By Steve & Tamami Laser
Since the organizers of the Los Angeles Auto show moved this annual extravaganza from January to Thanksgiving week in November, it has become the first major U.S. show of the season. That means we get to see more new vehicles and concepts premiere here than in the past when L.A. used to compete with the Detroit show.
It’s not often that an automaker gets a second chance in the City of Angels. When Alfa Romeo pulled the plug on U.S. sales 20 years ago, few would believe that they’d be back with such a vengeance that they could steal the show, or perhaps we should say, fill our hearts with desire and our stomachs with munchies.
Listen to the wonderful exhaust note of this beautiful 1968 Tipo 33 Stradale prior to the start of Alfa Romeo’s press conference.
As the first press conference of the day, Alfa Romeo ordered a wake-up call for journalists with a trio of happenings. The first was its sponsorship of the 2015 Motor Press Guild’s Motoring Invitational as the featured marque with rare vintage models displayed from the company and private collectors. The second was a delicious breakfast served by gourmet food trucks outside the L.A. Convention Center. The third was the glorious sound of the car in our above video.
The biggest thrill of Alfa Romeo’s press conference captured in our video above was the North American premiere of the 2017 Giulia Quadrifoglio, a new sport sedan set to go on sale in the U.S. in 2016. We watched it parade along a runway flanked by fashion models wearing safety helmets.
As the first of a new generation of vehicles built on an all-new platform, the 2017 Giulia Quadrifoglio embodies Alfa Romeo’s La meccanica delle emozioni (the mechanics of emotion), delivering race-inspired performance, advanced technologies, seductive Italian style, and the promise of an exhilarating driving experience.
“The all-new Giulia is not just a new car, but an entirely new benchmark that represents the next chapter in Alfa Romeo’s rich 105-year heritage,” said Reid Bigland, head of Alfa Romeo brand, FCA North America. “With an all-new lightweight platform and class-leading power and handling, the Giulia delivers on the pedigree of incredible technology, race-inspired performance and Italian design and style.”
A Ferrari-derived bi-turbo 2.9-liter V6 engine delivers “best-in-class” 505 horsepower, making it the most powerful Alfa Romeo production car engine ever and the quickest with 0-60 mph acceleration in 3.8 seconds, plus 191 mph top speed and a 7:39 Nürburgring lap time, according to the automaker.
Also on tap for the base Giulia is a new 2.0-liter direct-injection turbo engine with 276 horsepower. All-wheel drive will also join the 4-cylinder turbocharged Giulia lineup in 2016.
Giulia features a driver-focused cockpit wrapped in premium leather and Alcantara, highlighted by carbon fiber, aluminum and accent stitching. A Formula-1 inspired steering wheel features a thick-rim and groups vehicle controls and the red engine-start button. The Giulia features a color 7-inch driver information display (DID) cluster straddled by two large analog gauges.
Lead by two senior engineers from Ferrari, Giulia Quadrifoglio’s new rear-wheel-drive architecture integrates lightweight materials to achieve a “best-in-class power-to-weight ratio of nearly 7 lbs./hp, and delivers near perfect 50/50 weight distribution, segment-leading torsional rigidity and the most direct steering available.”
While headlines were generated by Audi during its press conference for the vehicles it showed, the automaker’s announcement that “at least 25 percent of U.S. sales will come from electric vehicles by 2025” was perhaps the biggest surprise.
Audi said it will build its position in electric vehicle technology with the launch of the A3 Sportback e-tron plug-in hybrid (the white car below) later this year. It will then accelerate toward its decade-long goal of 25 percent electric vehicle sales with the production version of the fully electric Audi e-tron quattro concept SUV (blue car above and below making its North American debut) by 2018, along with other plug-in models to come.
Audi said the e-tron quattro concept uses the power of three electric motors – one drives the front axle, while two others act on the rear for total output of 320 kW. “The driver can even mobilize 370 kW and over 800 Nm (590.0 lb-ft) of torque temporarily while boosting,” said the automaker. “When the driver floors the throttle, the e-tron concept sprints from a standstill to 62 mph in 4.6 seconds and quickly reaches the electronically governed top speed of 130 mph.”
Audi said it will support the broad adoption of EV technology in the U.S. by “developing a nationwide 150 kilowatt fast charging network that would provide an 80 percent charge in only 30 minutes – enough for 200 miles worth of driving in the Audi e-tron quattro. The network will be in place for the launch of the fully electric SUV in 2018.”
The A3 Sportback e-tron plug-in hybrid is the first volume-oriented electrified vehicle from a traditional automaker to be available nationwide at launch says Audi. That highlights its commitment to electrification, as does its support of e-tron owners with “multiple options for home and portable chargers, residential solar installation and carbon offsets that immediately complement the plug-in hybrid lifestyle.”
The A3 Sportback e-tron combines the benefits of a hybrid with all-electric range says the automaker. “It is a package that makes the A3 Sportback e-tron a versatile choice for the full array of daily commuting challenges, some of which can be handled on battery power alone.”
For a combined 204 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque, the 1.4-liter TFSI engine delivers 150 hp and the liquid-cooled, permanent-magnet-driven electric motor delivers 102 hp and nearly instantaneous torque. Packaged beneath the rear seat, the 8.8-kWh, liquid-cooled, lithium-ion battery pack provides electrical energy storage.
Buick decided it couldn’t wait for next year’s auto show in Detroit, so it staged the world premiere of the 2017 LaCrosse in L.A. The model introduces the new face of Buick, influenced by the design cues of the Avenir concept from the previous Detroit show and inspired by a concept from the mid-20th century.
LaCrosse, which goes on sale next summer, features a new grille with a large opening distinguished by the return of a three-color – red, silver and blue – Buick tri-shield insignia, accented by wing-shaped elements set against darkened waterfall grille bars inspired by the 1954 Wildcat II concept.
LaCrosse’s all-new 3.6L V6 engine with direct injection and dual overhead cams puts out an estimated at 305 horsepower (227 kW) and 268 lb-ft of torque (363 Nm), and is matched with a new 8-speed automatic transmission. It’s the second generation of GM’s DOHC V6 engine family and incorporates new features such as Active Fuel Management (cylinder deactivation) and Stop/Start technology.
The 2017 LaCrosse offers enhanced capability with Buick’s first twin-clutch all-wheel-drive system. It’s said to offer better performance during acceleration and cornering by splitting torque between the rear wheels and uses independent clutch actuation to determine and control the amount of torque sent to each rear wheel.
Inside, Buick says LaCrosse has a single cockpit design aesthetic, characterized by a horizontal form that sweeps across the instrument panel and into the doors. It also incorporates a “floating” center console that positions the controller for the new Electronic Precision Shift close to the driver.
“There is fluidity in the interior forms – a seamless ambience that flows throughout the cabin,” said Liz Wetzel, interior design director. “Like the exterior, there is sculptural beauty in the interior’s functionality, complemented with high-quality, authentic materials and exceptional attention to detail.”
Cadillac also made a big splash in L.A. with the debut of an all-new 2017 model dubbed XT5, which stands for “Crossover Touring 5.” Cadillac’s new crossover embodies the company’s new mantra for shedding weight to improve ride and handling. The XT5 is said to be 278 pounds (126 kg) lighter than the current SRX.
In the U.S. market, the XT5 will be powered by a new 3.6-liter V6 engine which debuted earlier this year on the brand’s ATS and CTS sedans. With an estimated peak output of 310-horsepower and 270 lb-ft of torque, the V6 uses Cadillac’s new Stop/Start technology to automatically stop and start the engine when the vehicle is at rest to help save fuel and reduce emissions.
A new 8-speed automatic transmission is standard for the XT5, which also debuts Electronic Precision Shift – the first electronically controlled transmission shifter for a Cadillac. Electronic Precision Shift reduces noise and vibration, and allows further use of the cabin space with a storage space beneath the center console.
Cadillac’s new Rear Camera Mirror system is offered on the XT5. The system enhances the driver’s rear vision by 300 percent, using a video display applied over the conventional inside rearview mirror. A high dynamic range camera records wider images behind the car, streams the image to video processing software which “removes” obstacles such as the roof, rear pillars and rear seat passengers, projecting an unobstructed view to a Liquid Crystal Display.
Cadillac says the XT5’s interior is based on a philosophy of clean, modern elegance and craftsmanship. “We believe that luxury crossover customers particularly focus on interior design and materials,” said Andrew Smith, Cadillac executive director of global design. “This design direction is predicated on modern craftsmanship and the artistic integration of technology.”
Interior surfaces inside the XT5 are wider and more horizontal in orientation. Like all Cadillacs, the interior is assembled with cut-and-sewn wrapped panels. Meanwhile rear-seat legroom is increased 3.2 in. (8.1 cm) to help improve passenger comfort. The rear seat also reclines and slides fore and aft.
Cheers to Fiat for bringing back its iconic 124 Spider in a thoroughly modern form. We sat through the upbeat press conference yet not a word was mentioned about the origins of this convertible coming from Mazda and its own new-generation MX-5. Buried deep within the 124’s press kit (in the specifications section) we found this clue – “Assembly plant: Hiroshima, Japan.” The 124’s engine will come from Italy, so consider this the attractive offspring of Japanese and Italian parents.
Fiat says the 124 Spider, designed at Centro Stile in Turin, Italy, borrows cues from the original Spider and reinterprets them for today. The 2017 version has well-balanced proportions (like the MX-5) and a sporty cabin-to-hood ratio. Features like the hexagonal upper grille and grille pattern, “power domes” on the front hood and horizontal rear lamps call to mind details of the earlier Spider.
In North America, the Fiat 124 Spider will be available with the 1.4-liter MultiAir Turbo 4-cylinder engine, the first application in a rear-wheel-drive vehicle. It delivers 160 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque, and is available with a 6-speed manual gearbox or 6-speed automatic.
Following Fiat’s press conference, we take a closer look at the new Fiat 124 Spiders on the stage in our video.
The 124 Spider’s suspension uses a double-wishbone layout in front and multi-link in the rear, tuned for greater stability while braking and turning. Steering is light and responsive with the use of an electric power assist (dual pinion) system.
The interior is crafted and designed to focus on the occupants says Fiat, with premium soft-touch materials throughout. Ergonomics were applied to emphasize the driving experience with easy operation of the steering wheel, pedals and shifter.
Available features include the Fiat Connect 7.0 system with 7-inch touchscreen display, multimedia control, Bluetooth connectivity, heated seats, Keyless Enter ‘n Go, and a Bose premium sound system with nine speakers.
The first 124 vehicles will be offered as a limited-edition Prima Edizione Lusso (above). Each will be numbered with a commemorative badge and available in Azzurro Italia (Blue) exterior paint with premium leather seats in Saddle. Fiat says owners who purchase a Prima Edizione will also receive limited-edition items, including wearables and a poster.
The new roadster is also available with an array of safety and security features, including adaptive front headlamps, Blind-spot Monitoring, Rear Cross Path detection and ParkView rear backup camera. A high-strength body helps to dissipate energy while optimizing occupant protection. Fiat says it will go on sale in the U.S. next summer, just in time for top-down motoring.
Preliminary features, specifications and prices in this story are subject to change without notice by the automakers.
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Story, photos and videos (as noted) © 2015 CarNichiWa.com