As a whole, the 2017 LA Auto Show felt risk-averse. The show floor was largely populated with mild refreshes, crossovers, and SUVs, none of which raised our pulse above the level of a brisk walk. What’s more, most of the eye-catching stuff had already been revealed at previous events, but just seeing the Mercedes-AMG Project One in metal made it a trip worth taking.
Despite the show’s tepid atmosphere, there were more than a few highlights to take away. Here are our favorites.
BMW i8 Roadster
The original BMW i8 is a master class in design. When the original came out in 2014, it took the automotive world by storm with concept car styling, eco-friendly lightweight construction, and performance that made (almost) every other hybrid on the road blush. The i8 made going green cool, but we were left wanting more.
As it turns out, what we really wanted was less, and BMW obliged with the i8 Roadster at the LA Auto Show. Redesigned to offer open-air sports car freedom, the i8 forgoes the coupe’s fixed roof in favor of a power-operated soft top that opens or closes in 16 seconds, even at speeds of up to 31 mph. The powertrain was tweaked to offer slightly more power as well, but the futuristic silhouette is the car’s centerpiece. It looks incredible, and for our money, it was definitely worth the wait.
The Mercedes-Benz CLS is the definition of a trendsetter. In 2004, the original CLS helped define the four-door coupe segment that has become so popular today, and the vehicle has continued to set benchmarks for automotive design ever since.
The third-generation CLS, revealed in full in LA, trades sharp angles and contrast for a more uniform flow. The CLS sets the tone for future Mercedes models, and in our eyes, it’s a slam dunk. It’s still a bonafide luxury machine, with six different comfort settings that tweak ambient lighting levels, cabin temperature, seat massage programs, and air fragrance settings to keep up to five occupants comfortable. The 2019 CLS will hit American showrooms by the fall of next year.
When we think of emblematic style icons, images of the Porsche 911, Dodge Challenger, or even the Volkswagen Beetle come to mind, but the Jeep Wrangler deserves its place in the conversation, too. America’s favorite off-roader has a truly timeless look, so much so that even the original Willys MB is instantly recognizable as the Wrangler’s ancestor.
With the all-new 2018 model, Jeep has preserved the vehicle’s iconic look while updating it for the modern age. The infotainment systems have been revised to stay competitive with other SUVs, for instance, and the power steering system has been tweaked to make the vehicle more comfortable around town. There’s even a plug-in hybrid Wrangler due in 2020. As it turns out, you can teach an old dog new tricks.
Infiniti’s booth at the LA Auto Show was populated entirely with SUVs this year, which gives you a good idea where the brand’s priorities lie. Don’t think that Infiniti is resting on its laurels, because although the new QX50 doesn’t look much different than its predecessor, its engine tech is actually quite groundbreaking.
The QX50 is the first production vehicle to feature Infiniti’s new VC-Turbo engine, which stands for “variable compression.” Essentially, a trick linkage system alters the pistons’ reach, allowing the compression ratio to change from a performance-oriented 8:1 to a more fuel-efficient 14:1 depending on the situation. This tech has never been used on a mass-production engine before, and Infiniti claims it will result in maximized power and efficiency from a small engine. The proof is in the pudding — the QX50 produces 268 horsepower and 280 pound-feet of torque from a 2.0-liter four-pot, and Infiniti expects the engine to return 27 mpg combined with front-wheel drive. We can’t wait to test it for ourselves.
The all-new XC40 signals a new direction for Volvo in several ways. For one, it’s the automaker’s first compact crossover aimed at younger people, and it’s Volvo’s first car to ride on the brand’s Compact Modular Architecture. More than that, the XC40 will usher in the Care by Volvo program, which turns the traditional car-buying model on its head.
Care by Volvo aims to make vehicle ownership as hassle-free as owning a mobile phone. It combines vehicle cost, insurance payments, service fees, and taxes into one monthly fee starting at $600, and given the XC40’s millennial target audience, a subscription-based model could spread across the entire industry. Time will tell.
Land Rover Range Rover SVAutobiography
In the past, the ultra-high-end SUV segment was ruled by Land Rover, but today the segment is much more crowded. The Bentley Bentayga and Rolls-Royce Cullinan have since sprung up to contest Land Rover’s dominance, and at the LA Auto Show, Land Rover unveiled its response.
The Rover Range Rover SVAutobiography is the most expensive and opulent Range Rover ever built. Based on the long-wheelbase Range Rover, the SVAutobiography combines pure luxury with performance goodies sourced from Land Rover’s Special Vehicle Operations division, and the results are stunning. The vehicle equips a 557-hp 5.0-liter supercharged V8, and combined with an eight-speed automatic transmission and four-wheel drive, the V8 gets this Range Rover from 0 to 60 mph in 5.2 seconds. That’s quick for a regular car, but in a behemoth like this, it’s downright incredible.
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