Los Angeles Auto Show 2012

Words by Matt Willis

Last weekend, we dedicated some time to check out the happenings at this year’s LA Auto Show. This show is not as big some of the year’s earlier debut events, like Detroit, New York or Chicago, but it is widely recognized as the headline show for the West Coast. There were several introductions in LA this year, both production-ready and conceptual, as well as new developments of previous concept builds and modified/performance vehicles.

Although the event does not seem that large, (especially after spending three days touring the SEMA grounds…), most of the manufacturers are present on the LA Convention Center floor. One of the things I love about this show is that the auto makers can really get creative with their space, including everything from lounge areas for guests, interactive booths, and unique displays for the cars. Compared to our local San Diego show, which is far more bland and is really just about the cars, and not the brand influence.

We arrived early on Saturday and began circling through all the manufacturers…



Honda was the first. Similar to their display at the SEMA Show, Honda’s performance division and the new Accord seemed to take center stage.


This is the Honda EV-ster, which debuted at the Tokyo Motor Show late last year. The car is very small in-person, and could be considered like a roadster take on the CR-Z. Honda’s designers are, as with most of their current fleet, focused strongly on an efficient electric design, but have also drawn focus to drive-ability with the EV-ster. They see potential in the market – and with brands like Tesla, Toyota, Nissan and GM trying to bring it mainstream, Honda has a chance to evaluate the market here. If they can take the boring facade off of the “EV” title and somehow make an affordable, stylish electric roadster – they might just be on to something.


I think what would be more tempting would possibly be an electric version of the former Honda S2000. There needs to be a hook thrown to pull us enthusiasts (aka Petrol Heads) into the electric/hybrid boat. I think it would be game changing if Honda revamped and lightened their S2000 chassis, powered it by electricity but kept the suspension, driveline and handling characteristics the S is known for. Sure there’s the Tesla Roadster and Fisker Karma, but for $100k what dollar-for-dollar enthusiast is going to even look that direction…?



Anyone who follows cars should be completely aware of the new SRT Viper, but in case you weren’t, here’s one dressed up in black on the LA floor. I love the guy in the background…haha…


Metallic HEMI-era purple Challenger SRT-8. Even five years after it’s initial release, I still love the Challenger’s aggressive and retroactive design. Glad to see it hasn’t fallen off the map yet.


Travis Pastrana’s Dart rally car we’ve seen at a multitude of events this year was on a cool display.




This is the 500L from Fiat, due to the US in late 2013. It is basically a larger version of the 500 that adds two more doors, similar to the Panda in the UK.


Here’s Pitbull giving you a come hither look, along with two 500s…


Fiat also had this photo-op, where someone takes a picture of you in front of a Fiat 500 and this corrugated panel of photographers in the background. Haha…


Over at the Kia display, the new Forte sedan and Sorento were the main highlights. Props on a cool display, but as far as the cars…nothing noteworthy…


The KIA/DC Comics’ heroes art cars we saw at SEMA last month were on display here as well.



Over at Ford, Ken Block’s Olsbergs-MSE multi-purpose rally Fiesta was on the show floor…


We saw the production-ready Focus ST at the LA Auto Show last year; this year the Fiesta ST is the point of attention. Initially, the Fiesta ST wasn’t intended to come to the US but many sources are citing the overwhelming interest in the Focus ST model was leading Ford to head that direction. Now, Ford is coming at the hot hatch category strong, with a 1.6-liter turbo four producing 200 horsepower and 214 lb-ft of torque – not quite as much as the Fiesta’s big brother, but still enough to have some fun. Not to mention, the US ST model makes more power than the UK version (is that a first?!). Though the fuel economy numbers have yet to be formalized, Ford ballparks the Fiesta ST at right around 34 mpg (Highway) which is great for those looking to get a peppy commuter car without the hindered gas mileage (i.e. Mini Cooper, Civic Si). Seems like all the right moves on Ford’s part here, we’ll just have to wait and see how the consumer approaches it.


At the Nissan booth, we saw the Delta Wing FIA LMP car for the first time in person. This car is currently testing within the European Le Mans series only.


This car is designed to reduce drag at all costs, channeling air past a narrow front while pushing against the back to keep balance and stability at high speeds.




At the secluded Porsche exhibit, there was this beautiful 904 GTS on display.



The new Porsche Cayman made it’s worldwide debut here in LA. I have to say – the Cayman, for me, is a cross between a Carrera hard top and a Boxster that I really don’t understand. I like it, but it leaves me shrugging my shoulders as to why they just don’t offer it all up to the normal Carrera – unless they are truly trying to appease everyone. Just one man’s opinion, though.


Nonetheless, it retains the iconic Porsche shape with the new “991” era styling touches. This is Porsche doing what they do best – not changing their formula. But it was expected, and perhaps that’s the good thing for preemptive OCD Porsche fanatics like myself – at least they’ll never change them into something completely hideous.


Leaving Porsche, we ended up in the Concourse Hall where many of the exotic cars were being displayed.


Galpin Aston Martin brought out this classic DB5…


The highlight from Aston, though, was definitely the new 2014 V12 Vanquish.


It shares the same styling as the DB platform but has a wider body similar to that of the first-generation Vanquish.


The Morgan Aero shows up once again this year, still looking pretty miserable in my opinion…


Their new three-wheeler, on the other hand, is pretty badass…


Saleen S7…



Tony Brakohiapa’s 800-horsepower Formula D Mustang at the eBay Motors booth.


Adam Carolla’s Datsun 2000 roadster…


Mercedes CLS…


Renault 5 Turbo…


Matching Panamera and Cayenne…


Mercedes SLS AMG on HRE wheels…


Chrome-wrapped Mercedes S 550…


New Jaguar XFR-S production model…


Also well as the F-Type roadster. This will come in a standard V6, as well as a V8 “S” model rated at 500 horsepower and 460 lb-ft of torque…



The Acura NSX concept has made some decent progress.






Volvo C60 Polestar…



…and the S60 Polestar Sedan…



The Lexus LF-CC concept that we saw at the SEMA Show…




…as well as the LFA Nurburgring Edition…


Here’s the Infiniti LE Concept, which is their first attempt at a zero-emission vehicle. It definitely has the look of an electric/zero-emission car, and the shape is very reflective of the current Hyundai Sonata Hybrid.


One of the unique features of this car is a wireless charging system. A charging pad that comes with the car is affixed to the LE’s parking spot (hopefully in a garage…) and when the car comes into proximity, it begins to charge. The idea there is to get rid of the charging cables, but honestly for an electric owner I don’t know if that’s as much of a hassle as it seems. I mean, you plug your phone in to charge every night, right?



Over at Mercedes, there were a couple of SLS AMGs on display…


One of which was this beautiful AMG Black Edition.


The metallic yellow isn’t really Mercedes-like, but for some reason it really sets the car off. That, along with the added aero and trim work.



Notice the splitter, canards and the airfoils over the brake ducts. Very nice touches.


Contrary to the SLS is the Mercedes “Ener-G-Force” concept, which came from a local design team in Carlsbad, California. It is a futuristic take on the G-Class SUV, but instead powered by hydrogen fuel cell technology.


The BMW i8 Concept and the i3 Coupe pre-production model. The i3 electric car is slated to come to dealers in 2014…



Chevrolet had two new concept vehicles on display, one of which is this 130R. This is a rear-wheel drive coupe powered by a 1.4L Ecotec turbo. One can only wonder if this is a GM response to the FR-S/BRZ craze…


The styling is certainly striking, though…


The other GM concept is the Tru 140S, which shares the same engine as the 130R but in a front-wheel drive configuration in a hatchback body.



The 140S also has some very good looks. We’ll have to see which one Chevrolet releases, or if they go through with both…


Chevrolet’s main highlight was the new EV version of the Spark.



One of the CTS-Vs from the Pirelli Challenge series, which we saw in action at the Long Beach GP event back in spring.


At the Toyota booth, the “New Sedan 4” or “NS4” concept was on display. This is a next-generation plug-in hybrid based on the Camry platform, however the specs so far have been quite short of noteworthy. We’ll have to see where they take it in the next year or two to find out what sets this car apart from the rest of the current hybrids out there…including Toyota’s own…


Can’t really assume anything about a concept car, but I have to say, the styling here is quite…awkward.



Subaru recently released the XV Crosstrek, which is more or less a slightly larger Impreza wagon with some unique colors and wheels available. Many consumers are already questioning it’s production value, with a retail cost of $20,000 – those who want bigger can go to the $21,000 Forester and those who want the sport chassis and Boxer engine can save two grand and get the Impreza. This car leaves us scratching our heads as a business decision, but nonetheless being a Subaru, it’s likely a quality vehicle.


One thing I noticed about all the new Subaru models was this slightly irritating grill design. Probably just my OCD flaring up, though…


We’ll wrap up with the US debut of the Bentley Continental GT3 FIA competition car, which has been long anticipated by Bentley followers. The car is powered by a motorsports-tuned version of their W12 turbo.


Thanks for reading!