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San Diego-based ZELECTRIC's converted Karman Ghia was one of a trio of repowered VW classics.
San Diego-based ZELECTRIC's converted Karman Ghia was one of a trio of repowered VW classics.

LA 2016 Wrap Up

By Noel Adams

Noel Adams wraps up his marathon tour of the 2016 Los Angeles Auto Show, from test driving Toyota's Mirai hydrogen fuel cell sedan to an all-electric conversion of the classic VW Karman Ghia.

Thursday’s events at the LA Auto Show started later than they had on Wednesday so the traffic was busier, but still pretty good by LA standards, and I was able to keep moving all be it at a slow pace. On arriving at the LA Convention Center I made my way over to the Technology Pavilion to grab some breakfast and be ready for the first presentation of the day.

The morning kicked off, as it has done the first Thursday morning of the LA Auto Show for the last 10 years or so, with a presentation by Green Car Journal. They usually take this time slot to announce their Green Car of the Year award. This year they added an additional twist, starting out by announcing their picks for finalist for 2017 Connected Green Car of the year, 2017 Luxury Green Car of the Year, and 2017 Green SUV of the Year. These three awards will be presented at the Washington Auto Show being held in the Nation’s capital from January 27 to February 5 next year.

The finalists for 2017 Connected Green Car of the Year were the Audi A3 E-Tron, Honda Civic, Mercedes-Benz C350e, Tesla Model X, and Prius Prime. That’s one electric car, one gas car, and three plug-in hybrids.

The finalists for 2017 Luxury Green Car of the Year were the Acura NSX, BMW 740e xDrive iperformance, Jaguar XE 20d, Mercedes-Benz S550e, and the Range Rover Td6. That’s one conventional hybrid, two plug-in hybrids and two diesels. You read that right, diesels! While the debacle at VW showed that diesels are the opposite of green, someone forgot to tell the guys at Green Car Journal who have always been fans of diesels.

Finalists for 2017 Green SUV of the Year award are the BMW X5 xDrive40e iPerformance, Honda CR-V, Mazda CX-9, Mercedes-Benz GLE 550e, and Nissan Rouge. That’s three gas cars and two plug-in hybrids.

After announcing these finalists, they went straight into announcing their selection for Green Car of the Year Award. The five finalists were the Kia Optima (including both hybrid and plug-in models), Chrysler Pacifica, Chevy Bolt, Toyota Prius Prime and BMW 330e iPerformance. For the second year in a row Chevy won the award, this time for the Chevy Bolt after winning the previous year with the updated Volt. The Bolt was an excellent choice by Green Car Journal as its 238 miles range and a cost of around $39,000 has the potential to be a game changer.

After the presentation, I took a quick stroll around the Technology Pavilion. Nearly all of the finalists for the 4 awards listed above were on display. The only plug-in cars I didn’t see where the Tesla Model X and the Mercedes-Benz C350e. It was really nice to see so many plug-in cars in one place and was a real illustration of just how far we have come to clean up our air.

The first manufacturer’s press conference was being held over in the South Hall by VW so I had to hustle to get over there and arrived just after the event had started. I didn’t miss much, VW were in the process of announcing a full-sized SUV that will be built right here in the US at their factory in Chattanooga, TN.

This SUV, which is even bigger than the Touareg, will come with two powertrain options, a 2-liter 4-cylinder turbo charged engine that offers 236 hp, or an optional 3.6-liter 6-cylinder engine that can kick out 280 hp. Both power plants are couple to the front wheels via a 6-speed automatic transmission. To illustrate how big the car is they has basketball greats Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and James Worthy sitting in the SUV and both said that they were comfortable inside.

VW 2017 e-Golf electric car

Next up they noted that they are planning to sell 1 million electric cars worldwide by 2025 and will have 19 plug-in models on sale by 2020. Next they rolled out the 2017 e-Golf. On the outside, this is the same car as the 2016 e-Golf, but under the covers the car has been updated with a larger battery pack which increased from 24 KWh to 35.8 KWh. That will give the car a range of 125 miles on a charge, up from 80 miles of range on the 2016 model. To accommodate the larger battery pack, the car comes with an on-board 7.2 KW charger that will charge the battery in just 6 hours on a level 2 charger. The electric motor has also been updated too adding an additional 19 hp to 134 hp. This gives the 2017 e-Golf a 0-60 time of 9.6 seconds and a top speed of 93mph.

The next press conference was over at Volvo and so I hurried over to their stand. It was very crowded but I found a place where I could at least see the stage. Like Acura the previous day, Volvo didn’t have any new cars to reveal. They did talk about how “Autopilot” was now standard on all their vehicles and how fully autonomous cars are on their way. They also said that they expect that the sports wagon is going to become more popular.

Their big announcement though was an expansion of their Concierge service. What this does is allow the owner of the car to offload many of the chores of car ownership. This will work by way of a cell phone app. The owner will be able to send a request via the app to have their car picked up for service, a car wash, or even to get it refueled. The system then sends a time specific request to unlock the car so the designated person can pick it up. After the request is complete the car can be returned to its original location or be delivered to a whole new address. Volvo started a pilot program in San Francisco earlier this month.

Next up was Subaru. Now Subaru is one of those companies that so far has shown no inclination to launch a plug-in car so my expectations were low. The area around the Subaru stand was pretty crowded so I found a seat close by where I could hear the presentation and see the screen and waited for things to get started.

Just as I expected Subaru didn’t have a plug-in car to show the world. What they did have was yet another 7 seat SUV, the VIZIV-7 concept. There wasn’t much detail given about this car except that at 17fl long it is larger than a Chevy Tahoe. It will be placed in production in 2018 and be built at Subaru’s factory in Indian.

Subaru currently sells about 600,000 vehicles per year in the US and they plan to expand this to 800,000 cars per year by 2020. The introduction of a full sized 7 passenger SUV is a key part of their strategy to meet this goal.

They did make two other significant announcements, first that parent company Fuji Heavy Industry Inc. will be changing its name to Subaru Corporation, and second that to comply with regulations they will be introducing hybrid and electric vehicles in the future. I guess I will have to start paying more attention to Subaru.

The next presentation was going to be from Jeep in the North Plaza but I decided to skip that one and take another look around the South Hall.

Jeep launched the 2017 Compass which will replace both the current model Compass and the Jeep Patriot. This is a compact crossover that will come in several variants included both 2-wheel and 4-wheel drive. There will also be a Trail Hawk model designed for heavy off-road use. They also added two new models to the Renegade line of small SUVs with the Desert Hawk and the Altitude.

Cadillac CT6 Plug-In Hybrid

As I walked passed the Cadillac stand I noticed a 4-door sedan that was sitting plugged into a charger. It turned out to the Cadillac CT6 Plug-in Hybrid. This car was actually announced back in February but little has been said about it so the car has been mostly lost in the buzz around the 2017 Chevy Volt from which it inherits much of the hybrid technology, and the Chevy Bolt.

The CT6 PHEV has a 2-liter turbo charged 4-cylinder gas engine coupled with two electric motors powered by an 18.4 KWh battery pack that GM says can drive the car for 37 miles before the gas engine needs to start (official EPA numbers are not available yet). In total the car can put out 335 hp allowing it to blast from 0-60 in just 5.6 seconds.

The Cadillac ST6 Plug-in Hybrid is due in dealerships in mid-2017.

While the battery pack and some of the other components will be manufactured in the US the car itself will be assembled in China then shipped to the US making it the first Cadillac imported for sale in the US. It remains to be seen if the Trump administration will levy tariffs on imported cars as it promised to do during the election.

After checking out the Cadillac CT6 PHEV I walked to the other end of the Convention Center where Elio Motors were scheduled to hold their press conference in the West Hall Atrium. Elio Motors are developing a 3-wheel car driven by a 3-cylinder gas engine that they claim will give a fuel economy rating of 84 mpg. So far 64,000 people have put down a $500 deposit to reserve one of these cars.

At last year’s LA Auto Show they presented a car which appeared to be ready for production and so this year I was expecting them to announce that production was about to begin. I was disappointed to find that what they were showing was yet another prototype. Granted they told us that the E1c had been designed for improve manufacturability as the original prototypes had been hand built while this engineering prototype had been largely manufactured using low cost production tools.

Elio don’t seem to be that much closer to a production vehicle than they were a year ago, and I am beginning to think they may be turning into one of those companies that continually mess with the design rather than pushing forward to the production stage. I’ve seen it countless times before; I hope I am wrong and they begin satisfying those many orders in the not too distant future.

I headed back to the South Hall in time to catch the start of the Toyota press conference. I was pleased to find that there was a load of empty seats in the second row. These seats were marked “Reserved for Photographers” but since I was acting as a photographer I was able to snap up one of those seats.

It’s too bad that all Toyota had to offer is another compact crossover. The 2018 Toyota CH-R comes with a 2-Liter 4-cylinder engine, that powers the front wheels through a continues variable transmission, and offers 144 hp. The CUV should be available in the middle of 2017 and both price and fuel economy numbers will not be available until closer to the launch date.

From the South Hall I headed back to the Concourse Hall to see what Spyker had to offer. They already had the C8 Preliator (Latin meaning Warrior of Fighter) on view. This is a gorgeous car with sleek lines and scissor doors. The car is driven by a 4.2-liter V8 built by Audi that puts out 525 hp. It is coupled to either a 6-speed manual transmission or a 6-speed automatic.

I didn’t stick around for the press conference but continued on to the West Hall where Honda had an announcement that they would be sponsor of this year’s NHL All-Star game to be held right here in Los Angeles. With the help of former Los Angeles Kings player and NHL Superstar Wayne Gretzky they unveiled a 2017 Honda Ridgeline that will be presented to the game’s MVP. As a further surprise, sitting in the back of the Truck they had the Stanly Cup which they assured us was not included in the giveaway.

Before leaving the LA Auto Show I made my way to the ride and drive to see if I could get to test drive the Toyota Mirai FCEV. When I got to the Toyota desk they told there were two Mirai sitting there but they told me that none were available at the moment. They said I could sign up now and take a test drive later. I declined and went to leave when one of the lady’s came running after me saying a car had just become available. Apparently the car was being filmed and the camera crew had just finished.

The Mirai is a 4-door sedan about the size of a Prius. It is supposedly built on a Lexus platform and it did look a little bit more luxurious than my Prius Plug-in but not by that much. Inside I found the seating quite comfortable, certainly better than any Prius I have driven. After adjusting the seats and mirrors I drove slowly to the exit and pulled out onto the streets of LA. The car handles quite well with the feel of the automatic steering being very similar to what I have become used to on my Prius.

I had heard some people complain about poor acceleration on the Mirai but I didn’t find it to be the case. Perhaps I have become so used to the having to accelerate slowly on my PIP to stop the gas engine from starting, but the Mirai did seem to have plenty of kick when I pushed the gas pedal. It did sound a little bit noisier than other fuel cell cars I have driven, such as the first-generation Honda Clarity, but not as noisy as most gasoline engine cars.

When we got back to the convention center we found that the entrance had been coned off. The lady from Toyota that was conducting the test drive was a little surprised about this. I pulled up in front of the cones and someone dashed over to remove them and let me in so I could park the car back in one of Toyota’s Spots. I asked the lady about the Prius Prime and she said that while they didn’t have them available for the media days, they would have them available for test drives during the public days.

After finishing my test drive on the Mirai I made my way back to the South Hall then headed downstairs to take a look around Kentia Hall before leaving for home. Kentia Hall is full of customizers who do things like turn huge trucks into monster trucks or add high level sound systems to cars. Usually I do come across one or two interesting finds here though and this time was no exception when I came across ZELECTRIC.

ZELECTRIC is a company based in San Diego, CA that converts VW cars to electric. On display they had a Karman Ghia, a VW Microbus, and a Porsche that they had converted to electric. Unfortunately, there was nobody there at the time for me to talk to but their brochure says that they install lithium batteries that give their cars a range of between 100 and 150 miles on a charge. Nothing else really caught my eye so it was time to head for home.

This year had been a strange one. The reveals appear to be coming from both ends of the spectrum with performance cars, SUVs and CUVs being very plentiful but also lots of movement with Plug-in vehicles too. In 2016 we are going to break the record for total number of plug-in sales set in 2014, and with all the new plug-in cars appearing in dealerships next year sales are going to continue to grow.

Times Article Viewed: 3248
Originally published: 04 Dec 2016

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