Two of 2016’s most controversial cars made their debuts at the Los Angeles Auto Show - but even the heated debate over the Range Rover Evoque Convertible and the Fiat 124 Spider was tempered by an even more relaxed atmosphere than usual at what is traditionally one of the year’s more laid-back showcases.
We’d seen both of the trouble-makers in advance, of course - though only by a matter of hours, in the case of the Fiat, which leaked out overnight. Most agreed that the truth in the metal was considerably more appealing than the Photoshopped official pictures suggested - though the Evoque probably drew a few more grudging nods of approval than the Fiat, which tore social media asunder with its more restrained looks compared with those of its sister car, the Mazda MX-5.
Both should sell well in the US - and particularly in California. It does not take an enormous leap of faith to picture drop-top Evoques littering Rodeo Drive - or 124s cruising up Mulholland Drive. Despite its mixed reception, the Fiat looks well-judged for a market where 75% of all previous 124s were sold; in particular, engineers have added a little more boot space over the MX-5, a potentially crucial trick in a country where people rarely pack light.
The VW Group stayed on safer ground, predictably, with the Beetle Dune - a very modest extension of the retro model that’s popular in California - and another string of apologies from boss Michael Horn over dieselgate. Audi showed nothing new at all - although the Q6 e-tron’s first appearance on US soil was a clear attempt to rattle Tesla’s cage.
That left Porsche as the standout VW Group brand; at what it considers a crucial show it gave debuts to the 911 Targa 4 and the considerably more focused Cayman GT4 Clubsport, which looks every inch the Weissach-developed track-day special that will have us drooling.