The Truth About Cars » LA Auto Show The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Thu, 17 Apr 2014 14:00:20 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » LA Auto Show LA Auto Show Recap Day 1 Thu, 21 Nov 2013 17:34:26 +0000 IMG_6678

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 Z71

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.


Maximum MINI

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.

IMG_6720Porsche Macan

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.


Kia K900

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.

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Los Angeles 2013: 2014 Honda Civic Gains CVT, Higher MPG Thu, 21 Nov 2013 14:44:29 +0000 2014 Honda Civic Coupe 04
The current Honda Civic has experienced a refresh cycle last seen in the 1950s from the Big Three, and the 2014 model year is no exception with the introduction of the CVT in response to Toyota’s action with the new Corolla.

The result? Future Civic HF owners will see an average of 35 mpg in the city and 42 along the highway, while sedans shall see 30/39 mpg and coupes 29/38; the combined cycle for the latter two variants is 33 mpg.

Want power? The Si has 205 horsepower and 174 lb-ft of torque to get you to where you need to be. Other goodies to be found in the range include a seven-inch touchscreen that will function through swipes, pinches and the like in the same manner as their smartphone, push-button starting, smart entry systems, and finally, Honda’s own LaneWatch safety system transplanted from the Accord.

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Los Angeles 2013: Nissan Juke NISMO RS Gains More Power Thu, 21 Nov 2013 05:15:25 +0000 Nissan Juke NISMO RS 02

Though the Juke is marketed as a fun-to-drive vehicle for members of Generation Why, Nissan knows it could do better to make the crossover a performance monster, too. Enter the Juke NISMO RS.

The RS brings to the table 215 horsepower out front from its 1.6-liter turbo-4 through a manual, or 211 through a CVT, with all-wheel drive available on the latter The suspension and steering have been tuned for better handling, with larger discs up front and vented ones in the back to bring the bug-eyed sprite to a halt. A revised exhaust and ECU also do their best to make the RS all that it was meant to be.

Inside, Recaro seats in red leather and black suede wait to hug you while the optional satnav — the only option available to both CVT and manual models — will help take you from one hipster hangout to the next.

Nissan expect the Juke NISMO RS to arrive in showrooms in early 2014.

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Los Angeles 2013: Nissan Sentra NISMO Thu, 21 Nov 2013 05:14:16 +0000 Nissan Sentra NISMO 01

Nissan’s NISMO division unveiled a couple of their creations at the 2013 LA Auto Show. The Sentra NISMO Concept is what happens when a seemingly pedestrian commuter car is turned into a 240-horsepower beast, and that’s only the beginning.

Under the hood is a 1.8-liter turbocharged engine — a direct-injection, bored-out demon heart taken from the Juke NISMO RS, no less — that pushes said horses through the front gate with 240 lb-ft of torque to match. The power is delivered through a six-speed manual heavily muscled up to handle it all. Recaro seats, wide fender flares, and other assorted NISMO goodies, as well as 19-inch wheels wrapped in Michelin’s Super Sport performance tires, round out the total package.

Alas, this is just a performance study for the in-house tuning division, but perhaps if one were to wish hard enough, a NISMO Sentra could come in the future.

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Los Angeles 2013: Honda FCEV Concept Thu, 21 Nov 2013 05:13:30 +0000 Honda FCEV 06

Honda’s successor to the FCX Clarity isn’t set to arrive on our shores until 2015, but those in LA bore witness to what its successor would look like through the eyes of the FCEV Concept.

The FCEV can ferry up to five passengers due to the totatlity of the drivetrain stored within what Honda calls “the engine room.”

As for power, hydrogen is used to create the electricity needed to drive the wheels forward. The automaker has improved this process since the FCX, managing 3 kW per liter of hydrogen consumed.

Honda expects the FCX’s successor to have a range of 300 miles, with only three minutes spent at the pump.

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Los Angeles 2013: Hyundai’s Veloster Turbo R-Spec “Reverses” Halo For Automaker Thu, 21 Nov 2013 05:13:11 +0000 Hyunda Veloster Turbo R Spec 01

Bowing at the LA Auto Show is the Veloster Turbo R-Spec, aimed at pulling in tuner-oriented shoppers through a halo inversion designed to, someday, have them drive away in a Genesis sedan.

The R-Spec is driven by a 1.6-liter turbo-4 pumping out 201 horses and 195 lb-ft of torque through the front wheels, and weighs just 2,800 lbs thanks to a severe dieting regimen that actually removed luxury amemities from the base Veloster Turbo. Not only does this diet keep the price down, but it also allows the R-Spec to do 24 mpg in the city and 33 mpg on the highway.

In return, the R-Spec was given a B&M short shifter, higher spring rates all around, torque vectoring control to keep the turbo hamster from going off the road in a hard corner, and a healthy dose of red, from the front splitter to the leatherette seats.

The price of admission? Just $22,110, making the R-Spec the most affordable turbo Veloster around.

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Los Angeles 2013: MINI Unveils 2014 Cooper, Cooper S Thu, 21 Nov 2013 05:12:56 +0000 2014 MINI Cooper S 01

MINI’s new Cooper and Cooper S aren’t so mini anymore — which is wonderful for the backseat occupants in your life, for starters — but the BMW brand had done its best to maintain the spirit. Under the bonnets are either a three-pot pushing 134 horses out the front gate with 162 lb-ft of torque or, for the S, an extra cylinder helping to produce 189 horsepower and 221 lb-ft of torque, with either engine paired to a six-speed manual or automatic.

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Los Angeles 2013: 2014 Acura RLX Debuts New Hybrid Powertrain Thu, 21 Nov 2013 03:33:49 +0000 2014 Acura RLX SH-AWD 01

Though fans of the NSX may need to wait until 2015 to throw down the hammer with Tony Stark and Thor, most Acura consumers will get a chance to utilize the automaker’s new SH-AWD hybrid powertrain anchoring the 2014 RLX Sport Hybrid to the road.

Debuting at this year’s LA Auto Show, the RLX Sport Hybrid is the first to use the new technology, which delivers power to the front wheels through conventional means while power to the rear comes from a trio of electric motors. Two motors individually drive their respective wheels while the third boosts torque already found up front, eliminating the need for a driveshaft and rear differential. Power is regenerated to all three rear motors through braking.

Speaking of power, the trinity’s 67 horsepower augments the main 3.5-liter direct-injected V6′s 310 ponies for a total of 377 on all corners. Honda won’t quite say how quickly their RLX will get to 60, though they say it’s comparable to similar cars with V8 firepower. On the other hand, they expect the hybrid powertrain will pull 28 mpg in the city and 32 on the highway for a combined score of 30 mpg.

Directing the power up front is a seven-speed dual clutch transmission with its own electric motor — controlled via an electronic gear selector that swaps the traditional stick for a set of buttons — that will match revs while downshifting in automatic mode, while manual mode shifting is done through paddle shifters.

Finally, a HUD display monitors and informs the driver of what the RLX’s many systems are doing at a moment’s glance, along with speed and direction. Expect to see the RLX Sport Hybrid in showrooms in spring of 2014.

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Los Angeles 2013: Subaru Debuts Legacy Concept in LA Thu, 21 Nov 2013 02:24:35 +0000 Subaru Legacy Concept 01

Forget CVTs in WRXs; Subaru has dropped their Legacy Concept at the 2013 LA Auto Show, illustrating the design direction the Japanese automaker aims to take in the near future.

The Legacy Concept has a muscular, masculine appearance, particularly with the wide Taurus-esque grill and sinister LED eyes. Wide flares hug the 21-inch wheels, and the tail lights hammer the point home in aggressiveness.

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Los Angeles 2013: Porsche Cabrios Make LA Auto Show Debut Thu, 21 Nov 2013 02:24:22 +0000 2014 Porsche 911 Turbo Cabrio 02

Want to feel the wind rush through your hair as you turn the wheel in anger? Then Porsche has what you need in the form of the 911 Turbo and Turbo S cabriolets.

For $161,650 for the Turbo or $194,850 for the Turbo S, you’ll be able to feel the power of the 3.8-liter flat-six pushing anywhere from 520 to 560 twin-turbo horses from zero to 60 in 3.3 to 3.1 seconds, all through Porsche’s own PDK seven-speed transmission. Handling and active aero are available with a push of a button, while their aggressive looks should help others on the road get the hint, as it were.

Though the duo should arrive on our shores sometime early in 2014, Porsche has yet to specify the exact date.

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Los Angeles 2013: Hyundai Triples the Fun in LA With Elantra Lineup Thu, 21 Nov 2013 02:24:09 +0000 2014 Hyundai Elantra GT 01

Hyundai unveiled their entire 2014 Elantra lineup at the LA Auto Show with the aim of introducing to the world their much-improved elements of fun driving.

At the heart of the improvement drive is the swap from the 1.8-liter engine to a 2-liter four-pot pushing 173 horses out the front door with 154 lb-ft of torque to back them up. The Elantras also boast sport-tuned steering and calibrated suspension for more go-kart handling down Highway 101.

For those opting for the coupe, only one trim will be offered, with the only options being choice of color and Hyundai’s Technology Package. The 2014 version of said package comes with Blue Link and Hyundai Assurance Connected Care, LED-accented lights up front and full LEDs in the back, and satnav with Pandora streaming radio integration.

Those who prefer more room in their Elantra will find the GT’s passenger and cargo volume to their liking, while the driver’s knees will be protected by a driver knee airbag in the event of a wreck. A hidden rear camera is also available for parallel parking.

Finally, sedan customers will have a sporty option with the Elantra Sport, which will come standard LED lighting, chrome belt line molding, and a single chrome exhaust tip.

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BMW Drops the Top in LA With 4 Series Convertible Coupe Wed, 20 Nov 2013 20:17:06 +0000 2014 BMW 4 Series Convertible 01
BMW may have given the world a fair glimpse at the 4 Series convertible coupe last month, but the Germans have opted to make the LA Auto Show the perfect stage for the ultimate sunning machine’s public debut.

The 4 Series convertible coupe, replacing the 3 Series by moving up one number — in line with BMW’s new naming scheme of coupes bearing even numbers, sedans odd — along with gains in width, track and wheelbase, comes with a three-piece retractable hardtop that will welcome the sun in 20 seconds. As for the times when the rain, sleet or snow turn up, interior lighting in the roof along with a soundproof headliner will keep all cozy.

Under the hood, expect to find either a 2-liter turbo-4 pumping out 240 horses and 255 lb-ft of torque (428i), a 3-liter turbocharged I6 with 300 horsepower and torque to match (435i), or a diesel channeling 184 horsepower and 281 lb-ft of torque (420d).

Sending the power to the back is accomplished via either a six-speed manual standard on all versions of the convertible, or a choice of eight-speed automatics ranging from fully automated to paddle-shifted; all transmissions come with BMW’s start-stop technology standard.

Finally, for those who prefer the power to go through all four corners, BMW will introduce the xDrive system as an option for the 428i variant in the spring of 2014.

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Shifting Becomes Variable For 2015 Subaru WRX Fri, 15 Nov 2013 13:00:02 +0000 2015 Subaru WRX

While those who opt for the upcoming 2015 Subaru WRX STi can still row their own, those who prefer to let the transmission do the work may (or may not) be disappointed to find a CVT in their new WRX.

In a leaked dealer document, customers who opt for either the WRX Premium standard model or the Limited with or without the sat nav/Harmon Kardon audio/keyless access triad can either row their own through a six-speed manual or Subaru’s Lineartronic CVT.

Sending the power through the CVT will be a turbocharged 2-liter flat-four, while the STi will utilize a 2.5-liter turbo flat-four and, for those who choose it, launch control.

More details to come when the WRX makes its debut at the LA Auto Show next week.

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VW Plays a Round of e-Golf Before LA Auto Show Thu, 14 Nov 2013 16:30:08 +0000 2015 VW e-Golf

Much like the Kia Soul EV, Volkswagen has added a compliance-only EV to their lineup and dressed it up to resemble her diesel brothers and gasoline sisters. Behold the 2015 e-Golf, set to make its official debut at the LA Auto Show next week.

Emerging from the starting gate are 115 electric horses pulling 199 lb-ft of golf course-ready torque, all fueled by the 24.2 kWh liquid-cooled lithium-ion battery pack. Charging ranges from 20 hours through a standard 110v outlet to four hours through a dedicated 220v wattbox, with DC fast-charge bringing the pack up to 80 percent in half an hour.

Speaking of speed, zero to 60 is a leisurely 10.4 seconds, maxing out at 87 mph in Normal mode. At Eco mode, power is brought down to 94 horses and 162 lb-ft of torque (and the cabin becoming warmer through the AC being taken down a few notches). At that point, zero to 60 takes 13.1 seconds, and top speed is 72 mph. Finally, in Eco+ mode (a.k.a., city-only mode), your e-Golf will plod along to a top speed of 56 mph with only 74 horses and 129 lb-ft of weed-pulling power; in the last two modes, you can punch it like Chewbacca back to 87 mph by simply adding more lead to your foot, thus defeating the purpose of Eco and Eco+ mode in the first place.

Regarding range, expect to remain close to the city: VW says anywhere from 70 to 90 miles per charge. If, however, you find yourself stranded on the highway, the automaker’s Roadside Assistance Plan will offer to pay cab fare and bring your e-Golf to the nearest charging station as long as you’re within 100 miles of home; the plan covers unlimited events.

On the inside, you’ll be able to monitor range and energy flow alongside managing charging times, speed, navigation and the like through a new instrument cluster made specifically for the e-Golf. Outside, full LED headlamps — a first for VW — and aero all around come together to shine a path into the electric future, or at least get you from your bedroom community to the cubical and back, anyway.

Though Volkswagen has yet to say anything about the price of admission, you’ll be able to drive away to Pebble Beach for a round of 18 come the fourth quarter of 2014.

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Volkswagen up! With Hybrids in LA, Tokyo Fri, 08 Nov 2013 10:00:54 +0000 VW Twin up

For anyone who admires the Volkswagen XL1 attributes but desires a less Teutonic, more cute vehicle, the fun will be doubled when the Twin up! debuts at both the LA and Tokyo auto shows later this month.

The near-production-ready hatchback — alongside the all-electric e-up! — will come down the ramps at both shows with help from the XL1′s diesel-electric hybrid drivetrain. Modified for the the Twin up!, the setup returns a claimed 256.8 mpg while putting just 27 g of carbon dioxide into the air per kilometer traveled; electric-only mode drops the range to a city-only 31 miles.

Unlike the XL1, the Twin up! is a heavyweight at 1205 kg. Thus, the XL1′s 800 cc two-pot turbodiesel is paired with a more powerfurl electric motor for double the horsepower; 47 from the engine, 47 from the motor, the latter receiving its go-go juice from the 8.6 kWh lithium-ion battery mounted in nearly the same manner as a Ferrari 458. The little ponies are then unleashed upon the city streets through the front wheels through a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission.

If you were hoping to do some time traveling, you’ll still need a DeLorean. The Twin up!’s top speed is limited to 87 mph, with a slow sprint to 60 mph of around 15 seconds, and only in hybrid mode.

As for when you might see the Twin up! parked next to a turbonium-powered New Beetle, Volkswagen remains mum on the subject for the time being.

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2015 Jaguar F-Type Coupe to Debut at LA Auto Show Wed, 06 Nov 2013 14:11:08 +0000 F Type Coupe

For those of us who love the Jaguar’s F-Type’s zazz but would prefer to keep the wind out of our hair (along with the rain, sleet and snow) on a more permanent basis, Jaguar now has an option for you.

The hardtop iteration of the British-Indian automaker’s halo car will make its global debut in Los Angeles November 19 at an exclusive party for VIP customers and media types prior to taking the floor at the LA Auto Show a day later.

Though little is known about what’s under the bonnet or the glass roof panels, the all-aluminium cat most likely won’t have the C-X16′s KERS-inspired hybrid drivetrain. Rumors are abundant that a manual gearbox will debut along with the coupe. The coupe will debut in showrooms across the United States in the spring of 2014.

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Kia K900 To Debut at LA Auto Show Tue, 29 Oct 2013 15:16:28 +0000 20120527_kia_k9_1Over a month ago, we brought you news on the upcoming arrival of Kia’s rear-driven K900 sometime in early 2014. If you can’t wait to see the car in the flesh, however, the car will make its debut in November during the Los Angeles Auto Show.

The brief press release issued by Kia claims the K900 (otherwise known as the K9 in its home market, and the Quoris in export markets not known as the United States) will allow the automaker to “take value to new levels of sophistication,” positioning the car as their flagship among the Fortes and hamster-piloted, Lady Gaga-blasting Souls normally found on the lots.

Though the release didn’t specify beyond stating that the K900 will have either a V6 or V8 driving the power to the back, the flagship sedan will possess a 3.8-liter V6 pushing 240 horses out of the stable with a larger V8 bringing 420 wild stallions to the party, both attached to an eight-speed automatic.

The K900 is set to take dead aim at the BMW 7 Series, just in time for your next high school reunion under the serious moonlight. Price of admission is expected to be between $50,000 and $70,000, with a big campaign to debut during Super Bowl XLVIII in February 2014.

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LA Auto Show: The Undercovered Bits Sat, 19 Nov 2011 17:23:57 +0000

You’ve no doubt read Alex’s coverage of the Cadillac XTS, Mazda CX-5 and others on TTAC all day, but there’s a lot that goes on at auto shows besides just new car introductions. I’m here to fill in the gaps.

Best Concept: Volvo Concept You

Volvo’s Concept You looked just as sleek and stunning on the show floor. The down-turned taillights echo the Horbury shoulders of recent Volvos, but this is new ground for Volvo. No powerplant was mentioned, and I didn’t have a chance to try out the novel FreshAir subwoofer developed in conjunction with Alpine.

Volvo’s Concept You was first unveiled at the Frankfurt Auto Show in September.

Best New Hassle-Saver: Ford Escape’s foot-activated tailgate

Ford introduced the new C-platform Escape with EcoBoost engines and a novel foot-level motion sensor for to open the power tailgate. With full hands, this feature works great–except when you don’t have the key fob, it doesn’t work, as a bunch of sore-legged auto journos found out when repeated kicks to the area didn’t achieve any opening. A thoughtful Ford rep set us straight.

Best Press Conference: Kia Motors

When Honda talks about “the power of dreams” and other companies trump up their achievements, the weary auto show journalist appreciates Kia’s Pardon the Interuption topical countdown. “Fifteen items in fifteen minutes” was promised, and the upfront overview and self-discipline of a countdown in full view made it easy to overlook the fact that Kia didn’t really have that much new to say.

Best Celebrity Joining the Press Conference: Blake Griffin–Kia Motors.

Griffin arrives in a basketball-themed car by West Coast Customs. They made NBA lockout jokes and his shoe size. Griffin also shows his acting chops in an Optima commercial in which he does lunges while feeding a deer and lecturing two campers about Optima’s safety record.

This was better than Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol actress Paula Patton’s interview with BMW CEO Ludwig Willisch. Willisch seem uncomfortable with Patton’s considerable beauty, while Patton seem uncomfortable with following a script as she giggled her way through a puff interview that strayed far from lines displayed on the teleprompters. In fact, maybe Willisch was uncomfortable with improvisation. Anyway, it would win Best Awkward Moment except for…

Best Awkward Moment: David Moore,

While trying to get a shot of Patrick Dempsey with Mazda NA CEO Jim O’Sullivan during the Mazda CX-5 introduction, I was assaulted–assaulted!-by a videographer who objected to my placement near his equipment. And when I say assaulted, I mean grabbed–firmly– on my shoulder and pulled away. No charges were filed, but I did get the picture. You can thank me in the comments.

Best Useful Feature: Infiniti JX

Infiniti’s new seven-passenger SUV has a second-row that allows access to the third-row without collapsing either seat back or seat cushion. So what? Those with children will immediately realize that this allows third-row access without removing and reinstalling a child safety seat, thus preventing passengers from the “rear-hatch entry/egress of shame.”

Best Unimportant Feature: Center console ashtray lid, Aston Martin V12 Vantage.

You get at lot for your $200k. Sexy looks, British heritage, and a screaming 500-hp V12. Not least important, the high-quality alloy ashtray lid that closes with the thunk of a Fiat 800 t-boning a Benz. I told a Honda employee with me in the car that it was my favorite feature. He laughed because he knew Honda could never produce such a lovely thing.

Most Delicious Emissions: Nissan NV2500/CoolHaus

An institution among the Los Angeles food truck cognoscenti, CoolHaus serves gourmet ice cream sandwiches. Nissan used its very, uh, functional-looking NV2500 cargo van to give out the sweet treats.

Best New Car Intro: BMW M5

The 4.4 twin-turbo V8 bellowed in fury, then rolled slowly onto the stage as BMW PR reps formed a human wall against people getting in it’s five mile-per-hour fury. It was as fitting an introduction as the gaggle of Chevy Sparks darting onto the stage like pastel hyperactive lemmings.

Best Use of a Backpack as a Desk: Alex L. Dykes

If you think it’s easy running from one press conference to another, think again. Intrepid journalist Alex L. Dykes tirelessly covered the most significant introductions for you while furiously typing and coordinating with photographer Rob. When is the time to type? Anytime you’ve got a backpack that can double as a desk, my friend.

Disclosure: A press pass was received in exchange for access to the event. Ford furnished a hot dog and a soda. BMW also provided a soda. The author also received a few USB drives from Chevrolet, Buick and Cadillac.
AM ashtray Backpack as Desk Blake Griffin JX Seat Kia Presser M5 Nissan NV2500 Patrick et al Paula and Ludwig Paula Patton Welcome to the show! Volvo Concept You 2 Volvo Concept You 3 Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail

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The Rrrrrrrrrrrreturn Of Herbie Sat, 19 Nov 2011 14:51:58 +0000

Volkswagen personnel at the LA Auto Show is intently studying reactions to a Beetle with possibly 270 hp. After all, it was public reaction at the 1994 NAIAS that brought the New Beetle to life. Originally, it was meant as a lark, but enthusiasts pounded the table until the car was made. It suffered the fate of cars powered by enthusiasts: An initial pop, then declining numbers. On display in LA is what they call the “Beetle R Concept.”

Careful: This is NOT the 2012 Beetle Turbo as tested by Jack Baruth. If they ever build the Rrrrrr model (and the ooohs and aaahs in LAhhhhh will influence that), it will come with an impressive added oomph. Nothing is known about the motorization of the brawny bug, but Volkswagen’s press department offers-up enough material for educated guesses:

“At Volkswagen, the letter ‘R’ as an added identifier promises top-notch performance. Currently, this claim is being validated with turbo pressure by the Golf R with 199 kW / 270 PS of power and the Scirocco R (currently only in Europe) with 195 kW / 265 PS. As an ‘R’, the Beetle could demonstrate a performance potential similar to that of the Golf R and Scirocco R.”

Well duh, all three are based on the same platform. All it needed were extra air intakes for the blower and a rear spoiler that is “significantly larger than the one on Beetle production models with up to 200 PS in power” to generate the required “ideal downforce values.”

Volkswagen Studie Beetle R Concept. Picture courtesy Volkswagen Volkswagen Studie Beetle R Concept. Picture courtesy Volkswagen Volkswagen Studie Beetle R Concept Volkswagen Studie Beetle R Concept. Picture courtesy Volkswagen Volkswagen Studie Beetle R Concept. Picture courtesy Volkswagen Volkswagen Studie Beetle R Concept. Picture courtesy Volkswagen Volkswagen Studie Beetle R Concept. Picture courtesy Volkswagen Volkswagen Studie Beetle R Concept. Picture courtesy Volkswagen Beetle-R-Concept-thumb Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail ]]> 21
Texas Appeals Court Upholds License Scanners for Traffic Stops Tue, 16 Aug 2011 13:51:35 +0000

Police in Texas have the right to stop motorists if a license plate recognition camera system suspects the vehicle’s owner lacks automobile insurance. In an unpublished ruling last Wednesday, a three-judge panel of the Texas Court of Appeals refused the attempt by Kenneth Ray Short to have a March 2010 traffic stop declared illegal.

Officer Daniel McGrew’s patrol car had been equipped with an automated license plate recognition system (ALPR, also known as ANPR in the UK) that photographed and recorded the identity of every passing vehicle. When Short drove past, an instantaneous computerized database search returned a result that Short’s insurance coverage was “unconfirmed for 45 days or more and expired.” Sometimes, when the system returns just that the plate is “unconfirmed” it means the Department of Insurance database is unable to say whether or not the vehicle is insured, and it is the police department’s policy not to stop such vehicles. In this case, the system claimed Short’s car had not been insured since December 6, 2009, so McGrew conducted a traffic stop.

Short appealed, citing an appellate decision last year that found a traffic stop could not be based on a report that insurance information for a vehicle was unavailable. The three-judge panel disagreed with Short because the information returned was far more complete and Officer McGrew testified that he believed the system was “very accurate.”

“It is our opinion that the trial court could reasonably conclude that a reasonably objective officer could form a reasonable suspicion based on the evidence provided from the database inquiry in this case, and from that information, the officer could have formed a reasonable belief that the car Short was driving was not covered by an insurance policy,” Justice Hollis Horton wrote. “Because the trial court, on the facts before it, could reasonably choose to believe Officer McGrew’s testimony and decide to deny Short’s motion to suppress evidence, we overrule Short’s sole issue on appeal.”

Short was convicted of possessing less than three ounces of marijuana. The Texas Department of Insurance set up the TexasSure Vehicle Insurance Verification database in June 2008. Companies like InsureNet had hired lobbyists hoping to convince the legislature to use a version of the database to issue automated uninsured motorist tickets, generating millions in revenue.

A copy of the unpublished decision is available in a 115k PDF file at the source link below.

Source: PDF File Short v. Texas (Court of Appeals, State of Texas, 8/10/2011)


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US Supreme Court Confirms Confrontation Right in Radar, DUI Cases Fri, 24 Jun 2011 12:11:58 +0000

In a decision that has wide-ranging implications for photo enforcement, speeding tickets and driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI) charges, the US Supreme Court yesterday reconfirmed the Sixth Amendment right to confront one’s accuser applies to analysts who claim to have certified evidence from a machine. The 5-4 decision concluded that “stand-in” expert witnesses are not a substitute for the individuals who actually conducted the tests. The decision broadens the applicability of the landmark Melendez-Diaz ruling from 2009, which has already led to appellate division cases in four California counties to throw out red light camera evidence.

The high court examined the case of Donald Bullcoming whose vehicle rear-ended a truck belonging to Dennis Jackson in Farmington, New Mexico on August 14, 2005. Jackson went to exchange insurance information with Bullcoming and noticed that the man smelled of alcohol. Bullcoming fled the scene on foot before police arrived, but Officer Marty Snowbarger caught up to him and arrested him for DUI. After a breath test was refused, Snowbarger obtained a warrant to take Bullcoming’s blood. Forensic analyst Curtis Caylor’s test of this sample showed a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.21, a result that served as the primary evidence against Bullcoming at trial.

The blood testing process is performed by a gas chromatograph machine but remains subject to human error. The court noted a “fairly complex” Colorado lab mistake systematically produced high BAC readings for 206 defendants. Caylor did not testify at trial because he had been put on unpaid leave from his job for an unspecified reason. Instead, Gerasimos Razatos testified regarding the results which he had neither observed nor reviewed.

The high court examined the question of whether a lab report could be introduced as evidence by an “expert” who did not actually conduct the tests in question. The prosecution argued that the gas chromatograph machine was the accuser in the case and that Caylor simply wrote down the result without exercising independent judgment. For that reason, Razatos was an equivalent substitute. The court disagreed.

“Suppose a police report recorded an objective fact — Bullcoming’s counsel posited the address above the front door of a house or the read-out of a radar gun,” Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote for the majority. “Could an officer other than the one who saw the number on the house or gun present the information in court — so long as that officer was equipped to testify about any technology the observing officer deployed and the police department’s standard operating procedures? As our precedent makes plain, the answer is emphatically ‘No.’”

The court majority noted that using a surrogate witness would conceal any lapses or lies on the part of the certifying analyst. It also noted that the burden on the prosecution from the requirement of live testimony could have been cured by having Razatos retest the blood sample, which was preserved in accordance with New Mexico law.

“As a rule, if an out-of-court statement is testimonial in nature, it may not be introduced against the accused at trial unless the witness who made the statement is unavailable and the accused has had a prior opportunity to confront that witness,” Ginsburg concluded.

The decision represented a rare coalition of the most liberal and most conservative members of the court. Ginsburg and President Obama’s nominees to the court, Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, were joined by Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas.

A copy of the decision is available in a 275k PDF file at the source link below.

Source: PDF File Bullcoming v. New Mexico (US Supreme Court, 6/23/2011)


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LA Auto Show: Saab 9-4X Fri, 19 Nov 2010 00:25:58 +0000

The LA Auto Show was our first opportunity to get out hands on the new Saab 9-4x. Since the 9-4x is mostly a re-skinned Cadillac SRX, the Saab should offer similar driving dynamics, especially from the turbo V6 model. The interior is certainly a step in the right direction for this downtrodden Swede, but does seem like long-term exposure might make one weary of the acres of black plastic inside. While all the materials feel fairly premium, I’m not sure I care for the style of the center console where there are a heap of small buttons and a small nav screen in a sea of flat black plastic. Models without the Nav system get a much smaller screen with more plastic and some small buttons. Aside from this quibble the interior and interior are well sorted. Still, it will remain to be seen if the 9-4x can score any success in American markets with the extremely well executed Q5 and XC60 already in play not to mention the redesigned X3 on its way to our shores.

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LA Auto Show: The New Dodge Thu, 18 Nov 2010 20:40:35 +0000

A new day or a false dawn? Check out Dodge’s freshly-refreshed lineup and let us know which way you’re leaning…

IMG_1480 IMG_1477 IMG_1511 IMG_1485 IMG_1512 IMG_1486 IMG_1479 IMG_1505 IMG_1509 IMG_1488 IMG_1500 IMG_1510 IMG_1482 IMG_1484 IMG_1502 IMG_1481 IMG_1506 IMG_1491 IMG_1504 IMG_1499 IMG_1487 IMG_1513 IMG_1478 IMG_1492 IMG_1494 IMG_1514 IMG_1483 IMG_1489 IMG_1503 IMG_1495 IMG_1498 A new day, or a false dawn? IMG_1501 IMG_1497 IMG_1507 IMG_1490 IMG_1493 IMG_1508 ]]> 37
EVs? Honda Throws A Fit Thu, 18 Nov 2010 14:30:14 +0000

Honda had been the first automaker that had the Insight to sell a hybrid in the U.S. But what about pure battery-powered ones? After a lot of hesitation, Honda will throw an all-electric Fit on the U.S. market, says Bloomberg. The plug-in will arrive in 2012, which might as well be pronounced “year of the EV.”

The car will be standard EV fare: Lithium-ion-powered, range about 100 miles between charges – on a good day. A price has not been announced. Expected volume? It “will be small” said  Honda President Takanobu Ito at the Los Angeles Auto Show.

Like the colleagues at Toyota, Honda doesn’t view the EV as a runaway hit. Amazingly, also like Toyota, Honda sees hydrogen-powered fuel cell cars such as its Clarity sedan as the “ultimate” solution.

Karl Brauer, senior analyst for industry researcher in Santa Monica, California, already has indentified the target group for the electric Fit: The car should “work well for fleets with predetermined routes like mail trucks and delivery trucks, especially because of the reconfigurable interior.”

More and more, there is a consensus building that the biggest small market for electric vehicles should be in 9-5 jobs at governments and companies that use the cars on carefully mapped out routes that do not stray too far form the charger back at the dock. That’s not what Musk and Fisker had in mind.

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LA Auto Show: Jaguar Jets While Landie Evoques The Countryman Wed, 17 Nov 2010 22:52:30 +0000

Louise Roe was on hand this morning at the Jag/Landie booth, continuing the LA trend of hiring fashion professionals to flog cars. When did models become the vision of all things automotive? Especially when you’re showing something as unabashedly alluring as CX-75 turbine-electric concept car. Why invite the awkward comparisons? Anyway, as supercar concepts come, the CX-75 is about as cool as they come. Not only can it claim to be a “Jet-Hybrid,” it looks like it could seduce an F-16 too. Drool.

On the Landie side, the Evoque poked its head out to confirm that both three and five door versions will be both available in the USA. For those that have never seen the Evoque up close, it is deceptively short. Compared with Land Rovers of the past, this is truly Mini Countryman competition. And if the production models can match the interior quality of these pre-production models, Land Rover might just be on to something. The Evoque’s interior is truly worthy of the Range Rover name with stitched dashes and excellent switch gear. Whether the EcoBoost (but don’t call it that) four-cylinder and Volvo-platform underpinnings are up to the task is another question.

On a Jag... IMG_1348 Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail IMG_1334 IMG_1340 IMG_1346 IMG_1345 IMG_1329 IMG_1333 IMG_1338 ]]> 3