Highlights From the Los Angeles Auto Show

SEMA News—February 2013

EVENTS
By John Stewart

Highlights From the Los Angeles Auto Show

    The Los Angeles Auto Show has a reputation as a “green car” event that skews heavily toward advanced technology.
The Los Angeles Auto Show has a reputation as a “green car” event that skews heavily toward advanced technology.
     
   

The ’13 Civic has been refreshed and revised, with more content as standard equipment.
The ’13 Civic has been refreshed and revised, with more content as standard equipment.  

     
   

This Mercedes concept is thought to suggest some modernizing treatments that the iconic G-wagon might receive in the future.
This Mercedes concept is thought to suggest some modernizing treatments that the iconic G-wagon might receive in the future.  

     
   

Racer Ken Block was on hand to prepare the media for the debut of Ford’s performance Fiesta cars.
Racer Ken Block was on hand to prepare the media for the debut of Ford’s performance Fiesta cars.

     
   

Fiat’s 500L is a bigger version of the Fiat 500 sport compact car that will appeal to young families.
Fiat’s 500L is a bigger version of the Fiat 500 sport compact car that will appeal to young families.

     
   

The Lexus LF-CC is not a production car, but we should expect to see its hybrid powertrain in use in the near future.
The Lexus LF-CC is not a production car, but we should expect to see its hybrid powertrain in use in the near future.

The Los Angeles Auto Show has a reputation as a “green car” event that skews heavily toward advanced technology. This year’s show was consistent with that image, but there were more than a few debuts of high-volume production vehicles that will matter to SEMA members, along with an unusual number of interesting concept vehicles that may point the way to the future. Here are some that caught our eye.

Hyundai unveiled its Veloster C3 Roll Top concept, a convertible three-door designed to combine open-air freedom with the style of a coupe and the functionality of a tailgate. Designed by Hyundai Design North America, the Veloster C3 Roll Top has a power-retractable canvas roof that opens to the rear or toward the windshield of the vehicle. Roll the top forward, open the tailgate, fold the rear seats and the C3 goes into recreation mode for surfing, biking or kayaking. A 1.6L, twin-scroll, turbocharged GDI four-cylinder engine powers the Veloster C3 concept and produces 201 hp at 6,000 rpm and 195 lb.-ft. of torque from 1,750 to 4,500 rpm with regular fuel. Insiders said that it was unlikely Hyundai would actually offer a Veloster Roll Top anytime soon, but the effort to continue adapting the vehicle to suit a young, active audience got lots of attention.

Galpin Auto Sports (GAS) announced its “top secret supercar” project, the GTR-1. Beau Boeckmann, president of GAS, announced that the company is currently building a prototype of what the Ford GT would have looked like if Ford had continued production of the legendary supercar.

The GTR-1 is considered a concept vehicle for now, but something very much like what was unveiled is scheduled to debut in early 2013. Built in the spirit of Carroll Shelby—making existing production cars faster and building in even higher performance—the GTR-1 is based on the popular Ford GT that was built in 2005 and 2006. The specially developed supercar will have more than 1,000 hp and will be available with the choice of handmade aluminum or carbon-fiber coachwork, upgraded drivetrain and suspension and an interior tailored to the customer’s specifications.

Lexus showed a luxury performance sedan concept that not only displays revolutionary styling, but also incorporates a new Lexus powertrain slated for future production.

The LF-CC is powered by an all-new 2.5L hybrid powertrain that is designed to deliver both performance and efficiency. The powertrain system features an all-new four-cylinder gasoline engine mated to a compact, high-output, water-cooled, permanent-magnet electric motor. Lexus has said that it will introduce this new hybrid powertrain into its model range in the near future. To our eye, the LF-CC’s taut bodywork and sculpted angular form made it one of the most visually compelling vehicles at the Los Angeles Show. While it’s not intended as a production vehicle, the LF-CC’s styling is thought to be a signal of the new design direction Lexus intends to take.

Another compelling concept was Mercedes’ vision of an off-roader based on the company’s luxury off-road icon, the G-Wagon. This design exercise is intended to showcase futuristic features that a police force of tomorrow might demand in a vehicle. But Mercedes suggests that the Ener-G-Force could also be a clue about a new beginning for the off-road design idiom of Mercedes-Benz. The distinctive roof and the three-panel greenhouse echo fundamental structures of the classic G-Class from Mercedes-Benz, but modernized and riding on 20-in. rims. Unlike the V8-powered G-Class wagons now on the showroom floor, the Ener-G-Force concept is designed around the use of a hydrogen fuel cell for propulsion. A roof rack and additional lamps are integrated into the roof.

The Nissan Hi-Cross name reflects the concept’s purpose as a traditional Nissan adventure-ready sport utility. Built on a 109.4-in. wheelbase with a 183.5-in. overall length, the Hi-Cross Concept offers seven-passenger seating within compact dimensions, thanks to short front and rear overhangs, a compact Hybrid drivetrain and efficient packaging. The styling combines existing Nissan design cues with new elements. The narrow, deeply tapered LED headlamps combine with the curved hood line, flared fenders and large 10-spoke, 21-in., aluminum-alloy wheels to help provide a muscular stance. The hybrid drivetrain makes extensive use of the battery technology that was developed for the Nissan Leaf. The system uses a high-output, fast-charging, compact lithium-ion battery linked to high-level motor control technology to provide acceleration assist when needed and permits downsizing of the gasoline engine for optimum economy and emissions.

Toyota showed a bigger, sleeker ’13 RAV4. Now in its fourth generation, the new RAV4 is designed to be sportier and more friendly to active families than prior generations. It will be offered in front-wheel or all-wheel drive, with a new six-speed automatic transmission that features Sport and Eco modes. The optional V6 will be discontinued in favor of a 2.5L four-cylinder engine that delivers an estimated 31 mpg on the highway. One key design change was relocating the rear-mounted spare tire under the cargo area. This enabled a new rear lift gate instead of a side-mounted door.

The ’13 Honda Civic debuted with extensive interior and exterior design upgrades, retuned suspension and steering and new standard features.

The ’12 Civic had received tepid response from critics, prompting Honda to upgrade and refresh the sedan, even though it had remained the best-selling compact car in America. The ’13 Civic is expected to be offered at a modest increase of $160 across the lineup, with pricing for the ’13 Civic LX starting at $18,165.

Honda also announced that the ’14 Accord Plug-In Hybrid earned an EPA-certified 115-mpg rating and would go on sale in New York and California on January 15 with an MSRP of $39,780. Separately, the Accord Hybrid, featuring Honda’s new two-motor hybrid system, will launch nationwide next summer with anticipated fuel economy of 49/45/47 city/highway/combined. The revised ’13 Honda Crosstour and ’13 Honda CR-Z also made their auto-show debuts. Honda scheduled a measuring session for SEMA members in early January for all four vehicles.

Fiat extended the Fiat 500 line by unveiling the all-new Fiat 500L, a bigger version of the iconic 500 sport compact. The 500L adds two more doors and room for five passengers. The 500L is bigger by 26 in. in length and 6 in. more in height and width, to deliver more than 42% more interior space. The 500L will be powered by Fiat’s 1.4L MultiAir Turbo engine with 160 hp and a choice of two six-speed transmissions. With its tight European handling and quick steering, the Fiat 500 quickly appealed to the North American performance aftermarket in its first year and was named “Hottest Sport Compact” at the 2011 SEMA Show.

Ford unveiled its vision for a future high-performance Fiesta ST, ushered in amid a smoky burnout photo-op laid down by Rallycross racer Ken Block. While the Fiesta ST concept is a far cry from Block’s race car, the Rally-inspired package signals the next step in Ford Motor Company’s global performance vehicle strategy and hints at how a future Fiesta ST model might look when it joins the Focus ST in the global small-car portfolio.

Ford has been making waves with the new Fiesta, which sports a new exterior and an interior optimized for ergonomics. It will become the first vehicle in North America to be equipped with the “International Engine of the Year”—Ford’s 1.0L EcoBoost, which is expected to be certified as the most fuel-efficient non-hybrid in the United States.

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