a V-8 but keeps fuel consumption at V-6 levels. (Audi hasnt released official U.S. mpg figures yet, but trust us on this one.) And doesnt it look way better than a BMW 5 Series?
Overview: The new Audi Q5 is, as the photo shows, a premium SUV. But dont worry, its not as big as the Q7. Then again, some countries arent as big as the Q7.
Our take: The Audi stand also will be showing a special version of the Q5, the 3.0 TDI turbodiesel vehicle that just went from coast to coast in October on Audis mileage marathon. Those Euro types love a drop of diesel.
Overview: Enjoy it while theres still some gas to burn. This seems to be the philosophy behind Bentleys offering for this years L.A. Auto Show, the 2009 Azure T. Its the T thats the operative, um, letter here, because it means the sportier side of Planet Bentley. So where the usual Azure convertible has 450 hp bubbling from its 6.75-liter, twin-turbo V-8, the Azure T gets another 50 and develops that famous surge of Bentley torque with 737 pound-feet. Throw in 20-inch wheels, a dark grille and retractable winged B hood ornament, and this high-class conveyance gets even classier.
Our take: Big, expensive and gloriously -- unashamedly -- old-school.
Overview: The fifth-generation BMW 7 Series large sedan makes its North American debut at the L.A. Auto Show. It sports a twin-turbo 4.4-liter V-8 rated at 400 hp and 450 lb.-ft. of torque, which is a good thing. Just to get geeky for a second, this is the first BMW passenger car to eschew the usual MacPherson strut front suspension for a multi-link double wishbone arrangement, which is also good. It comes tingling with high-tech, such as rear-wheel steering, blind spot detection, pedestrian proximity alerts, head-up display and so on.
Our take: The assurance, the predictability, the fine-grained tactility coming through the seat and steering wheel, the sheer crazy agility ... clearly establishes the BMW [7 Series] as the best-handling big sedan in the world. So sayeth Dan Neil.
Overview:General Motors will be eschewing the glitz and glitter this year, and Chevrolets eggs all seem to be in this particular plug-in hybrid basket. This is the production version of the Volt (due some time in 2010), with a 1.4-liter gasoline engine and an array of lithium-ion batteries. For the technical pedants, its not strictly a hybrid because the engine only helps to charge the batteries and doesnt send any power directly to the wheels. Some also may be disappointed that it looks about as different from the cool coupe concept as Michael Jackson does today compared with the Michael Jackson on the cover of the Off The Wall album.
Our take: If it saves gas and money, who are we to complain?
Overview: California finally will get to see the Ferrari California for real. Regular readers should know the whole story by now: 460 hp from a sonorous 4.3-liter V8, a retractable hard top (a first for Ferrari), a seven-speed double-clutch transmission (another first for the company) which is way better than the robotized single-clutch systems that have been changing gears in Modenas motors for a while, and standstill-to-60 mph in just under four seconds.
Our take: It costs $200,000 but thats not a problem, is it?
Overview: Making its world debut at the L.A. Auto Show is the revamped Ford Fusion. The biggest news being that a hybrid model has joined the range and Ford claims better fuel consumption than the Toyota Camry Hybrid. This might well be possible, since the nickel-metal hydride battery pack (as found in the current Ford Escape Hybrid) has been re-engineered to be smaller, lighter and more efficient.
Our take: The way to sell more cars is to offer a good product. The Fusion Hybrid could go some way to powering Ford out of its current troubles.
Overview: The pony car lives on in this new iteration of the Ford Mustang. Underneath, its still pretty much the same as the current model, except for a somewhat tweaked suspension, but its been re-skinned and, in the case of the V-8 models, hopped up with 15 more horsepower over the 2008 cars 300. Ford has also addressed complaints about the current cars cheapo interior by using better-quality materials. Its not exactly night and day, but there is some difference.
Our take: Mustang buyers seem to be a whole breed unto themselves. If they want one, theyll get one, regardless. Though, just as the current model rescued the badge from mediocrity, this one retains the status quo.
Overview: Kia wants to get into the youth market with the Soul, pitching it up against the upcoming Nissan Cube and the been-around-for-ages Scion xB and xD. So it has the mandatory ugly-yet-cool boxy design and wont cost a fortune to buy and run. No word on exact prices yet, but in the teens is the vague area given by Kia. Even the most powerful engine has just 142 horsepower (the wheezier one has 122). Transmission choices are a five-speed manual or a four-speed auto, and the car hits the showrooms next spring.
Our take: Will Kia be kool enough for the kids? Well have to see.
Overview: The Gallardo, the smaller of Lamborghinis mid-engined supercars is now available as a convertible. The 560 in the name refers to an Italian method of rating the 5.2-liter V-10 engines power. In real money, its 553 hp, going to all four wheels and pinging the car from standstill to 60 mph in four seconds flat before hitting a top speed of 201 mph. Unlike the FerrariCalifornia, the Gallardo Spyder (the Spyder/Spider nomenclature is often applied to Italian convertibles) has a fabric roof, but its still power-actuated. No word on money yet, but considering the tin-top version is $198,000, dont expect much change from $220,000.
Our take: Lets enjoy a slight swelling of local pride because Lamborghini chose the L.A. Auto Show for this cars world debut. And having the top down makes it even easier to hear the snarl from those four chromed exhaust tailpipes. Long may the incredibly rich live while there are cars like this still being made for them.
Overview: The smallest Lexus sedan now gets a retractable hardtop. Set to go on sale in the second quarter of 2009, the IS 250C gets a 204-hp 2.5-liter V-6 and the IS 350C will enjoy a 306-hp 3.5-liter V-6. In 21 seconds, a total of four occupants can marvel at the three-piece aluminum roof disappearing into the body. This model has just two doors and only shares the hood, headlamps, door handles and mirrors with its fixed-roof brethren.
Our take: What started out as a BMW 3 Series wannabe is really coming into its own, as illustrated by this IS convertible.
Overview: Making its North American debut is an all-wheel-drive version of the Lexus LS 460, the largest sedan the company produces. In the rear-drive version, the 4.6-liter V8 is rated at 380 hp, but here it makes slightly less -- 357 hp. However, this detuning helps with fuel consumption, the LS 460 AWD returns the same city mpg figure (16) and is only 1 mpg thirstier on the highway (23 compared with 24).
Our take: This car would be great for dealing with inclement weather in a luxurious fashion. But because SoCals climate is famously clement, the rear-drive models traction control system should be able to handle most of what the sky throws down at us without forking out an extra $3,525.
Overview: This luxury utility vehicle has a new look and the option of a revised hybrid drivetrain. The latter employs a gasoline-powered 3.5-liter V-6 that is now augmented by new, more efficient inverter bringing the systems total horsepower count to 295, 27 more than the current model. The non-hybrid model uses a six-speed automatic while the hybrid has a continuously variable transmission (CVT). The RX 350 hits the showrooms in February, the RX 450h goes on sale in the spring. Each is available as a front-drive model or with part-time all-wheel drive.
Our take: The new RX is ever so slightly wider, longer and taller than the outgoing model. It also comes bristling with stuff such as hard drives and voice recognition; Lexus cars usually come with a good level of standard kit. And if the hybrid version salves a few consciences, then great.
Overview: This mid-size luxury sedan gets a restyling, and although the power of its 3.5-liter V-6 remains at 263 horsepower, various tweaks to the driveline have shaved six-tenths of a second from its claimed zero-to-60-mph time (now 7.1 seconds). A Sport version with a bespoke tune has been added to the range; eagle eyes will notice the red Z of this cars MKZ badge, whereas the standard models chassis has been revised for greater comfort.
Our take: Add the Sync infotainment system, adaptive headlights, rain-sensing wipers and a blind-spot alert to the list of available equipment, and the new MKZ looks like a real improvement over the old one.
Overview: It would be nice to love the Evora. If any company has a reputation for great handling, its Lotus. This is a something of a departure from the usual Lotus minimalist approach. The Evora has front seats that are said to accommodate big American males (does this British-based operation really know how big these guys can get?), aluminum trim and hand-stitched leather, along with an optional reversing camera -- which implies that rearward visibility is not one of the cars strong suits. Instead of the buzzy engine that powers the Elise, here is a longer-legged 3.5-liter V6 with 276 hp.
Our Take: It would be nice to love the Evora -- but isnt an estimated price of $90,000 a bit on the steep side?
Overview: An all-new generation of the much-loved Mazda3 compact makes its official debut here on the left coast. Even though we know what it looks like, there will still be an unveiling ceremony (car companies like to indulge in a bit of theater now and then) where the sedan gets all the attention, but a hatchback version is also part of the range. Engine options so far are 2.0-liter and 2.5-liter gasoline-powered four-potters.
Our Take: This looks like it may be one of the stars of the 2008 L.A. Auto Show.
Overview: A Ford Fusion is a smarter suit, but the Mercury Milan has its own little makeover for the 2010 model year, giving it a fresher face and rump, plus improved aerodynamics. Engine choices are a 175-hp 2.5-liter four or a 240-hp 3.0-liter V6. Theres also the Milan Hybrid. Again, much like the Fusion counterpart, this vehicle runs on a 155-hp 2.4-liter engine, an electric motor and a continuously variable transmission (CVT). It can get up to 47 mph on electric power alone before the four-banger kicks in, making it especially frugal in town. Available from spring 2009.
Our take: Theres probably room in the automotive world for a more upscale Fusion -- especially if its a hybrid.
Overview: Whats that in the back seat of the Mini E? A stack of lithium-ion batteries. This two-seater, electric-powered-only Mini goes on display in L.A. and parent company BMW hopes to attract a few California lease customers for some of the 500 prototypes that will be built. The range is 150 miles, but the batteries can be recharged in less than three hours. Monthly payments are said to be $850, including all maintenance and other technical service.
Our take: Not the most practical of transport solutions, but its an idea that needs to be tried, to see how it shakes out.
Overview: Mitsubishi is bringing its iMiEV to the City of Angels. The company claims that driving something like this represents a 72% reduction in carbon-dioxide emissions (compared with a gasoline-drinking car of comparable size), even taking into account the manufacturing process and whatever the power station is spewing out.
Our take: No, its not exactly new, but electric cars are, pardon the pun, creating quite a buzz these days.
Overview: The latest in a glorious line of Z cars from Nissan (well, Datsun originally), with styling that appears to polarize opinion. Tech specs will be announced at the L.A. Auto Show, but it’s a fairly safe bet that the engine is going to be a 3.7-liter V6.
Our take: Chances are the 2008 L.A. Auto Show will have a record number of attendees, most of whom will traipse directly to the Nissan stand, wear out a hole in the carpet surrounding the new 370Z, then go straight back out again, head home and set the Z car enthusiast forum sites alight with their online pronouncements. This is one of the show’s most eagerly-awaited cars; it seems everyone wants to witness it in all its three-dimensional glory and check out the interior.
Overview: North America finally gets Nissans cool little city car. It can seat five and has a 122-hp,1.8-liter engine driving the front wheels via a six-speed manual gearbox or a CVT (continuously variable transmission). There appears to be plenty of interior space and practicality to go with its modish design. Available toys include Bluetooth capability, satellite radio, a Rockford Fosgate audio system and an iPod interface. It should go on sale next spring, starting at around $14,000.
Our take: This is a prime example of function creating an endearing form. Move over, Scion, there’s a new Cube in town.
Overview: A redesign that would make a tough Spot the Difference competition differentiates the 2009 Boxster roadster from its predecessor, along with more power (255 horsepower in the 2.9-liter Boxster, 310 hp in the 3.4-liter S), more gadgets (iPod, Bluetooth), and the option of Porsches excellent seven-speed double-clutch transmission. The 2009 Boxster starts at $46,600, and the S version is priced from $56,700, going on sale spring 2009.
Our take: Still one of the best open-top sports cars out there. The trick transmission allows quicker 0-to-60-mph times in tandem with lower fuel consumption.
Overview: The tin-top version of Porsches mid-engined sports car has received a styling tweak milder than Johnsons Baby Shampoo. Luckily, the other changes will only result in tears of joy. The flat-six powerplant in the entry-level Cayman now has 265 horsepower, and the S model gets 320. The optional seven-speed double-clutch transmission improves acceleration and fuel consumption while being a joy to use. Both models go on sale next spring, starting at $50,300 for the Cayman and $60,200 for the Cayman S.
Our take: Sports cars really dont get much better than this without spending more money and getting a 911.
Overview: Saab wants to carry on its tradition of the four-season, four-seater convertible with this model. Theres a choice of three metallic paint jobs: black, gray or champagne. Other specific equipment includes a front bumper design from the Turbo X, carbon fiber trim and dual exhaust pipes. It has a 2.0-liter turbocharged engine rated at 210 hp and goes on sale in January, starting at $46,725.
Our take: This is a show car? The BioHybrid Air concept notwithstanding, the current pace of life on Planet Saab seems pretty darn leisurely.
Overview: Is it a car? Is it an SUV? Or is it just a tallish wagon? The Venza is Toyotas latest offering and its a big, new sensible shoe. It has the higher-up driving position that so many people like, an optional panoramic sunroof and plenty of practicality -- stowage areas galore. The driven wheels can be all four or just the fronts. Either of its engines (a 2.7-liter four rated at 182 hp or a 268-hp V-6) can run on humble 87 octane. And the thirstiest model -- the V-6-powered, all-wheel-drive version -- can still manage 18 mpg in the city.
Our take: It seems as if Toyota is either trying to wean American motorists off the SUV or is just repackaging it.
Overview: Not the shortest name in the world, but it does go a long way to describing this vehicles raison detre. Lets break it down to bite-size pieces. Its based on the VW Touareg SUV. Its going to run in the SCORE Trophy Truck Class of the 41st annual Tecate SCORE Baja 1000 desert race, which starts Nov. 21. The TDI signifies the presence of a turbocharged diesel engine. In this case, not just any old turbodiesel but a clean diesel 5.5-liter V-12 with 550 hp and a tree-stump-extracting 625 lb-ft of torque. The front suspension has 25 inches of wheel travel, while the rear has 30 inches to play with. All this should stand the truck in good stead as it negotiates the treacherous and technical 634-mile course of the, um, Baja 1000 (if it was 1,000 kilometers, that would be 621 miles -- go figure). And Red Bull is one of the sponsors.
Our take: This is the first turbodiesel to take part in the Trophy Truck class. The vehicles body was designed by VWs studio in sunny Santa Monica, while the chassis and production was handled by Arciero Miller Racing of Foothill Ranch, so this is almost a local hero. Go, Volkswagen-Red Bull Baja Race Touareg TDI Trophy Truck!
Overview: This is the biggest SUV made by VW. And now it has a 50-state-legal diesel engine. Looking at the horsepower rating, 221 doesnt seem like much from three liters, but the 406 pound-feet of torque more than make up for it, making the engine flexible and fruity. Fuel consumption should be around 18/25 mpg, city/highway. It goes on sale in January, starting at $43,490.
Our take: The Touareg is a good machine and the 3.0 TDI a good engine. If anyone is still thinking of buying an SUV, put this one on the list.
Overview: Havent we seen this car somewhere before? Theres a hint of classic Ferrari blended with a dash of old Jaguar. Believe it or not, this is a new car. The Anteros is made right here in California, using a carbon fiber body over the running gear of a Corvette, with an interior fashioned according to each customers wishes. Prices are in the $150,000 ballpark.
Our take: It makes a nice change from the usual suspects and basing it on a the current model of Corvette is a good call.