18/11/2011 2011 Los Angeles Auto Show: Upbeat Vibe
It’s hard to feel down when the sun shines every day, as evidenced by this year’s Los Angeles Auto Show. The sombre tone of two years ago was completely forgotten as throngs of media, many of them from overseas, trouped through the expansive halls of the L.A. Convention Center to witness the unveilings of the assembled manufacturers.
Manufacturers, for the most part, left behind their concerns about worldwide economic woes and production-interrupting catastrophes, to present new models that carried an upbeat vibe with an emphasis on luxury, sportiness, and performance. This was best illustrated by the reasonably feasible-for-production concept models on display at the Jaguar and Land Rover stand.
The Jaguar C-X16 is what its designer Ian Callum considers the “best to come out of Jaguar since the E-type”. The sleek, fastback two-seater does have a few styling cues reminiscent of the iconic sports car, notably a glass rear hatch hinged on the right, but it is definitely Jaguar’s goal to move into the 21st Century with a supercharged 3.0-litre V6 supplemented by an electric motor, giving a hybrid system that offers 0-62 mph acceleration of 4.4 seconds and 44mpg fuel economy.
That’s unlikely to be in the near-production model, but a stylish, modern, driver-oriented cockpit, with a proper shift knob replacing the rotary dial, should carry over nicely.
To bide the time until the smaller two-seat sports car comes along, Jaguar announced a convertible version of its ultra high performance 550HP XKR-S model. That’s assuming you have already put down a deposit on one of the limited run of 25 U.S. versions which, despite a $138,000 price tag, are reportedly sold out.
Meanwhile, next door at Land Rover were a pair of concepts aimed at recreating the iconic Series 1 Defender in a 21st Century format. Angularly boxy like the original, one is an open-top ‘speedster’ that offers beach buggy fun with utility. The other, probably more production ready, is a two-door promising the rugged, versatility of the original in a shape mindful of a MINI mated to an FJ Cruiser.
A decidedly different view of an SUV dominated the Mercedes-Benz stand where the brutish 2012 ML63 AMG arrived. While the nomenclature remains, the 6.2-litre V8 has been displaced by a twin-turbo 5.5-litre V8 offering a power boost to 515HP and 518lb ft of torque.
Horsepower was the main topic at Ford and Chevy as, just like in the good ole muscle car days, Ford upstaged the debut of Chevy’s 580HP, supercharged 6.2-litre V8 ZL1, the fastest Camaro in history, by slyly announcing the 2013 Mustang line-up that includes a supercharged 5.8-litre V8 GT500 that develops an astounding 650HP.
Things were a bit more sophisticated at Audi, which showed the super-slick S8 and a mouthwatering speedster style, diesel-electric hybrid e-tron Spyder.
Not quite as powerful under the hood, but with a very high coolness and charisma rating, is the Fiat Abarth that made its North American debut in L.A. Its 1.4-litre turborcharged and intercooled 4-cylinder puts out 160HP.
At the other end of the spectrum, Aston Martin brought over one of its limited-edition One-77 coupés for L.A. car fans to drool over.
All in all, with these and many more models that were on display, the L.A. show offers hope and excitement that both the near and distant future looks bright for North American auto enthusiasts.