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2011 Los Angeles Auto Show

Last year, the Lotus Esprit blew me away. This year, my vote for “Car of the Show” at the 2011 Los Angeles Auto Show has to be the Jaguar XC16. I’ve examined the car from all angles and I cannot find one in which this car looks awkward. If I could mix and match cars, I would take the GT-R in XC16 clothing. That would be my ideal dream car.

Moving on…This year’s Auto Show did not have as many concepts as last year. It felt a little bit more “toned down”, possibly due to the economy. Despite this, it wasn’t a bad show. I didn’t get to spend as much time as I wanted to, but that was fine because much of what was at the LA show was also at the OC show. There were just a little more “high end” cars, but that’s about it.

Here is a quick run down of what was at the show and a few highlights

Acura – Nothing new. Their lineup was quite stale at the OC Show and it remained that way two months later at the LA Show.

Audi – A6/S6 and the A7/S7 were the new rides this year.

Audi S7 Audi S6

BMW – They showed off the iSeries which you probably have seen in most enthusiast websites/magazines. I also took some pictures of the concept a few years back. From what I understand, the i8 is supposed to make it to production with few changes (I am certain the glass doors are gone).

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Buick – The Verano is ugly. Enuff said.

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Cadillac – Showed up the Ciel, which was featured at Pebble Beach and the Converj, which was at a previous auto show some years back. I believe the Converj will be either an electric or hybrid car and will have performance that matches it’s aggressive looks. Possible the next CTS-V? Perhaps.

Cadillac Converj Cadillac Converj Cadillac Converj Cadillac Ciel Cadillac Ciel

Chevrolet – I think you’ve seen enough Cruzes, Camaros, Coverttes and Volts to last you a while. NEXT!

Chrysler – As I was saying on the OC Show post. The 300 is one American sedan I would consider driving. Beats speaker system is truly insane for one that comes factory installed. I felt so gansta sitting in the backseat as the speakers were blaring Dr Dre tunes.

Chrysler 300 Chrysler 300

Dodge – Super Bee Charger in the House! The car looks mean! The HEMI looks meaner. Overall, I’m very happy to see Chrysler cars improving in such as short time. Now, I would like to see Chrysler pull a Volvo and start introducing some sweet leases for us.

Dodge Charger Super Bee Dodge Charger Super Bee Dodge Charger Super Bee

Ford – The Escape was really the only “new” car to be introduced. It didn’t exactly wow me, but I can see it stealing some of the CR-Vs dominance (you will see what I mean when you see pics of the production-ready CR-V).

Ford Escape Ford Escape

Honda – What a let down! The production-ready CR-V looks gutless! And if it drives anything like the old model, it’s performance will be gutless too! Check out the interior! Can we say weak sauce? Can’t wait to see what Consumer Reports does to the CR-V on their next review.

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Hyundai – The Azera really wow’ed me. After talking to the product adviser and sitting in the car for a good 5-10 minutes, I came away impressed. The leather is soft and supple. The interior is well put together. The center stack follows the same overall layout found in most new Hyundais, but has a noticeably more “upscale” feel. The estimated MSRP is going to be in the low $30,000s, with most experts estimating it to be around $32,000. Everything, including Nav, comes standard. The only possible option (from what I am hearing) is the panoramic moonroof and maybe the window shaders, although those could be standard too. If you thought the Buick LaCrosse was the Lexus ES killer, think again.

Hyundai Azera Hyundai Azera Hyundai Azera Hyundai Azera

Infiniti – The JX35 was introduced as a 7-passenger SUV. Not impressed. It looks like a weak attempt at cloning the Toyota Highlander which can be had for thousands less (if you don’t care about having quality interior materials). I’d be surprised if they sell more JX’s than EX’s. I would have liked to see a concept version of the new G-Coupe based off the Essence. That would have been fun to see.

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Jaguar – XC16 all the way. This car is a beaut! If they would have given it a better sounding name instead of the typical “Letters + Numbers”, I’d name my kid after it. “Come here XC16!” just doesn’t have nice ring to it.

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Jeep – New Compass and Patriot look like baby GCs, except the proportions are all wrong. I know Jeeps are meant to be rugged, but they could have done a little more to the interior. In contrast, you can see the GC looks nice inside and out. Even the storage area looks high end with fancy chrome touches.

Jeep Compass Jeep Grand Cherokee Jeep Grand Cherokee Jeep Grand Cherokee Jeep Patriot

Kia – GT concept looks cool, but not as sexy as the XC16. It does show a lot of promise and possibly a glimpse of things to come. Michelle Wie gets a custom Kia Soul! I highly doubt she would be caught dead in one. Them Rappin’/Dancin’ Hamsters, on the other hand, are a hoot. They give the Soul some street cred. Definitely cooler than rolling in a cardboard box, toaster or dryer.

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Land Rover – Not much to say here. Doubt any of these rides will ever make it into production, but they are fun to look at.  They almost feel like they will transform into a robot at any moment.

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Lexus – More LF-A. *Yawn*

Lincoln – *Crickets*

Mazda – The CX5 actually look pretty good. You can totally see the styling cues of the Shinari concept on the front fascia. I really hope this crossover does well and gives the CR-V and Escape a run for their money.

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Mercedes-Benz – I’ve pretty much seen all of the “new” models on the street or in previous Auto Shows with the exception of the C63 Black Edition. This thing rocks. It’s like Europe’s answer to the mean-looking American car!

Mercedez-Benz C63 Black Edition Mercedez-Benz C63 Black Edition Mercedez-Benz C63 Black Edition

MINI – See OC Auto Show…

Mitsubishi – I didn’t bother stopping by…actually, I don’t recall seeing them at the show. Maybe I stopped caring…

Nissan – Last year they had the Ellure. This year they had…NOTHING!

Porsche – Showed off their Panamera Hybrid and the usual 911s, Cayennes, Boxters and Caymans.

Porsche Panamera Porsche Panamera Hybrid

Scion – FR-S was in the house this year and it looks great! For those that have not been following the FR-S, expect about 200hp and a $24k price tag once it’s released. I don’t expect the production model to look too different unless Toyota decides to cheapen the experience some more. If the price is reasonable, this could very well be sitting in my driveway on day.

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Subaru – Just like the FR-S, the BRZ should be priced and spec’ed at around the same range. There is talk of a STi trim, but I haven’t seen any details on that just yet. Originally, I thought the BRZ was the clear winner in the “looks” department, but after seeing them both in person, I have to go with the Scion.

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Volvo – Same cars as last year. Same cars as this year’s OC show. Nothing new to report.

VW – A Beetle R was on display and it still looks girly. Hood vents and quad-exhaust pipes do tone down the estrogen somewhat though. For the record, I don’t have a problem with the Beetle looking girly. It’s just that VW is trying so hard to market the Beetle as being more “unisex” and I just don’t think its happening. Maybe if they dropped a huge supercharger hood scoop? Nah….

Volkswagen Beetle R Volkswagen Beetle R Volkswagen Beetle R

Others – Here you will find some pics I took of the more “unusual” cars.

XD XD XD Morgan Aero Morgan Aero Morgan Aero Lotus Evora Lotus Evora

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2010 Los Angeles Auto Show

Over the weekend, I had the opportunity to attend the LA Auto Show, courtesy of Audi. This year, unlike the previous one, has been filled with some pleasant surprises. There were some unusual absences from high-end players such as Ferrari and Lamborghini (they were usually found at the Concourse, but I didn’t see any time time around), but I personally felt that many of the mainstream brands plus Lotus did enough in their showcases to make up for it. Concept cars such as Mazda’s Shinari and Nissan’s Ellure provided a nice preview of what’s to come. Overall, I was most impressed with Lotus’s new product line and I really hope that their new direction will result in sustainable success. I know some of the purists out there are disappointed with the company straying from their roots, but I think that given their financial situation, they probably didn’t have much of a choice.

As usual, here is my rundown of what I found interesting at the show this year.

Porsche. Like always, you will find Porsche in that all-familiar room just to the right of the West Hall entrance. Notable rides are the Cayenne Hybrid, Speedster and the Cayman R, to name a few. Overall, strong showing.

Ford. The Explorer reminds me a lot of a Range Rover, which I’m not all that crazy about. The Focus ST is one sweet hatch that should easily smoke most of the competition and give the MS3 a run for it’s money. They were also running a $50 gift car promo for test driving a Ford, which I signed up for. I was planning to test drive the Edge anyway, so why not make $50 bucks out of that experience, right?

Lincoln. Despite Ford’s success with their core brand, Lincoln is in severe need for an overhaul. I did not like ANY of their cars. The marketing, the design, everything…just doesn’t work. The “shark-teeth” grill has to go too. Plus there really isn’t anything original here, just a bunch of pimped-up and re-badged Ford models which some may find difficult to love.

Mitsubishi has not made anything significant in quite some time and this year is no exception. They do have a mini EV, but I can’t see how folks would want something that small when they can opt for something like a Leaf or a Fit EV. Besides that, the Eclipse looks unchanged and there are better crossover options than the Outlander.

Volvo brought in a plug-in electric C30, but besides that, I didn’t see anything new. That isn’t a bad thing, I think Volvo has a very capable line-up with the newly redesign S60 and the XC60. Here is a random fact for you, the actual trunk space of the S60 is 4 cubic inches smaller than my wife’s Jetta Wolfsburg. That is pretty sad considering how much smaller the Jetta is compared to the S60.

Subaru showcased the new Impreza Concept and I love it! If Subaru doesn’t produce this (as is), they are insane. On a side note, I spent some time inside the Forester and I liked it better than the Outback. Afterwards, I went to TrueCar and optioned both vehicles and realize how much cheaper the Forester is compared to the Outback. Anyway, it looks like the Outback will be scratched from my shopping list on Round 3 of “Replacing the G“, which I will probably get to sometime next month or early next year.

Dodge/Jeep/Chrysler seems to have come a bit more prepared this year. As you know, I was pleasantly surprised by the Grand Cherokee’s redesign. I also took a liking to the new Charger which is vastly improved compared to the outgoing model. It seems more polished and it looks better in person than in pictures. I also climbed into the 3rd row seat of a Durango, which was actually adequate for someone around my size (5’10). I don’t think I would want to ride back there for more than a few hours though. For about $30k, you can get a base Durango with a 3rd row and a V6, which is in line with Honda’s Pilot and Toyota’s Highlander. Ironically, the Chryslers were underwhelming; the C300 looked almost unchanged and the 200 appeared underdeveloped, even in it’s sporty S trim.

Fiat brought tall, leggy models…err “product advisers” and the 500 into the show. This micromobile will only appeal to those shopping for a Smart car, which doesn’t apply to most of us. Surprisingly, these 6-foot “product advisers” actually fit inside these cars.

Nissan came ready to play this year and brought in some heavy hitters. The besides the usual fare (GT-R, Z, Rogue, Murano, Altima and Maxima), Nissan brought the Leaf, Juke, the convertible Murano and the Ellure concept, which produced many “oohs and ahhhs” from the crowd. The likelihood of ever getting a Nissan with “suicide” doors is probably zero, but it would be nice to see some of those design elements on future Altimas and Maximas.

Honda brought the FC, which is actually leased in limited quantities right now. Not exactly a new car, but certainly unique. I tried to cozy up with the CrossTour since it’s such a good deal this month, but couldn’t. Somehow, this car has a tendency to attract empty-nesters so I was probably one of the youngest people anywhere near the CrossTour. A new Fit was introduced as a EV, which should compete nicely with the Leaf. I also tried to cozy up with a fully-loaded Pilot and I think I could see myself in one. Sure, its ugly, but the interior is not half bad. Hypothetically, I can imagine my family being a “Honda family”; with the wife rolling in an Accord. Me rolling in a Pilot and a pimped out CR-Z R hiding inside my garage. Aah! I can see it now…

Lotus. I actually had to wait in line to get into their showroom because there were just so many people wanting in. That actually proved to be a good thing because it allowed me to take pictures peacefully without folks walking in front of me, which allowed me to take decent shots of their entire line-up. As I mentioned before, I have high hopes that Lotus will prevail in bringing their brand more mainstream. When that happens, maybe this blog will be worth over $100k, then I will just sell it and buy one of those Esprits! Haahaa, yeah, right.

Hyundai’s newest redesign comes as the Elantra. Like the Sonata, the Elantra got a heavy makeover and the results are pleasing. The interior is redone in a very Sonata-esque fashion which should appeal to most folks. The compact sedan market is suddenly seeing HUGE competition with the Focus, Corolla, Cruze and the Elantra getting significant updates. Here’s hoping Honda doesn’t get left behind because the Civic is starting to look aged. I also got a chance to sit inside a Sonata Hybrid and it feels…exactly the same as the other ones. The Hybrid should be arriving in dealerships sometime in the first quarter of 2011.

Audi sent me a pair of tickets to the show this year via a Twitter promotion, so many thanks to the folks in Audi’s marketing/PR department. Unfortunately, I didn’t take a lot of Audi pictures for two reasons: a) way too crowded. b) nothing I haven’t already seen at the OC Auto Show in October.

Lexus brought the LFA, a re-badged/re-tuned Prius and their usual suspects. The LFA looks unchanged from the prototype pics I took a year or two ago, so seeing it again was anti-climactic. The Lexus “Prius” comes to us as the Lexus 250h, which according to some “First Drive” reports, isn’t all that exciting. Toyota used to hold a special place in my heart (my very first car was a hand-me-down ’80 Toyota Cressida), but not anymore. Cost-cutting has really killed the brand for me and I will not longer consider one, not even in luxury form. Of course, this isn’t really news to you guys.

Mercedes-Benz didn’t bring anything newsworthy to the table. I was hoping they would bring the 2012 ML and CLS, but I didn’t see them. It is very possible that I might have missed them because  I was wrapped up with the latest incarnations of the E-Class (convertible & wagon).

BMW showed off the 6-series concept which I looks sharp and a very solid replacement for the existing 6. I also saw the newly redesign 5 and I feel that they did an admirable job with that one too. Less impressive was the X3 which doesn’t seem to offer anything extraordinary relative to the $700+ per month lease payment some of us have estimated (see discussions in BMW November 2010 lease rates post).

MINI introduced the Countryman, which is essentially a four-seat compact SUV. Yup, a MINI SUV…it’s like an oxymoron.

Buick. The LaCrosse is an excellent Lexus ES killer and the Regal is supposed at least put up a fight in a world dominated by the 3-series. So far reports say otherwise on the CXL, so GM introduces the Regal GS. A 2.0L Turbo four that pumps out 255hp and 295ft of torque. Sounds impressive, but I would much rather have the Pontiac G8 GT’s thundering V8 under my hood even at the expense of lower MPG. As for the fit-and-finish, the Regal looks classy and well-put together inside and out, but still, BMW has no reason to fear anyone not named Infiniti.

Mazda put on a serious show with the Shinari concept. If any of this sweet ride’s design elements ever cross over into the Mazda6 or perhaps the RX8, you will see one in my driveway.

Acura. With the exception of the TSX wagon, Acura did not have anything new to show this time around. Not even a concept. Upon closer inspection, I’ve come to realize I don’t want a TSX wagon. I don’t care for it’s styling, I much prefer the sedan.

Cadillac showed the ULC concept which is probably not likely to hit the streets. Besides that, there isn’t anything else that isn’t already on sale.

Infiniti finally decided to bring the Essence to LA. This concept created a nice buzz around the show, which a big crowd gathering around it to take pictures. If Nissan is as daring as I think they are, they should put this model into production so that it can compete against other high-end performance coupes.

Volkswagen revamped the Eos and the Touareg which brings a sort of “uniformness” to the whole VW line. I personally dig it, so no complaints here. The Jetta SEL with Sports Pkg caught my eye and I found this package to be effective in making the Jetta look less “vanilla”. Unfortunately it doesn’t do much to the simplified interior. One has to wonder why this trim doesn’t come with a DSG.

The Rest. After about 4 and a half hours, I was so tired that I ended up skipping the rest of the manufacturers. Some for good reason (Toyota) and other because I had no choice. I don’t think I missed too much though. Maybe the Range Rover Evoque, but that’s about it.

If you haven’t made it to the show yet, go check it out! If you are in the market for a new car in the next 12 months, even more of a reason to go! Should you be on the fence about it or simple don’t live anywhere near downtown LA, here are some pics to wet your appetite. Enjoy!

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Leasing Exotics

I have just received a press release from Tarry Shebesta (the guy that owns LeaseCompare.com) stating that his company will begin leasing Exotics to the public. That’s great news for those of you who are looking to make a statement, but feel like the main-stream luxury brands just don’t cut it.

LeaseCompare.com Now Offers Lease Financing for Exotic, Classic, and Sports Cars

Cincinnati, OH – August 19, 2010. Automobile Consumer Services, Inc. (ACS), announced today it now offers a highline lease program for exotic, classic and sports cars through its popular website www.LeaseCompare.com.

Consumers wanting to acquire an Aston Martin, Bentley, Bugatti, Ferrari, Lamborghini, Lotus, Maserati, Rolls Royce or other luxury cars, now have access to competitive lease programs designed exclusively for their driving lifestyle. New or used cars purchased from dealers, auctions or through private party sales are eligible for this program.

“The LeaseCompare.com highline lease program offers our customers two options. They can opt for the protection of a standard closed-end lease or they can select an Equity Lease which affords them the opportunity to buy the car at lease-end at a price well below market value.” says Tarry Shebesta, President of ACS. “We also make it convenient for our customers to exit their leases early should the need arise, or if they just want to drive a different car.”

The highline program specifically caters to the affluent. Leasing offers special tax saving benefits while conserving working capital, which is especially appealing to business owners and doctors.

“Adding a highline lease program makes LeaseCompare.com a one-stop shop. Our customers have access to lease financing for all vehicle types, new or used, for personal or commercial use.”, notes Shebesta.

Details about the highline lease program are available here: http://www.leasecompare.com/exotic_lease_quotes.php

LA Auto Show 2009

The 2009 Auto Show, overall, was worse than the 2008 show. That says a lot because the 2008 show wasn’t all that good either. However, considering the state of the industry in these economic times, one has to be surprised to even see an auto show these days. Before I get started with my list of highlights from the show, I’d like to point out that many manufacturers skipped out on this years show. Notable absentees include: Nissan/Infiniti, Ferrari, Lamborghini, Saturn (obvious reasons) and Pontiac (even more obvious). The most surprising participant was Saab. Considering what’s going on with Saab right now, I wasn’t expecting them to be there at all. For all we know, their future may not extend past this holiday season. That would explain why the didn’t show their concept cars this year.

Now lets move on to my First Annual RwG Auto Show Awards! Remember these are personal opinions, which are open to debate. Chime in if you disagree!

Star(s) of the Show: I would have to give the Audi R8 Roadster and the Lexus LF-A the nod on this year’s show. Last year, the one that impressed me most was the Buick Riviera. This year, I didn’t even recall seeing it. Nevertheless, these two super cars are sexy and I wouldn’t mind having either one parked in my garage at some point in my life.

Runner-up: Fisker Karma/Sunset.

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Concept of the Show: I would have to give this award to the Honda P-Nut. Probably the strangest yet unique vehicle on the show (The BMW Vision came a close 2nd). It’s got the “cute” factor as well, so it doesn’t hurt. It sits three, in a “McLaren F1” formation, featuring the driver middle, allowing passengers to have a lot of leg room. Clever. Ladies, be sure to wear pants when driving this thing because oncoming traffic and pedestrians can see EVERYTHING through the windshield. 😉

Runner-Up: Volvo S60.

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Hybrid of the Show: Fisker Karma/Sunset and the Chevy Volt get the award for this category. The Karma/Sunset is cheaper than it looks; It has the looks of an exotic, but it comes in at under $100k. It also comes in two trims, Sedan and Coupe. Gotta Love It. The other winner, the Chevy Volt, should be selling for around $40k. It is a bit more expensive than the Prius, Insight, Civic and Fusion, but the fact that you can run it purely off the electric motor can potentially save you a load of money on gas over time (if you commute is less than 40 miles round trip). For me, I practically don’t have to pay for gas since my commute is 10 miles round trip. Added bonus? It doesn’t look like a pod (think Prius/Insight).

Runner-up: Ford Fusion.

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Surprise of the Show: Buick LaCrosse/Hyundai Genesis. Yeah, yeah, yeah. I know, GM and Hyundai…And yes, I remember what I’ve said about Hyundais and GMs. But these two sedans look and feel better than I ever expected. The Buick was elegant and fairly well built. Materials where plush and the didn’t carry the typical cheapness found in earlier GMs. The same can be said about the Genesis sedan. I sat in the backseat and was VERY impressed with the quality of materials. The leather was soft and cushy, plus there was a TON of legroom. The only question I have now is, “how do they handle on the road?”.

Runner-Up: Hyundai Sonata.

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WTF of the Show: Every show has a “WTF” car that just looks weird or makes you wonder what the designer was drinking/smoking when designing the car. This year’s award goes to the Porsche Panamera. I know there are a lot of concept cars that give off the “WTF” aura as well, but the thing about the Panamera that beats them all is that this vehicle is production-ready. Seriously? A 4-door Porsche hatchback?? Its like a flattened, stretched and lowered Cayenne or something. Really bizarre. What’s really funny is that there were these folks commenting about how “gorgeous” this car was and what not (dude peeking into the cockpit in the 2nd pic; the one with the flannel shirt. You know, your “typical” Porsche buyer. LOL.), so I guess they didn’t mess up that bad. But then again, there were some people out there that really loved their Pontiac Azteks too.

Runner Up: Jeep Lower Forty. Mini Concept.

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Here is the full gallery of pics I took at the show. The goods, the bads and the uglies.