List: Top 10 Most Exciting Cars at the 2009 LA Auto Show – Part II

2010 Porsche 911 GT3 RS

So, part II of the Top 10 Most Exciting Cars from the 2009 LA Auto Show continues… The event was somewhat subdued and light on world debuts, but featured many of the outstanding models that we saw unveiled at the Frankfurt and Tokyo Motor Shows. As the last major auto show of 2009, this event was a decent bookend to a year filled with plenty of ups and downs.

The strangest occurrence at the 2009 LA Auto Show was the last minute change of presenter for the Motor Press Guild Keynote Address. Former CEO Fritz Henderson was asked by the Board to resign on Tuesday, and Bob Lutz quickly stepped in to deliver the speech. In any case, as the turbulence in the auto industry continues, innovation and progressive design have kept things interesting and exciting. As a side note, some of the coolest cars at the show ended up on this list as honorable mentions simply because they had so much exposure during the months leading up to the show and weren’t so novel by the time the show rolled around…

Mazda2 Concepts

Number 5: Mazda2 Concepts

The global appeal for petite, fuel-sipping sport sub-compact sedans has finally been embraced by American consumers, who were once hell-bent on the bigger-is-better mantra. Since Ford and Mazda share almost everything it’s no surprise that both the new 2011 Ford Fiesta and 2011 Mazda 2 both debuted at the LA Auto Show. The Fiesta is a fantastic little dynamo, and Ford did bring some cool custom models of their own, but Mazda introduced three MazdaSpeed2 concept cars that really caught our eye.

The 2Evil is a track-inspired vehicle with a fat and low front lip, some serious side skirts and an aggressive rear spoiler. Painted Ceramic Grey with green accents and green 18-inch wheels, the car is slammed using H&R coil-overs. Both the Active2 Surf and Active2 Snow concepts receive similar changes to the front bumper and side skirts and sport Thule roof racks. The Active2 Surf has a cool carbon-fiber surfboard on top while the Active2 Snow carries none other than a pair of snowboards. No word yet on the powerplant for the Mazda 2, but the 2011 Ford Fiesta will get a 1.6-liter engine good for 119 hp. So, based on that info, it looks like the Mazda 2 will have similar performance figures. Let’s hope someone in the Hiroshima Prefecture decides to shoehorn in the 2.5-liter inline-4 from the Mazda 3 which is good for 167 hp… Now that would be something!

Volkswagen Up! Lit Concept

Number 4: Volkswagon Up! Lite Concept Car

Usually, we don’t pay too much attention to concept cars as most are just vaporware. That said, VW’s world debut of its Up! Lite design study is important because the company has publicly declared that it plans to bring some form of this vehicle to market. The car sports a hybrid powertrain featuring a 0.8-liter, 2-cylinder diesel engine and an electric motor. The engine puts out 51 hp and 88 lb-ft of torque while the motor generates 13 additional horsepower. This may seen like the equivalent of a Tim Allen juiced-up lawnmower but in the case of the Up! Lite, this propulsion combo allows the car to reach a top speed of 100 mph and hit 60 mph from a stop in just 12 seconds. With a fuel economy rating of 70 mpg, Volkswagen is hoping that they are on to something.

Beside the development involved in getting the Up! Lite motoring around town on an alternative hybrid system, VW also put tons of time into integrating lightweight aluminum and carbon fiber throughout the car. The Up! Lite is coated in a Liquid Blue Metallic paint and features tons of cool gadgetry. A touchscreen and hand-motion sensors handle things such as multimedia, climate controls and Internet connectivity. Cameras are used in place of outside and rear-view mirrors. This is a great hatchback that may ultimately reinvigorate excitement in the brand, whenever it actually comes to market.

2011 Infinity M

Number 3: 2011 Infinity M

The Infinity M, the company’s flagship sedan, has been rolling along in the same skin since 2003, while the G and FX models have both seen major overhauls. Now, Infinity is going all out on a redesign of their flagship sedan. Two engine options will be offered: the well-known 3.7 V6 outfitted in the M37 model and an all new 5.6-liter V8 capable of 420 hp in the M56. The new M will be available in either rear or all-wheel drive and feature a four-mode driver-selectable throttle control.

Like all Infinity models, technological wizardry will be ever-present. A Blind Spot Warning system will beep in the presence of danger while a Blind Spot Intervention System moseys the car back into its rightful lane. Some other niceties include a Forest Air system which creates a natural breezy airflow and an Eco-Pedal which pushes back on the driver when he/she is too aggressive. The interior is gorgeous but we just wish the exterior was a little more edgy. Even though this is a 2011 model, the new Infinity M looks a little dated even in 2009. This one has been flying under the radar but we thought it an important update for Nissan’s luxury division.

2011 Porsche Boxster Spyder

Number 2: 2011 Porsche Boxster Spyder

Tipping the scales at just 2,811 pounds, the Porsche Boxster Spyder will be the lightest Porsche available on the market. It’s not the most powerful, but the 3.4-liter DFI six-cylinder engine puts out 320 hp, which is 10 more than the Boxster S. With the optional PDK transmission and Sports Chrono Package, the new Spyder will sprint from 0-60 mph in just 4.6 seconds and hit 166 mph with the top down.

The new Porsche Boxster Spyder benefits from an all-new sport suspension system that drops the car 20 mm for a lower center of gravity. A limited slip differential comes standard. With a silhouette similar to the Carrera GT with two bulges on the rear lid and the low slung side windows, the new Spyder has an amazing profile. As a purpose-built sports car, gone are the traditional door handles and in their place are 8 inches of red nylon webbing serving as pulls. You also lose the radio and air-conditioning. But for a base price of $61,200 you get a car that is sure to be worth every penny.

Mercedes Benz SLS AMG

Number 1: Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG Gullwing

This car already debuted at the Frankfurt Motor Show but made its North America showing at the LA Auto Show this week and we just couldn’t keep our eyes off of it. What’s so amazing is that Mercedes-Benz has managed to replace both a legend and an icon in a single model. The slot left by the outgoing SLS McLaren needed to be filled and Mercedes was looking to fill it in a way that paid tribute to the 300SL, one of the most beloved cars of all time. The end result is a modern supercar with a retro look and a design that is about as sexy as they come. Introducing the Mercedes SLS AMG.

In addition, even though the SLS AMG doesn’t look as mean and angry as the McLaren, it’s actually faster off the line by a tenth of a second from 0-60 mph. It can perform this run in just 3.7 seconds and tops out at 197 mph (which strangely enough is actually 9 mph slower). A seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission controlled with steering wheel mounted paddle shifters handles the 563 horsepower and 480 lb-ft of torque delivered by the 6.3-liter V8 engine. The Ferrari 458 Italia may not have made an appearance at the show this year, but this was a stunning consolation prize.


Honorable Mentions:

2011 Mustang V6

2011 Juaguar XJ

2010 Audi R8 Spyder

2010 Porsche 911 Turbo

2010 Porsche 911 GT3 RS


If you missed the first part of the series click below:

+ Top 10 Most Exciting Cars at the 2009 LA Auto Show Part I