Although it is a regional show and the last in the annual circuit, the Los Angeles Auto Show is one we always enjoy for its upbeat atmosphere. It is simply a great way to end the automotive year.
LA is a cosmopolitan city where the rich and famous, movie stars, sports stars, homeboys, and gangstas all show off their respective takes on individual looking cars.
So while advanced technologies like electric cars, hybrids and autonomous driving are always in the limelight, with some manufacturers even giving live demonstrations outside the exhibition halls, the thing we always enjoy here is the rich tapestry of custom cars on show.
California has always been the nation’s epicentre for custom cars and hot rods, and many of these moving works of art, their special alloy wheels and airbrushed paintwork are designed and crafted in LA, and in towns all the way down to San Diego.
The second generation CLS was designed in Mercedes’ Advanced Design Centre in Carlsbad, California, and this four-door Coupe has always been a popular model in LA where style is at a premium.
Enter the third generation car, with a strong dose of the ‘sensual purity’ and modern luxury’ that we have seen from Gorden Wagener’s team on the E-Class Coupe and Cabriolet recently.
Returning to the simpler form of the original CLS of 2004, the new CLS is even more minimalist in its detailing, but its bold pillarless Coupe look and low roofline live on in purer form.
Thanks to the flush fitting of its frameless side windows, and the side mirrors mounted on the doors rather than the triangular fillet of the doors, the cabin of the new CLS is measurably quieter than the E-Class, on whose platform it is based. Optional acoustic glass will make the cabin even quieter.
As it comes along later than the E-Class, the new CLS benefits from facelift S-Class technologies such as the new straight-six petrol and diesel engine family, and partial 48-volt electrical system. There will also be an AMG 53 Hybrid version in the near future.
While a variety of four and six-cylinder petrol and diesel engines will be available, the debut model is the CLS 450 4Matic whose 2,999cc six produces a total of 367 hp with 500 Nm of torque. Thanks to the three-stage turbocharging with an electrical first stage from the integrated starter/generator, which provides an instant 250Nm of torque off idle, performance is brisk with 0-100km/h coming up in 4.8 seconds on the way to its electronically limited 250km/h (155mph) top speed.
S-Class Coupe & Cabriolet
LA on the West Coast and New York on the East Coast are the two wealth centres of the US, and the cities where Mercedes-Benz sales are particularly strong.
However, the better year round climate of Southern California makes it the ideal playground for the Mercedes S-Class Coupe and Cabriolet, and thus the natural venue for the launch of the face-lifted car.
Apart from its new front and rear bumpers and industry first OLED tail lights, the revised flagship Coupe and Cabriolet feature a new V8 Biturbo motor in the S560 guise.
With two turbochargers positioned in the Vee of the 3,982cc motor as with the AMG S63 V8 with which it shares the same displacement, this new mainstream engine delivers 469 hp and 700Nm of torque. The S560 Coupe variant, which comes with 4Matic all-wheel-drive as standard, has a four-cylinder shut-off system for fuel saving when operating under light load.
Although it was unveiled at Frankfurt in September, the LA Show was the first sighting of the spectacular AMG Project One on American soil. Needless to say the crowds could not get enough of this promise of Formula One technology for the road.
With almost year round blue skies over Southern California or SoCal as the locals say, BMW took the opportunity to unveil their much-anticipated i8 Roadster. Unveiled alongside the mid-life update of the i8 Coupe, BMW’s first hybrid supercar looks even better al fresco.
That facelift is important since the updated battery means the electric motor that adds to the output of the turbocharged 1.5 litre petrol engine now makes 12hp more. This takes its output to 143hp, for a combined petrol and electric output of 374hp. It also means that the i8 can go about 48km, or 30 miles on electric power alone.
As with the Coupe, the i8 Roadster capitalises on the rigidity of its carbon-fibre core, so little extra strengthening is required. Thanks to a weight saving canvas roof that folds in a Z-shape the Roadster weighs just 60kg more at 1,595 kg. Importantly for its futuristic image, it is able to retain its distinctive butterfly doors, which are now sans frames.