News Column

L.A. Auto Show Puts the Vroom in the Room

November 22, 2013

Susan Carpenter, The Orange County Register

mercedes amg gran turismo
Mercedes-Benz AMG Vision Gran Turismo concept car (Mercedes-Benz)

Nov. 22--The LA Auto Show, running through Dec. 1 at the Los Angeles Convention Center, is the usual high-horsepower pony show of hot models, high tech, and never-before-seen shiny cars. Gearheads who make the drive north will be rewarded with 23 global and 20 North American debuts, many of them catering to opposite ends of the California car buyership, whether they're wealthy, eco-minded or, increasingly, both.

We walk you through the highlights:

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How do you say hubba-hubba in German? Easy. Mercedes-Benz AMG Vision Gran Turismo. The spectacularly beautiful concept car made its world debut Wednesday. Pity the poor auto show workers tasked with cleaning up the drool.

Seemingly crafted from molten silver, the Vision is truly something to behold, with its voluptuously elongated hood and curvaceous wheel arches. From the variable LED grille to its oversized side skirts and the red-glowing lines on its lower body, the va-va-voom Vision was designed to showcase Mercedes' super sports car of the future.

Alas, the AMG Vision is not for purchase. It was developed for the PlayStation 3 video game Gran Turismo 6, through which it can only be flogged on the track virtually once the game goes on sale next month -- despite being powered with a 585-horsepower, twin-turbocharged V8 that's nestled into an aluminum space frame and trimmed with carbon fiber.

At least Mercedes-Benz AMG had the foresight to anticipate real-world auto enthusiasts' interest in its creation, so it built a life-size replica. Even better, it crafted a finished interior. The inside of the two-seat sports car is as alluring as its shell, replicating the look of a Formula 1 cockpit, with red sports seats and a dashboard that mimics the gull wing doors that access it.

While car lovers won't be able to buy an AMG Vision, they can attempt to content themselves with the Vision Gran Turismo concept vehicles that will be offered as online updates.

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Billing it as the first sports car in the crossover segment, Porsche introduced its Macan to the world on Wednesday. Taking its name from an Indonesian tiger, with a pouncing profile to match, the first vehicle in the German auto maker's fifth model line is also its first compact SUV.

Clearly, Porsche engineers felt they had something more to offer the crowded crossover market, so they paired the exclusive name plate and its legacy of sports car performance with an urban, yet off-road-capable, utility vehicle in a five-seat hatch that doesn't need the badge to indicate its provenance.

From the side, the Macan's profile is a tribute to the 911 grand tourer, with its sloping roof line, side view window and rear fenders, while from the front, its headlights are based on those of the 918 Spyder supercar and encased in a wraparound hood. The hybrid super sport carries through to the Macan interior as well, with a multi-function sports steering wheel outfitted with paddle shifters to operate a seven-speed double-clutch transmission and to navigate its all-wheel drive.

Available in two versions, the Macan S is powered with a twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter V-6 that makes 340 horsepower and sprints from 0 to 60 mph in 5.2 seconds on its way to a top speed of 156 mph, while the Macan Turbo is powered with a twin-turbocharged 3.6-liter V-6 that ups the horsepower ante to 400 and quickens the 0-to-60 sprint to 4.6 seconds on its way to 164 mph.

Porsche says the Macan Turbo will be the most powerful compact SUV on the road when it comes to market in late spring 2014.

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The cat is back. After more than three decades without a two-seat sports car, Jaguar finally rectified the situation earlier this year with its two-door beauty, the F-Type Convertible. Now the British luxury car maker is expanding its line of elegant, performance-oriented eye candy with a trio of fixed-roof follow-ups.

Available early next year as 2015 models, the F-Type Coupes are vintage looking, with sculptured low-slung bodies and dramatically tapered rooflines that emulate Jaguar's classic E-Type but drop even lower at the tail. But they are also modern, with large peek-a-boo rear windows -- the better to see their prodigious powerplants.

Based on the C-X16 sports coupe shown at the LA Auto Show in 2011, the all-aluminum coupes use supercharged gas engines instead of the hybrid powertrain of the concept. The top-of-the-line, 550-horsepower R version is powered with a supercharged, 5.0-liter V-8 that accelerates from 0 to 60 mph in 4 seconds on its way to a top speed of 186 mph. Pricing is set at $99,000.

The 340-horsepower, 3.0-liter base model starts at $65,000. The 380-horsepower S version is $77,000.

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Anyone who's shopped for a truck in recent years can tell you: Pickups are getting bigger. The Nissan Frontier and Toyota Tacoma are the last remaining midsize models in the U.S. market, but Chevrolet will change that when it reintroduces its Colorado pickup to the North American market in the fourth quarter of 2014. Oriented toward younger drivers who hike, surf or ski, rather than blue-collar workers who pack, haul and tow, the Colorado is targeting buyers whose daily drivers lack the utility to support their outdoorsy lifestyles. The Los Angeles metro area is expected to be its No. 1 market.

More utilitarian than a car or crossover but more fuel efficient than a full-size pickup, the Colorado rolls on a scaled-down version of the chassis used in Chevy's full-size Silverado, only it's 900 pounds lighter, 5 inches narrower and 3 inches lower. Its cargo bed uses the same corner steps as its big brother truck, but it is two-tiered and outfitted with 17 tie downs.

The Colorado will be powered with either a 2.5-liter four-cylinder or 3.6-liter V-6 engine. By the end of 2015, it will also be offered as a 2.8-liter four-cylinder diesel, making it the only diesel midsize pickup in the U.S. A more performance-oriented Z71 version will also be available.

Pricing won't be announced until the second quarter of 2014 but is likely to be $5,000 to $7,000 less than comparably equipped full-size pickups.

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Kia's first rear-drive sedan rolled onto the red carpet at the LA Auto Show on Wednesday, offering further proof of the Korean automaker's intentions of up-scaling the budget-car brand. Kia is presenting its K900 as its new full-size flagship.

Earlier this year, Kia defied its reputation with the Cadenza, its top-of-the-line, four-door, five-seat sedan that starts at $35,100 and comes with navigation, a backup camera and heated leather seats standard. To celebrate its 20th anniversary in the U.S. market next year, Kia will demonstrate its continuing evolution by applying the same recipe to its K900.

The four-door five-seater is equipped with 19-inch wheels, heated and ventilated leather seats, adaptive LED headlights, blind spot detection, a 900-watt audio system and many other features as standard equipment on the 420-horsepower, 5.0-liter V-8 version. The K900 marks Kia's first use of a V-8 in a sedan. The K900 can also be had as a 311-horsepower, 3.8-liter V-6.

A lot of attention has been focused on the rear seats, which are also heated. Power rear- and side-window sunshades are likewise standard, as is a full-length panoramic roof. A VIP package adds reclineability to the rear seats, as well as multi-stage cooling and power lumbar support. And it expands the dashboard LCD screen to an oversized 12.3 inches -- the largest of any Kia vehicle.

The K900 will go on sale during the first quarter of 2014 as a 2015 model.

Contact the writer: scarpenter@ocregister.com

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Original headline: L.A. auto show renews gee-whiz tradition


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Source: (c)2013 The Orange County Register (Santa Ana, Calif.)