This year’s Los Angeles Auto Show received a new name: #AutoMobility. The rationale for the renaming is pretty easy to understand, as vehicular travel becomes more technology-focused – and it’s definitely just the beginning for technological advances in vehicle manufacture and usage.
Indeed, the automobile (whether it’s a car or truck) is becoming more like a smartphone, with auto makers advancing the use of services like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto in their newest offerings. These products are designed to keep eyes and hands focused on the road ahead and behind, although they could be doing the opposite, contributing to more distracted driving.
There were programs presented to media prior to the public opening to show the many diverse opportunities open to the automotive marketplace. The combining of vehicular travel together with infotainment opportunities within the vehicle is being stressed throughout the industry. For instance, auto maker Hyundai (which had a lot of interesting products to show) has a new partnership with Amazon that allows the owner’s car to be remotely started and engage heating, ventilating and air conditioning operations with use of Amazon’s Echo personal assistant.
Because the automotive industry is predicated on technology, #AutoMobility2016 offered plenty to see and hear. There were 3-D printed cars on display. Green Car Journal selected the 2017 Chevrolet Bolt as its “Green Car of the Year,” just one year after the Volt received that honor. There were plenty of discussions on ride-sharing – even though this manufacturer’s products are primarily based on single user credos.
And there were cars: halls upon halls of cars. And trucks. And love affairs with movies (see Nissan Rogue’s “Star Wars” tie-in, announced during the first vehicle-based press conference of the week). As one would expect in the Southern California area, alternative vehicle power plants was a major emphasis of this gathering – which continues to the public through Sunday, November 27. The electrification of the vehicle grid is getting more and more pronounced, but some manufacturers are finding new and inventive ways to approach alternative fuels.
Among those are Jaguar, who last year produced their first F-Pace SUV – a major trend at all auto shows – and this year introduced the I-Pace SUV, a concept vehicle that should be on the road in 2018. I-Pace, which should have a range in excess of 300 miles, a 0-60mph sprint of about four seconds and rapid charging of its 90kW battery pack, in an all-wheel-drive package. If it looks like a Jaguar, growls like a Jaguar (well, not sure about that part yet), then it’s going to be a viable machine.
Not the only upper market auto maker heading in the SUV/CUV direction, recent returnee to the American landscape Alfa-Romeo offered its fist US-bound SUV, Stelvio, named for a great Italian roadway. In keeping with the company’s bilateral leanings, the Stelvio and Stelvio Ti models have a 2L direct-injection turbocharged engine with 280 horsepower and 306 lb-ft of torque, allowing a 144-mph top speed. Alfa’s Quadrifoglio “halo” model will have a 2.9L V-6 engine with two intercooled turbochargers, all-wheel-drive, 505HP and 443 lb-ft of torque.
No prices on either the Jaguar or Alfa-Romeo 2018 entries, but their respective beauties will certainly make them viable choices for those in the know, allowing them to join Jaguar’s new entry-level XE sedan (love it) and Alfa-Romeo’s gorgeous Giulia sedan, introduced last year at this show.
While the emphasis this year is on SUV/CUV offerings, there were some awesome sedans on the show floor; in particular, Porsche’s new Panamera4 Executive longer-length sedan is just right for the Los Angeles-based entrepreneur. If that wasn’t enough, Porsche also introduced its new race entry, the 911GT3 RSR, ready for IMSA and World Endurance Championship entries.
The Porsche pavilion at the LA Auto Show is always a visual delight, paying homage to its racing legends (both mechanical and human); this year the firm also celebrated the opening of its second US-based Porsche Experience Center, which gives lovers of the marque, owners and those thinking about owning an opportunity to experience the Porsche life. With a maze of on- and off-road racetrack configurations, a boutique, a couple of excellent restaurants, viewing of restorations and racecar preparation, this venue is bound to be a tourist – and local – attraction, nestled at the confluence of the 406 and 110 freeways, just about 15 minutes from LAX and LGB.
In other Wednesday presentations, Mercedes-Benz/Mayback showed off their exceptionally luxurious AMG GT C roadster and promoted its entries in the Pirelli World Challenge for 2017. Both vehicles are delicious to examine; this writer prefers the racecar, especially since we’ll get to see it in action. The AMG GT C roadster will be so exclusive that it should become a rarity on most roads.
Perched on one side of the M-B exhibit is Lexus, who decided to go whimsy with its Sriracha IS. The color is true, as evidenced by the propped bottles of the hot sauce in the IS’s trunk and the rim of green around the dash. My mouth was burning just looking at this car!
MINI’s Countryman grew (no surprise) and added an EV version, while Acura showed off its NSX (also bound for competition but not displayed at this venue). Acura did show off its upcoming high-tech displays that will start arriving in vehicles late next year. The cutaway cockpit made it easy to see what the future entails. And there was an autonomous car that drew little attention.
Soul red Mazda cars and CUVs were all the rage at its display, where the company also introduced its new IMSA DPi challenger for IMSA’s Weather Tech Championship, having all four drivers (Jonathan Bomarito, Tom Long, Tristan Nunez and Joel Miller) take the wraps off the new racer. Although the new DPi won’t have diesel power, Mazda’s CX-5 CUV, updated for the 2017 selling season sure will. The diesel engine won’t be available at launch but will become part of the CX-5 family later in the year.
The final presentation on Wednesday – easily the busiest of the two-day press conference march-around-the-halls – came from Hyundai, the Korean contender whose recent offerings have become part of the American landscape. Hyundai is offering three different Ioniq sedans: electric, hybrid, plug-in hybrid versions – and also an autonomous Ioniq to boot.
All but the plug-in hybrid Ioniq will be available sometime this winter and will include available features such as automatic emergency braking, braking with pedestrian detection, lane departure and blind spot detection. There’s also an available smart cruise control, smartphone integration and wireless charging – and a neat holder for a tablet between the front seats that doesn’t interfere with cup holders.
Hyundai’s blue Link app allows remote features such as monitoring battery levels to let the driver know when it’s time to find a place to plug in, setting a charging time to take advantage of off-peak electric rates where available. The Ioniq hybrid has a combined MPG of 58, which is two better than the Toyota Prius.
And that was just Wednesday!
Words and Photos (except one Mazda photo) By Anne Proffit