LA Auto Show – Six Highlights from the Big Show

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Well, the Los Angeles Auto Show is in the books for 2014. It’s the very start of the auto show season with Detroit, Chicago and New York on its heels, and manufacturers brought out some pretty special stuff. Here’s a look at a few choice pieces. For video from the show, visit our Facebook page or check our twitter feed.

Audi prologue concept


Audi showed off its prologue concept — it’ s a lower case “p” for some reason — but what everybody really anticipates is that this is the A9, a super-luxury, high tech coupe that’s set to take on the Mercedes-Benz S-Class Coupe, and blow the BMW 6 Series out of the water.

The Audi prologue shorter and flatter than the current A8, but it still comes in at a long 16.7 ft. Up front, the design is much less stacked than the Audis we’re used to right now. The result is a slim grille design that makes the entire nose look lower and wider. Despite being big, it’s not as heavy as you might expect, at 4,365 pounds.

The headlamps use high-resolution Matrix laser technology that allows the headlamps to be a much less prominent design feature up front, integrating more subtly into the entire front fascia.

From the side, the prologue concept has a heavy dose of the smaller A5, but when you step around to the back, you notice the wide rear haunches that are a tip o’ the hat to the massively successful Audi rally cars of the late 1970s and early 1980s. The wheels are 22-inches, and look huge thanks to 285/30 tires.

The engine is a 4.0-liter TFSI biturbo V-8 that produces 605hp and 516.3-lb.ft. of torque. An over boost function cranks torque to 553-lb.ft. for about 15 seconds.  Audi suggests the car can get to 62 miles an hour in 3.7 seconds. That’s Porsche 911 Carrera GTS territory.

Combined fuel economy rings in at 27.4 miles per gallon, according to Audi. A 48-volt subsystem of the main electrical system contributes to the efficiency, and it’s technology that will begin to show up in other production Audis in the coming years. The prologue features an eight-speed tiptronic transmission and quattro permanent all-wheel drive.

Technology inside includes an instrument panel that becomes one large display, stretching all the way over to the passenger side. Driver and passenger can share information by swiping it from side to side. Much of the technology comes from the NVIDIA-supplied microprocessor that allows the instrument panel in the Audi TT to customize to the driver’s wishes.

 Chevrolet Chapparal 2X Vision Gran Turismo


There are cars here that are production ready, and then there are cars like this one, which is a concept to the point that the only place you’re going to see it is in a video game. The Chevrolet Chapparal 2X Vision Gran Turismo is simultaneously a three dimensional product, and a two-dimensional avatar available in a downloadable update for the PlayStation 3 game Gran Turismo 6.

The Chaparral 2X VGT concept is inspired by the race cars Chaparral Racing and Chevrolet partnered on in the middle 1960s.

Gamers can race the Chaparral 2X VGT this holiday season by downloading an online update for Gran Turismo 6.

“This concept is an audacious and ambitious vision – and one that demonstrates to a new audience how Chevy’s engineering and design teams challenge norms and explore the technologies of tomorrow,” said Clay Dean, executive director of advanced design. “It also an ode to a unique partnership that pioneered ground-breaking technologies that are used today on the track and the street.”

Instead of the driver sitting with head back and legs out front, the driver lays down, like a Moto GP rider, or an Olympic skeleton competitor. It completely revises how a race car can look, bringing the driver much lower in the cabin.

With a 671-kW laser, powered by a pack of lithium-ion batteries, and an air-powered generator to provide 900 horsepower worth of thrust, the Chaparral 2X VGT will be capable of a 240-mph top speed in the video game with 0-60 acceleration capability of 1.5 seconds…

…in the video game. For realsies, it rolls around with the help of two humans that push it from place to place.

This is a concept car in the broadest, most virtual sense, but it’s the kind of visionary car that you would’ve seen on the show circuit 50 years ago. It’s fantastic in the literal sense of the word.

 Mazda CX-3


Shifting back to the more production style introductions, the Mazda CX-3 is one of the half-dozen new compact sport utility vehicles coming in the next six months. This segment was once dominated by one or two vehicles and will soon feature a dozen.

The CX-3 is definitely appealing to city dwellers looking for a car with a little more storage than something like a Mazda3. The back seat is certainly big enough for a couple of youngsters, but if they’re going to be back there for hours on end, there are probably better choices. The CX-3 is  powered by a SKYACTIV-G 2.0-liter gasoline engine exclusively in North America.  SKYACTIV sounds like a gimmick, but it’s really a throwback to ultra high-compression engines of the 1950s, mated with much more modern fuel delivery and engine management systems.

Available in both front-wheel drive, or Mazda’s next-generation all-wheel drive system, the CX-3 also gets the SKYACTIV-Drive automatic transmission. Again, we could do without the name, but it’s a true automatic transmission rather than the unpleasant continuously variable transmissions that seem to be popular in smaller, more fuel-efficent vehicles.

It’s a premium experience inside, with a range of active, passive and in-car-infotainment technologies, including the Mazda Connect infotainment system and i-ACTIVSENSE advanced safety features.

Mazda hasn’t released anything in the way of pricing data yet, so keep an eye open in the spring of 2015, as the on-sale date approaches.

Ford Explorer


It’s hard to believe that the Ford Explorer is 25 years old. At one point it was the world’s most popular SUV, but those days passed quite a long time ago, when every manufacturer figured out how to build a smaller SUV. Now the size has gone in the other direction. The Explorer seems almost as big as an Expedition was when that vehicle was introduced.

What’s gotten smaller is the engine. Explorers started off with V-6 engines, but soon migrated to V-8s as the trucks got larger. In the last Ford Explorer, the fuel economy leader was a 2.0-liter EcoBoost four cylinder, but you couldn’t get it with all-wheel drive, making it all but irrelevant. About the only people buying rear-drive Explorers are fleet buyers, doling them out to people who read electric meters.

The 2.3-liter EcoBoost is optional on the base, XLT and Limited series. The new powerplant is expected to give customers 12.5 percent more horsepower and 11 percent more torque over the current 2.0-liter EcoBoost engine. It improves highway passing times 10 percent at speeds between 55 mph and 75 mph.

“The new Explorer isn’t giving up its reputation as a leader in highway fuel efficiency – especially for the customer who wants a vehicle that is also a capable trail warrior,” said Groeneveld. “Customers will not only get the performance of a larger engine, they won’t sacrifice efficiency because of it.”

The standard 3.5-liter V6 engine for base, XLT and Limited models – with an estimated 290 horsepower and estimated 255 lb.-ft. of torque – is paired with a six-speed automatic transmission. Explorer Sport and the Platinum edition get a standard 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6 with an estimated 365 horsepower and estimated 350 lb.-ft. of torque – also mated with a six-speed SelectShift Automatic.

In Platinum trim, the Explorer is going to crest the $50,000 mark, making it the most expensive Explorer ever. Ford is hoping to justify the price increase by ladling on the technology and features, including a smart charging system that apparently charges a device as quickly as the device can stand it. A front 180-degree camera helps drivers exit city streets where their view can be blocked by buildings or cars. And in order to keep the front and rear view cameras clean, Ford integrated camera washers that clean the lenses.

Chevrolet Colorado ZR2


The Colorado ZR2 is a “concept,” according to Chevrolet, but it’s a pretty mild concept, considering the truck it’s based on is already on sale. The big news is the engine, which everyone’s been clamoring for since the truck was introduced: A 2.8-liter Duramax Turbo Diesel.

The Colorado ZR2 concept’s new 2.8L Duramax diesel is part of a new family of turbo-diesel four-cylinder engines designed to deliver more-efficient capability. It features a variable-geometry turbocharger for optimal power and efficiency across the rpm band and a balance shaft for greater smoothness.

“This new Duramax diesel engine will take efficient capability to an entirely new plateau for the midsize truck segment,” said Johnson. “Its broad torque band makes it very powerful at low rpm, while the turbocharged performance provides a confident feeling of immediate and smooth power on demand – attributes customers will appreciate when trailering.”

Horsepower isn’t all that impressive at 185hp, but you buy a diesel for torque, and you get a lot of it: 369 lb-ft of torque at 2,000 rpm. The engine is backed by a six-speed automatic transmission.

The Colorado ZR2’s tread width is  four inches wider than a production Colorado Z71, with features including new front and rear fascias designed to increase approach and departure angles when driving off road. The front fascia also feature flip-out aluminum tow hooks and a built-in winch, controlled from inside the truck.

Ground clearance and rough terrain are handled with a two-inch lift and integral skid plates, while the wider track helps enhance stability in potentially unstable situations.

Mono-tube coil-over shock absorbers by King provide greater suspension travel and feature remote-mounted fluid reservoirs that add to the Colorado ZR2 concept’s capability. Off-road traction is enhanced with electronic-locking front and rear differentials, which distribute torque to 275/65R18 off-road tires mounted on custom 18-inch aluminum multi-spoke, bead-lock-style wheels.

 Cadillac ATS-V


We reviewed the Cadillac ATS-V last week and while it felt nice enough, the V-6-powered coupe just felt like it was lacking something. Apparently, that something was 455 horsepower and the ability to hit 185 miles per hour, making it the fastest Cadillac ever built.

The Twin Turbo 3.6L V-6 delivers an estimated 455 horsepower and 445 lb-ft of torque, and is shifted via as standard six-speed manual gearbox, with the Active Rev Match feature that we liked to much on the Chevrolet Corvette. An available paddle-shifted eight-speed automatic is available.

The e ATS-V can hit 60 mph from a standstill in only 3.9 seconds.

“Track capability was one of the primary objectives for the Cadillac Twin Turbo in the ATS-V,” said assistant chief engineer Richard Bartlett. “It expands the performance envelope of the ATS range, while advancing Cadillac’s legacy of delivering purposeful technology that inspires passion.”

As weird as it seems to think about bringing a Cadillac to the track, this is a car that’s built to take on the likes of the BMW M3/M4, and Cadillac is not fooling around. An optional Track Package adds the Performance Data Recorder from the Corvette, provides a smaller, lighter battery, and jettisons the floor mats and spare tire to save about 30 pounds.

The chassis has been worked to increase stiffness by 25 percent, and GM’s Magnetic Ride Control has been revised to adjust to the road ahead at a rate 40 percent faster than the last generation system. Brakes include six-piston Brembo calipers up front and four-piston calipers in the rear,  14.5-inch discs up front and 13.3-inch rears. Forged alloy wheels in either 18 or 19 inches are available, and each wheel is equipped with a Michelin Pilot Super Sport.

Craig Fitzgerald

Craig Fitzgerald

Writer, editor, lousy guitar player, dad. Content Marketing and Publication Manager at