Its only major car maker is Tesla up the road near San Francisco but this week, California gave every impression of being at the heart of the world’s motor industry when the Los Angeles motor show hosted a series of new-car reveals that, just, eclipsed a revived Tokyo show being played out on the other side of the Pacific.
Of course, this being LA, the cradle of liposuction, there was one car among the cast of thousands designed not by an über-cool car creative in designer glasses but, yes, a cosmetic surgeon. And it cost a wrinkle-making $1.1m. It’s at the foot of our report but first, meet the star of the show…
The Porsche Macan was the most important launch, even if a slightly distracted-looking Maria Sharapova, the tennis star, drafted in to sprinkle some star dust, didn’t appear to think so. After the success of its Cayenne off-roader Porsche has high hopes for the cheaper Macan, with a target of 50,000 annual sales in its sights. It’ll probably do those and more.
Having ramped up the excitement with the launch of the F-type convertible this year, Jaguar pulled off a neat trick by following it up with what pundits expect to be the superior car: the coupé. Cheaper, prettier and, thanks to its stiffer body, doubtless better to drive, the coupé received a unanimous thumbs up. And to think that at the launch, the car maker believed it needed Simon Cowell to give it some lustre.
Given it was first launched earlier in the week at its Oxford factory, the unveiling of the new Mini at LA doesn’t perhaps count but the US is the model’s biggest market and without it, we might all still be looking wistfully at old BMC versions. Guests, including, bizarrely, top Elvis impersonator Willard Ford, arrived at the LA launch bash in a London bus (note: avoid the no.57 from Shepherd’s Bush if you want to get to work in Neasden).
Disgruntled sales reps are more likely to associate the word “edge” with poverty-spec, entry-level versions of some Fords such as the Mondeo, but this hasn’t stopped the car maker naming its new BMW X5-size, premium SUV after the humble trim level. We trust the Edge won’t have plastic wheel trims, non-colour-coded door handles and rectangles of crudely applied plastic where switches should be. We’ll get it in 2015.
Curiously for a model so linked to the video-game generation, the new Subaru WRX was launched not at Tokyo but LA. Like all previous WRXs, it’s no oil painting but it does have bolder, more aggressive lines than before and it’s built on an all-new platform that is usefully stiffer for improved steering and handling. It’s powered by a 2-litre blown boxer engine producing 264bhp and 258 lb ft torque. Subaru’s not saying whether it will come to the UK.
Some years ago, Kia brought a new limo to the UK whose single most memorable feature was its massage seats. This year it bought a new one to LA called the K900 and this time, its fine seats were just one feature among a raft of equally memorable ones in a car that oozed quality inside and out. The S-class rival (OK, maybe not now but make no mistake, Kia is catching up fast) is powered by a choice of engines: a 311bhp 3.8-litre V6 or a 420bhp 5-litre V8. But Park Lane can rest easy: the car isn’t destined for the UK, at least not this generation…
Hyundai Veloster Turbo R-Spec
Meanwhile, sister brand Hyundai was flexing its considerable muscles with the launch of the Veloster Turbo R-Spec, a tuned, tweaked and more driver-focused version of the standard Turbo model. So out go fripperies such as push-button start and heated leather seats, to be replaced by a new torque vectoring control system to improve handling, a new six-speed manual gearbox and R-Spec exterior and interior detailing.
Nissan GT-R Nismo
In the land of excess, the new Nissan GT-R Nismo looked perfectly at home. Nismo is short for Nissan Motorsport which has tweaked the standard car to wring an additional 49bhp from its 3.8-litre V6 engine. Coupled with major changes to the suspension, the result is a model that can run Nürburgrings around the opposition.
Nissan Juke Nismo
Nismo was back in action elsewhere at LA, this time on the Nissan Juke Nismo. The engineers have squeezed an extra 27bhp from the diminutive SUV’s 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol engine, taking it to 215bhp, while sharpening the car’s suspension to cope. New Recaro seats complete the job. Expect the Juke Nismo RS to hit the UK sometime next year.
Mercedes SLS Final Edition and Concept GLA 45 AMG
Mercedes did the double with a reveal of the SLS Final Edition (exactly what it says on the carbon fibre-effect bonnet; there’ll be 350 made and then it’s goodbye SLS) and the Concept GLA 45 AMG, a scorching-hot version of next year’s compact SUV boasting 0-62mph in less than 5 seconds.
Mercedes AMG Vision Gran Turismo
The SLS might be on run-out but that didn’t stop Mercedes teasing LA showgoers with another gull-wing sports car called the AMG Vision Gran Turismo. The clue’s in the name: the car is a virtual Mercedes created for Sony’s new Playstation 3 game, Gran Turismo 6. However, that hasn’t stopped the engineers speccing it with a 577bhp V8 and an aluminium spaceframe that tips the scales at 1385kg.
BMW 4-series cabriolet
BMW raised, and lowered, the roof at LA with the new 4-series cabriolet. The car, which follows the recently launched coupé and is the successor to the old 3-series cabriolet, has a fancy folding metal roof. The car goes on sale in the UK in March at prices ranging from £36,675 for the 420d SE, to £44,970 for the 435i Luxury.
Range Rover long wheelbase
Land Rover was hoping to kick the likes of the new Mercedes S-class into the long grass with the launch at LA of the long wheelbase Range Rover. According to the car maker, “clever packaging” has increased rear legroom by 186mm (7.3in) for second-row passengers and, important for stressed celebs and captains of industry, boosted seat recline by 8 degrees to 17 degrees. UK deliveries begin in March.
Finally, the show stopper to stop all shows: the Youabian Puma. The $1.1m roadster, unveiled at LA, seats four, stands taller than many SUVs and is 6,147mm long, or 1m longer than a Mercedes S-class. Its 7-litre V8 doles out 505hp, sufficient to launch it from 0-60mph in less than 6 seconds. The best bit? It was designed by Dr Kambiz Youabian, a cosmetic surgeon. So that’s why it looks so, er, beautiful.