A Design Nerd’s Dream
V3llum Visits the Los Angeles Auto Show The Los Angeles Auto Show has been going on in one form or another since 1907. It’s grown...
V3llum Visits the Los Angeles Auto Show
The Los Angeles Auto Show has been going on in one form or another since 1907. It’s grown and changed over those 108 years to become something of a behemoth. As one of the premier auto shows in North America, many great cars have gotten their world debuts there. Most major manufacturers show up with their latest and greatest, build elaborate booths, and on press days they seek to pack these booths out with journalists in hopes that their various debuts drum up excitement for whatever facelifted this or all-new that they are getting ready to loose upon the driving public. It’s a pretty well oiled system and overall the experience works. The scheduling of various press conferences was pretty smooth and we didn’t have to do to much hustling to get to the ones we were interested in. Once we arrived at the show, we made sure we had a rough battle plan for the day and proceeded to jump headlong into the experience. We started in the Ford booth.
For the last couple of years, Ford has been on a Juggernaut-esque rampage to out-performance segment every other manufacturer in America and Japan. Their lineup, while not without some minor missteps, is incredible. The current jewel in their performance crown is, we’d argue, the Focus RS. How they managed to take their perfectly respectable hatchback Focus and upgrade it not once (ST) but twice, kind of blows our minds. The Focus RS takes the ST’s weak-tea styling and repeatedly kicked it in the huevos until it got very, very angry. This being our first time seeing the RS in the metal, it was shocking just how aggressive they made the car. The grille looks ready to inhale small children and animals and the excellent looking gloss black wheels (wrapped in stupid-for-a-hatchback-but-bless-Ford-for-doing-it Pilot Sport Cup 2 rubber) absolutely make the RS the meanest hatchback on the block without resorting to the drug-addled Pokemon look of the much-beloved Fiesta ST. Also, drift button.
For our next favorite car at the auto show, we must leave the land of the blue oval and head over to the Fiat booth. This year’s LA Auto Show marked the global debut of their version of Mazda’s featherweight ND Miata. Given the historic 124 Spyder moniker, this badge engineered baby represents the first significant departure for Fiat’s styling department since they introduced the 500 back in 2007. At first glance, the 124 isn’t exactly a great beauty. The front end looks an awful lot like the recent Jaguar XK and the tail end looks like a second generation Miata. The proportions seem a little off too, it appears longer than the Miata on which it is based, but then you look at it for a few minutes. Eventually all thoughts of Miata fade and you start to pick out the cute-but-not-cutesy styling touches that harken back to the lovely 124s of the 1960s and 70s. The double hood bumps, and the gawpy grille really start to work. Even the headlights manage to look familiar yet modern after a minute or two. Then you find out that this car eschews the somewhat pedestrian Skyactiv engine of its Japanese progenitor and is instead blessed with the absurd and awesome 1.4L MultiAir engine found in the mental 500 Abarth. That said, having heard (or rather not heard) the 124, we feel the engineers should have kept the no-mufflers no problem policy instituted on the Abarth. The interior is standard MX5, more or less.
Lastly, we have to talk about the BMW M3 and more specifically why, in F80 form, it is going to have a very difficult time staying relevant now that the Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio exists in the world. I know that talking about Alfa Romeo and using words like “passion” and “sexy” is incredibly passé and amounts to nothing more than lazy journalism, but damnit, they apply here and it’s Alfa’s fault. This new Giulia, internally designated Type 952, is even more beautiful in person than it is in photos. There isn’t a bad angle on it. Sure, it’s a V6 which is arguably the laziest engine configuration (flat sixes and straight sixes FOREVER) but it sounds like Andre the Giant’s resurrected corpse after a crystal meth and glass eating binge. Yeah it will probably fall apart or catch on fire mere minutes after you sign the paperwork but who really cares. As a lust object it’s pretty tough to beat. The styling is loud without resorting to cheap gimmicks. The hood cutouts are gorgeous and somehow not cliched. The rear diffuser is pointless (probably) but makes the ass-end of this ridiculous Italian super-saloon just look right. The interior is well laid out but the materials are kind of meh. They definitely feel like FCA parts bin fodder. Supposedly this thing is going to be priced at around $70,000. That puts it right in line with the M3, and at a time when the M3 has never been weaker in terms of driving excitement, feel and sound; we think Munich should be very afraid.
The LA Auto Show is definitely one of those things that you should experience if you haven’t before. You’ll see some cool cars — they’ll be sitting still and making no sound — but they’re nice to look at. If anything, the auto show serves as a catalyst to start us getting excited for the time next year when we might get to catch them blasting through a tunnel or maybe, if we’re lucky, sitting in our driveway.