Against a backdrop of regulatory uncertainty, provoked by the unpredictability of the incoming Presidential administration, the Los Angeles Auto Show opened with an array of new vehicles unprecedented in a history that dates to 1907: 13 world premiers, 12 North American reveals—and a rich mix of vehicle types.
Will the new administration push the Environmental Protection Agency to relax its ambitious fuel economy standards? Who knows? But you can bet that many industry product planners will be only too happy to see the MPG ramp flatten out in the years ahead.
Still, what really matters to some scribes covering the show, particularly your humble narrator, is the actual hardware, wheeled devices that people can own and steer and operate as they please. Moreover, vehicles that give their operators pleasure—think fun-to-drive.
To drivers who actually enjoy driving, these are the vehicles that matter. Performance spoken here. No self-driving cars. Some highlights follow.
Before we get into that, we should add that L.A. served as the forum for some major of-the-year announcements. For example, the Motor Trend Car of the Year (Chevy Bolt); SUV of the Year (Mercedes-Benz GLC; and Truck of the Year (Ford F-Series Super Duty).
There was also a Person of the Year, but we suspect that you, like us, don’t care.
L.A. also saw the announcement of the finalists for the North American Car, Truck, and Utility vehicle of the year, the first time this prestigious award has had a presence at this show. There are three categories: Car (Chevy Bolt, Genesis G90, Volvo S90); Utility Vehicle (Chrysler Pacifica, Jaguar F-Pace, Mazda CX9); and Truck (Ford F-Series Super Duty, Honda Ridgeline, Nissan Titan).
Muscle and Hustle
Mercedes-Benz AMG E63S
Face-distorting horsepower isn’t the only component of high performance. We learned that with the tire-shredding muscle cars of the 1960s; it also helps if the car will turn and stop. But big horsepower numbers always get attention, and the AMG edition of the new Mercedes E-class sedan (AMG E63 S) was an L.A. poster car in this regard.
AMG is the in-house go-faster shop at Mercedes-Benz, addressing all aspects of performance in the company’s various offerings, but particularly noted for horsepower. For the E63 S the number is 603 horsepower, from an AMG-massaged 3.0-liter twin-turbo V6.
Propelling a slightly smaller, lighter E-class, that could be almost enough to provoke acceleration brownouts by E63 drivers. We predict they’ll be willing to take the chance.
Mercedes-Benz GT, GTC and GTR
Other rapid offerings from the AMG go-faster emporium included several members of the Benz GT family—two roadsters (GT and GTC), and the racy GT-R, each making its first North American appearance after debuting at September’s Paris show.
Mercedes-Benz S-Class Maybach
Mercedes also displayed a convertible edition of its luxo S-class Maybach, also anticipated to bring 600 hp to the street, albeit with far more mass than the E-class, as well as a much higher price tag—certainly well over $200,000.
Porsche 922 RSR and Panamera 4
Porsche and performance are essentially synonymous, and the company reinforced that image with the unveiling of “the most spectacular 911 ever.” This one—the 911 RSR—is for racing, and will make its competition debut at the Daytona 24-Hour in January. Porsche also introduced a new variation of its successful sedan, the Panamera 4, with 4-wheel drive and a new 330-hp twin-turbo V6 engine.
Genesis G80 Sport
The Genesis G80 (previously known as the Hyundai Genesis) gets a boost for 2017 with the addition of a 365-hp 3.3-liter twin turbo V6 and enough suspension (automatic damping) and trim tweaks (carbon fiber interior highlights, 19-inch wheels) to justify a Sport label. The engine and 8-speed automatic are adapted from the powertrain inventory of the G90, the flagship for the new brand, and all-wheel drive is an option. Initially unveiled in Korea at the June show in Pusan, the G80 will continue to offer the basic 3.8-liter V6 (xx hp) and 5.0-liter V8 (420 hp) engines.
Infiniti Q60 3.0t Coupe
Infiniti bolstered its performance image with the North American introduction of the Q60 3.0t coupe, a sleek two-door propelled by a new 300-hp 3.0-liter twin-turbocharged V6. It’s not the hottest power plant in the shop—that honor continues to belong to the optional twin-turbo V6 with the same specs but generating 400 hp. The base engine continues to be a torquey 2.0-liter turbo four (208 hp, 258 lb-ft). Infiniti has made a number of tech tweaks to its “steer by wire” system—no mechanical connection between steering wheel and steering rack, a system that has received a lukewarm response in the U.S. market.
Unusually for an auto show, Infiniti announced pricing for the 3.0t coupe—from $48,300, $50,300 with all-wheel drive. It will go on sale in December.
Another Infiniti display that had gearheads talking was the VC Turbo engine. VC stands for variable compression, a clever system that can vary cylinder compression from 8.1:1 to as high as 14:1, depending on demand, promising substantial improvements in fuel efficiency. Billed as the next horizon for internal combustion, the engine is production-ready, according to Infiniti, but specific target dates were not announced.
Volvo V90 Wagon
Volvo’s major L.A. news was a V90 wagon version of the 90 series (XC90 SUV, S90 sedan), but a pair of its smaller 60 series cars carried on the limited edition performance tradition established in 2014. We refer to the S60 and V60 Polestar models. Power—362 hp—is huffed up by a 2.0-liter four amplified by turbo- and supercharging, feeding thrust to a Borg-Warner all-wheel drive system via an 8-speed Geartronic automatic transmission. The key elements in the formidable power are the supercharger, a bigger turbocharger, new camshafts, new engine controls, a revised intake system, and a bigger fuel pump. Thanks to ample power and reduced mass (44 pounds) Volvo predicts 0-t0-60 capability of just 4.4 seconds, calling the new Polestars “the quickest Volvo has ever made.” Limited means just that: of the 1500 scheduled for production in 2017, just 200 are destined for the U.S.
The Quick and the Red
Alfa Romeo Stelvio
Stelvio is the name of a pass in the Italian Alps that involves 48 hairpin turns en route , a great place to test the dynamic limits of your ride (not to mention your skill). It’s also the name of the new SUV revealed at L.A.—the Alfa Romeo Stelvio. Highlights: 505 hp from a 2.9-liter twin turbo V6, 280 hp from a 2.0-liter turbo four, standard all-wheel drive, auto-adjusting suspension, rigid chassis, aluminum intensive.
If those details sound strangely familiar, it’s because they’re essentially identical with specs for the new Alfa Giulia and Giulia Quadrifoglio sedan. The foundations and powertrains are the same, and the only real difference between sedan and SUV is size and mass—the Stelvio will swallow more cargo and weigh in a little heavier. That doesn’t keep this first-ever Alfa truck from making a compelling claim: according to Alfa Romeo/Maserati U.S. chief Reid Bigland, it will “become the fastest SUV ever.”
The Stelvio is due to arrive in showrooms sometime next year.
Honda Civic Si
At the small end of the scale, Honda displayed yet another addition to its new Civic lineup, the Civic Si, coupe and sedan, due to reach showrooms next spring. Typical of Honda, the show property was presented as a concept, although little will change for production. Honda mentioned suspension mods, but refrained from specifics regarding output of the 1.5-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine. The previous Si was rated for 205 hp. A Honda insider said the new version will have “more,” and corporate publicity material characterized this as “the fastest, best-handling Si we’ve ever offered.” Nearby, the Civic Type R hatchback crouched in flat black menace. The super Civic is expected to bring over 300 hp to the street. Both performance Civics are due to go on sale next spring.
Kia Soul Exclaim
Noted for cuteness rather than 0-to-60, Kia picks up the pace of its urban roustabout with the addition of the turbocharged Soul Exclaim. With 201 horsepower from a 1.6-liter turbo four, the Exclaim adds 40 hp to the Soul’s output compared to the Soul Plus, as well as 18-inch wheels, sporty exterior trim, a leather-wrapped D-shaped steering wheel, and a 315-watt Harmon-Kardon sound system. The engine and 7-speed dual clutch automatic transmission are shared with the new Hyundai Elantra Sport.
Nissan Sentra Nismo
The Nissan Sentra NISMO was another new mighty mite, although unlike most offerings from the company’s tuning skunk works, the upgrades on this one are confined to suspension, wheels, tires, and cosmetics. At 188 horsepower, output of the 1.6-liter turbo 4-cylinder is the same as that of the current Sentra R.
Photo Credit ©2016 Autoweb