Currently reading: Star cars of the LA motor show
Andrew Frankel picks the stars of the LA motor show

The undoubted star of the show won’t be on sale for a year or two yet.

The Up Lite may be the fifth variant of the Up concept shown by Volkswagen, but the genre shows no sign of losing its relevance to or resonance in the modern age.

Suave and slippery, the Up Lite looked more like a car you’d buy through choice rather than circumstance and it came with the stats to back it up. True, it only achieves its 695kg kerb weight through extensive use of carbonfibre and aluminium, which are unlikely to play a significant part in any production version, but with a 50bhp two-cylinder diesel engine with supplementary 13bhp electric motor, VW is showing one more possible path to the future, and with claimed emissions of just 65g/km and fuel consumption nudging 100mpg, its one that’s worthy of attention.

Latest news from the LA motor show

Running the Up Lite a close second was Honda’s outlandish P-NUT concept, an acronym arrived at by the rather tortuous contrivance of Personal-Neo Urban Transport.

Like many concept cars, it provides no clues to any product due in the near future, but the way it packages such smart, sleek looks into such an abbreviated shape drew wide praise and shows that genuine design innovation remains alive and well, at least in Honda’s Los Angeles R&D department.

See the pics of Andrew Frankel's stars of the show

Porsche launched the Boxster Spyder here partly because California is perhaps its single most important territory on the planet, but also because it’s not going to the Detroit show in the New Year which most other manufacturers are waiting for.

Activity from American manufacturers was rather more limited. The LA show website promised a new Viper, but none was apparent on the almost deserted Chrysler stand. Chevrolet saw its job as to maintain interest in its range-extender Volt before sales start in a year’s time, but was otherwise content to introduce a little-changed American version of the Cruze.

At least Cadillac showed a coupe version of the CTS, which was so well proportioned and detailed that it rather made you wish you didn’t know quite so much about the unremarkable underpinnings on which it is based.

LA motor show on video

The almost entirely unsung hero of the show was found languishing in a basement full of the most preposterously bastardised - I mean customised - cars of a kind that could only emanate from the land of the free.

Called the Capstone CMT380 Hybrid, it’s a stunning-looking two-seat supercar that will hit 60mph in under four seconds yet will return up to 56mpg on the US Highway cycle, thanks to its unique combination of lithium ion batteries and a diesel-powered micro-turbine engine. It will do 80 miles on electric power alone, up to 500 using the turbine and, if you combine both and floor it, won’t run out of steam until 150mph.

Back to top

The CMT380 is at present a one-off prototype, but Capstone hopes to find enough interest to start a production run of 15-20 cars next year, each priced at $285,000. And if there was interest from the UK, a right-hand-drive version would be no problem.

Read more on Andrew Frankel's stars of the show

Porsche Boxster SpyderVW Up! LiteHonda's radical 1+2 conceptCadillac CTS CoupeFord FiestaChevrolet CruzeCapstone CMT 380 - LA show: the oddest launch...

Andrew Frankel

Join the debate

Add a comment…
Uncle Mellow 3 December 2009

Re: Star cars of the LA motor show

Is it just coincidence that the Capstone Hybrid looks so very much like an early GT40 ?