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By Jan Wagner - syndicated weekly columnist/photojournalist
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2006 LA Auto Show

  

For those of you who love car shows, the big news out of Los Angeles is that this year we get not one but two LA Auto Shows. I have been harping for years about the futility of competing with the Detroit show for the excitement-building new vehicle introductions, new concept vehicles and jaw-dropping displays. The two shows have taken place so close to each other on the calendar that one of them had to suffer, and it has always been LA. Some years were better than others. Later this year the LA Auto Show will be moving to a November start date and will no longer share its dates with another major U.S. auto show. Hallelujah!

  
            Lexus LF-A                      Hybrid powertrain                Volvo electric concept

For the first time in the long, hundred year history of the LA Auto Show (the first one was held in 1907), “the Organisation Internationale des Constructeurs d’Automobiles (OICA) has designated the 2007 show with international status.” Only two U.S. shows will be so honored. Hopefully, in part because of that, visitors to the LA Show will be treated to many impressive, high content mega-displays and attention grabbing, original and very dramatic new model and concept introductions. LA was light on those this year, and came dangerously close to looking more like a really big auto mall instead of a major international auto show.

This year’s LA show had a design theme, and included an automobile designers' conference and a full schedule of related activities. Concepts are used to display designs, and LA had several.


VW GX3 concept

Volkswagen presented a running concept vehicle, and proved the point by driving it into their Press conference. The VW GX3 is a high performance three-wheeler that is so efficient and miserly with fuel that it would probably qualify for use in the carpool lane. With estimated city fuel economy of 46 mpg, road-holding capability of 1.25g’s, 125 hp that only needs to move 1,257 pounds and a projected price of under $17,000, this could be a huge hit. They said they’d like to bring to market if interest for doing so is shown. I say build it. Let your VW dealers know if you feel that way too.


2007 Mercedes S-Class

With just a hint of the wheel arch design from Ford’s Focus and with a great deal of fanfare, the 2007 Mercedes S-Class flagship sedans made their North American debut in Los Angeles. A new 5.5 liter V8 engine produces 382 hp and 391 lb.-ft. of torque. Later this year we’ll get an even more powerful S600, which will boast 510 hp and 612 lb.-ft. of torque from a 5.5 liter twin-turbo V12. Also introduced on the S-Class is the world’s first seven-speed automatic transmission. The optional “Distronic Plus” system will maintain a pre-set following distance behind the vehicle ahead at speeds up to 125 mph.


2006 Porsche Cayman S

Porsche finally showed us an actual, 295 hp Cayman sports car, just prior to its arrival at U.S. dealerships. Think of it as a hardtop, hatchback variant of their popular Boxster. Also new is their Cayenne Turbo S, ultra-high performance SUV. 520 hp and all-wheel-drive will make this an ideal vehicle to get to the mountains – quickly and in style!


Toyota Yaris

At the other end of the automotive scale, Toyota introduced the sedan version of its new Yaris alongside the liftback that I showed you from the SEMA Show. It’s small, looks good, gets great fuel mileage and is affordable. Toyota seems to have all the bases covered. Can they do anything wrong these days?

               
                  Jay Leno                        2006 Corvette Z06 Daytona 500 pace car

Jay Leno made a surprise appearance at the GM exhibit, driving up in a Corvette Z06 pace car. He’ll be pacing this year’s Daytona 500 in one.


iPd Volvo XC70


 

 
2007 Pontiac Solstice GXP

I looked at the new Solstice GXP with particular personal interest. It will arrive at Pontiac dealerships in a few months, packing a turbocharged engine to go along with its drop-dead good looks and incredible handling. I might just sell my MazdaSpeed Miata for one of those.

Part way through the second Press Day I decided to skip the remaining press conferences and look around on my own. I’m glad that I did. Two areas were especially interesting and informative: the smaller vendors (in their own exhibit hall) and the exotic car makers.

 
“XTREME” Mini from Al & Ed’s Autosound

Al & Ed’s Autosound (founded in 1954 and now with over 25 locations throughout Southern California) had several incredible customized show cars, designed to show off what they were capable of creating for their customers. My favorite was a barely recognizable Mini, valued at over $500,000. You entered it from an extension at the rear of the vehicle. Once in, you slid the cockpit forward into place. Integrated video screens were everywhere. You can visit them online at www.al-eds.com.

ZAP! (for Zero Air Pollution) is at the leading edge of marketing zero and low emission vehicles, offering everything from simple electric scooters and ATVs to cars. They are also deeply involved in emerging fuel cell technologies, working towards the completion of a manufacturing, research and development facility in China.


ZAP! XEBRA electric car

Their environmentally friendly XEBRA (pronounced “Zebra”) is a cute little electric, four door city car. You simply plug it in to a standard wall outlet to recharge it. Its range is up to 40 miles at speeds as high as 40 mph.

Coming soon from Brazil, the “trybrid” OBVIO 828 will run on gas, electricity and alcohol. Features include disc brakes, a Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT), GPS navigation and more.

 
ZAP! SMART City Coupe

For some reason beyond my comprehension, SMART cars are almost non-existent in the US, even though they are very popular elsewhere in the world. Their manufacturer does not sell them here, nor does the smartUSA division of Mercedes-Benz, but ZAP! does. About the length of a motorcycle, the SMART City Coupe is incredibly easy-to-park. Add in its attractive styling and 60 mpg fuel economy, and the SMART City Coupe really makes sense, especially given today’s high gas prices and ever-increasing traffic congestion.

Check out ZAP! at www.zapworld.com.


2006 Bugatti Veyron

I enjoyed spending some time admiring the ultra-exotics. Making its U.S. auto show debut and at the very tip of the automotive stratosphere was the production version of the 16-cylinder, 987 hp, 250 mph Bugatti Veyron. Yes, those were not typos. 987 hp and 250 mph. That’s more powerful and faster than many, if not most, race cars. The price? A cool $1.2 million!

  
              Spyker C8 Double 12 S                                 Spyker interior

Spyker, an automaker from the Netherlands, returned to LA with several cars. I especially love their inviting interiors. The Spyker C8 Laviolette has a feature role in the movie “Basic Instinct 2: Risk Addiction.” The Spyker C8 Spyder was voted “Best New Exotic Car 2006” by the highly respected duPont Registry’s Exotic Car Buyers Guide.

 
Birdcage 75th

I’ll leave you with the swoopy Birdcage 75th by Pininfarina. Based on a Maserati MC12, it may well have been the most beautiful car in LA. The whole front end, right up to and including the transparent, tinted canopy over the seats, tilts up for entry. It is bristling with high technology.

As always, please share your stories and send your comments to AutoMatters@gmail.com. Enjoy the archives and more at www.AutoMatters.net. Drive safely and do join me again next time.

 

Copyright © 2006 Jan R. Wagner – #174r2 AutoMatters

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