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The 2014 Los Angeles Motor Show kicked off this week and rounds off a year of motor shows. Some of the debuts at this year’s LA show are updates or all-new version of existing cars while other look directly towards the future and beyond by introducing new technology such as hydorgen fuel cells. HFCs were hugely popular with concepts from Volkswagen, Audi, and Toyota present while Mazda and Honda also announced their commitment towards the technology in the future.

Of course it wouldn’t be a proper LA motor show without some American muscle on display and this year we were treated with an offering from Ford and Cadillac. SUVs and crossovers were also present too. Below is a quick roundup of some of the main attractions of LA.

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Lexus LF-C2 Concept
Don’t be fooled by the ‘concept’ bit of its name, this is as near as makes no difference a convertible Lexus RC and a directly successor to the IS Convertible. Like the IS before it the LF-C2 comes with a folding origami-style hardtop roof to protect it against the elements. Lexus are coy about details and have all but confirmed it for production. However, if when it does, expect it to share the same engines as the RC Coupe meaning a ‘300h’ hybrid and a ‘350’ with a 3.5-litre V6 will be available. A RCF convertible complete with a 454bhp V8 would be fantastic too, especially hearing that engine with the top down. Why Lexus decided to paint the show car in bright sunset yellow though, I’ll never understand. This would’ve looked much nicer in a dark blue or gunmetal grey. Mmm…

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Mercedes-Benz S600 Maybach
People criticised the old Maybach for looking too much like a stretch S-Class. Well, you can’t really criticise this new one for that because it is literally just a stretched S-Class with ‘Maybach’ etched on the bootlid. Okay, they’ve done more to it than just stick a badge on but from the outside that’s all that seems to be new. However, inside is a whole new story. You get reclining seats, extra legroom, extra curtains, extra cushions, and therefore extra luxury. For most markets they’ll have one engine choice; the S600 with a 6.0-litre twin-turbo V12 engine. Markets such as the Middle East and China will get a S500 version too. Mercedes also hinted at expanding the ‘Maybaching’ of other Benz models such as the E-Class and GLS-Class.

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Cadillac ATS-V Coupe
From über-luxury to blue-blood American muscle, this is the ATS-V Coupe. It’s the first car in Cadillac’s V history to feature a 3.6-litre twin-turbo V6 instead of a good old V8. Given it’s aimed squarely at the BMW M4, Mercedes C63 AMG Coupe, and Audi RS5 it’s easy to see Cadillac’s thinking. The new engine is no pushover though. Pumping out a healthy 455bhp it has more than enough to take on ze Germans. Available with either a 6-speed manual or 8-speed auto, Cadillac promises the ATS-V to be every bit a rival to the established Europeans. They stress most of the team involved in developing it were amateur racers. Which explains why it has rev-synching technology for the manual transmission, a wider track than standard ATS Coupes, a carbon bonnet complete with a scoop, wider wings, grippy Michelin Pilot Super Sport tyres, magnetic damping, larger Brembo brakes, and Recaro seats. It all sounds very tantalising, unfortunately there’s no plans for a right-hand drive version. Boo and hiss.

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Porsche Cayenne GTS
The Porsche Cayenne range just got even more complicated. Want a Cayanne with a turbocharged engine? Get a Cayenne Turbo or a Cayenne Diesel. Want a Cayenne Turbo but can’t afford one? Get a GTS. Well, that used to be the case but now the new GTS post-facelift also has a turbocharged engine. Unlike the ‘proper’ Turbo which comes with a great big V8, the GTS has to make do with a 3.6-litre twin-turbo V6. It’s still packs some impressive numbers. How does 434bhp and 600NM torques sound? By comparison the older V8 GTS had 414bhp. 0-100 km/h is done in 5.2 seconds putting a few well known sports cars to shame. The GTS also shares its brakes and exterior styling with the more expensive Turbo making it the Cayenne to have, if one must have one.


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Ford Explorer & Mustang Shelby GT350
Okay, it’s not entirely relevant to the New Zealand market as the Explorer nameplate left New Zealand shores around a decade ago but this facelift cannot be ignored. Pre-facelift the Explorer was one of a few USDM Fords I wished we got in New Zealand. I’ve seen one driving around Wellington once but that was it. It was a handsome looking thing and had a nice Tonka truck look about it. This facelift has made it almost unrecognisable. It’s as if Ford went to the same surgeon Renee Zellweger went to. They should just change the name to Ex-Zellweger. What kind of American motor show would it be without a Mustang? Well at this year’s LA Motor Show we got two! The return of the Shelby GT350 comes equipped with what Ford claims is its most powerful naturally aspirated engine ever. We have no reason to doubt them but the numbers do speak for themselves. It’s an “essentially all-new” 5.2-litre V8 producing “over 500bhp and over 540NM of torque”. That sends its power to the rear-wheels via a 6-speed manual gearbox. Styling changes include a deeper front bumper, quad exhausts, and many stripes.

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Fisker Rocket
Ask for one Mustang and you get two. This one isn’t technically badged as a Mustang but it does look like one. It’s based on the current modern Mustang but has been styled by Henrik Fisker (the chap responsible for the likes of the BMW Z8, Aston Martin DB9, and Fisker Karma) in conjuction with Galpin Motors who are the largest Ford dealership in the world. The Rocket will be manufactured in limited numbers by Galpin’s tuning division Galpin Auto Sports. I must admit, I’m a fan of the way this things looks. I don’t know about you but I think this is the most beautiful Mustang to date. It’s a stunning looking thing and that fabulous looking body is made entirely out of carbon-fibre. Which would explain its $200,000+ estimated pricetag.

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Volvo V60 Cross Country
On a slightly less exciting note is this; the Volvo V60 Cross Country. I sympathise for Volvo here because they already have an XC60 (Cross Country 60) which is obviously an SUV. But then they wanted to do a version of its popular V60 wagon that could do some off-roady bits, hence the ‘Cross Country’ name tag. The V60 Cross Country sits 65mm higher up than the standard wagon and comes with tough off-roady bits such as extra body cladding and scuff plates. It sits in the Volvo lineup in between the smaller V40 Cross Country and larger V70 Cross Country, obviously.

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Bentley Grand Cabriolet Concept
It’s a blue Bentley convertible but it’s not a new Azure. In fact at first glance I thought it was a Rolls-Royce. In my defence it does look rather similar to a Phantom Drop Head with its blue paint job and stainless steel bonnet and windscreen surround. The GCC is based on a Mulsanne Speed but with the roof and two rear doors removed. It uses the same 6.75-litre twin-turbo V8 engine as the speed meaning it has 535bhp and 1100NM of torque. There’s no word on it reaching production though it does appear to be showroom ready. Bentley will see how customers react to the concept car before making any decisions. Who are they kidding though, there is a definite market for these sorts of things so expect it to go on sale sometimes next year then.

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Mazda 6, CX5, & CX-3
The Mazda6 and CX-5 have reached the point in their lifespans where they are treated to a mid-life nip and tuck. The changes are minimal, and to be perfectly honest a bit like playing spot the difference if you’re not paying close attention. However both cars get a more “fluidic and tauter” front grille treatment and each getting their own distinctive daytime running light designs. Inside both are treated to Mazda’s new MZD infotainment system seen in the Mazda2, Mazda3, and ND MX-5. Engines for both cars remain unchanged. The big news from Mazda at LA though is the introduction of the CX-3 compact crossover. Designed to take on the likes of the Nissan Juke, Honda HR-V, and Ford EcoSport, the CX-3 is a bit like a CX-5 that’s been left in the dryer too long. Not that’s necessarily a bad thing. The CX-3 will shares many parts with the Mazda2 hatchback and as such will come with similar tech such as city braking and a heads-up display.

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Toyota Mirai
Don’t let the awkward looks put you off; it may look like a fish but its not out of its depth by any measure. This is the future, no it literally is. Mirai is the Japanese word for future and well, you don’t just call a car ‘Future’ if you can’t back it up. The Mirai is Toyota’s attempt to popularise hydrogen fuel cell vehicles (FCV) just like it did with hybrid vehicles 16 years ago. The Mirai will go on sale next month in Japan with a cost of ¥7,200,000 (NZ$80,000). After a government subsidy of ¥2,000,000 (NZ$22,200) the showroom price is be a more reasonable ¥5,200,000 (NZ$57,800). The estimated power from the hydorgen powertrain is around 135bhp. Top speed is 175 km/h and on a full tank of hydrogen the Mirai can run for up 650km. Unlike electric cars which have smaller range and longer charge times, FCVs like the Mirai take around the same time to fill up as a conventional petrol or diesel powered car. The best thing is it emits no C02. Instead the only thing that comes out of it are water vapours. This is one to watch out for.

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Audi A7 h-Tron Concept & Prologue Concept
It’s not just Japan and Toyota who are have invested in hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, Volkswagen-Audi group have shown a few concepts too. The Audi A7 is the first FCV concept from Audi and it shows their commitment. Unlike the Mirai, the A7 h-tron has a bit more power at 238bhp and more range at 670km on a full tank. It also comes with a plug-in 8.8 kWh battery for extra assistance. Both the fuel cells and the battery power two electric motors (one driving the front wheels and one driving the rear) giving this the traditional Audi quattro layout. Audi dubs the A7 h-tron as the first performance FCV and could make it into production. Also on display at the Audi stand and equally immpressive is the Prologue Concept. Essentially a two-door luxo-barge aimed at the Mercedes S-Class Coupe, the Prologue previews the design language of the next generaton Audis. So expect a shorter but wider grille, sculpted lines, and laser headlights. Interestingly, the Prologue isn’t a hybrid, EV, or FCV. Rather it comes with a 600bhp version of Audi’s epic 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8. Audi says 80% of the Prologue’s design will filter down to the rest of the Audi range with the next generation A8 getting it first.

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Volkswagen Golf Hymotion Concept, & Golf R Wagon
Another FCV from VAG is the Golf Hymotion concept. The Hymotion use the same 134bhp electric motor as the e-Golf but hydrogen fuel cells provide power instead of batteries. The expected range of the VW Hymotion are around the same as the Audi h-Tron at 670km, more than the Toyota Mirai. Of course the main difference is the you could actually buy the Mirai while the Audi and Volkswagens are still concepts. But the fact that both Toyota and Volkswagen, two of the largest car companies in the world, have shown commitment towards FCVs is an important milestone in motoring history. It’ll be interesting to see what the second half of the decade will bring. In the meantime why don’t we enjoy a 300bhp 4WD Golf Wagon fuelled by petrol?

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