L.A. 2016: Oh, Look, Stormtroopers!

Photo courtesy of Nissan North America
Photo courtesy of Nissan North America


I would've gone to the Los Angeles Auto Show this year. But…

Excuses, excuses. You heard it all. And, you probably heard how much the marketing tie-up between Nissan and Disney/Lucasfilm created an attractive exhibit this year on the floor of the Los Angeles Convention Center. The place is replete with Tie Fighters, movie models and the Rogue One special edition. The presser had a small phalanx of Stormtroopers escorting the Rogue One special editions.

If you're a Star Wars fan and is in the Los Angeles area, stop by the Auto Show to see it. While you're there, check out the other attractions that piqued our interest from afar…

NISSAN SENTRA NISMO: The Rogue One was not the only debut Nissan had in L.A. They dropped hints for a month regarding the intro of a NISMO-massaged Sentra. It is for real, and will join the SR Turbo in enticing young enthusiasts to return to the Nissan brand – or to augment the Z, G or SX builds they're doing for "Moar Low" and some track time. The NISMO shares the same engine as in the SR Turbo and the Juke NISMO – the 1.6 liter DIG turbocharged four-cylinder engine with 188 horsepower. It is worth noting that the engine horsepower is the same as the Juke NISMO and not the more powerful Juke NISMO RS. That might put off those looking for an alternative to the Volkswagen Golf GTI, Subaru WRX and Ford Focus ST. However, the NISMO offers a body kit and bit more suspension components worth of its badge. Of course, the enthusiasts would argue that modifications might be easy to get in order to crank up the Sentra NISMO (and SR Turbo) up a few notches.

Photo courtesy of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles
Photo courtesy of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles


ALFA ROMEO STELVIO: As we continue to be impatient over the arrival of the Giulia sedan in local showrooms, Alfa Romeo (nee FCA) rolls out their SUV. It appears to be built on the same platform as the Giulia, with Alfa design tenets and performance. At the top of the line is a Quadifoglio – the same 500-plus horsepower twin-turbocharged V6 developed by Ferrari as found in the Giulia. Design-wise, I am not exactly a fan from the images I saw of it. There’s some Mazda touches, but I would be nitpicking and possibly missing the point. The challenge for Alfa Romeo is to convince customers that they can do a SUV with performance and brand tenets worthy of a stand out product. If you can sell the Giulia, then the Stelvio would an easy sell, right? One would certainly hope so.

VOLKSWAGEN PASSAT GT: The Passat R-Line is a great sporty package, but it only has the 1.8 liter TSI turbocharged four-cylinder engine powering it. It is a lovely engine and is one of the reason why the Passat is a #VOTY16 Finalist. Yet, real enthusiast demand more – Golf R performance, for starters. The concept for the Passat GT is to use the 280 horsepower VR6 engine instead. The Passat GT received GTI-inspired looks and some suspension upgrades to make it feel like a bigger Jetta GLI with a larger hammer under the hood. This will help the Passat's cause two-fold. One, to help the Passat’s image even more by making it even sportier. It also gives Volkswagen a weapon against the Ford Fusion Sport and Toyota Camry XSE. The GT would be more concentrated than the Fusion Sport, as it relies on good-old Volkswagen suspension knowhow than fancy electronics to satisfy enthusiasts.

Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Sales USA
Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Sales USA


TOYOTA C-HR: This was supposed to be a Scion. Though Toyota absorbed its youth-orientated brand into the fold, it meant they would be able to have youth-oriented products wearing the Toyota brand, right? The CH-R certainly fits the bill, with its Nissan Juke-like looks and high aspiration sin the subcompact SUV/crossover market. Toyota chose to power the CH-R with a 2.0 liter Valvematic four-cylinder engine with 144 horsepower. It will also feature a seven-speed sequential shift transmission. What it did not choose to do is to add all-wheel drive to the mix. Maybe…not yet…but, maybe. It will also get Toyota Safety Sense P to protect the new small runner. What we have is a lot of style and some practicality. Could it be the one Toyota engages with the youth customer base for good?

FORD ECOSPORT: With help from DJ Khaled and Snapchat, Ford introduced "another one" for the subcompact SUV/CUV market and its growing SUV line. The Ecosport has been around – mainly in Latin America, Europe and Asia. To compete in North America, it underwent plenty of updates to tie back into its design tenets. Most significantly is the removal of the signature rear spare tire – which is a nod to U.S. crash protection regulations. The side-hinged "swing" gate has been carried over for our market. Ford also added SYNC 3, a new 8-inch "floating" touchscreen and the new B&O Play audio system. Power will come from either a 2.0 liter four-cylinder engine or the 1.0 liter three-cylinder turbocharged EcoBoost mill. Models with 4WD will only be powered by the 2.0 liter engine. This should be a great alternative to the segment – challenging the Jeep Renegade, Fiat 500X and the Mitsubishi Outlander Sport, for example.

Photo courtesy of Subaru of America
Photo courtesy of Subaru of America


SUBARU VIZIV-7 CONCEPT: It has been more than a minute since the Tribeca had sold its last new unit. Some thought that Subaru was better off selling anything but a seven-seat SUV. The rise in Forester sales, with the Outback riding its coattails, showed that Subaru can own its market share with bigger aspirations. It can attract active lifestyle customers with product and brand enthusiasm. To revisit the seven-seat market is to acknowledge that Subaru customers want something for larger families to enjoy the same kind of want of adventure that is part of the brand message. However, it has to be done right – a complete 180-degree turnaround from the Tribeca. This concept looks the part – inspired by the Forester. Yet, no word on what else to expect on this newest member of the Subaru family.

CHEVROLET COLORADO ZR2: The Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro just got some company. Whenever there is a stretch of desert, or some deep woods, expect a dogfight. While the TRD Pro is good, Chevrolet raised the stakes even more. How about a more sophisticated suspension system and the option of the Duramax 2.8 liter turbodiesel? How about a more aggressive body kit? How about a vehicle that would make snakes, lizards and anything in its wake run away? What General Motors went for was ultimate capability – installing suspension and performance items that are not even found on the full-sized pickups (yet). It knew that an off-road monster needed the tools to handle anything in its wake. Aren't we glad it finally saw production trim?

There are plenty of other products to discover on the floor of the Los Angeles Convention Center. The L.A. Auto Show runs through November 27 – including Thanksgiving Day! Admission for folks aged 13 and up is $12.00-15.00, depending on which day you attend. Seniors aged 65 and up get into the show for just $10.00. Children aged 6 to 12 also get in for $5.00. You can buy your tickets at the Convention Center or online here!

Have fun at the L.A. Auto Show this year!

Photo courtesy of General Motors
Photo courtesy of General Motors

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