California, home of some of the strictest air quality emission standards in the world and (until recently) Tesla, has long been at the vanguard of electric cars. But nobody ever really seemed to tell the Los Angeles motor show, typically the location for the launch of the biggest SUVs with the biggest engines.
Perhaps it was the two-year pause of the pandemic that made for a much stronger shift in tone at the motor show here in 2021, yet this felt a very different LA show from those we typically encounter. A quieter one, understandably, with global travel still tricky and the semiconductor (chip) crisis squeezing budgets, but altogether a much more progressive one.
The cars remained big and SUV shaped, but the propulsion method has changed, and the innovation and stories behind the cars were as fascinating as they’ve ever been.
Chief among them were the Hyundai Seven and Kia EV9 concepts, both large electric SUVs that preview upcoming production models and both concepts oozing originality, particularly with their interiors. And we’ve not seen an angle of any car in a long time as fabulously innovative and different as looking square on at the back of the Hyundai Seven.
Originality is a word that sticks with the Fisker Ocean. This latest version of Fisker is the second time ex-Aston Martin designer Henrik Fisker has had a go at establishing a car company. It feels different now from the Karma a decade ago, for the Ocean is pitched right in the heart of the emerging key electric car battleground of the compact premium SUV.
The Ocean looks great, has impressive tech credentials, is priced right and has a key point of difference, with its claim of being the world’s most sustainable vehicle by being packed with recycled materials. So much of the Ocean feels on the money, and in the zeitgeist.
That star trio were ably supported by the Toyota bZ4X, a word soup of a name, but hugely significant as Toyota’s first dedicated electric car. It hasn’t quite got the visual character of other recent Toyotas like the C-HR, but such a car from the world’s biggest car maker demands attention.
The Toyota-Subaru link-up is also in play here, with the bZ4X spawning a sibling, the Subaru Solterra, unveiled in a curious press conference that boasted how charitable Subaru had been in the pandemic in dishing out more aid to charities as if it had just topped a reliability survey. It was all a bit tone deaf, however laudable the work itself had been.
It might be built in the Midlands, but the adopted home of the Range Rover is California and the upmarket suburbs of Los Angeles, so it was a fitting place for the fifth-generation model to make its debut on the world stage. It’s a car where the pictures don’t do the quality of the execution justice, so seeing the fantastic design in the metal was a real show highlight. And it was the one major debut to get that V8 engine…