2017 Chevrolet Bolt electric car won Green Car and Motor Trend Car of the Year Awards.
LA Auto Show 2016
By Noel Adams
Noel Adams shares his impressions of the cars - ICE and plugged in - on display at the 2016 Los Angeles Auto Show in part one of this two part series.
2016 LA Auto Show – Part 1
By Noel Adams
It was pretty early in the morning, so traffic was still light as I drove down the 10 Freeway into downtown LA for the 2016 LA Auto Show. This year the LA Auto show was combined with the connected car expo to run for 4 days but I opted to attend just the last two days where most of the manufacture press conferences would take place.
When I arrived at the Convention Center I registered then headed to the Technology Pavilion where the first presentation of the day was going to be made. The Technology pavilion turned out to be a large tent that had been erected outside the West Hall. There were catering trucks parked outside and Chrysler had a display of the Pacifica Minivan, both the regular version and the hybrid which is really a plug-in hybrid.
After checking out the Pacifica I grabbed a quick breakfast then made my way inside in plenty of time to get a seat near the front before the first presentation started.
This was a talk being given by Padmasree Warrior who is CEO and Chief Development Officer of NextEV. She was talking about the future of the automobile with the rise of artificial intelligence and autonomous vehicles. In her opinion fully autonomous vehicles are only about 5 years away. Based on remarks at other press conferences over the next two days this seems to be the thinking in many car companies.
She pointed out that cars are responsible for about 20% if energy use, 40%of oil use, and 1.2 million traffic related deaths per year worldwide. In terms of commuting she expressed the total time Americans spend just traveling to and from work each day as the equivalent of 162 lifetimes wasted. Long commutes also create health issues as it has been shown that this is the time when most people encounter maximum stress.
She said that the next generation of cars, which she termed Car 3.0, could drive autonomously which would make them much safer, they will be electric and so will be green, and will be the smartest device we have. She also said that Car 3.0 would give you your time back.
I’m not sure how that would be since you still have to spend time in your car, to get to work. It appears to me that a much better way would be to use advances in technology such as Video chat to allow people to do most of their work from home or at locations closer to home reducing both the time and distance that you need to travel for work.
The first press conference of the day was Alpha Romeo and it was being held in the North Plaza. The North Plaza turned out to be another tent just outside the West Hall. This was actually quite good as they had room for tons of chairs so I was easily able to get a seat.
Alpha were revealing the 2017 Giulia, a 4-door sedan with the very characteristic looks of an Alpha. The car is driven by an aluminum 2.6 liter V6 that can spit out 505 hp and rocket the car from 0 – 60 in just 3.8 seconds and gives it a top speed of 191 mph. They tested the car on the Nurburgring and manage a lap time of 7 minutes 32 seconds.
Next they rolled out the Stelvio; an SUV. This really shouldn’t be much of a surprise since it seems that the US has gone SUV crazy and so everyone is adding them to their line-up, but even though it had the distinctive Alpha grill the car seemed much more like a VW.
Performance is what sets this one apart. The car is constructed using lightweight materials like Aluminum, and carbon fiber to reduce weight. The car will come with a 2-liter engine or an optional 2.9-liter twin turbo that will rocket the SUV from 0-60 in 3.9 seconds and to a top speed of 177 mph.
My next stop was to rush into the West Hall for the Nissan and the first thing I saw hovering over the Nissan stand was an Imperial Tie Fighter. My first thought was that Nissan had gone over to the dark side. I was correct in a certain way of thinking.
It turns out that Nissan has a tie in with the new Star Wars Movie, Rogue One. Jeremy Tucker, VP of Marketing and Communications came on state and talked about how the Nissan Rogue will be Nissan’s best-selling vehicle for 2016. He then told us that they had done a tie-in with the Star Wars franchise and rolled out the Star Wars version of the Nissan Rogue. Then they had a load of guys dressed as storm troopers surround the stage and did some special effects that were really quite amazing using the turntable on the stage in conjunction with images projected on the video screens, lasers, and burst of flame coming from the stage around the car to make it look like it was traversing a Star Wars battle zone.
Only 5,000 Rogue one edition vehicles will be made and each will come bearing the Star Wars Logo and the sale will include a Darth Vader type helmet that is featured on some of the imperial troops in Rogue One.
I was hoping for some info on the next generation Leaf which is expected to have more than 200 miles of range but it looks like we will have to wait for the Detroit Auto Show in January for that one.
My next stop was Petrie Hall which is always occupied by Porsche who do a big display there every year. As I entered the hall I was met with a solid wall of people. It was impossible to even get into the area where the press conference was being held so I gave up and left.
Porsche announced their new Panamera 4 Executive range which comes equipped with a 2.9-liter turbo charged V6 Engine that puts out 440 hp and has a 0-60 time of 4 seconds. They also showed off the Panamers 4 e-Hybrid Executive which comes with an all-electric range of 31 miles, kicks out 460 hp and does 0-60 in 4.5 seconds.
The remaining press conferences were all over in the South Hall so I made my way down there. As I entered the South hall the first thing I saw was a huge video display with lightning bolts and a compact crossover on the opposite wall. This was the Chevy stand and while they had the Bolt and Volt displayed at the very back of their stand they did have the large display going so you could see where they were.
I did get to sit in the Bolt for the first time. With the driver’s seat pushed all the way back I found the rear seat to be cramped and a little uncomfortable and I have pretty short legs. With the seat pushed further forward there was adequate room though. The driver’s seat was reasonably comfortable and would probably feel even better once the seat was correctly adjusted.
After checking out the Bolt I hurried over to the Mercedes stand and got there well before the show started. It was already very crowded but I did manage to find a seat.
The first car they rolled out was the Mercedes Maybach S 650 Cabriolet. This was an absolutely beautiful car especially for people like me who are big fans of convertibles. The car comes with a 621 hp V12 engine but they didn’t say what the performance numbers would be although I expect this car will be pretty quick. The car will even come with a matching set of luggage. Now here is the kicker, they only plan on building 300 of these and only 75 of those will be sent to the US.
Next they talked about the EQ brand for electric cars and showed video of the concept that they revealed at the Paris Auto Show. They are expecting the EQ brand to represent between 15 and 25% of global sales by 2025. Then they segued into the next reveal, that of the updated version of the SMART ForTwo Electric Drive.
The new SMART electric drive is basically an electric version of the latest model of the Smart ForTwo. Range has been increased from an EPA estimated 68 miles for the existing model up to about 80 miles which should be more than enough for the type of urban driving that most people do in the SMART. Charging time on level 2 has also been cut to about half the time of the older model. Level 1 charging times will be a little longer of course.
One thing they didn’t mention was the electric version of the SMART Cabriolet although I do expect there to be one when the SMART electric drive begins arriving in dealerships in early 2017.
I hurried over to the Land Rover and Jaguar press conference and managed to get a spot over on the Jaguar side of the stand. They opened up by showing the Land Rover Discovery Dynamic. This SUV is constructed using Aluminum which makes it 1,000 lbs. lighter than its predecessor, thus more fuel efficient, although they didn’t quote any numbers on fuel consumption.
Next they showed the i-Pace concept. The i-Pace concept is an all-electric car designed to have the batteries under the floor which should give the i-Pace a low center of gravity for better handling. It will come with 2 electric motors each generating 200 hp which should propel the car from 0-60 in about 4 seconds. The lithium ion battery pack is made up of 36 modules each containing 12 cells for a total capacity of 90 KW. This should give the car enough energy storage to carry it 240 miles on the US test cycle. Jaguar plans to have a production version of this car on the road by early 2018.
I hurried over to the Mini stand where their press conference was about to start. They began by mentioning the new ReachNow pilot program that is being started in the Seattle area where owners of 2016 or 2017 model Minis can rent out their cars when they don’t need them. This will allow them to offset some of the costs associated with the car.
Then they revealed the latest version of the Mini Countryman. The Countryman makes up about 25% of Mini Sales. There will be 4 trim levels, including a plug-in hybrid version, that should make their way to dealer showrooms in March 2017. There is also an all-electric version planned for introduction in 2019.
The 2017 Mini Countryman will be a little bigger than its predecessor adding 8 inches to the length and it will also be about 1 inch wider. The standard model will come with the 184 hp Cooper S engine, but of more interest is the plug-in hybrid. Which will have a 134 hp 3-cylinder gas engine driving the front wheels via a 6-speed automatic transmission, and an 84 hp electric motor connected to the rear wheels. Electric power comes from a 7.6 KWH lithium ion battery pack under the rear seat that should be enough for a range of 24 miles and will run in electric-only mode at speeds up to 77 mph. This set-up will give the Countryman PHEV a 0-60 time of 6.8 seconds and a top speed of 137 mph.
The next press conference was Acura but they didn’t have a car to reveal this year. Instead they just talked about their new android based interface – very disappointing, I was hoping they would finally show a plug-in car.
Following Acura was Mazda but they are one of the few car companies that think they can meet future fuel efficiency standards with gas engines and have so far shown no inclination to produce a plug-in vehicle. I decided to skip this press conference and go in search of some lunch.
It turned out to be a good call as Mazda showed off their latest race car followed by the reveal of the CX-5 crossover. This crossover will come with three engine choices, the standard 2.0 liter skyacitve-G gas engine, a 2.5-liter gas engine, and a 2.2-liter diesel engine.
The last press conference of the day was Hyundai so after lunch I hurried back to the South Hall to see what they had to offer. It turned out that they were presenting the production ready Ioniq line of cars.
The Ioniq is a four-door sedan with sleek lines that give the car a coefficient of drag of only 0.24 which is the same value as the fourth-generation Prius. There will be three power train variations on the Ioniq, electric, hybrid, and plug-in hybrid.
The all electric version will have a range of 124 miles and a fuel consumption rating of 136 MPGE. The hybrid will have a 1.6 liter 4-cylinder engine and will offer a combined mileage rating of 58 mpg. While Hyundai didn’t have a specific date for when these two versions of the Ioniq would arrive in dealerships they did say that it would be soon. The third power train option, the plug-in hybrid, is expected to show up in the US a little later, currently slated to show up in dealerships in the second half of 2017. This car will offer an all-electric range of 25 miles.
Also on stage they had a blue Ioniq electric that is set up as an autonomous vehicle. This car comes with three LIDAR sensors, a 3-camera video array, smart cruise control radar, blind spot sensors and GPS to allow the car to basically drive itself. Hyundai said that they are currently testing them on their campus in Soul and plan to have one operating at CES in Las Vegas in January.
For the future Hyundai are also planning an electric crossover vehicle with a range of over 200 miles.
To go with the sale of the Ioniq electric Hyundai are going to introduce a pilot program in California called Ioniq Unlimited. With this program, people will be able to order a car for a two-year or three-year period with zero down and one fixed monthly cost that will cover many of the running costs of the car. While full details of this program haven’t been made available yet they did say that this program will cover just about all the costs associated with this car including unlimited mileage, free charging, maintenance and the usual fees that they tag on to cars like doc fees and destination charges. The program will also cover a lifetime battery warranty although this seems redundant on a program that has a maximum period of 3 years. This program is expected to start in March 2017.
After the Hyundai press conference, I went off in search of the ride and drive which they had moved from the location it had been held for the last few years. I asked at the information desk and they sent me to the wrong location. Fortunately, I encountered a nice young man wearing a blue shirt just like the ones the people at the information desk were wearing. It turned out to be a Honda employee however. On their ads Honda depicts their people as the helpful Honda people and this young man proved to be very helpful and directed me to the correct location.
I was very disappointed with the ride and drive this year. I was particularly looking for a test drive on a Chevy Bolt but GM was not participating in the ride and drive. In fact, the only alternative fuel vehicles there were the Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid and the Toyota Mirai FCEV. I opted to test drive the Chrysler Minivan.
Don’t let the name fool you, the Pacifica Hybrid is actually a plug-in hybrid and quite a good one at that. This minivan is driven by a 3.6 liter V6. On the electric side, it has at its heart a 16 KW lithium battery pack that will propel the car up to 30 miles on a charge. Chrysler rates the Pacifica Hybrid with an overall fuel economy rating of 80 MPGE. I was quite impressed with the way that this Minivan drives. It has plenty of punch and it didn’t feel like I was driving a large vehicle.
I only had a couple of minor quibbles. While I was able to keep the car in all electric mode most of the time when I floored it the gas motor did come on and there was a slight lag before the acceleration kicked in. This felt very similar to what I have seen in some automatic transmissions. The second was when I came to a stop at the next light the engine shut off again with a distinct shudder.
For those that want a Minivan to run the kids around and for the occasional out of town trip this vehicle will fit the bill perfectly. Most Minivans are driven less than 30 miles per day so with an overnight charge the van should be running electric only most of the time. For those days when there is a need to go further a midday charge, even if it is only a partial charge, can boost electric only miles.
After my test drive I went back into the South hall where KIA were holding a media reception. While they didn’t do a traditional press conference they did have the new KIA Soul Turbo on display. This car is supposed to provide more power from the engine while improving fuel efficiency so it sounds like a win-win. KIA has always used giant hamsters in their ads for the Soul and so they had some guys dressed up in hamster costumes entertaining the crowd. I did also get my first look at the Kia Optima PHEV. The Optima plug-in is expected to get 27 miles of range on a charge and should begin appearing in dealerships early next year.
By this time, I was thoroughly exhausted so I made my way back to the car. This year the LA Auto show seemed to be split between cars with lots of power and cars with a plug. On one side, it reminded me of the years leading up to 2008 where vehicles just seemed to be getting bigger and more powerful every year. On the other hand, the fact that we are seeing more and more plug-in cars headed for showrooms means that more people will be getting to experience driving electric and I know that many of them won’t be going back.
Originally published: 28 Nov 2016
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