Los Angeles Auto Show has become one of the biggest new-car parties on the international calendar, with manufacturers from this continent and others premiering their newest wares. Many reflect the rapidly accelerating trend toward environmentally-responsible motoring, while others shower you in the delightful decadences of luxury and speed (sometimes both at once). Here are the ten newbies that got our attention.
Porsche Cayman R
While some purists are apparently quite horrified that the “R” designation is being applied to a Porsche other than a 911, it’s simply impossible to badmouth the Cayman R’s bona fides. The 3.4L pancake six serves up 330hp (up 10 from the Cayman S), while about 120 lb. of fat has been trimmed from the curb weight. Revised bodywork with retro rocker panel stripes and super-lightweight 19” wheels round out this mid-engine switchback-slayer. Thinking of it as a Boxster Spyder for climates less temperate than ours wouldn’t be too far off the mark.
Cadillac Urban Luxury Concept
Even though going way-the-hell downmarket (via a gilded Chevy Cavalier) severely tarnished its reputation back in the day, Cadillac has decided to at least give the world an idea what an even more modest Caddy might look like. Called the Urban Luxury Concept, this little scissor-doored runabout crams the brand’s Art and Science design language into a 151” long, two-box package.
Power comes courtesey of a turbocharged 1.0L three-banger mated to a dual-clutch transmission, automatic stop-start, electric assist and regenerative braking to yield an estimated 56 mpg in the city and 65 mpg on the highway. Assuming the rather terrifying fuel economy legislation being bandied about in Washington becomes reality, pygmy luxury cars like this (and Aston Martin’s Cygnet) could become the rule rather than the exception. At least this thing looks pretty sharp.
The Nissan GT-R is already a legend of our time, but what would happen if Godzilla were to be endowed with, oh, 45 more horsepower and 54 more lb.-ft of torque? What if Nissan also added a revised front bumper, a revised diffuser and underbody paneling to improve cooling, add downforce and reduce drag? Or even lighter RAYS wheels? You’d probably have the 2012 GT-R. With 530hp on tap, Nissan says its AWD supercoupe should now be able to blast to 60 mph in less than three seconds. Oh, and it’s still cheaper than Mothra, er, the Porsche 911 Turbo, with the base model set to retail for $89,950. Sweet.
Honda Fit EV Concept
Not content to let rival Nissan have the all-electric small five-door market to itself, Honda announced plans to have a battery-powered Fit ready for the 2012 model year, and showed off a concept version to prove just how serious the company is. Honda expects the lithium-ion battery pack and three mode drive system (based on the one found in the CR-Z hybrid) to return a range of 100 miles per charge, which just so happens to be the same as the Leaf. The Fit EV also features a special remote that allows you to track charging progress, initiate charging, and turn on the air conditioning. All this begs the question: How long before Toyota rolls out an electric B-segment hatch?
Mercedes-Benz CLS63 AMG
Even though Mercedes-Benz pulled the sheet off the second generation of its popular CLS-Class four-door coupes a while ago, the speed demons among us were told to wait to feast our peepers on the AMG version. Well the wait is over and, if you ask us, it was well worth it. The new CLS’s more sculpted sheetmetal is treated to more aggressive front and rear styling, 19” five-spoke wheels and other visual tweaks, but the real news is under the surface. The new AMG-designed 5.5L twin-turbo V8 lurks under the hood, just waiting for you to summon its 518hp and 516 lb.-ft of twist, or 550hp and 590 lb.-ft if you spring for the AMG Performance Package that also gives you 4.3 second 0-60 times and a (limited) 186 mph top speed. A special matte gray-finished “Launch Edition” will also be available when the CLS63 AMG storms into showrooms next summer.
Chevrolet Camaro Convertible
Speaking of summertime, Chevrolet has a new weapon in its aresenal for waging the Pony Car Wars in the form of the Camaro Convertible. As with the coupe, buyers will be able to choose from a 3.6L 312hp V6 or a 6.2L 426hp V8 (400hp if you opt for an automatic transmission) and a 6-speed manual or 6-speed automatic transmission. Like its arch nemesis Mustang, the droptop Camaro uses a fabric top that’s lighter, cheaper and more space-efficient than the folding hardtops found on many foreign convertibles. Even so, the Camaro’s structure is actually stiffer than that of the al fresco BMW 3 Series, which features a folding hardtop. America, #@%$ yeah!
Ford Focus Race Car Concept
While we’re pretty impressed with Ford’s soon-to-arrive 2012 Focus, the initial versions aren’t exactly going to set the pavement on fire in terms of performance. Thankfully, the turbocharged Focus ST will be headed Stateside. But what if even that’s not hardcore enough? What if you want something you can only use on the track?
That’s where this thing comes in. While the Focus ST’s 247hp 2.0L EcoBoost four remains untouched, the interior has been gutted and fitted with a full roll cage, Recaro racing seat and other safety gear. Outside you’ll find lowered suspension, slick tires, and tow hooks front and rear. Ford says it hopes to build and sell something similar for customers to race in various touring car and endurance series worldwide. We say we want to see it happen too.
Lamborghini Gallardo LP570-4 Spyder Performante
Over the last few years, there have been plenty of special hardcore versions of sports cars released: Porsche 911 GT3, Ferrari F430 Scuderia, Lamborghini Gallardo Superleggera, etc. However, much to the dismay of sun-worshipping speed freaks, the overwhelming majority of them have had roofs of the immovable variety. This makes sense to most performance junkies, since coupes offer better chassis stiffness and often lower weight than their convertible companions.
Now Lamborghni says “So what?” to all that scientific mumbo-jumbo by revealing the Gallardo LP570-4 Spyder Performante. Extensive use of carbon fiber for the special bodywork (including a fixed rear wing) and lightweight wheels drop the curb weight by 143 lb. over the regular Gallardo Spyder. It also packs a 570hp whollop from the 5.2L V10. If this sounds like the recepie for a topless Superleggera, give yourself a cookie, because even Lambo basically cops to it in the press release. But you know what? We’re totally cool with it.
Toyota RAV4 EV
In the mid- to late-1990s, when the State of California required automakers to gear up to build a certain number of zero-emissions vehicles per year, Toyota responded with an all-electric version of its compact RAV4 SUV. Fleet buyers (not to mention many celebrities) loved them, and Toyota says about half of them are still on the road today. Toyota’s preparing a new RAV4 EV for 2012, but this time around they’re getting some outside assistance.
The new RAV4 EV’s drivetrain is being developed by Tesla Motors under Toyota’s supervision, and while a current RAV4 is considerably bigger and bulker than the original RAV4 (or the Tesla Roadster, for that matter), Toyota and Tesla are still shooting for a range of 100 miles per charge, even under less-than-ideal conditions. What’s more, no cargo space has been sacrificed, meaning the RAV4 EV will still be great for grocery retrieval, soccer team shuttling, and whatever other, um, fascinating activities in which crossover drivers partake.
Buick Regal GS
Say “hot Buick” to the average consumer and they’ll probably think of a mid-‘90s Park Avenue that does 55 mph in the fast lane with the hazard lights on instead of 50 mph with the left blinker on. Insensitive agist kidding aside, Buick has made its share of performance cars over the years, from the original prewar Century (which combined the bigger, brawnier straight-8 engine of the senior Buicks with the bodies of the smaller, lighter junior Buicks) to the 5.3L V8-powered LaCrosse Super offered last year and the year before.
Now there’s an edgier version of the European-bred Regal, reviving the Regal GS moniker. The 2.0L Ecotec turbo-four produces 255hp and 295 lb.-ft, which is sent to the front tires through a 6-speed manual transmission (A 6-speed auto will be optional later.). That sounds like it would lead to an orgy of torquesteer, but Buick’s innovative HiPerStrut front suspension should help keep the snout pointed where you want it in most situations. Do we wish Buick had brought the drivetrain of the Regal GS’s Opel Insignia OPC cousin (a 325hp 2.8L turbo V6 and all-wheel-drive) over? Of course. But who’s to say they aren’t planning a Regal GSX?