I spent my usual time wandering around the LA Auto Show yesterday but rather than focus on breaking news, let’s talk about what’s new, improved and noteworthy on the floor.
2015 Subaru WRX
The new WRX is just what I expected from Subaru but what I didn’t expect is the WRX to get practically a unique chassis. Subaru claims that large portions of the unibody are different with 80% of the sheetmetal being unique and the chassis being upgraded for greater stiffness. The interior is shared with the Impreza except for the shifter, steering wheel and some trim parts. The big deal is of course the CVT which may just be the first time “performance sedan” and CVT have been used in the same sentence. Subaru says that power isn’t reduced when you equip the car with the CVT and I’ll hold out my judgment until we can drive one but it is likely to be the faster way to get to 60. Not the most fun, but likely faster.
Subaru Legacy Concept
Subaru also brought along their Legacy concept which is supposed to show the styling direction of the Legacy when it bows in a few years. The Ford-inspired grille is handsome and the interior looked fully functional so I assume we can apply most of this directly to the production model. No comment on timing from the folks at Fuji.
2015 Chevrolet Colorado
Diesel lovers rejoice! Not only is GM bringing the world Colorado to America, it’s coming with their 2.8L diesel engine which should produce somewhere between 190-200 horsepower and around 360 lb-ft of torque based on the figures from the international model. There’s also a 2.5L four-cylinder engine and 302HP 3.6L direct-injection V6, both loosely lifted from Cadillac’s ATS. Instead of hobbling them with an old 4-speed transmission GM is tossing in their 6-speed unit from the Silverado to make the most exciting small pickup in America. Admittedly that’s not a particularly high bar these days, but thankfully GM didn’t stop at a small improvement over the Tundra, this appears to be a true leap-frog. Sadly the new Chevy MyLink system based on Cadillac’s CUE is also along for the ride rather than the software found in the Malibu which I find more intuitive and reliable. GM giveth and he taketh away.
Speaking of Cadillac, the brand now occupies more floor space than in the past. The 2015 Escalade and the El Miraj concept took the places of honor. The Escalade is certainly big and certainly bold and it does appear to be better differentiated from the Chevy Tahoe than in the past, but the family resemblance is still there. I’m sure that won’t bother Escalade shoppers however. The El Miraj is the sort of thing Cadillac does well: make concept cars that never see the daylight as a production model. Pity. The car is big and brash and I can see plenty of reasons people would want something like that over a BMW 7-Series. Instead we’re getting the ELR which, in Cadillac’s defense, does look appealing and has a gorgeous interior, it just seems to be a bit late to the party. If you’re going to the show, don’t expect to be able to sit in the ELR, it’s roped off for a second year in a row.
Although we weren’t invited to the MINI launch party they have plenty of them on the show floor. Having grown substantially in this generation the MINI is more comfortable than ever with a bigger back seat. There’s just one problem: how is something this big a MINI? Nobody had the answer. Because redesigning retro is tricky, the car looks very much the same as the other “new MINIs” until you park them next to one another and you can see the changes over time. MINI tells us that almost nothing is shared with the outgoing model despite everything looking identical. Because 2015 is the year of the 3-cylinder, MINI has stuffed one under the hood with a 4-cylinder available as an option. We also get the latest MINI-version of iDrive in the dash if you feel spendy enough.
The Audi A3 family
Audi brought along three A3 models to the show. First up is the long awaited A3 sedan which is expected to be the A3 volume seller. Pricing will start just under $30,000 and there are two turbo gasoline engines and one diesel to choose from. Audi also tells us to expect an S3 model at some point in the future with nearly 300 ponies. The A3 hatchback that we’re all familiar with will now be the brand’s volume hybrid model with a gasoline engine and electric motor along the lines of the Jetta Hybrid. The Germans have also seen fit to ship the A3 Cabrio to America although it’s arriving after the sedan. The A3 launch was packed with trash talking about Audi’s sales success and basically telling Mercedes and BMW to watch their back. Unfortunately, no matter how you slice it the Mercedes CLA is twice as sexy as the A3 and the BMW
1 Series 2 Series is RWD. Enough said.
BMW brought along the new 4 Series convertible which is just a 3 Series convertible +1. All the usual engine options you’d expect will be on offer and for the first time you can get AWD in your BMW drop-top so you can ski topless. The incredibly sexy and insanely expensive carbon fibre BMW i8 came along, complete with its $136,625 base price tag. Looking much sexier than the BMW i3 that was parked right next to it, the i8 claims to have a Tesla matching range and a 3-cylinder engine so you don’t get stranded when your battery runs out. There was no comment on quick charge times, but I suspect it will offer the same SAE quick charge connector as the i3 when it goes on sale. I asked if the i8 would catch fire if it hits a small metal object in the road but the Germans returned a blank stare. The i3 on display was even stranger looking in person than in photos but seems fairly practical aside from the suicide rear doors. The interior looks like something IKEA would make for Volvo as a concept car.
Jaguar F-Type Coupe & Land Rover
Jaguar’s F-Type coupe is even more stunning in person than in photos, however it’s still not as sexy as the F-Type convertible. Helping make up for that is a new F-Type model with Jaguar’s 550HP 5.0L V8 under the hood. I had originally thought that they would keep the high horsepower version as an XK exclusive to help justify the older coupé’s existence, but I guess there were too many people demanding MOAR POWAR. Jag brought along their crossover concept which looks good but I have to continue to ask: isn’t that what Land Rover is for?
Speaking of Land Rover, the Range Rover Sport is on the floor and it looks like it will be unlocked for commoners like me to paw at on the public days, so head over and check it out. The Evoque with the 9-speed transaxle that has given Chrysler so many problems is on the floor as well but JLR says it won’t be meeting the press until early next year so stay tuned.
It was only a matter of time before Porsche created a small crossover. While many consider this polluting the brand, you can always think of it as the top trim of the Audi Q5 on which it is loosely based. Speaking of Audi, the SQ5 starts at about the same price as the Macan although the Porsche is probably slightly slower with its naturally aspirated 3.6L V6. Jump up to the 400HP Macan Turbo and there is no contest. Say what you like about product positioning and brand dilution, the Macan looks good in person and has one of the best interiors you can buy for this kind of cash.
Tying with the Porsche Macan for “biggest news from the show” is the Kia K900 luxury sedan. Yes, Kia and luxury sedan are now used in the same string of words. The K900 isn’t a “Kia Genesis”, as it turns out it is more of a “Kia Equus” having been based on the same platform as the larger of the Hyundai sedans. While the outside looks a little sedate the interior is what the fuss is all about. The K900 will offer features such as power reclining rear seats, the largest LCD instrument cluster in a production vehicle, Nappa leather, a color heads up display, full speed range cruise control and enough wood trim to make Jaguar concerned. The drivetrain is shared with Hyundai meaning you get a 3.8L direct-injection V6 or a 5.0L V8 sending power to the back via an in house designed 8-speed automatic. Pricing hasn’t been announced but we were told to expect it to start “around 50″ and to top out “under 70″. While I don’t expect many German shoppers to take notice, I can see Infiniti and Lexus shoppers checking out the value alternative.
Subaru XV Crosstrek Hybrid
Subaru brought along the brand’s first hybrid and Toyota had nothing to do with the design. The XV Crosstrek Hybrid is being billed as the only compact crossover hybrid on the market (if you can call a jacked-up station wagon a crossover). The biggest news is that it looks exactly the same as the regular XV except the wheels aren’t black.