Audi Etron 2009 LA Auto Show

Before the main US trade show for cars, held next month in Detroit at the North American Auto Show, Los Angeles holds an annual display, bringing together many new models and concept vehicles for the public to see.

LA Auto Show

Overall, the show at the LA Convention Center is important for the volume of cars held in three cavernous halls. And even if Detroit still rules supreme because it attracts the world media for the occasional “world” debuts and the annual announcements of the cars of the year, LA is still a pretty fine show.

Here are some of the more impressive new models that I saw last weekend:

SUZUKI KIZASHI

Suzuki Kizashi LA Auto Show 2009

Suzuki Kizashi LA Auto Show 2009

Suzuki is currently touting their new “elite performance sedan”, the Kizashi, which aims its “sights past Accord and Camry” and targets “driver’s sedans such as the  Audi A4 and the Acura TSX”, according to its brochure. In fact there is a wacky promotion that Suzuki is running. They are reasonably sure of their bold challenge –come on, the A4?!—that they will give customers $100 if they test drive the Kizashi –2.4 liter, 185hp, all aluminum engine, up to 31 mpg and starting at under $19K—and the A4 and the TSX and then decide to buy either of the two cars.

I even asked one of the Suzuki guys at the show whether this really was true, and he wasn’t joking. It’s an interesting, and slightly gimmicky promotion, but it shows what Suzuki is capable of mounting in this car class. The Kizashis certainly looked the part. And now that the Volkswagen Group AG, which owns Audi, just bought 20% of Suzuki last week, don’t you think they may alter this promotion somewhat? Anyways, for more information, jump here.

AUDI E-TRON

Audi Etron LA Auto Show 2009

LA Auto Show 2009 Etron

For the 2008 North Amsrican Auto Show, Audi unveiled a concept car that was essentially an R8 V12 TDI –yes, a deal, but the hopes of creating a production vehicle like this hasn’t happened yet. But check this out: this show-stopper is still a concept vehicle but look what it has: four (count ‘em) electric motors, a lithium-ion battery pack putting out a decent 313 hp, but an astounding 3,319 lb-ft of torque!  It promises a 0 to 60 mph in 4.8 seconds.

The E-tron supposed to be the next wave in what Audi wants to be their signature all-electric, all-out stunning vehicle to save the planet. No wonder Governor Schwarzenegger was at the show last week, obviously swooning with the rest of us, of this instant head-turner. And, true to the Audi name, this truly is a Quattro. Of course no other details have been given, but clearly Audi is serious about producing more sex and less of a carbon footprint in its already impressive sports cars.

BMW 5 SERIES GRAN TURISMO

BMW 5 Series Gran Turismo

I could barely get close to the new Gran Turismo, there were so many people. I almost got hit by some overanxious people as they were closing the enormous dual-opening trunk of this behemoth. But behemoth isn’t quite fitting here. This is a vehicle for those who want a sedan, I suppose, but also the carrying capacity of a slightly larger X5.

The Gran Turismo has 400hp of juice, a 4.4 liter twin-turbocharged V8. The car is huge: there are standard rear seats and two outer seats –and rear comfort seats; with everything folded down you got yourself almost 60 cubic feet of space to haul your cases of Merlot home from Costco. Of course, the models shown here were tricked out with DVDs playing in the headrests, etc, the panoramic roof windows. And why wouldn’t it be? It’s a Bimmer.

FORD TAURUS

Ford Taurus Auto Show 2009 LA

Ford Taurus 2009 LA Auto Show

Yes, the Taurus. Once the workhorse of the Ford Motor Co and a relic from the 80s and 90s before it was put out to pasture. Yes, of course, the Taurus. Ford really went all out in its visual display at the LA Auto Show, rivaling really only Audi in its Apple-Store-like display with white lights and graphics, and also having consistently buzzing crowds of people. The Taurus for 2010 (or 2011?), having been brought back from the dead, almost doesn’t even look like a Ford. Certainly not like the homely Fusion (I know, I know, car of the year by Motor Trend) or the tacky Flash.

The Taurus comes in a couple of models (base & SHO) — thankfully I was able to witness the SHO, and this thing probably will kick some serious ass, with its 3.5 liter Ecoboost V6 twin-turbocharged direct-injection engine that spits out 365 hp and 350 lb-ft of torque. Its styling also seemed so not Ford. Gone are the plain-Jane lines and rounded rear-ends. The car probably most closely resembles a very thick Passat from, say, 4 years ago and not the slightly more effeminate version that VW has out now. But check out the skirts and grooves because this thing is really going to impress speed demons who know what SHO signifies.

LEXUS LFA

Lexus LA Auto Show 2009

Lexus LFA Auto Show LA 2009

Not content with Nissan grabbing a lot of attention recently with its well-received GT-R sports car, rival Toyota decided to up the ante quite a lot with this super car. Yes, what was once a concept had its premiere in Tokyo recently and you best believe this will be snapped up quickly. Well, unless you can convince consumers to cough up an astounding $350,000 for it. Indeed, the same manufacturer of the tiny Yaris and omnipresent Corolla has decided to really go all out with this for their luxury line, Lexus.

The LFA has a 4.8 liter V-10, 552 hp, a jaw-dropping 9,000 rpm redline, a six-speed sequential gearbox, going 0 to 62 mph in 3.7 seconds with a top speed of 202 mph. You may not think of Lexus as having excelled at making sports cars really. More like stately sedans, mini SUVs and the occasional 2-seater you take to the country club. But this is probably what all of us always hoped Toyota would come up with to resuscitate the old Supra sportscar, except really give it all the bells and whistles that everyone else (especially Nissan’s GT-R) has been doing lately. Style-wise, it’s a thing of beauty, with sleek lines and rooflines that look like it was preciously carved especially for the person who has, well, almost half a million to spend.

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