By Paul Santana
Founded in 1907, the Los Angeles Auto Show is the first major North American auto show of the season each year. In its more recent years, the L.A. show has become primarily known as the place to unveil the types of cars most commonly found in southern California – convertibles and fuel efficient electrics/hybrid vehicles. This year there were over 50 vehicle debuts, with some of the most noteworthy being of the SoCal drop-top variety.
2017 Porsche 911 Targa 4S
When it comes to open-air cockpits, few automotive pedigrees are more recognizable than that of Porsche. With a top speed of just under 190mph, the 2017 Porsche 911 Targa 4S is both pleasing to the eye and a beast on the track. The Targa is propelled by 420 HP to 60mph in just 4.2 seconds, but the newest 911 is about more than just performance. The body lines are unmistakably Porsche, yet the front and rear of the car have been completely revamped for 2017. The 7-speed gearbox promises smooth and sporty gear changes, while also improving fuel economy, which is good because the 911 has always been a great choice for the daily commute. Active air intake flaps behind the front grill help to reduce fuel consumption by closing while at speed to reduce drag, and only opening when cooling is necessary. Other efficiency systems include Auto start/stop, which turns off the engine when the driving speed falls below 5mph while decelerating, as you are coming to a stop. Once you release the clutch or hit the accelerator, the engine restarts instantly. Porsche’s Doppelkupplung (PDK) automatic transmission offers a coasting function that decouples the engine from the transmission to avoid deceleration caused by engine braking. In doing so, the vehicle’s momentum allows the new Targa to coast for longer distances on its own accord. Aggressive engineering to perform when needed, but comfortable and fuel efficient enough to get you through even the worst OKC stop-and-go traffic. Like any Porsche, it’s not cheap, with pricing for the new 911 Targa starting at just over $122,000.
2017 Mercedes-Benz S Class Cabriolet
Mercedes’ promise: “The best, or nothing” – a statement brought to life through their unique combinations of luxury and performance designs, and the new S-Class Cabriolet fits Mercedes’ image perfectly. A class leader in aerodynamics, the S-Class Cabriolet promises a new benchmark in air efficiency, with an optimally designed interior meant to glide effortlessly though the wind. With room for four, the Cabriolet’s sleek drop-top design is more than just eye-catching. Whether you prefer top up or down, Mercedes’ new THERMOTRONIC intelligent climate control utilizes 12 sensors and 18 actuators to automatically ensure your cabin is always the perfect temperature. AIRSCARF neck heating helps to allow top-down driving in even the coolest Oklahoma temperatures, and the available exclusive design handcrafted nappa leather surrounds the occupants in the ultimate lap of luxury. As for the second half of the luxury-performance equation, the new S-Class Cabriolet doesn’t disappoint – for a convertible, it is exceptionally rigid. Innovative material integrations such as the luggage compartment comprised of lightweight yet strong aluminum and magnesium, as well as aluminum rear floor sections, help to lower the convertible’s body weight to that of the S-Class Coupe. A 4.7L bi-turbo V8 engine produces 449HP, and is coupled with a 9G-TRONIC 9-speed automatic transmission, which reaches 60mph in just 4.5 seconds (even faster in AMG trim). Safety in a convertible is always a concern, so Mercedes provides a standard roll-over protection system behind the rear head restraints. New safety features include pyrotechnic initiation of the actuators, in addition to the roll bars themselves, which are moved into position via a gas generator in an instant once a rollover scenario is detected. Intelligent Drive Systems such as Active Lane Assist, Active Blind Spot Assist, and DISTRONIC Plus (a fancy name for adaptive cruise control), help to keep the rubber side down. The S-Class Cabriolet is set to go on sale early summer 2016, with pricing expected north of $125,000.
2016 Land Rover Range Rover Evoque Convertible
Touted as “The world’s first premium compact SUV convertible,” the 2016 range Rover Evoque Convertible is one of those love-it-or-hate-it designs. It’s rare to see an SUV convertible, and while it has been done before (Nissan Murano Cross Cabriolet), the SUV market has yet to see success in a drop-top. Off-road vehicles and open skies go together well, with models such as the Jeep Wrangler selling plenty, but Range Rover owners aren’t your typical off-road crowd. Don’t get me wrong, Land Rovers are very capable off-road vehicles, but studies have shown that only about 15 percent of all 4x4 vehicles ever even see a dirt road, and Range Rover percentages are even lower. That being said, the 2016 Evoque convertible is expected to offer all the off-road prowess Land Rover is known for, while providing a completely open view overhead. With two doors and a quick-down top, the Evoque looks more at home cruising through Beverly Hills than actually climbing them, but it’s nice to know that you could if you wanted to. A 240hp turbo four-cylinder engine paired to a 9-speed automatic remains a top fuel efficiency performer. The Evoque Convertible is expected to go on sale mid-2016, with a base price of just over $50,000. Whether or not the public is ready for such a unique machine remains to be seen.
2016 Honda Clarity Fuel Cell
Hydrogen and Oxygen combine to create a zero-emissions hydrogen-powered electric vehicle. The idea is nothing new, yet Honda’s newest FCV is claiming just 3- to 4-minute fill-ups, with a targeted range of over 300 miles! The use of ultra-lightweight materials keep vehicle weight to a minimum, while aerodynamic albeit not-so-visually-pleasing body panels keep wind resistance to a minimum. The electric motor generates about 174 equivalent horsepower to drive the front wheels, and the Hydrogen fuel cell fits nicely under the hood, leaving plenty of traditional trunk space out back. Performance is far from groundbreaking, but the concept of Hydrogen as a future fuel alternative is what Honda is really trying to convey in the Clarity. Set to go on sale in Japan in spring 2016, it may be a while before Americans can get their hands on one.
Audi E-Tron Quattro Concept
During the press days of the L.A. Auto Show, Audi of America president Scott Keogh announced his company’s commitment to achieve at least 25 percent of U.S. sales from electric vehicles by the year 2025. He went on to say, “Audi will build its position in electric vehicle technology with the launch of the A3 Sportback E-Tron plug-in hybrid later this year. It will then accelerate toward its decade-long goal of 25 percent electric vehicle sales with the production version of the fully electric Audi E-Tron Quattro concept SUV by 2018, along with other plug-in models to come.” A bold statement considering the plethora of new electric vehicles coming to market in the coming years. The E-Tron Quattro features a single electric motor, which drives the front two wheels, while two others independently power the rear, producing a combined 429 equivalent horsepower, and claims a zero-to-60 time of around 4.6 seconds. Charging should take about an hour, and provide around a 310-mile range. A multitude of driving technologies assist the Quattro’s handling and performance, including torque vectoring to distribute power exactly where it’s needed, and it features energy recuperation technologies to harness all the electricity possible. Industry experts see the E-Tron concept aimed squarely at the Tesla Model X Luxury electric SUV, which makes sense, but only time will tell whether or not Audi has what it takes to dethrone the mighty Tesla electric. With a release date pushed out to 2018, they don’t exactly have time on their side.
2016 GMC Sierra Denali Ultimate
It wouldn’t be an auto show without some new trucks, and GMC introduced a beautiful example in the 2016 Sierra Denali Ultimate. If it sounds like an expensive truck, that’s because it is. Starting at about $51,000, the Denali is much more than your basic work truck. Advanced LED lighting, premium design accents and luxury features that include a power sliding rear window, sunroof and power steps. An exceptionally quiet interior surrounds the driver in luxurious perforated leather, real brushed aluminum trim, and features heated and vented front seats, a heated steering wheel and premium stereo options. Sound deadening is achieved via triple door seals, new body mounts, aerodynamic exterior mirrors, a valved exhaust system, and an optional Active Noise Cancellation system. Interior tech includes an 8-inch color touch screen with voice commands, a wireless cell phone charging pad, available 4G Wi-Fi hotspot, OnStar remote link software, and Apple Carplay. A 6.2L V8 generates 420 horsepower, with an optional 5.3L Eco Tec V8 that offers the best V8 fuel economy in any size pickup. Other features include Hill Descent Control, Hill Start Assist, and an Eaton auto-locking rear differential for ultimate off-road traction. This is NOT your father’s pickup; in fact, if it weren’t for the bed out back, you’d probably think you were driving a lifted Cadillac Sedan, which is actually a pretty accurate description.