The 2011 edition of the Los Angeles motor show brought us a glut of V8 performance models
17 November 2011

The 2011 edition of the Los Angeles motor show was a slightly tentative one from the major car makers. With Frankfurt still fresh in the memory and Tokyo just a fortnight away, this was a show for displaying new models that either filled important gaps in manufacturers' respective ranges or, in the case of the US firms, bring their line-ups more in tune with the rest of the world.

Headline grabbing world premieres were thin on the ground, with even the biggest new car there - the Subaru BRZ - having already been seen several times before as a Toyota. Even so, it looked the part after its STI makeover, which ensured almost every interview with Subaru execs after the press conference started: "Are you going to make the STI version?" Go on, Subaru…

From the Big Three, it was General Motors and Ford who made the headlines. For GM, Chevrolet confirmed plans to give US buyers its smallest model yet, the Spark, an interesting decision in a week where Fiat had to cut production of the 500 for North America due to falling sales.

Cadillac presented its new BMW 5-series-size XTS saloon flagship, which looked suspiciously like a Saab 9-5. The XTS though "is for a new world where old formulas don't apply", claimed GM of the XTS. How Saab, an LA absentee, could do with its own new world right now. More significant for the UK at Cadillac was confirmation of the new 3-series-sized ATS for summer 2012. Will GM finally be able to crack the volume junior executive segment?

Ford's all-new Escape will come to the UK as the Kuga in late 2012 with only subtle tweaks for European tastes. It's a much bigger car than before, but one that addresses the biggest issues of the current Kuga: interior and luggage space. One Ford UK buyers won't be getting though is the five-door Fiesta ST, even though most were in agreement it actually looked better than its supposedly more sporty three-door sibling that's destined for sale here in a year's time.

One noticeably absent theme from the show was the lack of electric cars and hybrids. California, a US state where emissions regulations are the strictest of all, would seem ripe for launching such cars for the future in, but instead manufacturers boasted of economy and emissions improvements to their core models.

Major new EVs could be counted with just two fingers: the Audi A3 e-tron and Honda Jazz EV. Don't expect this theme to continue at forthcoming motor shows however, with such cars as the Honda Sports EV Concept likely to be the biggest draws of all in the coming weeks and months.

While the usual glut of eco cars was absent, the same certainly cannot be said for performance models. The Porsche Panamera and Mercedes ML showed their more sporting sides with respective new GTS and AMG variants, but these were overshadowed by some home grown heroes from Detroit.

The Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 convertible is the most powerful open-top model in GM's history. The firm was proud to point out that its supercharged 580hp, 556lb ft 6.2-litre LSA V8 engine packs an even mightier punch than the Aston DB9 and Porsche 911 Turbo S. Ford, meanwhile, presented the ultimate 200mph version of the Mustang: the Shelby GT500

And what of the Brits? The debate rumbles on over how Land Rover goes about replacing the iconic Defender. The latest DC100 concept was shown, this time with a more off-road focus. It is perhaps the most serious of the four (two at Frankfurt, one at Dubai, one at California) so far, but needs to become more rugged still If it is to appeal to the purists.

Sister brand Jaguar had the perfect car for California with its new XKR-S cabriolet. But despite its appearance being a world first, it was still overshadowed by the Jaguar C-X16 concept that now looks even better after a pearlescent white paint job.

The motor show circuit heads east to Tokyo at the end of the month where the long-term future of the industry and what powers the next generation of cars both very much back on the agenda.

Shows like this year's LA offering are a chance to indulge in the best of what we have today and offer some respite from those underlying themes. And, to most from the Golden State who will come and see what's on display in the Los Angeles Convention Center, a 650bhp Mustang holds more relevance than the electric superminis of tomorrow.

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