This year's Los Angeles Auto Show will offer a glimpse of the future, with more than 50 new production and concept vehicles on display, and many making their American debut. Here’s a look at 14 of the most significant models debuting at the L.A. Convention Center this year.
The British automaker, best known for its long association with cinema super-spy James Bond, has been rolling out an array of sleek products. But its first-ever SUV, the DBX, is arguably the most important model in its history. Aston promises the vehicle will feature go-anywhere off-road capabilities while retaining its incredible on-road performance and handling. From a business standpoint, DBX is mission critical, expected to more than double the brand’s global sales. While Aston will stage a splashy debut event in L.A., the DBX will not actually be displayed on the show floor during public days.
Earlier this year, Audi became one of the first mainstream automakers to directly challenge Tesla with a sporty, long-range electric SUV, the e-tron. The L.A. Auto Show will see the German luxury brand debut what is set to become its second all-electric offering, the e-tron Sportback. While it might remind some of the automaker’s striking A7 fastback, it’s more of a coupe-like SUV adding more verve to the original e-tron’s design. They’ll share battery packs and drivetrain, meaning a range of just over 200 miles, and twin motors punching out a sporty 402 horsepower.
The Bavarian automaker is flooding its stand with models making either global or North American debuts. Out of that mix, the M2 CS is the most newsworthy. The “M” designation clearly tells you that this is a serious performer. And the CS will be the most powerful version yet of the pint-sized coupe, topping the earlier M2 Competition model with nearly 450 horsepower bursting out from under the hood. Other BMW models to check out in L.A. include the stretched 2-Series Gran Coupe and the M8 Gran Coupe, the latter adding even more muscle to the brand’s flagship coupe-like sedan.
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Like Tesla, Michigan-based start-up Bollinger is convinced it can crack the long-closed automotive fraternity by going all electric. But, in this case, it hopes to do so with a super-heavy-duty, go-anywhere pickup — along with the B1 SUV. The boxy design says it’s meant to be a real work truck, its stump-pulling, 614-horsepower twin motors powered by a 120 kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack. Look for production to begin late next year, starting at around $125,000.
This could be the L.A. Auto Show-stopper, the eagerly awaited “Mustang-inspired,” all-electric SUV expected to pose a formidable challenge to Tesla’s own upcoming Model Y. Look for the Mustang Mach-E to be offered with several different battery-pack and motor drive options, including a high-performance equivalent of the classic Mustang GT model. Along with its promised performance, the extended-range version is expected to deliver at least 300 miles of range per charge.
The South Korean carmaker still offers a mix of sedans and coupes but has been shifting focus to SUVs, reflecting broader market trends. The last year has seen the launch of two new utes, the little Venue and the big Palisade. Now it’s time for a complete makeover of one of its original crossovers. What’s coming to Los Angeles will be a “concept SUV,’ according to Hyundai, but it all but certainly reveals the basic styling and features to come with the next-generation compact Tucson model. Significantly, we’ll expect the production model to add both hybrid and plug-in hybrid drivetrain options.
The Karma brand rose from the ashes of the bankrupt Fisker brand after being purchased by China’s Wanxiang Group. Located near L.A., it will show off the latest, high-performance version of its only production model, the Revero GTS. But Karma also has a new concept vehicle that strongly hints at where the brand will go next. The SC2 adds a hardtop to the striking SC1 concept sports car that it unveiled last summer.
Like its South Korean sibling Hyundai, the Kia brand has been putting more of its focus on SUVs lately. But it’s not abandoning its classic passenger car mix, as the debut of an all-new version of the midsize Optima demonstrates. Slightly longer and wider, the 2021 Kia Optima adopts a new take on the brand’s distinctive “tiger-nose” grille, as well as a more aggressive look, overall. It will share two four-cylinder powertrains with the latest version of Hyundai’s Sonata sedan, but a hybrid package is expected to follow, along with another high-performance turbo powertrain.
With the long-awaited debut of the new Defender, the SUV side of Jaguar Land Rover goes back to its roots, though it says this classic off-roader has been “reimagined for the 21st Century.” Don’t let the sleeker exterior fool you, the first Defender bound for U.S. shores in 22 years will still be able to crawl over just about any obstacle in its way. With its new “Wade Sensing” system, it will even ford nearly three feet of water. A variety of engine options will be available and there’ll be plenty of creature comforts, like Apple CarPlay for when Defender is driving down a well-paved highway.
Times have been tough for Mini. Though demand has been strong for its Countryman SUV, cheap gas has harshly impacted demand for its classic hatchback models. The automaker hopes to regain some momentum with a new line-up, and the John Cooper Works GP is meant to be the halo offering. Equipped with a 301 horsepower drivetrain, it will be screaming fast. But potential buyers for the two-door hardtop will need to move fast, as well, with only 3,000 being built worldwide at a base price of around $46,000.
We got a first glimpse of Porsche’s striking, all-electric sports car earlier this year. But, at more than $160,000 for the Taycan Turbo 4S, only the most elite buyers could imagine buying one. At $103,800, this version of the Taycan is a bit more “affordable,” and remains blisteringly fast, able to launch from 0-60 in just 3.8 seconds. Two battery packs will be available and the larger one should still yield more than 250 miles per charge.
Los Angeles may seem an odd place to introduce a car with all-wheel-drive, but considering the snow and cold weather blanketing much of the country, the timing is perfect. This will be the first AWD version of Toyota’s midsize mainstay since 1991. It will borrow its traction-enhancing technology from the RAV4 SUV. The system also will appear for the first time in the bigger Avalon sedan. Toyota hopes the addition of AWD will maintain demand for the sedans, as buyers might otherwise migrate to SUVs.
While it’s been a big proponent of conventional hybrids, like the groundbreaking Prius, Toyota has been slow to adopt more advanced battery drive technology. It currently offers only one plug-in hybrid vehicle, the Prius Prime. But it’s about to be joined by a PHEV version of the wildly popular RAV4 SUV. It’s expected to deliver significantly better mileage than the current RAV4 Hybrid’s 40 mpg combined — but by tapping in to a bigger lithium-ion battery pack, it also “will become the most powerful RAV4 yet,” hints Toyota.
No, it’s not one of the flying cars you’ve been hearing about but a prototype of one of the next all-electric models that the German automaker plans to build. The Space Vizzion Concept adopts a sort of wagon-like appearance but VW confirms there will be different production versions for different markets — and that likely means a more SUV-like take for the U.S., where it will join other long-range models including the ID.4 crossover set to be built in Tennessee, as well as the ID Buzz, an all-electric take on the classic Volkswagen Microbus.
Paul A. Eisenstein
Paul A. Eisenstein is an NBC News contributor who covers the auto industry.