Wondering the halls of the LA convention centre early this morning, we were beginning to think we’d turned up on the wrong day. It was an unusually subdued atmosphere, with none of the buzz that accompanies the other big North American motor show in Detroit every January.
Fortunately, though, the manufacturers showed more commitment than the world’s media, bringing along a wide selection of new models. And not just US-orientated cars, but global unveils of significance to the UK buyer.
Fewer people meant better access to the cars, too, so as the dust settles on the first press day at the LA Motor Show, which stars have shone the brightest? Here are our highlights.
In typical Porsche style, there were few surprises from the new Cayman – it’s based on the new Boxster which we already know and love – but on paper and in the flesh, it’s a step forward. In fact, the more rounded styling and improved performance had us wondering why exactly you need a 911 anymore.
Like us, you’ve probably had enough of BMW’s ‘i’ concepts by now and just want to see, and drive, the finished product. But as a final show car before we see the production i3 at the end of next year, the i3 Concept Coupe is deeply impressive. Exposed carbon fibre and a beautifully minimalist interior give it that premium feel that BMW hopes will set it apart from the competition.
On the surface, the Veloster C3 Concept appears to be another attention-grabbing ‘lifestyle’ concept, but behind the funky colour scheme and bike poking out the back, it features some genuinely exciting technology. The sardine-tin roof peels forwards as well as backwards, transforming it from a stylish convertible to a useful load carrier in an instant.
If the Ener-G-Force Concept is how Mercedes SUVs of the future will look, we’re all for it. Offering a more utilitarian take on the luxury Range Rover segment, it’s powered by hydrogen fuel cells incorporated into each wheel and batteries in the side sills - very cool indeed. Mercedes describes it as a “Highway Patrol vehicle for 2025” - criminals better watch out.
It sounds ridiculous to say, but with ‘only’ 503bhp, the Jaguar XFR was beginning to lag behind more potent rivals - and at this end of the market, that matters. We’d leave the bigger wing on the options list and go for the smaller one (a no-cost option) but that aside, the show car looked fantastic in royal blue sitting next to the F-Type painted in a burnt orange. If the XKR-S is anything to go by, the 542bhp XFR-S should deliver a riot of noise and wheelspin, except now you can bring the family along for the ride.
VW has worked hard to eradicate some of the Beetle’s effeminate image, and then completely undone its good work with the Beetle Cabriolet. Still, as with all VW’s it looks to be a beautifully-built machine and will find plenty of buyers. We’d go for the ‘50s’ special edition with its retro black wheels to make the most of this car’s long history.
If there’s one supercar that doesn’t need any help getting noticed, it's the Mercedes SLS AMG – if the gullwing doors don’t catch your eye, the thunderous exhaust note grabs your attention. But that hasn’t stopped Mercedes giving it the Black Series treatment. With swollen bodywork, 59bhp more power and 70kg less weight, it promises to be one of the most dramatic road cars for quite some time – not for the faint-hearted.
It was inevitable that Fiat would cram some batteries and a motor into its ever-popular 500, but the result appeared to be remarkably well-thought through. If anything, the blanked-out grille and lack of exhaust pipes actually help the 500’s cute, stylish bubble car image. As for how it drives, let’s hope the extra weight doesn’t blunt the 500’s dart-like handling.
While Subaru flounders in the UK, it still enjoys a reasonable degree of success in the US, so it’s no wonder that it chose LA to reveal the new Forester. In the world of endless crossovers and other niche-hunters, the Foresters half estate, half SUV proportions and no nonsense styling will make it a high-point of the current Subaru range. But Subaru will need something more dramatic to turn around its fortunes.
While other manufacturers are scrambling to enter the small SUV market, it’s amazing to think the RAV4 is now into its fourth-generation. Toyota has clearly applied the ‘if it ain't broke don’t fix it’ philosophy on this new model, but it’s by no means unattractive. Toyota says there’s a greater focus on driving dynamics, too – we’ll have to wait and see about that…