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Published on Sat, Jan 8, 2005

By: The LACar Editorial Staff

Diana DeGarmo & the new Mustang convertible (Segina)

LA PLAYS ITS STRENGTHS With the 2005 Great Los Angeles Auto Show, Southern Californians had an opportunity to see one of the largest auto shows in North America - larger, in fact, than the North American International Auto Show in Detroit that the LA show overlaps with. The venue was the Los Angeles Convention Center - a thoroughly modern facility for such a show. While the NAIAS in Detroit attracts more press, the LA Auto Show attracts more people. The Detroit show traditionally showcases a much larger number of car debuts. However, the organizers in LA have taken some measures to reverse this disparity.

Dodge (and VW) win the Ultimate LA Machine contest Starting with the show date, the LA Auto Show will be moving to November for model year 2007. That takes the LA show out of direct competition with Detroit, giving LA a better shot at new car introductions by the automakers. 2007, however, is almost two years away. Accordingly, the organizers used the designer's card to play its strength. With 14 design studios, representing American, Asian, and European automakers, Southern California has become the automotive design capital of the world. It is also home to the most prestigious automotive design school around - i.e., Art Center College of Design. Although there have been many attempts at designer panel discussions, nothing has ever matched this year's effort. With "Design Los Angeles," the organizers have committed to a major design conference to run concurrently with the LA Auto Show. Many of the major studios, along with Art Center, played a very active role in the conference, and their presence is felt at the show. Curiously, this year's show offered no debuts or press conferences from Japanese automakers. Fortunately, the American and European automakers have stepped up to the plate, with more than two dozen vehicles receiving their world or North American debut at the LA show. - Roy Nakano PASSION & INNOVATION AT DESIGN LA The inaugural Design Los Angeles conference at this year's LA Auto Show exhibited a lot of passion and innovation. This was especially demonstrated by featured speaker Frank Stephenson, Director of Concept Design and Development for Ferrari and Maserati. Stephenson opened with a exciting video presentation celebrating Ferrari's 50th year in North America. The crowd was on the edge of their seats as they watched vintage footage of a Ferrari race, mixed in with footage of the new Ferrari F430. With the audio pumping through the PA, it was like actually driving the car.

Ferrari designer Frank Stephenson keynotes the conference Stephenson then gave an insider's perspective of the new Ferrari and Maserati headquarters in Italy. Both are state of the art facilities, each broken down into four groups of engineering (engine, electronics, chassis and design). He then proceeded to describe how they keep pushing the limits every day in terms of design and innovation.

The show revealed the F430 to North America (T Grafman) Showing how important design is, from the factory all the way to the car, the Ferrari F430 (which received its North American debut at the LA Auto Show) may be the sexiest car ever to evolve from a sketchpad. Stephenson demonstrated that passion and innovation is the winning combination for the design world. All-in-all, this was an amazing way to kick off the Design Los Angeles conference. - Tommy Grafman AUDI A3 Audi choose the Greater Los Angeles Auto Show to introduce the all-new 2006 Audi A3. The new, small Audi is ready for delivery to Audi dealers in May, 2005. The 2006 Audi A3 gets a new front fascia highlighted with its single-frame grille, similar to the new A6 and is available as a five-door sedan. The new engine is a 2.0-liter turbo-charged gas inline-four with direct fuel injection, a first of its kind and rated at 200hp. We will have a choice of a six-speed manual or paddle-shift DSG transmission turning the front wheels. Sorry, but no Quattro yet. - Harvey Schwartz

Audi's new A3 goes for around $25,000 © Harvey Schwartz

The new A4 sports the new face of Audi © Harvey Schwartz BENTLEY ARNAGE DROPHEAD COUPE The only thing more luxurious than a Bentley is a Bentley convertible and it appears as though a new one is on the way. Designed to fill the gap left by the departure of the Bentley Azure in 2003, the Bentley Arnage Drophead Coupe has been unveiled at the 2005 LA Auto Show.

Bentley Arnage Drophead Coupe (J Grafman) Take one look at the unmistakable styling of the car and you can tell it's a Bentley, but take a look inside and you'll find an elegant new interior that has been influenced by contemporary furniture design. "Floating" armrests, mood lighting and a Burr Oak veneer with a Boxwood inlay help create what may be the world's most luxurious convertible. The fully automated canvas roof stows perfectly flush in under 30 seconds, but the car is designed to look as sporty with the roof up as it does when the top is lowered. As for performance, the car is powered by a 450 horsepower twin-turbocharged V8 engine that will take you from 0-60 mph in under six seconds and 0-100 mph in under fifteen seconds. Other features include comfort suspension recently introduced on the Arnage R as well as a pop-up rollover protection system for occupant safety in the event of over-turning. While it is technically a concept vehicle, the Bentley Arnage Drophead Coupe may go into production as early as Spring 2006, based on customer demand. - Reed Berry BMW BMW is offering the e46 M3 Competition, which will result in the best handling M3 ever in the United States. The Competition package will offer some of the goodies found in it's European counterpart M3 CSl, such as 19-inch forged alloy wheels, M-track mode dynamic stability control, and alcantara steering wheel and handbrake grip.

BMW M3 Competition (Nakano) The suspension has been specially tuned, and the high performance tires will offer superior grip. turn-in is quicker with a more direct steering ratio which goes from 15.4:1 to 14.5:1. Enthusiasts will be proud of the compound brakes and cross-drilled rotors, also adopted from the m3 csl. The front rotors have been enlarged from 12.8 inches to 13.6 inches. The standard six-speed manual or option SMG will be available. Two trim packages are exclusive to the Competition package. Special aluminum trim is included in the interior. - Anthony Quon CHEVROLET HHR No, this is not the all-new PT. Nor is this a full or even mid sized SUV/crossover. This is the brand new Chevy HHR (Hopefully a Home Run?). Based on the new Cobalt platform, this vehicle comes with a stylish design and potential for dressing up, just like the Chrysler product. While like the competition, the HHR has cleverness in the versatility department. It also has a choice of two power plants, a 2.2-liter engine with 140 horses, and a 2.4 pumping out 170. Transmissions are either a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic. Wheels are 16-inchers, with 17s as an option (no standard dubs?).

The new Chevy HHR (Nakano) This five-seater has more useable space than the PT, but it still is no wide body. I almost yearn for this to grow in width and a smidgen in length just to give the HHR its own niche. The fold down seats with a flat load floor adds to the usefulness of the HHR. Has the public grown tired of this styling that has now been well worn? The stable mate pick-up SSR has nearly a year's worth of back stock. On it's own merits the new Chevy should be a fun alternative to the small sedan or coupe. CHEVROLET IMPALA and MONTE CARLO The dynamic duo strikes again. The Impala sedan and Monte Carlo coupe are, in essence, very similar. And they both have a similar mission in life - i.e., to generate big sales numbers. These are the alternative to the Accords and Camrys of the world. The basic models are affordable units that hint at the performance of their better-equipped brothers. The base engines these mid size cars are new 3.5-liter V6 that turn out a robust 210 ponies and 220 pounds of torque. The next step up is a 3.9 V6 with 240 horses and 245 pounds of torque.

The new Chevy Impala (Nakano) Chevy, being who it is, simply crushes any variant of its competition with a 5.3-liter small block V8 that generates a massive 303 horsepower and rocketing 323 pounds of torque on the SS models! Ninety percent of the torque is available down at 1,800 rpm. The eight-cylinder motor offers a displacement on demand to shut down unneeded cylinders to boost gas mileage. The Mustang GT has something to fear now.

Chevrolet Monte Carlo (Nakano) These cars are filled with numerous safety systems, from ABS to a tire pressure monitoring system that's standard with models equipped with seventeen and eighteen-inch rims. The new skins on these models are cleaner and more contemporary. The Impala's new hide is perhaps a bit conservative, but this might just steal some of the buyers back from the overseas competition. With so many new models on the Chevy dealer lot, buyers may not even recognize the place anymore. - John Grafman DODGE VIPER SRT-10 and MAGNUM SRT-8 Dodge unveiled for the first time, two new high-performance vehicles at the Greater Los Angeles Auto Show. The new 2006 Dodge Viper SRT-10 in coupe form, with the same 500 hp ,525 pound feet of torque, 8.3-liter V10 engine and six-speed manual transmission.

Dodge Viper SRT-10 Coupe © Harvey Schwartz

Magnum SRT-8 © Harvey Schwartz The new 2006 Dodge Magnum SRT-8 gets a power boost to 425 hp and 375 pound feet of torque by boring out the 5.7-liter HEMI V8 to 6.1 liters. Specific SRT badging, a lowered and stiffer suspension, stronger Brembo brakes, larger tires/wheels, and a freer flowing exhaust highlight this new muscle car for the road. - Harvey Schwartz FORD MUSTANG CONVERTIBLE The rains that drenched Southern California for past month and a half stopped only on Wednesday, January 5, 2005, the world debut of the new Mustang Convertible. It was introduced as a part of a show featuring singer Diana DeGarmo. It was a fitting introduction for a top down model that sold almost one million cars since 1965. The look is Frank Bullitt nostalgia, with a long hood and short deck (except the sides are quite high).

The base engine is a 4.0-liter SOHC V-6 with 210 horsepower and 240 pound feet of torque. A V-8-powered GT convertible has 300-horsepower in a 4.6-liter powerplant. For the first time, the convertible is available with a 5-speed automatic transmission. For the purists, a five-speed manual is standard on both models. The convertible uses a MacPherson strut front suspension and a good old rigid rear axle, albeit improved with a three-link setup with a Panhard rod. Steering is power-assisted rack-and-pinion. Four-channel ABS disc brakes are standard on the GT. This one comes with P235/55ZR-17 tires while the V-6 gets shod with T-rated P215/65R-16s. Now if only the rains would stop. . . . JAGUAR XK VICTORY If your heritage line comes from places like Le Mans and Sebring, as it does with Jaguar, the best accompaniment to a new car is a roar of a 9,000 rpm, 650 bhp V8 Trans-Am race engine, with champion Paul Gentilozzi driving onto the stage, exhaust smoke and all.

The celebrate its fourth Trans-Am title Jaguar will sell 1,050 of the special Victory edition XKs in the USA beginning in June 2005. The XK8 coupe and convertible will have normally aspirated, 294 bhp, all-aluminum V8s, with the supercharged XKR packing 390 horses. The cars will arrive in exclusive, limited edition colors in addition to other standard livery. Add to this four interior colors, carbon fiber interior trim and a new elm wood veneer, and one can only hope that the distinguished buyers will show some restraint when mixing and matching among eighteen possible combinations. The XK8 models currently feature 19-inch 'Atlas' style wheels, which will come standard with a sporty chrome finish, while the XKR models get a new, unique 20-inch BBS wheel design. The XKR also gets cross-drilled Brembos, while the XK8 adds power-fold exterior mirrors. The Victory models will be equipped with Bluetooth wireless connectivity, to keep the driver's focus on driving and not the cell phone's keypad - a good idea with close to four hundred horses under the hood. - Zoran Segina MERCEDES-BENZ CLS55 AMG Even before the first CLS500 four-door coupe arrives in the USA, a high-performance CLS55 AMG is being added to the lineup. Both models are expected to go on sale here in early 2005.

CLS55 AMG (Nakano) Critics contend that the car looks too much like a used bar of soap. In person, however, the car has stunning good looks. DaimlerChrysler chose the LA Auto Show to introduce the AMG verson of the CLS, which boasts a 469-horsepower V8 engine, a new sports suspension, and over-sized brakes. AMG has come a long way since ex-Mercedes employees Aufrecht and Melcher founded it in 1967 (the "G" of AMG stands for Grossaspach, Aufrecht's birthplace, by the way). Since 1999, it's been an integral part of the Mercedes company. - Roy Nakano PONTIAC TORRENT With the launch of the Torrent, Pontiac finally joins the other seven GM vehicle divisions is selling an SUV. The platform is the same as the Chevy Equinox and Saturn Vue, though GM says the Torrent uses unique components and the suspension is tuned for better handling. The Torrent will be available with front- and all-wheel drive. Both versions are powered by a 185-horsepower, 3.4-liter V6. Sixteen-inch wheels are standard, with 17-inch optional. Other options include side airbags and, on front-wheel-drive models, traction control. The Torrent is scheduled to go on sale in late summer, as a 2006 model.

Pontiac Torrent (Dapoz) PONTIAC G6 COUPE Pontiac expands its G6 family with the launch of the G6 Coupe. Compared with today's G6 sedan, all of the body panels behind the A-pillars are new. Particularly notable is the smooth design of the back end, which is reminiscent of the Toyota Solara. Under the hood of the GT model is a 3.5-liter V6 producing 200 horsepower. For added performance, the GTP model has a 3.9-liter OHV V6 kicking 240 horses. The transmission is an electronically controlled four-speed automatic with manual-shift mode, with a six-speed manual offered in the GTP. The G6 Coupe goes on sale this summer.

Pontiac G6 Coupe (Dapoz)

Pontiac G6 Convertible (Dapoz) PONTIAC G6 CONVERTIBLE Pontiac also introduced a convertible version of the G6. It uses a two-piece clamshell hardtop, which takes less than 30 seconds to retract. Pontiac claims the body is extremely stiff for a convertible. Most of the configuration is identical to the coupe: four-wheel independent suspension, 2+2 seating with a rear seat console, standard enhanced traction control, optional Vehicle Dynamic Control System, and doors that are six inches longer than the front doors of the sedan, offering wider access to the rear seats. The G6 Convertible will arrive in dealer showrooms in early 2007. - Chuck Dapoz PORSCHE BOXSTER Eight years ago, Porsche introduced the first production model of the Boxster to a Los Angeles audience. This year, history repeats itself, as Porsche introduces the second-generation Boxster at the LA Auto Show.

The new Boxster (Nakano) At first glance, the new Boxster looks like the old one. Porsche assures us, however, that the 2005 model is 80 percent all new. Upon closer examination, one can see the changes to the headlights (more like the first-generation 911), taillights more in the vein of the Carrera GT, the larger air intakes, and more muscular body. The drag coefficient has been reduced from .31 to .29, while power, handling, and safety have been kicked up a notch or two. Porsche should have no trouble selling these. - Roy Nakano SPYKER C8 Making their North American debut at the LA Auto Show were the Spyker C8 Spyder, C8 Laviolette and C8 Double12 S. This Dutch marque is fairly well-known in Europe, but they are relatively new to these shores.

Spyker C8 (Nakano) Spyker actually traces its lineage back to 1898, when Amsterdam coachbuilders Jacobus and Hendrik-Jan Spijker built their first car, and continued building them until 1925. The company is back in business, building both street and racing cars. The C8 is a mid-engine, two-seater sports car featuring a very light all-aluminum body, chassis and powered by an Audi 4.2-liter S8 V-8 engine tuned to produce between 400 and 450 horsepower. - Roy Nakano VENTURI FETISH Every so often we have the pleasure to postulate the automotive possibilities along with the brash exotic builder looking to set the bar one or two notches higher. Most never realize their dream succumbing to one misstep or another. While Venturi has been in existence twenty years, they have produced in that time what some companies churn out in a day.

The $600,000 Venturi Fetish (J Grafman) From the principality of Monaco comes the unusual Venturi Fetish. This curvy sports car asks how different can you get? Although not alone, the Fetish does shun conventional wisdom as far as propulsion and opts for an electric motor mid-mounted. With an engineer with F-1 experience on its side, the Venturi might just have the goods. Primarily carbon fiber reduces the weight as well as developing this with as emphasis on power to weight. This is a tribute on some small level to Colin Chapman of Lotus fame. One item that isn't lightweight is the price. At 600,000 dollars (U.S.), the Fetish is in a league of very few. Furthermore, this small two placer does not posses the extensive pedigree that others in this price range have. On Venturi's side, it's been able to hold their own and come up on top on occasion, sort of like a modern day David versus Goliath. Planning to sell only twenty-five units spread among just a few cities, from Europe to Japan, and possibly in Los Angeles, sounds like a goal that is attainable. While this has passed the European crash test standards it has yet to comply with those in the U.S. Until then we will have to occupy ourselves with a fetish of some other sort. - John Grafman VOLKSWAGEN JETTA Volkswagen debuts its redesigned Jetta at this year's LA Auto Show. It will hit showrooms on March 19th, and consumers will immediately notice its growth as it is seven inches longer, one inch wider, and nearly an inch taller than its outgoing model. The increase in length will be noticed in more legroom for the rear passengers.

New Jetta sports a 6-speed Tiptronic (Nakano) Under the hood, buyers have the option of an all new 150 hp, 2.5-liter five cylinder gas engine or a 104 hp, 1.9-liter turbodiesel engine. Shortly thereafter, the 200 hp, 2.0-liter FSI direct injection turbocharged engine will be available. Technological advances for the new Jetta include electro-mechanical steering, independent multi-link rear suspension, electronic stability control, and a Porsche-designed six-speed Tiptronic automatic transmission. - Anthony Quon

The new face of Volkswagen (Nakano) Reed Berry, Chuck Dapoz, John Grafman, Tommy Grafman, Roy Nakano, Anthony Quon, Harvey Schwartz and Zoran Segina contributed to this article. All photos © copyright LA CAR, unless otherwise noted For more information about the show, go to

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