NOV 11th 2015
Los Angeles Auto Show Preview – Convertibles Then and Now!
A reborn classic from the 1970s, a new Porsche club racer and lots of new SUVs – including the world’s first convertible – are among the disparate star cars set to make motoring headlines in California next week. Yes, it’s Los Angeles Auto Show time.
With a week to go to press day (18 November), Fiat is keeping its cards close to its chest where its new 124 Spider is concerned. There are spy pictures of it online, but ahead of its unveiling we prefer to get in the mood by remembering the handsome Pininfarina original. It was a car that played a small but important part through the late ‘60s and 1970s in cementing the status of the 124, in all its many guises, as one of Italy’s all-time great cars.
How successful the new car will be in capturing its predecessor’s allure when it is a Fiat-ised version of the Mazda MX-5 is something on which we will reserve judgement. But since the MX-5 is such a cracking little rear-drive sports car, what’s surely certain is that the new Fiat Spider will be the best driving, most fun affordable Italian sports car in decades. It should be on sale in Europe next year, the 50th anniversary of the first 124 Sport Spider in 1966.
Incidentally LA will be an important show too for Alfa Romeo, which will be showcasing the new Giulia, already seen in Europe and on sale here next year as – fingers and toes all firmly crossed – an Alfa that Alfisti can truly fall in love with.
If the 124 Spider sounds perfect for a sprint up California Highway 1 to Big Sur then Britain’s LA show star, the Land Rover Evoque convertible, is surely the ideal machine in which to cruise around the Hollywood Hills. If you are going to be brave and launch a convertible SUV, LA has to be the place to do it!
Porsche’s LA world debut is less pose and more purpose – a lot more purpose. The Cayman GT4 Clubsport is pure track toy. No pictures yet but Porsche has already whetted our appetite for it with some juicy details – such as 385hp and a skimpy 1300kg, in a mid-engined chassis already acclaimed as one of the best handling cars ever.
Add PDK double-clutch transmission with paddle shift, 380mm discs all round, suspension from the 911 GT3 and welded-in safety cage, and surely motorsport newbies (and oldies!) looking for a club racing weapon have had their dreams answered. The car will be homologated for racing series in the US and, ordered from Weissach, eligible for club racing around the world.
You can’t have a motor show without SUVs these days and there will be plenty of new ones in LA, though not all will make it across the pond.
Two that will are the new-look Mercedes-Benz GLS – the GL as was, Merc’s vast seven-seat Range Rover rival complete with 577hp AMG version – and, from Infiniti, the QX30. This is a high-riding crossover version of the new and built-in-Britain Q30 luxury compact. A collaboration with Mercedes-Benz, these enticing new models could be just the cars to put Infiniti on the map in Europe.
Hopes are running high in the US for the new Mazda CX-9 (a large seven-seat crossover not sold in the UK) – and judging by the teaser picture it could look a bit of a stunner. The latest in Mazda’s Kodo design language, the new CX-9 is likely to share a look with the Koeru concept shown two months ago in Frankfurt. And you never know, maybe one day it will be sold here.
Will Angelinos like the new Scion? Toyota’s youth brand for the US, Scion means little to us in Europe. But if its LA concept car is as it is tipped to be – an extrovert version of the already very, er, extrovert Toyota C-HR concept, to make a kind of Nissan Juke rival – then it will be jolly hard not to notice it…
The home team will be fighting back on the 2017 model year front (the US is always a year ahead of everyone else…) with cars that include a significant new SUV: the Cadillac XT5. This is a replacement for Caddy’s top-selling mid-size SRX. It looks fresh, too, and, says Cadillac, it’s been on a diet so weighs in at 50kg less than even the smaller Audi Q5.
With all this SUV action let’s hope two British arrivals – the Jaguar F-Pace and Bentley Bentayga – go down well as they meet their US public for the first time. Californians will be queueing up for them, surely?
Every motor show has its quirky corner and LA is no different. The car that has grabbed our attention is the Elio which looks a bit like a Bond Bug (well, it has three wheels and it’s orange!) and is described by the boss as being ‘like an IndyCar’ to drive. Ambitious boss. It is actually a ‘personal transportation’ machine, costs $6,800 and does 84mpg. The Louisiana-based company, which has been financed by crowdfunding, wants to make Elios at the rate of 250,000 a year in the old Hummer factory. It’s said they already have 13,000 pre-orders.
California dreamin’? In LA, there’s nothing wrong with a bit of that.
The Los Angeles Auto Show is held at the Los Angeles Convention Center and is open to the public between 20-29 November.