By John Lamm
Eight Great Picks from the LA Show
There was a time when an automotive writer could check in for two hours on the second day of the Los Angeles Auto Show and learn all there was to know.
Housed in the LA Convention Center, the show–now known as AutoMobility LA–is one of the most important in the U.S. Southern California is, after all, a major market for the likes of Mercedes-Benz, Audi, BMW and Jaguar. Toyota and Nissan may have fled to Texas and Tennessee, but SoCal was their original home and it remains so for most other Asian automakers.
Even Detroit won’t be outdone, with huge displays from General Motors, Ford and Fiat Chrysler. This year Tesla showed up.
For those of you not in the vicinity, we present our eight greats from the LA Show
Hold onto your wallet. We have no idea of the final tab for this S-Class-based ragtop, but it will be dear. Riding on exclusive 20-inch forged wheels, the S650 has a strong presence both face-on and as it passes by. Which it can do very quickly, thanks to a twin-turbo, 6.0-liter V-12 with 621 horsepower and 738 lb-ft of torque through a 7-speed automatic. The all-leather interior is, well, downright scrumptious. Mercedes will build only 300 Maybach S650 Cabriolets, with 75 aimed at the U.S. Three exterior colors are planned: Zircon Red, Cote d’Azur Blue and Diamond White. Included in the package will be a set of luggage and a car cover that matches the car’s soft top.
GT classes already provide some of the best racing in the U.S. We happily watch such exotics as the Aston Martin Vantage GT3, Audi R8 LMS GT3, BMW M6 GT3, Ferrari 488 GT3, Lamborghini Huracán GT and Porsche 911 GT3-R in nose-to-tail action in IMSA’s GT Daytona class. Now we can add Mercedes-Benz with its AMG GT3. Two teams will run these cars in the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, which starts at Daytona in late January. The AMGs are built to GT3 specs with about 500 horsepower. And one of the team drivers? None other than Gunnar Jeannette, who is often seen in the seat of Collier Collection race cars from the Revs Institute. Check out the video below of Gunnar in the Porsche 908 LH.
Porsche 9lls have rear engines, right? Not anymore. It can be argued Ford changed the GT game with its Ford GT, following the rules…and stretching them. Porsche’s response is the new 911 RSR, which has its engine ahead of the rear axle. So it has a mid engine. That powerplant is a new non-turbo 4.0-liter, direct-injected flat-6 with somewhere around 500 horsepower. The gearbox is a sequential 6 speed. In addition to moving the weight forward, the new layout allows for a more generous rear diffuser. We’ll get our first look at the 911 RSR in competition at Daytona in late January.
This is a Porsche two-fer. First comes the Executive part, the longer wheelbase that adds 5.9 inches of rear seat legroom. Along with a lot of coddling. From 8-way adjustable heated seats to 10.1-inch video screens that can be removed and used as tablets. Second is the Hybrid system. This provides all-wheel drive and when you mate the electric and gas components–the latter a twin-turbo V-6–you come away with 462 horsepower. So while you’re in back luxuriating in all that comfort the lucky driver can get to 60 mph in about 4.5 seconds.
Name a crossover for a legendary driving road in Italy’s Alps? Hope we get to try it there someday. The name might not be presumptuous considering how much the Stelvio shares with Alfa’s Giulia sedan. Both have 4- and 6-cylinder engine options. Each has a classic Alfa displacement, the four being 2.0 liters and providing 280 horsepower and 306 lb-ft of torque. The Quadrifoglio model’s V-6 is at 2.9 liters, sports a pair of turbos and is rated at 505 horsepower and 443 lb-ft of torque. In either case the engine is backed by an 8-speed automatic and all-wheel drive. Similar in size to Porsche’s Macan, the Stelvio’s exterior and interior reflect those of its sedan cousin, the Giulia…which is a good thing.
On a more practical level, Honda Civic coupes have often reached cult status and that’s what the automaker hopes to do with the new Si coupe. It is fitted with Honda’s aero kit that includes front and rear splitters and a spoiler out back. All this rides on 19-inch forged aluminum wheels. Options will include an active damper system, a limited-slip differential and high-performance tires. The engine will be a high-torque, 1.5-liter, direct-injected turbo four and–this will make our friends at Car and Driver happy–a short-throw 6-speed manual transmission.
A visual sweetheart…and not far off. While Jaguar calls its I-Pace a concept, the production version will be on-sale in the second half of 2018. Joining the new generation of electric vehicles, it is anticipated to have a range of 220 miles. The lithium-ion battery pack uses pouch cells and is located under the I-Pace’s floor. It powers electric motors on the front and rear axles with 400 horsepower and 516 lb-ft of torque. Acceleration to 60 mph is estimated at 4.0 seconds. Slightly longer and lower than Jaguar’s F-Pace crossover, the I-Pace inherits its sibling’s good looks and has a drag coefficient of just 0.29.
And now, new from Chattanooga. Biggest Volkswagen ever built in the U.S., the Atlas is claimed to have seating for seven adults with luggage space…though we’re not sure how much of the latter. At 198.3 inches long, the Atlas has the same length as a Ford Explorer. There will be two engines available, a 238-horsepower four and a 280-horsepower V-6. In either case the transmission is a 8-speed automatic. Front-wheel drive is the norm, with all-wheel drive available with the V-6. Pricing will be in the $30,000 range with the Atlas up against the likes of the Ford Explorer, Mazda CX-9, Honda Pilot, Toyota Highlander and Nissan Pathfinder.
OK, we lied a little bit. We do have a ninth vehicle. It was downstairs in the convention center’s “garage.” What we call the “what the heck?” hall that often surprises. And it did just that with artist Baron Margo’s Metamorphosis. Not sure what it is, but we love it. For a complete description from the man himself, go to this video link from the Los Angeles Times.