The Top 10 Debuts of the 2011 Los Angeles Auto Show
It’s mid-November, and you know what that means, right? Well, yes, it does mean that radio stations and retailers are trying to cram Christmas down everybody’s throat before next week’s turkeys have even been decapitated, much less carved, but the answer we were looking for is that it’s time once again for the automotive world to converge on the intersection of Pico and Figueroa and occupy L.A. (or at least its convention center) for the Los Angeles Auto Show. And we were part of that not-so-angry mob during the press preview days.
Between attending press briefings, procuring swag, enjoying free booze and finger foods and trying (though mostly failing) to lock eyes with the scores of lovely booth ba…er, product specialists, we roamed the show floor (with our buds Jeff, Robert and Jeremy from Hooniverse), checking out all the cars and trucks that tickled our fancy. But we paid particular attention to the rides that were being shown to folks outside the companies that build them for the first time. Here are the 10 that managed to hold our attention the longest.
Subaru BRZ Concept STI
If we didn’t know any better, we’d say Scion and Subaru are trying to unseat the Chevrolet Camaro as the car with the most drawn-out launch ever with their new flat-four-powered, rear-drive coupes. Regardless of whether or not that’s true, Subaru showed a full-size mock-up of its version, the BRZ. But rather than representing a normal BRZ, this thing has been styled to show what an STI version might look like, with aggressive front and rear bumpers, a big rear wing, big wheels, and STI-archetypal Rally Blue Mica paint. Looks-wise, we prefer it over the Scion FR-S, but it’s a moot point until we can actually drive one. Think we’ll be able to do that this decade, Subaru?
Jaguar XKR-S Convertible
The Jaguar XKR-S is the most powerful production Jag ever (yes, even trumping the delectable XJ220 supercar of the ‘90s), and one of the coolest looking ones in recent memory. But sun worshippers have to settle for the standard XKR, right? Well, not anymore; Jaguar used the L.A. Auto Show to pull the sheet off the XKR-S Convertible. The same supercharged 5.0L V8 sits under the bonnet making the same 550hp, and the same aggressive body kit adorns the exterior. Really, the biggest difference is the folding fabric roof, and we’re totally cool with that. What we aren’t cool with is the fact all 25 U.S.-bound examples have been pre-sold.
Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 Convertible
Jaguar wasn’t the only manufacturer to unveil a drop-top version of a supercharged super coupe at the show. Chevrolet premiered the convertible version of the Camaro ZL1, and having seen it in the metal, we’re quite smitten. And that’s just based on the visuals; throw in the 580hp supercharged 6.2L V8 and the choice of 6-speed manual or automatic transmission and we have, to paraphrase Sir Paul of Liverpool, got to get it into our life.
Ford Shelby GT500
When Chevrolet confirmed that the Camaro ZL1 would make 580hp and 556 lb.-ft of torque earlier this week, it looked like GM would sit atop the muscle car food chain for the foreseeable future. As it turned out, that future only lasted until Tuesday, when word came that the 2013 Ford Shelby GT500 will ship with 650hp and 600 lb.-ft from a new supercharged 5.8L V8. That’s even more power and torque than the Corvette ZR1, and the top speed is about the same: In excess of 200 mph. And did we mention it doesn’t get hit with the gas guzzler tax? If that doesn’t convince you that these are the good old days, nothing will.
Honda Fit EV
Last year Honda showed a concept electric version of its eminently-likable Fit subcompact. Twelve-months later, the Japanese firm rolled out the production version. Other than the blocked-off grille and some decals and badges, it looks pretty much identical to the fermented-dinosaur-burning Fit, which is by no means a bad thing. The 92 kilowatt coaxial motor (similar to the one propelling the FCX Clarity fuel cell car) gets its juice from a 20 kWh lithium-ion battery, which Honda says will hold enough electrons to travel 123 miles. The Fit EV will be available for lease only at a price of roughly $399 a month, though Honda also, interestingly, announced an MSRP of $36,625 and said it will monitor customer input (including, presumably, enquiries about the possibility of purchasing one).
Mercedes-Benz ML63 AMG
Meanwhile, at the opposite end of the energy spectrum, Mercedes-Benz debuted the newest member of the AMG family, the 2013 ML63 AMG. As with most new AMG versions of Benz’s larger models, this very-sporty utility vehicle features a 5.5L twin-turbo V8 producing 518hp and 516 lb.-ft of twist (550hp and 560 lb.-ft if you check the box for the AMG Performance Package) and driving all four wheels through a 7-speed automatic transmission. Just how quick is this thing? Try 0-60 in 4.6 seconds and a top speed of 174 mph with the AMG Performance Package. The Cayenne Turbo S and X5 M are officially on notice.
Lamborghini Gallardo LP550-2 Spyder
The Lamborghini Gallardo is nearing the end of its life, but there will be at least one more special model before the baby Lambo powerslides gently into that good night. It's the LP550-2 Spyder, and it's essentially a convertible version of the Valentino Balboni edition Gallardo coupe from a couple years ago. The Balboni Gallardo was, as you recall, named after the company's longtime chief test driver and featured rear-wheel-drive and 550hp from the 5.2L V10, and those attributes are present here as well. We don't have much use for AWD here in SoCal, so this car has even more appeal to us than the regular Gallardo Spyder. Now, how many nonessential organs can we sell…
Porsche Panamera GTS
Like the Cayenne before it, the Porsche Panamera is proving to be both a license to print money and a means of getting purists frothing at the mouth. Orthodox Porschephiles should, however, find the newest variant somewhat less offensive. It’s called the Panamera GTS, and it rocks a 430hp version of the Panamera S and 4S’s 4.8L V8 (It makes 400hp in those models.). That power is sent to all the wheels through a 7-speed PDK dual-clutch transmission. Other changes include revised front and rear styling, lower ride height, and sport seats with Alcantara upholstery. We don’t know about you, but we’re running out of reasons to hate the Panamera.
Fiat 500 Abarth
Most car buffs will tell you the Fiat 500 is cute and not much else. That’s about to change with the 500 Abarth, Abarth being Fiat’s in-house tuning squad. The 1.4L inline-four receives a turbocharger and intercooler, raising output from 101hp and 98 lb.-ft to a rambunctious 160hp to 170 lb.-ft. It’s matched exclusively to a heavy-duty 5-speed manual transmission, as well as upgraded suspension and brakes, plus high performance Pirelli tires. Is it any surprise we’re itching to drive this little monster?
Infiniti IPL G Convertible
This past May, the boss man tested Infiniti’s first factory tuner car, the G37-based IPL G Coupe. He loved the styling and the handling, but wanted a bit more mojo under the hood. The IPL G Convertible doesn’t add any power (though 348hp and 276 lb.-ft are certainly nothing to sneeze at), but it does add headroom. Scores of miles of headroom, to be exact. And even though it won’t be in showrooms until next summer, the fact that it’s a retractable hardtop convertible means you’ll stay warm when next winter rolls around. Just remember to leave the traction control on.