Wednesday, November 16, 2011

L.A. Auto Show

Quite a few years ago, while living in San Diego, I had the awesome privilege of attending the L.A. Auto Show. I had been to other shows before, but they were of the dealer show variety, not of the caliber of L.A. or the other big debut shows. But at L.A. I was like a kid in a candy store. I spent 8 hours in that show and yet when I walked out I felt like I had barely been then for no time at all. Time flies when you're having fun, I guess!

Well, its that time of year and the L.A. Auto Show just popped the top on a new year. While I'm not there this year, I've been perusing all the coverage on the major websites. and are my favs. The three cars that have caught my eye are the Subaru BRZ Sti, Porsche Panamera GTS and VW Beetle R concept.

I owned a second gen Toyota MR2 for a few years, so the Subaru/Toyota/Scion project has had me intrigued as the car has gone from concept to reality. It looks like the Subie is the first to lift its shirt show us its sheet metal.

In my first new post here last week, I mentioned I was disappointed with the first spy shots of the BRZ. But the un-covered version on show in L.A. has changed my mind. While indeed, the show car is in Sti guise, it looks hot. The word is the Scion version won't look a whole lot different. While short on the power side, 200 hp, the small sporty has incredible tuner potential. That was the fun of my MR2. The thing really had endless opportunity for tuning. It was by far the best of the '90's Japanese sports cars with its light weight and mid-engine layout.

Of course this new car is front engine but it really carries some of the spirit of the MR2, namely light weight, small displacement and cool alphabet nomenclature. Subaru has a great performance pedigree as well. Interestingly, the BRZ enters the world without all-wheel-drive. This is the first Subie in who knows how long without AWD. I don't think people will mind much, however.

This also the first dual make collaboration for Subaru in a decade since the brand shared the WRX with Saab for the ill-advised 9-2x. I think the way Toyota and Subaru have gone about the development of this ride however, is in no way just a re-badging, but a legitimate joint engineering project. I'll be sure to get a salesman to take me on a test drive come spring!

The next car that has caught my eye is the Panamera GTS. The GTS bridges the gap between the S and Turbo and gives the super sedan a boost in hp, alcantara interior bits and the option of a very cool black rear wing. The wing and other exterior bits really spruce up the exterior of the awkward looking car and will surely add to sales of Porsche's best selling car currently. The GTS treatment has been a success for the Cayenne and 911 and surely this will be a hit as well. I noticed recently that the PCA Club Racing Rule Book now has Panameras included in some of the stock racing classes. Maybe the GTS will help some would be racers out on the track with the fearsome 4-door. I waste a lot of time on Porsche's Car Configurator online, and I'm sure I'll have more fun changing colors and options on the new GTS as well.

Lastly, VW has presented a new New Beetle R concept. The latest Beetle really is a 180 degree shift in design philosophy from the previous generation. The fact that they all came with flowers and optional daisy shaped wheels really didn't make for much of an enthusiast's car. Even with "turbo" and "S" versions, the car was timid. The new version looks more aggressive and if they start selling and "R" version, the flower power image will soon be forgotten.

I've had the opportunity to drive a few GTI's and an R32. The R32 was potent to say the least. AWD and so much power in a tiny car made for some, lets say, spirited driving. If the new Beetle R comes anywhere near, VW has a winner. I know enthusiast cars don't make much money for automakers but they do attract attention to the brand. The Europeans know this and Ford has caught on as well. If only Chevy could figure this out with the Cruze, I think a few more units would get sold, but I digress...

There's much more to see at the L.A. Show. What's nice is that the cars on show in L.A. are typically destined for sale in the U.S. While Geneva, Tokyo and the other shows of the world give us glimpses of what the rest of Earthlings get to drive, its nice to see what's going to be in our showrooms here Stateside.

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