Noel Adams - Charging Ahead

Report from 2017 Los Angeles Auto Show - Part 1

Dec 17, 2017

EV World's annual LA Car Show reporter, Noel Adams, shares his impressions of the vehicles on display at this year's premier automotive event in California.

It was overcast as I navigated interstate 10 on my way to the LA Convention Center to attend the 2017 LA Auto Show. The show started a little earlier this year so traffic was moving along quite well except for some slowing as I approached the junction of the 10 and the 110 freeways.

This year the show kicked off at the Technology Pavilion which in reality is just a large tent out in front of the West Hall. There they had a nice collection of classic cars and hotrods to review and a number of catering trucks that were serving breakfast. I grabbed a bite to eat and a cup of coffee and took a look at the cars on display.

Most of the cars were they typical sixties muscle cars and hot rods but two really stood out. The first was a black 1936 boat-tail Bentley called the Black prince, and the other was a cute little Nissan Figaro which was a retro 2 seat car made by Nissan in 1991.

After breakfast I went over to the South hall for the first press conference of the day. As I entered the South Hall the first thing I saw was the Tesla Display. Tesla has shown its cars at the LA Auto Show in the past but this is the first year they made an appearance in one of the main halls next to the likes of BMW, Mercedes-Benz, and Lexus. It makes the statement that Tesla is no longer a start-up but is transitioning into a major car maker.

I was a little disappointed that they didn’t have the new Roadster on display but part of their stand was dedicated to Tesla Solar which I thought was really good – EV plus PV rocks! At the Tesla Stand I got my fist look at the Model 3 and stopped to take a couple of photos.

The first press conference was BMW and they had a lot of cars to present. I thought it might be interesting, but they really blew me away.

The BMW stand was the most crowded of any I have ever seen in my 10 years of covering the LA Auto Show. They had only a few seats and all of them were reserved so almost everyone had to stand. I moved over to the Mini display next door and found a bench seat there where I could at least sit and listen to the presentation even if I couldn’t see what was going on.

They started with an introduction that talked about how they had invested a total of $8.1 billion in their plat in South Carolina and how 70% of their vehicles built there would be exported. Then they started rolling out vehicles with a version of their M5 crossover that will see power increased to 600hp. This was followed by the M3S which will be sold starting in January as a limited run of only 1200 cars. Power will be boosted to 450hp which will rocket the car from 0-60 in just 3.5 seconds.

Next up was a concept car, the X7 iPerformance. This was a full-sized SUV which will probably be a good indication of how the next generation X7 will look. They did not give any indication of what was under the hood but given the iPerformance in the name it is a good bet that there will be a plug-in hybrid variant. Production of the next generation X7 is set to start in about a year at the BMW factory in South Carolina.

BMW did say that they are now engineering their future cars so that by 2021 all of their vehicles will be able to utilize any of their different power train options such as gas, electric, or plug-in hybrid.

Next, they rolled out the one offering from Mini, the Concept LX. This will be an all-electric version of the Mini and will offer 100 miles range. It is expected to hit showrooms around 2019. It is rumored that BMW are following Smart and will eventually make Mini an electric only brand in the US.

After the Mini BEV they rolled out another fully electric car, the i3S. The i3S is a sportier version of the existing i3. The looks have been tweaked a little and the car rides just a little bit lower and the track is a few millimeters wider. Power has also been increased slightly. Price and availability dates for the US have yet to be released.

The BMW i Vision Dynamic concept came out next. It had first been shown in Frankfurt earlier this year but BMW took the covers off it for the first time in the US. The i Vision Dynamic offers range of 370 miles on the European test cycle so expect and EPA rating of around 300 miles. It will accelerate from 0-60 in 4.5 seconds and can top out at 125mph. BMW confirmed they plan to produce a car based on this concept and will offer both a 4-door and coupe versions.

Finally, BMW rolled out the latest in the BMW i8 line, the i8 Roadster. This is a convertible version of the iconic BMW i8. The i8 Roadster will get an increase in power to 369hp and it will also get a boost in the all-electric range to about 18 miles. The Roadster is expected to land in the US next spring as a 2019 model. The increased power and range is also expected on the 2019 i8 Coupe also.

After BMW had finished, and flushed with excitement about the possibility of seeing many new EVs being launched. I went on to Mercedes-Benz, who were hosting their press conference just about next door. Once again it was really packed but this time I was able to get into position where I had a reasonably good view of the stage.

There first offering was the S-Class Cabriolet. They didn’t have a lot to say about the power train but the car has been enhanced with new LED tail lights. It’s an elegant looking 2 door soft-top that looks good and would be great for cruising Pacific Coast Highway on a hot summers day. Too bad they don’t have a plug-in version.

Next up was an upgrade to the CLS. The CLS is a 4-door coupe and will come with 3 different engine options. All 3 options will be 6-cylinder models with two of them being diesel and the third being a gas model.

Their final offering was from AMG, the Project One. Project One has been developed from the Mercedes-Benz formula one car and has inherited many of that cars underpinnings but in a road car that can truly be classified as a supercar. The car is a plug-in hybrid that mates a 1.6-liter V6 with 4 electric motors and an electric driven turbo charger to in combination put out in excess of 1,000 hp. This gives the car a top speed of 217 mph (350 kph) and can push it from 0 – 124 mph (200 kph) in just 6 seconds. All-electric range is said to be about 15 miles (25 km) although these numbers will be derived from the more lenient European test cycle and we typically get a lower rating from the EPA.

The next presentation of the day was at Mazda. Mazda is one of those car companies that is not a fan of electric cars so I usually pass on their press conferences. This year, since they have recently entered into a joint venture with Toyota to develop electric vehicles, I thought they might have something to announce in the plug-in world. I was wrong!

They started their press conference late and the first thing they said was that they think there is a going to be a long-term demand for gas powered vehicles. They introduced a new engine in their Skyactive range, the Skyactive-X compression ignition engine. The Skyactive-X doesn’t eliminate the spark plug entirely as it is needed under some situations, such as when the engine is cold or reving very slowly, but their technology should give improved fuel economy.

Then they rolled out their Vision Coupe concept which they said would be unlikely to make it to production but was indicative of the future trend in Mazda vehicles. Personally, I didn’t see much different from existing vehicles.

Finally, they rolled out the next generation Mazda 6 with a skyactive engine that included technology for cylinder de-activation. Mazda is doing a great job of making their gas vehicles more fuel efficient but most of the automotive world now realizes that electric is the way of the future and I fear that Mazda is clinging too closely to the past.

My next stop was on the other side of the convention center in Petree Hall where Porsche was holding its press conference. Porsche always makes a special effort in LA as it is the carmakers largest single market representing about 10% of worldwide sales.

The had 4 new cars to reveal this year and first up was a pair of sports cars, the 718 Boxter GTS and 718 Cayman GTS. Both cars have been upgraded with more power. Both of these models should appear in Porsche dealership in mid-December.

The next car to be unveiled was the Panamera Turbo S e-Hybrid Sport Turismo which must hold the record for longest model name in history. The e-Hybrid is Porsches designation for their plug-in hybrid models and this one it a rather attractive 5-door hatchback. Porsche say that this car will put out 680hp from a combination of a turbo charged 4-litre V8 and an electric motor. It can do 0-60 in 3.4 seconds and Porsche claims it will be able to cover 30 miles on a charge but keep in mind that is on the more lenient European test cycle so I would expect the EPA to show a range closer to 25 miles.

The last car they introduced was the 911 Carrera T which is a stripped-down version of the 911 Carrera which has been modified with the intention of making it a light as possible. The result is that the 911 Carrera T is 20 Kg lighter than the comparably equipped 911 Carrera. What was most interesting to me is that its 0-60 time of 4.5 seconds is a full second slower than the much heavier Panamera Turbo S e-Hybrid Sport Turismo. That’s why supercar makers are adding plug-in hybrid capability to the cars so they can get all that torque from the electric motor to rocket the car off the line.

After Porsche it was a short walk to the West Hall to see what Lincoln had to offer. It turns out that most of their presentation was about new ways to sell cars.

They are currently piloting a service where a dealer will bring a car to your home for a test drive. If you like the car and decide to buy then most of the paperwork can be done in your home. The service also includes pick-up and drop-off of the vehicle when it is time to have it serviced.

Another new service that is currently being piloted in a couple of cities is the Lincoln personal driver. In this case you can schedule a driver to come and drive you around in your own vehicle. This will include being driven to bars and parties so you don’t have to worry about drinking and driving. Think of it as Uber with your own car. It will also be a Segway into autonomous driving where the car will drive you around without the need for a driver.

For the conclusion of their press conference they showed a mid-sized crossover called the Nautilus which is going to be a replacement for the MKX. The car has some design changes from the MKX which includes a Lincoln badge on the front that is similar to the one on the Continental. It appears that Lincoln is going to phase out the MK range as the name proved confusing for customers. Ford still hasn’t added a plug-in car to the Lincoln brand.

I hurried over to the Nissan stand for the next presentation and for the first time in the day I managed to find a vacant seat front and center. Nissan had announced the next generation Leaf at the Santa Monica Alt Fuel Vehicle Expo back in September and I was hoping to get more details about availability but the car wasn’t mentioned.

Instead the launched a new small sized SUV called the Nissan Kicks. The car is driven but a 1.6-liter 4-cylider engine that produces 125hp. Nissan claim it will get combined fuel economy of 33mpg although this has not yet been approved by the EPA. The Kicks comes with all the advanced safety features that are now stating become pretty much standard in most cars such as lane keep assist, collision warning, and automatic braking to avoid collisions.

The next presentation was from Jeep and I was pretty sure there would be no Plug-in announcements there so I decided to grab some lunch. The Amazon Prime Series “The Grand Tour” was about to start running season 2 and as a promotion they had set up an English pub in the Atrium of the West Hall. It was a bit disappointing, although not unexpected, that Jeremy Clarkson, James May and Richard Hammond, the stars of the show, were not on hand, but we did get some life-sized cardboard cut-outs and the TVs were all showing clips from the show. I went in and had a tiny portion of bangers and mash with a glass of Bodington’s Beer to wash it down. For an old Brit like myself it was heaven.

The afternoon kicked off with a press conference from Mitsubishi. They started out with some news we have been waiting for, after many years and multiple cancellations, the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV will finally go on sale in the US in December. The Outlander PHEV is the best selling plug-in vehicle in Europe and should sell well here in the US assuming that Mitsubishi can get inventory to dealerships in large enough quantity.

They went on to show the 2018 Mitsubishi Eclipse which turned out to be yet another compact crossover. It is powered by a 1.5-liter direct injection turbo charged engine. It features a full color heads-up display and comes with all the latest safety features, like lane keep assist and collision mitigation, that are becoming pretty much standard on new models. This CUV comes at a base price of $23,295.

2017 marks the 100th anniversary of Mitsubishi building cars. To celebrate the occasion, they produced something special. They took a 1917 Mitsubishi Model A and an Outlander PHEV and shipped them to West Coast Custom in Burbank California and had them meld the power train from the outlander into the body of the Model A. The result was a great looking plug-in hybrid that wouldn’t look out of place among the brass era cars at a classic car show.

For the next presentation I had so scoot over to the South Hall again to get to the Volvo stand. Volvo has announced that all its cars will be electrified in some way by 2021 so I was hoping for a new Plug-in announcement from them. It turned out they didn’t have a car to reveal at all, they were showing the XC 40 which will be in dealerships soon, but what they wanted to announce was a new subscription model they are introducing as an alternative to leasing.

This model is designed to offer everything in one monthly payment. This includes the car, insurance, roadside assistance and maintenance. There is even a 15,000 mile per year allowance that covers consumables like tires and wiper blades. It will be called Care by Volvo and the cost for an XC 40 will start at $600 per month with no down-payment or sign-up fees.

They even had someone come on stage and go through the ordering process while they were doing the presentation. The whole thing can be done on-line in about 15 minutes but some paperwork will need to be finalized when the dealer drops off the car.

From Volvo I had to walk back to the South Hall and got there just in time for the start of the Hyundai presentation. Like many before them Hyundai were unveiling a compact crossover called the Kona. To me it looked more like a tall hatchback with big wheels.

The Kona has two engine options, a 2-liter 4-cylinder engine or a 1.6-liter turbo coupled to a 7-speed automatic transmission. There is also going to be an all-wheel drive option. The car will come with a large heads-up display and the usual array of safety features like attention warning, land keep assist and collision mitigation. This CUV will also come with 3 years of free maintenance.

The last event of the day was the Chrysler Media Reception being held in the West Hall. Chrysler didn’t really have anything new to present but I was quite surprised that the focus was on the Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid. You might recall that while it is called the Pacifica Hybrid, it is actually a plug-in hybrid not a conventional hybrid. Chrysler/Fiat has been outspoken in their dislike of electric vehicles even while putting out two very nice models in the Fiat 500e and the Pacifica Hybrid. The Pacifica Hybrid was revealed at the 2016 LA Auto show and has been on sale for several months now. It is the only plug-in hybrid Minivan available at the moment and is a very nice car for those that want to be able to tool around town in all electric mode but also want to be able to get good fuel economy on a long-distance trip with the family.

I didn’t stay too long at the Chrysler reception as I wanted to try and get on the road before traffic got too bad. It had been a long hard day with very little opportunity to sit down so I was very tired, but I was also looking forward to the Thursday where I knew that there would be more plug-in announcements.

2017 LA Auto Show Photos by Noel Adams

2017 LA Auto Show Photos by Noel Adams

2017 LA Auto Show Photos by Noel Adams

2017 LA Auto Show Photos by Noel Adams

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