Audi Q5
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2008 LA Auto Show -- Green Cars

Audi Q5

Overview: The new Audi Q5 is, as the photo shows, a premium SUV. But don’t worry, it’s not as big as the Q7. Then again, some countries aren’t 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 Audi’s mileage marathon. Those Euro types love a drop of diesel.

--Colin Ryan

More in Autos:
• Up to Speed: LA Auto Show news
• 2008 L.A. Auto Show: Production cars
• 2008 L.A. Auto Show: Concept cars
• 2008 L.A. Auto Show: Green cars
• 2009 Green Car of the Year finalists
• Preview: L.A. Auto Show Design Challenge
 (Audi)
BMW 7 Series ActiveHybrid Concept

Overview: BMW’s new twin-turbo V-8 is augmented here with an electric motor. This combination has a potential of 420 hp yet reduces fuel consumption and emissions by 15%, compared with an equivalent car running on a combustion engine alone. All on-board electronics take power from the brake energy regeneration/lithium-ion battery setup. An automatic start/stop feature helps ensure optimum efficiency.

Our take: The new 7 Series sedan is a joy to drive and this system, should it ever go into production (and there’s a good chance it might), is a major step toward responsible consumption for a luxury car.

-- Colin Ryan

More in Autos:
• Up to Speed: LA Auto Show news
• 2008 L.A. Auto Show: Production cars
• 2008 L.A. Auto Show: Concept cars
• 2008 L.A. Auto Show: Green cars
• 2009 Green Car of the Year finalists
• Preview: L.A. Auto Show Design Challenge
 (BMW)
BMW X6 ActiveHybrid Concept

Overview: This crossover SUV has the same system as its 7 Series hybrid concept sibling. A twin-turbo 4.4-liter V-8 with an electric motor for a total of 420 hp, plus all the brake regeneration/lithium-ion battery/auto stop/start trimmings to score a 15% reduction in emissions and fuel consumption, compared to an internal-combustion-only counterpart.

Our take: Anything that saves gas and the Earth’s atmosphere has to be welcomed. However, it would be interesting to see how something with a surfeit of hybridized bells and whistles performs against an equivalent car with a new clean diesel engine.

-- Colin Ryan

More in Autos:
• Up to Speed: LA Auto Show news
• 2008 L.A. Auto Show: Production cars
• 2008 L.A. Auto Show: Concept cars
• 2008 L.A. Auto Show: Green cars
• 2009 Green Car of the Year finalists
• Preview: L.A. Auto Show Design Challenge
 (BMW)
2011 Chevrolet Volt

Overview: General Motors will be eschewing the glitz and glitter this year, and Chevrolet’s 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, it’s not strictly a hybrid because the engine only helps to charge the batteries and doesn’t 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?

--Colin Ryan

More in Autos:
• Up to Speed: LA Auto Show news
• 2008 L.A. Auto Show: Production cars
• 2008 L.A. Auto Show: Concept cars
• 2008 L.A. Auto Show: Green cars
• 2009 Green Car of the Year finalists
• Preview: L.A. Auto Show Design Challenge
 (General Motors)
Chrysler Town & Country EV concept

Overview: More than a concept, but not quite a production vehicle, the Town & Country range-extended electric vehicle features a lithium-ion battery pack. Chrysler claims a range of 150 to 200 miles. If it could do 200, that would be impressive. All the company needs to do is to get some money from somewhere.

Our take: A minivan for the eco-conscious soccer mom. Of the three EV ideas being touted by Chrysler at the moment (there’s also a Jeep Wrangler and a Dodge sports car), this stands the best chance of becoming reality.

--Colin Ryan

More in Autos:
• Up to Speed: L.A. Auto Show news
• 2008 L.A. Auto Show: Production cars
• 2008 L.A. Auto Show: Concept cars
• 2008 L.A. Auto Show: Green cars
• 2009 Green Car of the Year finalists
• Preview: L.A. Auto Show Design Challenge
 (Chrysler)
Dodge EV concept

Overview: This doesn’t even have a proper name yet, but it’s one third of the extended-range electric vehicles being touted by Chrysler as “production-intent” models (once there’s some cash in the corporate coffers). Range is said to be 150 to 200 miles. This two-seater sports car is based on the fiberglass-bodied Lotus Elise. An excellent choice, since the Lotus approach is all about being as light as possible. So the claimed zero-to-60 mph time of under five seconds and top speed in excess of 120 mph sound perfectly feasible from a flyweight car with 268 hp and 480 pound-feet of torque.

Our take: A Lotus-based, rear-wheel-drive electric sports car? Haven’t we seen something like this before? Did someone just say Tesla?

--Colin Ryan

More in Autos:
• Up to Speed: L.A. Auto Show news
• 2008 L.A. Auto Show: Production cars
• 2008 L.A. Auto Show: Concept cars
• 2008 L.A. Auto Show: Green cars
• 2009 Green Car of the Year finalists
• Preview: L.A. Auto Show Design Challenge
 (Dodge)
2010 Ford Fusion

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.

--Colin Ryan

More in Autos:
• Up to Speed: LA Auto Show news
• 2008 L.A. Auto Show: Production cars
• 2008 L.A. Auto Show: Concept cars
• 2008 L.A. Auto Show: Green cars
• 2009 Green Car of the Year finalists
• Preview: L.A. Auto Show Design Challenge
 (Ford Motor Co.)
Honda FC concept

Overview: The most remarkable rear end of any car, ever. Never mind that this Honda FC concept is a fuel-cell-powered sports car, with the power plant mid-mounted, just as in Ferraris and Lamborghinis.

Our take: The chances of this becoming reality are as slim as a guitar string. But the idea of a future in which we can drive exotic machines with the carbon footprint of a gnat does seem enticing.

-- Colin Ryan

More in Autos:
• Up to Speed: L.A. Auto Show news
• 2008 L.A. Auto Show: Production cars
• 2008 L.A. Auto Show: Concept cars
• 2008 L.A. Auto Show: Green cars
• 2009 Green Car of the Year finalists
• Preview: L.A. Auto Show Design Challenge
 (Honda)
Honda Insight

Overview: Still technically a concept, although we all know a production version looking a lot like this will go on sale in spring 2009. For anyone who’s just come out of a coma, the Insight is Honda’s answer to the ubiquitous Toyota Prius hybrid car. And yes, the original 1999 Insight (America’s first gas/electric hybrid) used to be a cramped little two-seater just before you went into that coma, but this one’s a proper five-seater. It will have a 1.3-liter gasoline-powered engine and Honda wants to price it below the imminent next-generation Prius.

Our take: Competition is a good thing. And sometimes, so is imitation.

--Colin Ryan

More in Autos:
• Up to Speed: L.A. Auto Show news
• 2008 L.A. Auto Show: Production cars
• 2008 L.A. Auto Show: Concept cars
• 2008 L.A. Auto Show: Green cars
• 2009 Green Car of the Year finalists
• Preview: L.A. Auto Show Design Challenge
 (Honda)
Hyundai HED-5 Concept

Overview: Word has it that this six-seater crossover concept has a four-cylinder 2.0-liter turbocharged gasoline direct injection (GDI) engine. By using this form of fuel supply along with forced induction, an engine can be more efficient, producing greater power -- as much as 280 hp -- with reduced consumption. Hyundai claims 30 mpg. Another word has it that a production version of this vehicle will be available in North America in the not-too-distant future.

Our take: Gasoline direct injection is nothing new, but every little bit helps.

-- Colin Ryan

More in Autos:
• Up to Speed: LA Auto Show news
• 2008 L.A. Auto Show: Production cars
• 2008 L.A. Auto Show: Concept cars
• 2008 L.A. Auto Show: Green cars
• 2009 Green Car of the Year finalists
• Preview: L.A. Auto Show Design Challenge
 (Hyundai)
Hyundai Sonata hybrid

Overview: Hyundai is the latest car manufacturer to go hybrid. The company will introduce its 2011 Sonata hybrid at the L.A. Auto Show. This model has something called “parallel hybrid” technology (more details on this when we get them) and an array of lithium-ion batteries. The car is set to go on sale sometime in 2010.

Our take: The arrival of more hybrids means more choice, better prices and lower fuel consumption. So bring this baby on.

-- Colin Ryan (Hyundai)
Jeep Wrangler EV

Overview: Chrysler seems ambitious enough with its front-drive Town & Country EV minivan and rear-drive Dodge EV sports car, but a four-wheel-drive Jeep Wrangler running solely on lithium-ion batteries? As part of the company’s range-extended, um, range, the electric Jeep is another vehicle that’s already quite far down the development path. Its makers claim 150 to 200 miles on a fully charged battery pack.

Our take:It would be great to see such a richness of choice in the electric vehicle market.

--Colin Ryan

More in Autos:
• Up to Speed: L.A. Auto Show news
• 2008 L.A. Auto Show: Production cars
• 2008 L.A. Auto Show: Concept cars
• 2008 L.A. Auto Show: Green cars
• 2009 Green Car of the Year finalists
• Preview: L.A. Auto Show Design Challenge
 (Chrysler)
Kia Borrego FCEV concept

Overview: The Kia Borrego is already in production; it’s a large SUV, with the choice of a V-6 or V-8 engine under the hood. As one might surmise from those tell-tale FCEV initials, this model runs on something different. We haven’t heard much from Hyundai/Kia about hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, but the Borrego here uses the company’s fourth-generation stack. It’s a new design that is said to be able to start up in temperatures as low as minus 30 degrees Celsius and powers an electric motor rated at 154 hp. The range is put at 315 miles (on a tank of hydrogen, presumably). Kia plans to do a low-volume production run for 2010 as part of an ongoing test program. In the meantime, the Borrego FCEV makes its world debut at the L.A. Auto Show.

Our Take: The more alternative fuel vehicles, the merrier.

-- Colin Ryan (Kia Motors America)
Mercury Milan/ Milan Hybrid

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. There’s 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: There’s probably room in the automotive world for a more upscale Fusion -- especially if it’s a hybrid.

-- Colin Ryan

More in Autos:
• Up to Speed: LA Auto Show news
• 2008 L.A. Auto Show: Production cars
• 2008 L.A. Auto Show: Concept cars
• 2008 L.A. Auto Show: Green cars
• 2009 Green Car of the Year finalists
• Preview: L.A. Auto Show Design Challenge
 (Mercury)
Mini E

Overview: What’s 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 it’s an idea that needs to be tried, to see how it shakes out.

--Colin Ryan

More in Autos:
• Up to Speed: LA Auto Show news
• 2008 L.A. Auto Show: Production cars
• 2008 L.A. Auto Show: Concept cars
• 2008 L.A. Auto Show: Green cars
• 2009 Green Car of the Year finalists
• Preview: L.A. Auto Show Design Challenge
 (BMW)
Mitsubishi iMiEV electric car

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, it’s not exactly new, but electric cars are, pardon the pun, creating quite a buzz these days.

--Colin Ryan

More in Autos:
• Up to Speed: LA Auto Show news
• 2008 L.A. Auto Show: Production cars
• 2008 L.A. Auto Show: Concept cars
• 2008 L.A. Auto Show: Green cars
• 2009 Green Car of the Year finalists
• Preview: L.A. Auto Show Design Challenge
 (Mitsubishi)
2008 Volkswagen-Red Bull Baja Race Touareg TDI Trophy Truck

Overview: Not the shortest name in the world, but it does go a long way to describing this vehicle’s raison d’etre. Let’s break it down to bite-size pieces. It’s based on the VW Touareg SUV. It’s 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 vehicle’s body was designed by VW’s 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!

--Colin Ryan

More in Autos:
• Up to Speed: LA Auto Show news
• 2008 L.A. Auto Show: Production cars
• 2008 L.A. Auto Show: Concept cars
• 2008 L.A. Auto Show: Green cars
• 2009 Green Car of the Year finalists
• Preview: L.A. Auto Show Design Challenge
 (Volkswagen)
2009 VW Touareg V-6 TDI clean diesel

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 doesn’t 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.

-- Colin Ryan

More in Autos:
• Up to Speed: LA Auto Show news
• 2008 L.A. Auto Show: Production cars
• 2008 L.A. Auto Show: Concept cars
• 2008 L.A. Auto Show: Green cars
• 2009 Green Car of the Year finalists
• Preview: L.A. Auto Show Design Challenge
 (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)
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