The best of this week's L.A. Auto Show
The 2018 Los Angeles Auto Show, the first big event of the new model year, has brought out a wide assortment of new cars, trucks, crossovers and concept vehicles — with a particular emphasis on environmentally friendly models.
L.A. Auto Show
The 2018 Los Angeles Auto Show, the first big event of the new model year, has brought out a wide assortment of new cars, trucks, crossovers and concept vehicles — with a particular emphasis on environmentally friendly models. Here’s a look at some of the most significant products that show-goers will find at the Los Angeles Convention Center until Dec. 9. — by Paul A. Eisenstein
Audi e-tron GT
California is not just the country’s largest automotive market, but also the biggest market for green machines, and this year saw the debut of a number of environmentally friendly automobiles. But the Audi e-tron GT shows the rapid evolution of battery-electric vehicles. Iron Man actor Robert Downey, Jr. helped unveil the four-seat sports car, which can launch from 0 to 60 in barely 3.5 seconds while delivering an estimated 250 miles range. It can also recharge nearly as fast as you can fill up the tank on Audi’s gas-powered R8 sports car. Officially a “concept” vehicle, a production version of the e-tron GT will reach showrooms in 2020.
Kia Soul (EV version)
Boxy can be beautiful, or so fans of the Kia Soul will tell you. The South Korean carmaker revealed the third-generation makeover of its quirky crossover in Los Angeles and while the looks are familiar, the 2019 Kia Soul is based on a new platform that is larger, roomier, and more sporty. It now comes in six different versions meant to attract a wider range of potential buyers. That includes the turbocharged GT, with its 201 horsepower engine, as well as the Soul EV. That model gets a larger battery pack that matches the performance of the gas-powered GT but can also deliver more than 200 miles per charge.
The electric revolution is taking aim at seemingly every niche of the market, including high-performance sports cars as well as full-size trucks. It’s also bringing to the market some promising new start-ups, like Detroit-based Rivian, which brought to L.A. its first two models, the all-electric R1T pick-up and R1S sport-utility vehicle. Aiming to reach showrooms as early as the 2020 model-year, the two models share an electric drive system using a massive, 180 kilowatt-hour battery pack promising 400-mile range. They also make 800 hp, enough to hit 60 in three seconds while also towing up to 11,000 pounds.
It was one of the worst-kept secrets of this year’s L.A. Auto Shows, but the debut of the new Jeep Gladiator also proved to be one of the event’s biggest hits. It’s been 16 years since Jeep offered a pick-up, a dramatic shortfall it now will correct with the launch of the Gladiator, which targets the resurgent midsize truck segment. It goes up against offerings like the Toyota Tacoma, Chevrolet Colorado and new Ford Ranger. Based on the same platform as the new-for-2019 Wrangler, Gladiator offers serious off-road capabilities, lots of towing power and a massive catalog of accessories.
Hyundai is racing to make up for lost time. The South Korean carmaker has been slow to embrace the rapid shift from passenger cars to light trucks. The Palisade is not only the third SUV it has introduced this year, but it’s also the largest it has ever offered, growing bigger in every dimension than the old Santa Fe XL. The Palisade has room for up to eight adults, while still offering plenty of cargo space. It comes loaded with the latest in infotainment and advanced driver assistance technology.
Lincoln hopes its long-awaited revival can take flight with the introduction of the all-new Aviator. It replaces the ungainly and unloved MKT sport-utility vehicles and slots in just under the luxury brand’s SUV Navigator flagship. With three rows, it’s roomy and lavishly appointed, with a 30-way driver’s seat that even has three different massage modes. Lincoln will offer two different powertrain options, including a plug-in hybrid that, at 450 hp, will be the most powerful product it has ever marketed. One of the more unusual features: Aviator’s warning chimes were recorded by the Detroit Symphony Orchestra.
Honda has turned to an old name for its newest crossover-utility vehicle. The Passport badge was first introduced back in 1993, when the Japanese automaker entered the SUV market with a truck built by Isuzu. The all-new Passport is designed to be more “personal sized” than the brand’s big Pilot SUV, yet still one of the roomiest models in its segment. Passport will be offered in both front- and all-wheel-drive versions, the latter rated at up to 5,000 pounds of towing capacity.
The Bavarian automaker had one of the busiest media previews at the show, rolling out an assortment of sports cars, sedans, coupes and even a concept car, the iNext, that hints at its increasingly electrified future. The BMW X7, meanwhile, will become the biggest SUV it has offered, and the most luxurious, serving as the truck-side alternative to the current BMW flagship sedan, the 7-Series. Among its features: a personal voice assistant similar to Amazon’s Alexa.
Porsche also is entering the all-electric market with the upcoming Taycan model, but for this year’s L.A. Auto Show it returned to its roots with the introduction of the eighth-generation icon of the brand, the 911. Visually, the sports car won’t shock loyal fans. The basic design is familiar, despite subtle updates. Known internally by the codename 992, the latest version of the Porsche 911 will initially be offered in two trims, the rear-wheel-drive Carrera S and the all-wheel-drive Carrera 4S. But expect plenty of other versions to follow, with Porsche even hinting a hybrid is in the works.
Mercedes-Benz GT Pro
Mercedes-Benz was nearly as busy as its German rival, with a wide range of new offerings. It even demonstrated the electronically controlled suspension in its next-generation GLE SUV by having it “dance” to some rap music. The sportiest of the new Mercedes models debuting in L.A. is the Mercedes-AMG GT Pro, the latest in a series of exotic sports cars produced by the automaker’s performance sub-brand. Though street legal, the GT Pro can also be taken out on the track, its 639 hp twin-turbo V-8 making it one of the fastest models Mercedes has ever produced.