This year’s LA Auto Show was brimming with eye-catching designs, jaw-dropping performance, and mouth-watering technology. Through the march of dozens of new-model introductions, some vehicles lodged in my memory as being particularly notable. Here are my favorites from the 2013 show:
OK, BMW’s smaller, all-electric i3 may be the more practical answer to the transportation needs of an environmentally conscious family. But the i8 dwarfs it in both pizzazz and performance. This all-wheel-drive plug-in hybrid operates similarly to the Chevrolet Volt, letting you travel about 20 miles on mostly electric power before its gasoline engine kicks in. Where it leaves the Volt comparison behind is in its blistering acceleration, with a claimed 0-60 mph run of a scant 4.4 seconds. Not bad for a car with a claimed 94 mpg. Yea, the i8 will carry a sticker price in excess of $135,000, but we’re talking hot here, not sensible.
Mercedes-Benz AMG Vision Gran Turismo Concept
In a show with no shortage of stylish designs, it was Mercedes’ Vision GT that I found myself returning to again and again, just to soak in the sleek, sensual curves, bold visual statements, and glowing finish. The car was never without a group of admirers surrounding it. The Vision Concept is all show; there’s no engine under the sculpted bodywork. It’s a work of art inspired by its virtual counterpart in the new PlayStation 3 game, Gran Turismo, which goes on sale in December. Engine or not, I’d be content to simply park it in my driveway, so I could admire it whenever I wanted.
Hyundai Tucson Fuel Cell
Among fuel-cell cars, Honda’s sleek new FCEV is more of a head-turner. But I like Hyundai’s moxie. This hydrogen-powered electric SUV will arrive in spring 2014, if only in Southern California, but notably ahead of the FCEV’s arrival in 2015. It has a long 300-mile range, can be fueled in under 10 minutes, and, like all fuel-cell cars, emits only water. The lease cost for this high-tech vehicle will be $3,000 down and $500 a month, and that includes unlimited free hydrogen fuel and Hyundai’s valet maintenance service. Translation: the dealer will pick up and drop off the car and leave you a loaner, for no charge. Of course, it will enhance your ownership experience if you live near a hydrogen refueling station. Or if you just want to sample the experience, you’ll be able to rent a Tucson Fuel Cell from Enterprise on your next visit to LA.
I have to admire the sheer audacity of this massive, open-top off-roader. It gives the term "crossover" a whole new meaning, and it makes the Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet seem dainty in comparison. Designed to tackle desert environments in style, the four-passenger Puma is more than 20 feet long, almost eight feet wide, and six feet high. It’s powered by a huge 7.0-liter V8 that generates 505 horsepower and 470 lb.-ft. of torque. The Puma is shod with aggressive 44-inch off-road tires, but, interestingly, it’s only rear-wheel drive. The builder says that, "It was conceptualized for those individuals who dare to be different than the ordinary." Amen.
Now, I’m going to get a little techie here. But at a show that featured LA’s first Connected Car Expo, the A3 deserves some attention in this area. When the car goes on sale this coming spring, Audi says it will be the first to include 4G LTE connectivity. Sure, today’s smart phones are already there, but even our most advanced cars are still stuck in 3G land. By embedding the much faster 4G in a car, Audi says it allow smoother renderings of the Google Earth and Street View features in the car’s navigation system. It will also be a pipeline for an in-car WiFi hotspot that can stream high-definition video for up to eight devices. So, skip the DVDs and tell the kids to get their iPads ready. And I’m sure in-car 4G will open the door to more connectivity options down the road. It’s just not clear yet how this data will be paid for.
Nissan GT-R Nismo
The GT-R is already a sports car icon, and this racing inspired version pushes the envelope further. The specs tell the story. Its 3.8-liter turbocharged V6 squeezes out 600 horsepower and 481 lb.-ft. of torque. Godzilla, indeed. A race-tuned suspension and special Dunlop tires are said to deliver super-sharp handling. And it’s dressed in a new lightweight aero package. I’ll take mine in the handsome Dark Matte Grey shown in LA.
Infiniti Q30 Concept
I’m all for the practicality and efficiency of a small SUV or wagon, but when you can wrap it in eye-catching styling, it becomes even more inviting. The Q30 Concept is strictly a design exercise for now, but one that stops you in your tracks. And, according Infiniti Americas Vice President Michael Bartsch, "It’s highly predictive of a new head-turning premium compact that we will launch in early 2015." I’ll look forward to it.
See our complete 2013 LA Auto Show coverage.
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