The Los Angeles motor show is one you’d struggle to mistake for another. For as California is the world’s largest market for sports and performance cars, it is here where car manufacturers come to show off their latest powered up creations.
In the recent years of economic gloom, this approach has left the show feeling a bit guilty for itself, something heightened by the fact its late in the year scheduling has people looking backwards at the year almost gone rather than forwards at the new one imminent.
But as Toyota America’s boss Jim Lentz revealed as he opened the 2012 edition of the LA motor show, the US new car market is rapidly growing. So the indulgence in performance cars can be done guilt free once again.
There was plenty to indulge in at the 2012 La motor show. Jaguar led the way with the global unveiling of its new XFR-S saloon, but the real news for the firm was the North American reveal of the F-type in what will be its largest market.
The F-type joined the new Range Rover from sibling firm Land Rover in a ‘British Invasion’ themed press conference and event on the eve of the show at the Paramount Studios. Land Rover has had its swagger back for a while now, but there was a genuine feeling among Jaguar executives that with the F-type, a model that should pave the way to future growth, it was now its time to shine.
Another big new sports car was the Porsche Cayman. All the words you want to hear when describing it next to its predecessor could be ticked off, lower, lighter and faster among them. It’s now a looker too, something you couldn’t accuse the first-generation Cayman of.
Over at Mercedes was the SLS Black Series, essentially a GT3 racer for the road. That was the brief AMG boss Ola Kallenius gave his engineers, and judging by the look of it and the spec sheet, it’s something that they’ve succeeded in. Staying with the GT3 theme, Bentley brought along its Continental GT3 racer. How long until we see a road-going version of that?
Volvo brought along an unlikely – but most welcome – performance hero in the 508bhp S60 Polestar, something that, if it makes production, would give the firm a BMW M5 rival. The only downside is that Volvo hasn’t committed to making it yet.
Volvo’s previous owner Ford brought along a model with a fair few less horses but something still significant nonetheless in the era of downsizing: the Fiesta ST. It will be interesting to see if California takes to the small performance car the same way it has the small economical car.
At the other end of the scale away from the performance cars was a strong display for the Californian motor industry’s other interest: green cars. And with the BMW i3 coupe, the Bavarian maker has perhaps created the most desirable alternatively fueled vehicle not wearing a Tesla or a Fisker badge. All-electric versions of the Chevrolet Spark and Fiat 500 also featured, but it was the 1.0-litre Ecoboost version of the Fiesta that piqued the interest the most. Surely this is a much more viable everyday option for cheap, economical and user-friendly small car motoring for the average Californian?
This being LA and California, there were the usual array of whacky design concepts, led on the Mercedes stand by the Ener-G-Force and Smart ForJeremy concepts. Another eye-catcher was a bicycle-inspired open-top version of the Hyundai Veloster.
With the growing prominence of expos in emerging markets, the motor show calendar is becoming more congested than ever. So it’s up to shows like Los Angeles – one of four international motor shows in North America alone – to remain relevant and have their own niche.
It is California’s love of performance cars, bold design concepts and fuel-sipping future technology that keeps the LA motor show’s formula relevant, and will keep it prosperous for many years yet.