Chevrolet just pulled the wraps off the US market Cruze, not that there are any secrets left at GM these days where auto shows are concerned. Plus the Cruze has been available around the world for months already. The big news is that the interior is actually – not pulling any punches – world class. Previously only the French were able to make a cloth covered dash worth looking at, but GM has actually managed to make a press fleet-ready car with one. As long as you pick the top trim level, anyway.
Category: LA Auto Show
VW’s biggest news from LA today is the Up! Lite, no doubt designed by some uptight Germans intent on bring a strange looking, Germanically efficient vehicle to the shores of America (or Poland). Obviously a result of VW’s development of a 100+MPG 1+1 seater car, the 70 mpg Up! Lite makes up for its homely looks with in-town efficiency. But then its main competition, the Toyota iQ and Smart FortTwo aren’t exactly lookers themselves. Under the hood lurks a 0.8L TDI engine and a 10kw electric motor making for leisurely acceleration despite the featherweight kerb figures.
TTAC was invited to Cadillac’s CTS Coupe wine-and-dine event yesterday, held in that prime habitat of the modern Cadillac: the hood. OK, so it was a trendy club located in an LA slum… same diff. The CTS coupe took center stage with the new SRX, CTS wagon, CTS-V and Escalade filling out the lineup. Where were the ugly-stepsisters the DTS and STS? Not invited said a Cadiilac rep. Upon first (long distance) glance the CTS Coupe looks entertaining, but it’s only when you get up close that the true weight of this beast hits you: this is one BIG coupe. Which is funny, considering the CTS Sportwagon next to it looks remarkably small for a wagon. But there’s the rub, Caddy is trying to do everything possible with the CTS with the minimum of effort (read: cost). The proportions of the CTS belie it’s uselessness: the rear seats have the leg room and width to coddle two linebackers but sadly only enough headroom for an oompa-loompa. The art and science design team gave the CTS coupe the most defined rump of the Cadillac lineup, a dramatic chevron which culminates in a steeply triangular rear bumper and trunk lid. And yes folks that’s a trunk lid, not a useful hatchback as we might have preferred. All in all, this is one square jawed Caddy, in the mold of the classic personal luxury coupe.
At this week’s LA Auto Show Honda’s vice president of corporate planning and logistics told Marketwatch that Honda is considering expanding production of its popular Fit to the United States. “We have about 19 days worth of supply, which is much too low,” said Honda VP Dan Bonawitz. “We can’t fill all our dealer orders.” Honda is “exploring all options” to ramp-up Fit supply, Bonawitz said.
Up till now nobody knew Madza was competing with VW/Audi for the “largest grille” award. For those that don’t believe us, take a gander at the schnoz on the new Mazda 3. Mazda reps assure us this mug is the future of the entire brand (God helps us). Despite the fact that the Mazda 3 looks set to devour smaller cars and motorcyclists on the road it does at least promise more Zoom-Zoom with Ford’s corporate 2.5L I4 engine good for 167HP or the time honoured 2.0L I4 good for 148HP. Sadly Ford’s corporate 6 speed tranny isn’t along for the ride, nor are any of the Volvo P1 turbo engines (the 3′s platform mate across the pond) or Ford’s SYNC. Premium features on this new whip include Xenon headlamps, keyless ignition and the requisite bluetooth and iPod integration. The only question: can the features make up for the wacky front end grin and Mistubishi-grade interior? Mazdaspeed 3 anyone?
Infiniti had a lot of nerve to officially unveil this object of yuppie contentment on a day that the Dow rediscovered the wrong side of 8,000 points. But wouldn’t you know it if the hardtop G37 convertible still manages to strike an attractive pose. There aren’t many surprises here; pre-launch images were released last summer. In the flesh, the kinship with the coupe is obvious, although Nissan corporate claims unique sheet metal aft of the A-pillars and a slightly wider track in comparison to the garden variety G-series. The powertrain includes a 325hp variant of the same 3.7-liter VQ twin cam that powers the coupe and sedan. Transmission choices include either a 6-speed manual or a 7-cog autobox. A sport package will be an available option. If you like the lines and the interior of the standard versions, then you’ll probably take a fancy to this topless edition. Prices aren’t yet available, which is probably for the best if your 401k has been practicing the swan dive along with the rest of Wall Street. This G37 won’t be hitting the showrooms until sometime around the spring of 2009. That should leave the aspiring class with plenty of time to rebuild their portfolios.
Last year’s Green Car of the Year award was a cynic’s dream come true. Bestowing the annual eco-accolades upon the ginormous, environmentally challenged Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid could persuade even the most optimistic tree hugger to hang up his Birkenstocks for good. (Full disclosure: I do not now own, nor have I ever owned, a pair of Birkenstocks.) The current roster includes nominees that are both more credible and more diverse than the last. The 2007 event provided the choice of a hybrid, a hybrid, a hybrid, a hybrid or a hybrid. Now we have a couple of oil burners (BMW 335d, VW Jetta TDi) and something that could fit inside a duffel bag (smart fortwo), as well as a pair of the customary gas-electric hybrids (Ford Fusion Hybrid, Saturn Vue 2). Drum roll, please: congratulations go to the VW Jetta TDi.
OK, that headline’s a bit, uh, controversial. But the new Cayman/Boxster revealed at the LA Auto Show is the beginning of the end of the 911. And why not? The “entry level” Boxster is, fundamentally, a better car than the 911. Well duh: mid-engined vs. ass engined. Porsche realized this, uh, discrepancy from the beginning, and hamstrung the Boxster’s powerplant– until the introduction of the “Why the Hell is this More Expensive than the Convertible?” Cayman. By slotting in a 3.4-liter six amidships. the Sultans of Stuttgart finally pumped-up the volume on both the Boxster AND the Cayman. And now, amazingly, they’ve done the right thing. TTAC commentator and new contributor 993C4S reports that “Porsche’s 911 Carrera can hit zero to sixty in under 5 seconds. Well guess what, so can it’s baby brother, the new Cayman S (so long as it’s equipped with PDK and optional Sports Chrono Package). Here’s the skinny…
Speaking of the new Lexus RX350, the Audi Q5 has made its North American debut at the LA Auto Show. This cute ute was used by Audi execs to poke fun at the hybrid and electric car pushers (they’re look at you Carlos Goshn). With a nearly unique interior, the Q5 is sure to please new car shoppers who want a perfect interior and the ability to trundle down a manicured dirt road in style while feeling a bit better that they are not in a full-size off roader. With Q7 sales somewhere slightly north of non-existent, Audi dealers will surely welcome a down-sized, less-priced variant. Now that Porsche has gobbled up the Volkswagen Group (of which Ingolstadt is a part), will we see a pint-sized Porsche Cayenne version? How about a Lambo variant? The brand boggles.
Lexus took their mantra of being “wildly inoffensive” down new [soft] roads at the LA Auto Show. The new RX350 and 450h now both use the 3.5-liter V6 from the Lexus family. The RX350 churns out 275hp while the Atkinson cycle powered hybrid setup powers up 295hp combined. With electric all-wheel-drive, all five passengers will enjoy the flat floor and electronic wizzardry. Outside, not much is new. On the inside, a new jumbo-sized nav/car controller operates similarly to the pointer stick you find on some laptops, which is just as annoying. Carrying on Lexus’ latest trend in interiors, the RX’ seems to take a bit too much from the Camry’s design studio.
The new electric-powered MINI E has the same shape, size and style of a regular MINI. In other words, the MINI E is small. This creates a dilemma: lithium-ion batteries that are large enough to power a car are big. BMW has tackled this problem as only a team of engineers could: by removing virtually every square centimeter of usable space from the vehicle. It’s fortunate if you have no friends or children, because the back seat has been replaced by a rather prominent, sizable hump. Cargo space in the hatch area is adequate– as long as your shopping needs are limited to the occasional six-pack and baguette. Then again, who cares? The Mini E is a limited production evaluation vehicle available to just 500 early adopters, whose enthusiasm will burnish the brand but good. In case any ultimate drivers are interested, BMW claims a 150-mile range, 2.5-hour recharge time, and a 0 – 60 time of 8.5 seconds from its 204hp motor, with a top-speed limited to 95 mph (to avoid range claims in the double digits).