It’s November and for the last few years that has meant LA Auto Show season (they moved it because it kept conflicting with the Detroit show, silly we know)! While the show has changed significantly over the last few years due in large part to upheavals in the auto industry (remember when Lotus took over that entire hall to show off all the models they’d hoped to build) it never ceases to impress.
This year we began the show in Porsche’s hall, opting to take advantage of their hospitality for breakfast and the opportunity to knock out one of the most interesting areas before the show even opened to the public. Our most memorable year in the Porsche hall has to be when the Carrera GT concept debuted. It was just so incredibly unusual for Porsche, not the display which found it levitating above a pool of water, but a 10 cylinder engine! And those lines! Since then Porsche hasn’t managed to capture that awe and magic for us… until this year! Where to begin? the 919? Every iteration of the 991.2 that has been announced thus far in Sapphire Blue Metallic? The Boxter Spyder?! No, the big draw of Porsche’s Hall has got to be the GT4 Clubsport.
Revealed only a month before, the Porsche GT4 Clubsport takes their already exceptional, bar-setting GT4 and strips it of pretty much everything, adds PDK – because race car, and provides customers with a turnkey racer for $165,000. While performance figures have not been announced, weight clocks in below 2,900 LBs, power is 385 HP, torque is 310, and the inclusion of PDK will address the only quibble anyone has about the GT4 – extra long gearing down low. We expect sixty to arrive on the faster side of 3.5 seconds. For the breakfast event Porsche kindly opened the car and allowed us to hoist ourselves over the roll cage and into that race bucket. Bare carbon fiber abounded on the door, exposed body-in-white gleamed inside on pretty much every surface, and the stock PDK gear selector felt hopelessly posh amongst such a spartan cabin. Steering wheel and paddle shifters were both adroitly sized for their respective purposes. If we could seriously make use of a dedicated, brand new race-car, we’d be hard pressed to look to any of the GT4 Clubsport’s more expensive and hopelessly heavier competition.
Next, we expected the Boxter Spyder to really grab our attention however we couldn’t shake the allure of the 991.2. Like an iPhone 5s or 6s, the mid-cycle refresh 911’s typically keep the changes fairly conservative physically and focuses on more extensive work under the sheetmetal. Not this year! With all the scuttlebutt around the move to a turbo charged smaller displacement engine for the entry level 911 models many had worried the car would loose some of its soul and allure. Early reviews have proven not only was that worry unfounded but Porsche also improved the steering making it more accurate and a little heavier weighted to address complaints of the 991 feeling a little too synthetic. Faster, more fuel efficient, better steering feel, all the important bits improved which brings us back to the exterior. WOW.
When Porsche refreshed the 997 with the 997.2 they essentially kept most of the car the same outside and revised the lights with LEDs. This 991.2 features completely reworked lights and more aggressive creases through the body work accentuating the width of the rear complimented by those new vertical slats. Up front the DRL LED’s become more svelte and the entire front facia improves immensely as a result.
We made our way to the Audi display which sadly did not have a new A4, though the MkIII TT and TTS were drawing a ton of attention. The more and more we see the new TT the more we’re convinced Audi has a hit on their hands. The interior is uncompromisingly focused and modern. Every time we sit in those quilted seats we can’t help but wonder, reaching towards the HVAC controls why no one had ever considered integrating them into the AC vents before. The all digital display is without a doubt the best on any car at the show, Jaguars, Mercedes, BMW’s included. It’s so fluid, so intuitive in operation, just so darn right, perfectly engineered like the click of the turn signal stalk or hazard blinker button. Behind the TT the new R8 V10 Plus sat proudly on stage flanked by the recently revealed even more powerful RS7 and R8. We haven’t had a chance to play with the R8 V10 Plus yet but our impressions of the MkIII TT really have us encouraged. Audi’s new Q7 and A3 e-Tron, also in attendance, were quite impressive inside and out. The new Q7 looks fantastic in person, better than the previous generation for sure and the dash length vent is starting to grow on us. All in all, a very strong showing for Audi with the new MkIII TT taking the cake.
We know, we know, Ford isn’t exactly European though they’ve long provided exceptional vehicles in the european market place, often times better than what we were allowed domestically, for decades. Many were drawn like moths to the lamp to the new Raptor and Focus RS but us, we’re all about the exceptional and it doesn’t get any more exceptional at the 2015 LA Auto Show than the new Ford GT. Just look at that rear pontoon above, housing the turbo and rear tire, splayed seemingly impossibly far away from the cabin, supported by a thin spire of Carbon Fiber. Infinity more aggressive and daring than the revisions Audi made to the R8 or Ferrari to the F458 with the F488, Ford put everyone on notice with this 600 HP, twin turbo six carbon fiber monster.
Volkswagen brought the Golf GTE Sport concept, a follow up to last years GTI Roadster Vision Gran Truism concept, but the important part are the letters GTE. The GTE is already on sale in Europe and features the same drivetrain as the exceptional A3 e-Tron for VW prices. We’re happy to see this concept for two reasons, 1) VW desperately needs the GTE to help with customers looking for sporty and fuel efficient alternatives to the GTI with TDI sales on hold, and 2) if you squint your eyes enough the cues that will carry over to the MkVIII aren’t that hard to discern. VW also brought the production Denim and Dune models which provides some renewed interests in the Beetle, and a facelift Passat but we’d be more interested in a debate of a north american three row CUV/SUV to follow up the Tiguan, a GTE, etc – or that rumored MicroBus revival on an electric platform (MQE). Hopefully the TDI debacle will prompt them to renew their commitment to their enthusiast base.
Alfa Romeo brought the new Giulia to the show, it’s supremely fast, has a pair of carbon buckets up front, and ludicrously massive brakes… but we lost all interest because Alfa slotted a 33 Stradale between a pair of 4c’s. Many of us conserver the Straddle to be the unsung sexiest most desirable car ever made, lurking in the shadows of the E-Type and 250GTO, and Alfa North America had the audacity to drop one right on the show floor. This, this is the car everyone who visited the show needed to see, needed to spend 15 minutes simply taking in, needed to experience visually because aside from the odd appearance at Pebble Beach, they’ll likely never see it again. Bravo Alfa! But you distracted us from the Giulia and our only real recollection is it looks bland in every color but Rosso Competizione Tri-Coat.
Probably our most eagerly anticipated “I can afford that” model happened to be one of the most unexpected, the Fiat 124. Since Fiat announced they’d be partnering with Mazda for a revival of their classic 124 we were immediately intrigued at the potential for what was essentially a turbocharge Miata with early torque delivery and a naughty exhaust note. We’re not entirely sure why Mazda simply can’t provide a Speed variation of the car along side the naturally aspirated bread and butter model but we aren’t going to complain. Fiat’s front and rear clip suit the shape just fine, elongating it and harkening the original 124 without feeling too forced. We can’t wait to drive it and may just have to wait for an Abarth variant before we pull the trigger.
Magnus Walker brought his latest creation to the Pirelli stand and it looks fantastic as anyone should expect. We talked to him about the build and his various sponsorship opportunities with Momo, Pirelli etc and he mentioned just how easy it is to work with Pirelli who apparently obliged when he asked them to make some Super Trofeo R’s in the size he needed for his myriad of classic 911’s. Very cool!
Most unexpected car of the show? A mint Mazda Cosmo Series II L10B. The only thing quirkier with a rotary power plant has got to be the NSU Spyder. Styling felt like a 1.5x Lotus Europa and that dash, marvelous. About 1,100 were made, and they feature a two rotary setup producing about 130 HP.
The 2015 Los Angeles Auto Show did not disappoint this year. From the Porsche GT4 Clubsport to the Alfa Romeo 33 Stradle there was a bit of something for everyone! We didn’t really spend time diving into the more daily-driver oriented debuts because they’re not as emotive. If you’re not a regular visitor of the LA Auto Show make certain you add it to your calendar next year!
Enjoy the full gallery below.