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LA AUTO SHOW: A NEW BEGINNING

This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!

Published on Sun, Nov 26, 2006

By: The LACar Editorial Staff

VW's Tiguan concept lands in LA

A NEW BEGINNING LA AUTO SHOW CELEBRATES CENTENNIAL WITH A RECORD 35 WORLD AND NORTH AMERICAN DEBUTS Words by Reed Berry, Gordon Bleam, Laura Burstein, Chuck Dapoz, John Grafman, Roy Nakano, Anthony Quon, Harvey Schwartz & Zoran Segina; Pictures by Reed Berry, Chuck Dapoz, John Grafman, Roy Nakano, Zoran Segina & Donovan R. Unks  

This isn't your father's LA Auto Show The first inkling of this is to see the throngs of journalists at the press preview. There's significantly more press people here than ever before. Matching the crowd of journalists is the crowd of press conferences squeezed into just over two days. Toping the number of press conferences, however, are the number of debuts at the show - too many, in fact, to squeeze in for the press days. Volkswagen debuts the new Tiguan crossover vehicle without even bothering with a press conference. Even the mayor and Governator come to this one. Perhaps the biggest indicator that the Los Angeles Auto Show has finally arrived is the presence of environmental protesters running a program concurrent with the car show and attempting to hijack two of the show's press conferences - a first for the LA Auto Show. Past shows didn't matter enough. World Trade Organization conferences, meetings of the G8 - add the Los Angeles Auto Show to the list of events that matter. - Roy Nakano

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa attends (JG)

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger & co. (JG) Since its inception in 1907, the Los Angeles Auto Show has grown from 99 cars inside a skating rink into a major international event showcasing 1,000 of the newest vehicles from manufacturers. A record 35 vehicles will make their World or North American debut, the most ever in the 100-year history of the show. And of that number, 21 are World debuts, with seven being concept cars. When the show opens Dec. 1-10 at the Los Angeles Convention Center, it will be the first major show of the North American season. The show was held one month earlier than in previous years to avoid perennially conflicting with the Detroit auto show. This enabled automakers to stage more debuts and to increase their participation, thereby elevating the importance of the LA show within the automobile industry, particularly to journalists, and provide consumers with a better overall experience.

Ford's J Mays debuts the Mustang Giugiaro (RN) "This was the best LA Auto Show ever" states Andy Fuzesi, general manager of the L.A. Auto Show. "This is a new beginning with our new dates and increased commitment from manufacturers and everyone is anticipating even better things in the future." Design has been a growing emphasis at the LA Auto Show and with 15 manufacturer design studios, the L.A. region is a world design center. This year, a record seven concept vehicles make World debuts at the show. Four of them - Acura, Honda, Hyundai and Mazda - were designed by their LA-based advanced design studios. In addition to these four, exciting concepts from Ford, Volkswagen and a second one from Honda, are forward-thinking expressions of new design directions for their brands. The show presents a broad variety of production makes and models from 47 manufacturers. Visitors viewed everything from subcompacts to full-size cars, pickups to crossovers and sports cars to minivans. There was something to suit every need, dream and budget.

Not the only item riding high at the show  (JG) Two- and four-door passenger cars come in such a diversity of designs, features and technological advances, that narrowing the choice to just one is difficult. The Lexus 460L is so advanced that it parallel parks itself while the Chrysler Sebring has a multimedia hard drive capable of storing music, movies and photos. Volvo tosses tradition aside and comes to Los Angeles with its nimble new C30 three-door hatchback. Sporty, edgy and powerful are the mantra of many automakers. And this being LA, there is no shortage of sports cars making their debut, like the new Audi R8 premium performance coupe and the stylish and sophisticated V8 Vantage roadster from Aston Martin. For the truly exotic, there are the powerful Ferrari 599, lightweight Lotus Exige S and a new model from Lamborghini.

R8's North American debut  (RN) Individuals searching for vehicles with more space discovered the range of SUVs, pickups and crossovers to their liking. BMW unveiled its redesigned luxurious X5, Buick entered the luxury crossover category with the all-new Enclave and Ford introduced its completely redesigned Escape. From across the pond, Land Rover rolled out its rugged LR2 SUV that strikes a balance between luxury and off-road capability. Hybrids continue to grow in popularity and the technology is increasingly being adapted into full-size vehicles to help lower emissions while increasing fuel efficiency. For example, General Motors introduced the GMC Yukon Hybrid and Ford weighed in with a hybrid version of its Escape. Alternative fuels such as hydrogen and ethanol also gain momentum. BMW is one such company at the fore of hydrogen technology and will debut its Hydrogen 7 at the show. The LA Auto Show is an excellent opportunity for consumers to see the newest automotive accessories and customizing trends. Everything from custom wheels, tires and performance products to the latest mobile audio and entertainment systems were found in Kentia Hall.

Rick Wagoner & Saturn Sky (ZS) KEYNOTE Rick Wagoner, Chairman and CEO of General Motors reminds one of a captain of a large oceangoing ship destined - eventually - for a smooth harbor and calm weather. His vision is sharp, his enthusiasm palpable. Even when dealing with couple of on-stage hecklers following his speech at the Los Angeles Show, Wagoner showed poise, quick effective retort, and firmness - qualities one expects of the person entrusted to take people and goods (safely) to distant places. The major obstacle to Wagoner's ship reaching its envisioned destination: The harbor is far away, and the ship is currently sailing through stormy seas. What shape will both of them be in when they get there remains an enigma. For the show's keynote address, Wagoner mapped out an ambitious plan: Focus on flex-fuel vehicles, equipped with ethanol and bio-diesel propulsion systems, as well as what he calls electrically driven vehicles - hybrids, plug-in hybrids with electrically rechargeable batteries, and vehicles powered by hydrogen fuel-cells. Current technological drawbacks (i.e., lack of battery capacity) leave projected dates far in the future. Four-to-six years is an eternity in today's global competition. We can only wish the captain and his crew good winds and as calm seas as possible. - Zoran Segina

Vantage Roadster (DRU) ASTON MARTIN V8 VANTAGE ROADSTER The long-awaited topless version of the "baby" Aston makes its debut at the LA Auto Show. The car boasts the same 380-hp engine as the coupe, with the addition of a fabric top that opens and closes in 18 seconds. Despite the added weight from the mechanics of the convertible top, Aston Martin claims the roadster delivers the same performance as its hard-top sibling: zero to 60 miles per hour in 4.9 seconds, with a potential top speed of 175mph. Two transmission options will be available: A six-speed manual stick shift, and Aston's new Sportshift, an automated manual transmission with paddle shifters. The Vantage Roadster is expected to hit the market in mid-2007; pricing is still unannounced. - Laura Burstein

Audi's R8 (JG) AUDI R8 Audi has won races all over the world. You may set some records of your own in the new Audi R8, a mid-engine sports car for those who take driving seriously. A 420-hp V8 FSI engine and quattro all-wheel drive practically guarantee that you'll never be late for another appointment. Just looking at the sporty exterior of the car gives you an idea of what you can expect as you slip behind the wheel. Getting in and out of the car quickly is no problem thanks to a flat-bottomed steering wheel, and one glance around the cockpit of this car serves as proof that it has been designed to be driver-friendly. Leather-trimmed sport seats are standard but I suggest treating yourself to the optional full leather. The R8 features a rear spoiler that automatically extends at higher speeds and retracts at lower speeds, and it is the first series production car to offer the option of longer-life LEDs for all headlight functions. - Reed Berry

Molly Sims & James Denton arrive in style (RB)

Audi TT Roadster (RN) AUDI TT ROADSTER Combine distinctive styling with performance and you have the new Audi TT Roadster. Sure, it may look similar to its predecessor, but it is actually 5.4 inches longer and 3 inches wider. You can choose from a 200-hp turbocharged four-cylinder engine or a 3.2-liter V6 with quattro all-wheel drive that delivers an impressive 250 horsepower. Either model can be ordered with a six-speed manual transmission or with Audi's S-tronic dual clutch gearbox. The cloth top of the new TT, available in black or dark gray, not only gives the car a classic rag-top roadster look, but is practical as well because it reduces the weight of the vehicle. A power top that opens in 12 seconds is standard on the V6, and is an available upgrade on the four-cylinder model that is designed to open manually. On hand to share in the excitement of this world debut are actors Molly Sims from NBC's Las Vegas and James Denton of ABC's Desperate Housewives. - Reed Berry

Hydrogen 7 (CD) BMW HYDROGEN 7 It looks like a long-wheelbase 7 Series - except for the second fuel filler door. The BMW Hydrogen 7 runs on liquid hydrogen as well as gasoline. The driver determines which fuel with the flip of a switch. While burning hydrogen, the exhaust is only water vapor. Both fuels produce 260 horsepower from the six-liter V12, accelerating to 62 mph in 9.5 seconds. Only 100 Hydrogen 7s will be built in 2007. Half of the production will be sent to the U.S. to be driven by "selected users" - in other words celebrities, politicians, regulators and the like. - Chuck Dapoz

BMW X5 (CD) BMW X5 We're mystified why BMW calls the all-new X5 a "world premier" for the auto show. The X5 has appeared in magazines for months, and it's on sale in dealerships. A criticism of the first-generation X5 was its small cargo area. The second-generation X5 is seven inches longer and two inches wider, offering enough added room for an optional third-row seat - though BMW readily admits the rear seat is suitable only for people shorter than five-foot-six. Numerous mechanical changes promise to improve the X5's sports car performance, from BMW's first-ever double-wishbone front suspension to more-powerful in-line six and V8 engines. - Chuck Dapoz

Tiger Woods helps introduce the Enclave (JG) BUICK ENCLAVE The 2008 Buick Enclave is a sign. GM is still in the game. To emphasis the point, as if the very progressive crossover isn't enough, is Tiger Woods to spell it out for us. Sticking close to the original concept, both the exterior and interior are well proportioned and are needing no excuses. A 3.6 liter six with DOHC, 4 Valves per cylinder, Variable Valve timing, sequential fuel injection all add up to 275 horsepower, and 251 pounds of torque, all on regular unleaded. Features include a rear back-up camera, High intensity discharge lights that articulate, ultra sonic rear parking assist, voice and touch screen activated DVD navigation system, and tons more. After an ongoing relationship it seems some of Tiger's drive is wearing off on Buick! - John Grafman

CHEVROLET EQUINOX FUEL CELL Chevrolet makes its $2.5 million-dollar fuel cell-powered Equinox available for ride-and-drive at the LA Auto Show. Powered by two fuel cell stacks with 400 cells in each, the Equinox will cover 185-200 miles on 4.2 kilograms of hydrogen compressed to 700 bars, or 10,000 psi. The engine develops 96 kilowatts of power (about 110 horses) and an additional 35 kilowatts in the hybrid battery which may power the SUV for a short period of time if something goes wrong. A display on the dashboard shows the flow of power. - Zoran Segina

Chrysler Sebring convertible (RB) CHRYSLER SEBRING CONVERTIBLE After several years of less-than-impressive styling, the 2008 Sebring has been given a bold new look. Not surprising from the same company that gives us cars with unique lines and eye appeal like the Crossfire and the Chrysler 300. The 2008 Sebring convertible offers three automatically latching top options: vinyl, cloth and a steel retractable hardtop painted to match the body color - and they can all be retracted by pushing a button on the key fob. Available engine for the new Sebring include a 173-hp 2.4 liter four-cylinder, a Flexible Fuel Vehicle 2.7-liter V6, and a 3.5-liter V6 coupled with a six-speed automatic transaxle with Auto Stick . With front-wheel drive and fully independent suspension, you can expect a solid ride and responsive handling from this sporty car. Whether you like or dislike the look of the new Sebring, you have to give credit to the designers at Chrysler for thinking outside the box while some designers make cars that resemble one. - Reed Berry

Escape Hybrid (RN) FORD ESCAPE & ESCAPE HYBRID The new 2008 Ford Escape and Escape Hybrid sport utility vehicles get an all-new exterior and interior design, with the Escape Hybrid getting an improved version of the full hybrid electric-gas engine system first introduced in the first-generation Escape Hybrid. You'll notice the new front fascia with Ford's new signature grille. The larger and bolder front bumper features larger lamp cluster behind clear lenses, larger air intakes, and larger, round fog lamps. From the side are new doors, wheel-arch design and newly designed running boards. The rear is highlighted with larger taillight clusters, lamp, larger rear bumper and a larger rear hatch. The interior gets a new refreshed, upscale look with a redesigned dashboard, instrument cluster, center stack with available navigation system, door trim and shifter gate. - Harvey Schwartz

FORD HYDROGEN FUEL CELL-POWERED EXPLORER Ford is set to introduce to Los Angeles its first Ford Explorer sport utility vehicle powered by a hydrogen fuel cell. This vehicle has already traveled over 17,000 miles and holds the record of traveling 1,556 miles in a 24 hour period. It can travel 350 miles on one fuel load. The Explorer was built for the U.S. Department of Energy to study and determine the feasibility of fuel cell vehicles. The large hydrogen fuel tank is mounted where the regular Explorer's six-speed automatic transmission would sit. This leaves plenty of room for six passengers and their cargo. The hydrogen-powered Explorer looks very similar to the regular gasoline powered Explorer but at just 2,600 pounds, it is much lighter - which also helps the unique power plant achieve 350 miles on one fill-up. Ford also has a fleet of 17 hydrogen-powered Ford Focus automobiles being used by seven local governments around the country testing the reliability and available miles per fill-up. - Harvey Schwartz Continued on Page 2

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