Los Angeles 2015: Another View From The Sidelines

2017 Buick LaCrosse - Photo courtesy of General Motors
2017 Buick LaCrosse – Photo courtesy of General Motors

Last year, I had the privilege of covering the Los Angeles Auto Show on site at the Convention Center downtown. Coming home to L.A. to cover the show was something I had dreamed of when this career took off back in 2011. Having the experience of last year under my belt, I figured I'll stay home for this year's show.

It is not unusual for me to cover the show from the confines of my home back in Minnesota. Sure, I might miss a few things, but I always make sure that I am perfectly OK with that.

However, the L.A. Auto Show featured a lot of different debuts. Some of the vehicles have already showed up at previous auto shows or special events prior to the November 18th media date. What I want to present in this rehash of the auto show are production-ready vehicles that made their first appearance in Los Angeles for this show.

Which of these production-ready vehicles caught my attention the most? Rather, which of these vehicles made me go "ummm?" Here you go…

2017 BUICK LaCROSSE: It is about time! The former Vehicle of The Year Award winner (2009, to be exact) had been kind of looking for an update for a very long time. The Avenir-influenced body lends to a front-drive platform with an uprated 3.6 liter V6 and a massive interior update. It also signifies the return of the Tri-Shield badge – in living color! I have questions, though. Will the additional technology and active safety enhancements put this in the forefront of its new buyers? Can I finally find a proper driving position in this sedan? And, is this the definitive Buick we have been waiting for? Answers to come soon enough…I hope.

2017 Fiat 124 Spider - Photo courtesy of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles
2017 Fiat 124 Spider – Photo courtesy of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles

2017 FIAT 124 SPIDER: You knew it was coming…another Mazda collaboration with another automaker. This time, it is Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. The car in question is the ND Mazda MX-5 Miata. What FCA did was to swap the Skyactiv engine lineup with a 1.4 liter Multiair turbo, connect it with Mazda's fine transmissions, add a nose that looked like a 1970s 124 Spider, a different rear end and Fiat badges. The result is a quandary. I know I have yet to drive the ND MX-5 Miata, so I am anxious to know what the differences are between it and the Fiat. I also want to know whether Mazda allowed FCA to instill some of its identity into the ND. One look at the interior will tell you that Mazda opted only to swap badges (same as they did on the Scion iA/Toyota Yaris sedan from the Mazda2) rather than allow some technologies (UConnect, for example) to be integrated onto the 124 Spider. Then again, I am nitpicking. Show me the real deal before I make further judgment…

2017 FORD ESCAPE: Having recently finished up in a 2016 with SYNC3, the long-awaited mid-cycle refresh of Ford's second most popular product in the USA pushes the crossover further. There is a new front and rear end, with the former utilizing a new global face for CUVs/SUVs- seen on the Edge and Everest/Endeavor (the former is an Asia-Pacific market product we might get). The biggest headlines include two new EcoBoost engines – 1.5 and 2.0 liters – with Stop/Start technology. The other is the first Ford app for remote controlling of their vehicles – SYNC Connect. Perhaps importantly is the inclusion of active safety features the Escape badly needs – adaptive cruise control, a lane keeping system, enhanced park assist and a driver alert system. In all, the 2017 Escape is loaded for bear with the Honda CR-V in its sights.

2016 Honda Civic Coupe - Photo courtesy of American Honda
2016 Honda Civic Coupe – Photo courtesy of American Honda

2016 HONDA CIVIC COUPE: Before you say "the V-TEC kicked in, yo," look at it for once. The tenth generation Civic spawned a North American-designed coupe that does not look like it is ready for a tuner to tackle. If I was a bit blind, I would almost mistake it with a Lexus RC. But, I will not devalue my favorite coupe by doing so, because the Civic rides on its own merits as one of the few in its segment that is still offered with two doors.

2017 HYUNDAI ELANTRA: The Genesis sedan began the wave of Fluidic Sculpture 2.0 designs. The Sonata was next, although some felt that it went a bit more conservative than it should. Now, it's the Elantra's turn. It sports a global look linking to the GT hatchback (The i30 in global markets), but retains a lot of what we love of the compact sedan – sharp, razor looks with personality to spare. What is less sharp is the interior – more to the brand's current design and a lot more user friendly. That alone will help the Elantra's cause, as it will try to encroach further onto the Civic/Corolla game. Standard engine is the 2.0 liter engine, while a new 1.4 liter turbocharged motor is added for an Eco trim, along with a seven-speed dual clutch transmission. The tech has been raised to include next-generation BlueLink and a larger infotainment screen. The Elantra is a winner, but it has company in the 2016 Chevrolet Cruze. It's going to be a good battle in the compact segment in the next 12-18 months.

2017 Infiniti QX30 - Photo courtesy of Nissan North America
2017 Infiniti QX30 – Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

2017 INFINITI QX30: How does one make a Mercedes-Benz GLA better? Yes, I will admit I am not a fan of the Merc, so my hopes are high that Infiniti's part of their collaboration with Daimler will field a better crossover. No information was given on actual engines, except for a lot of discussion on the design, vehicle positioning and technology. That's it! Once we get that information, my hope is that this is better for my body…and my soul…than the GLA is shares it platform with.

2016/17 LAMBORGHINI HURACAN 580-2: I like the Huracan in its 610-4 guise. It is an amazingly quick and powerful machine that is very easy to drive. I hate to think of a Huracan with two less wheels to drive on, but the 580-2 sounds like it would be absolute fun. Rear wheel drive makes the difference between it and the 610-4. Though, 30 less horsepower would be livable, but imagine the absolute hoonery one could get into with that power driving just the rear wheels. Yet, proper Lamborghini (and exotic car) owners would appreciate the invitation to track this model. Why not a rear-wheel drive V10-powered Lamborghini? Why not, indeed!

2017 Lincoln MKZ - Photo courtesy of The Ford Motor Company
2017 Lincoln MKZ – Photo courtesy of The Ford Motor Company

2017 LINCOLN MKZ: The Continental concept is finally showing its face. Yet, Lincoln grafted the new brand face onto their mid-sized sedan, which badly needed an update to distinguish itself from the rest. It works! The MKZ looks more desirable than ever. Plus, Lincoln felt compelled to add a new V6 engine – one with twin turbochargers. Do not call this an EcoBoost, because this is a Lincoln exclusive. If you get it with front-wheel drive, the new 3.0 liter engine will spew 350 horsepower. Select all-wheel drive, and that power increases to 400 horses. Talk about a Hot Rod Lincoln! The MKZ will also add an app for remote services (not called SYNC Connect) to pair with its infotainment system (not called SYNC3). The next time you want an Acura, wait until you drive this.

2017 MERCEDES-BENZ SL: The iconic roadster is all-new again. It looks stunning on the inside, though there is a lot of old and new outside of it. The first SL we'll get is the 550 – a turbocharged V8 similar to the one in the S-Class. Should we expect the usual V12 and/or AMG models? That should be a given, considering its AMG GT/CLS/S-Class Coupe design cues that define Merc's looks of late. Should we care about this car? That is entirely up to you.

2017 Mitsubishi Mirage - Photo courtesy of Mitsubishi Motors North America
2017 Mitsubishi Mirage – Photo courtesy of Mitsubishi Motors North America

2016 MITSUBISHI OUTLANDER SPORT AND 2017 MITSUBISHI MIRAGE: Mitsubishi gave the awaiting media a late two-fer in debuts. The Outlander Sport sports a new nose and a few updates across the board. Everything else remains the same, which is fine after the addition of the 2.4 liter engine to the lineup. However, the Thai-built Mirage undertook some serious updates from the outside in. Not just a new nose and colors, but the addition of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Now, the 1.2 liter 3-cylinder engine has 78 horsepower to play with.

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