The Los Angeles Auto Show. It’s where performance meets innovation. It’s where style meets function. It’s where disgruntled security guards meet with a little power. And, most importantly, it’s where my fork meets free kielbasa at the Porsche hospitality suite.
Audi was dead in the water as far as I was concerned in the late ‘80s. No sane person would buy an Audi. But then they started producing great cars and people have a super-short memory. Now, Audi is the benchmark. If you would’ve told BMW and Mercedes 15 years ago that Audi’s going to be out in front, they would have laughed at you. But everyone I know, including my wife, wants an Audi now. After driving her A7, I get the appeal. (For the record, I paid full fare for my wife’s Audi.) It’s got a supercharged V6 with about all the get up and go that you’d need.
All of Audi’s new diesel models were on display when I was there. (I was a day too early to check out the awesome little TTRS.) The new generation of diesels are quiet and refined. The old workhorse diesel chatter and sluggish performance are a thing of the past. (Although we will miss the fun of downshifting and shooting a plume of soot out the tailpipe at will.) And they promise pretty good economy with the diesel A8 getting about 36 mpg. There were a lot of fresh faces in the lineup, with about 60% of their cars getting reworked for 2013.
Last year, Ford was all about the Mustang. This year, they’ve finally brought their fun stuff from Europe to the States, like the Ford Fiesta ST. It has a turbocharged 1.6 liter EcoBoost engine that puts out a respectable 197 hp. That’s a pretty good number for an engine under two liters. Considering the car only weighs 2,700 lbs., this should be fun to drive. Especially for a four-door.
The price hasn’t been announced, but Ford’s rep said it’ll sticker for well under the Focus ST, which goes for $24,495. So, it’s a quick car with some nice Euro styling and Recaro seats that pretty much anybody can afford.
By the way, what a wonderful time to be poor! I busted my hump for years so that I could have nice stuff. And now we’re living in an age of cheap, gigantic TVs and cars that are affordable, fast and reliable. This car would kick the crap out of a Ferrari 308 or a 911 SC. And all for less than $25k. And it’s even supposed to be cheap to run. They’re estimating 35 mpg on the highway. But if you drive it hard enough, I bet we can get that down into the single digits.
One of the best-looking cars at the show was Jaguar with its new F Type roadster. Jag’s chief designer Wayne Burgess told me this car is the “epitome of Jaguar’s sporting DNA,” and I agree. The lines are just great. Style-wise, they found the perfect balance between stout, muscular lines and sexy curves. Plus, they set the set the hood back from the front of the car, which I think always looks good—think Ferrari ‘60s GTO. The farther back, the better.
The F Type comes with three power plant options, all supercharged. You can get a V6 with 340 hp or 380 hp or pony up for the 485 hp V8. The interior is awesome, with a great notched-out F1-style steering wheel with anodized flappy paddles.
Aston Martin knocked it out of the park, too. I got to check out the new Vanquish. I always liked the old one, but the new Vanquish is even better. It’s still strong as the previous one, but it’s more lean. The styling cues include a couple of ribs in the side and a Zagato-style double bubble on the roof—all of which are functional, I was assured.
The interior is gorgeous, with that diamond quilt stitching I love so much. It takes 70 hours of labor to put together the interior and four hours just for the stitching. The body is all carbon fiber and the car takes 400 hours of hand-crafting to produce.
The engine makes 565 bhp and does 0-60 in 4.0. At $279,000, I hate to say that sounds cheap, but considering all of the labor and craftsmanship that goes into it, this car should cost twice that. You can definitely buy a fast car for less money, but you can’t beat this combination of elegance, scale and performance. It’s just a beautiful piece of machinery. Nobody else puts together old world craftsmanship and the latest technology like Aston Martin.
My BRE Datsun 2000 roadster was also on display at the show, in the eBay Motors booth. In vintage racing, they say if your car makes it back on onto the trailer under its own power, it’s a victory. Well, when you display your vintage race car to the public and nobody swipes the gearshift knob or the fire extinguisher, that’s a victory, too.
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