Not everything was business as usual at the 2016 L.A. car show. For a start, it wasn’t called the Los Angeles Auto Show, but AutoMobility something or other—bringing to mind overweight cruise ship passengers on scooters from Wall-E. Fortunately, there was still some lovely European metal, and here are the highlights.
2018 Alfa Romeo Stelvio
We’re going to have to learn to love the SUV. Which could be easier now that there’s the Alfa Romeo Stelvio. This was the star of the show, just like the hot Giulia was in 2015. Named after the Stelvio Pass, a spectacular Alpine route, Alfa brought the Quadrifoglio (four-leaf) super-sporty version to Los Angeles, which entails a twin-turbo 2.9L V-6 dishing out 505 hp and 443 lb-ft of torque. This is nestled in a midsize body that deploys a lot of aluminum. Top speed is a claimed 177 mph and the sprint from standstill to 60 mph takes just 3.9 seconds. One more thing: Check out the 2018 interpretation of Alfa’s famed “telephone dial” wheels.
2018 Audi A5/S5 Sportback
Yes, it’s an idea like the A7 Sportback, only slightly smaller. Audi buyers in the Old World have had access to this car for a while, but now it’s heading to the United States, due early 2017. Let’s be subjective for a moment—this car is gorgeous, especially in three dimensions. Some may disagree, that’s fine. But make an appointment with an optometrist, just to be on the safe side. The A5 has a 2.0L turbo four, the S5 has a new turbocharged 3.0L V-6 generating a delicious 354 hp and 369 lb-ft of torque.
2017 Audi R8 V-10 Plus Exclusive
This supercar has laser high beams making “bright and pure white light,” according to Audi. As if a 610hp 5.2L V-10 teamed with carbon ceramic brakes, fixed-back racing seats, bespoke carbon-fiber aerodynamic pieces, and a bunch of other goodies wasn’t quite enough. It’s a limited run of 25 units at around $230,450 a pop. The lights won’t vaporize that slow-moving Prius in front or cut through a parking lot barrier, but they are the first of their kind to reach the United States.
2017 Fiat 124 Spider Abarth
Just because European cars are generally awesome doesn’t mean we can’t occasionally fancy and respect something from Japan, like the Mazda MX-5. Fortunately, the new Fiat 124 Spider is based on the current (and excellent) MX-5 and throws in a more powerful engine. This Abarth version (Abarth was once an independent motorsport outfit but now comes under Fiat’s corporate umbrella) slaps on its cool black scorpion badge to a version that brings an extra 10 ponies to the 1.4L turbocharged engine, for a total of 170 hp. That doesn’t sound like much, but this version is lighter by 100 pounds (a skinny 2,336 pounds overall), a Bilstein suspension has been installed along with a limited-slip differential, quad exhaust, 17-inch alloy wheels, Abarth aerodynamic appendages, aluminum pedals, and red stitching on the upholstery. Glorious.
Jaguar I-Pace Concept
Concept cars are one of the few good excuses for bolting on 23-inch wheels. Jaguar makes no mention of why such big rims might be necessary for an all-electric vehicle, but the appropriate tires could sure help put 400 hp (from a pair of 200hp electric motors, one driving each axle) and 516 lb-ft of torque to the pavement. Range is a claimed 220 miles and an 80 percent recharge happens in 1.5 hours. The company has plans to put this battery-powered crossover on sale later in 2018. Chief designer Ian Callum has even described it as “the most important Jaguar since the E-Type.” We’ll assume the body will be mostly aluminum since the rest of the Jaguar range follows that formula.
Behind this car is a cute story. The original XKSS was a road-going version of the D-Type racer (that won Le Mans in the 1950s). Just nine units were intended for the United States, but a fire at the factory destroyed them. Now Jaguar wants to make things right by offering nine versions of this handbuilt machine to valued American customers at more than $1 million apiece. Each one takes 10,000 man-hours to complete. The body is fashioned from a magnesium alloy, just like the original, and power comes from a D-Type 3.4L 262hp straight-six using three Weber carburetors. All nine have been bought.
2017 Mini Countryman
Here’s the new crossover SUV variant of the Mini, whose appearance was inevitable once the latest (third-generation) Mini platform arrived in 2014. The company calls it “the biggest… Mini ever” and if that’s sounds weird, you’re not alone. Cargo space is up 30 percent over the outgoing Countryman. Naturally, there are turbocharged engines, a John Cooper Works version, and now a plug-in hybrid model, too, which is a first. The range starts at $26,950 and that buys quite a bit of standard equipment, including a panoramic sunroof, rearview camera, parking sensors, and keyless entry. The regular versions should be available about now. The hybrid goes on sale June 2017.
2018 Mercedes-AMG GT Roadster and GT C Roadster
The latest dedicated supercar from AMG now comes in two convertible guises. The regular GT Roadster zips around with 469 hp and 465 lb-ft of torque from its twin-turbo 4.0L V-8, hitting 60 mph from standstill in 3.9 seconds before reaching a top speed of 177 mph. For those who think they should be shaving 0.2 of a second from the 60-mph sprint and driving at 196 mph with the fabric roof down, there’s the GT C Roadster. Same engine, but 550 hp and 520 lb-ft. The GT C has a wider track and also gets rear-wheel steering for even more agility. Remember the SLS came out as a coupe, then a convertible and was designed from day one as a soft top? These GT Roadsters follow the same template. They’re expected in the United States around fall 2017 and the GT C Roadster could be in the $150,000 ballpark.
2018 Mercedes-AMG GT R
If the regular AMG GT is a Porsche rival, think of this as the three-pointed star’s answer to something like the 911 GT2. Making its North American debut in Los Angeles, it’s a hardcore, track-ready version with a carbon-fiber roof. For this iteration, the GT’s twin-turbo 4.0L V-8 gets a lightweight dual-mass flywheel and makes 577 hp and 516 lb-ft of torque. The traction control system has nine modes. Nine. The aerodynamics have been tweaked for extra cooling and a rear-wheel steering system is installed. Due summer 2018.
2018 Mercedes-AMG E63 S
The new generation of E-Class has suddenly grabbed our attention. Not that we don’t admire all that new autonomous technology, but when something with 603 hp and 630 lb-ft of torque is connected up to “Drift Mode,” the antenna starts to tingle. While the “normal” E63 enjoys 563 hp and 553 lb-ft from the same 4.0L twin-turbo V-8 found in the AMG GT cars, the S package creates the most powerful E-Class ever. We’re looking at all-wheel drive, a nine-speed semi-automatic transmission, speed-sensitive steering, dynamic engine mounts, beefed-up brakes, air suspension, locking rear differential, standstill to 60 mph in (gasp) 3.3 seconds, top speed of 186 mph, an on-sale date of summer 2017, and a price of around $105,000.
2017 Mercedes-Maybach S650 Cabriolet
Take an S-Class convertible, give it a twin-turbo 6.0L V-12 with 621 hp and 738 lb-ft of torque, fit an air suspension and 20-inch alloy wheels, smother the cabin with fine leather and deep pile carpet, add a bespoke matching leather luggage set, limit production to 300 units (with 75 earmarked for the United States) and, damen und herren, the Mercedes-Maybach S650. A snip at $300,000.
2017 Porsche 911 RSR
We could talk about the long-wheelbase Panamera, but really there’s nothing so newsworthy as a mid-engined 911. It’s not a road car, though. It’s a one-seater race machine for the GT endurance class, so those silly little rear seats can be ditched to make room for the engine’s relocation. That motor is a water-cooled 4.0L flat-six capable of generating 510 hp. Most of the body is carbon fiber and the housing for the six-speed sequential gearbox is made of magnesium. The RSR also has a radar-based collision avoidance system, which could be most welcome in the middle of the night at Le Mans. Lastly, the RSR now uses solid valve lifters, which will be seen in the next GT3 engine.
2017 Volvo V90 Cross Country
After a long day walking around the 2016 Los Angeles auto show, the V90 Cross Country was the perfect place to rest. Sinking into those super-comfortable, leather-upholstered seats and running a hand over the expertly crafted wood trim is a reminder of how darn plush and generally high class Volvo interiors are these days. No driving enthusiast is really going to be wild for a raised-up wagon with SUV leanings, but every good car has a purpose. This one just happens to be taking a family through rough weather in sumptuous surroundings. The regular V90 is based on the same platform as the S90 sedan and XC90 SUV. It is quite possibly the most handsome wagon Volvo has ever produced.