Index of LA 2012 coverage

Posted by cdnlive December 3rd, 2012

Detail: Acura RLX lamps

BMW i3 Coupe Concept the star of LA

Detail: Chevy Spark EV mashes-up Volt and Adam

Fiat 500L Trecking: the 500L tha makes sense?

Hyundai Veloster C3 Roll Top concept previews cabrio, attempts to piggy back on hipster culture

My favourite car of the show

Kia Forte: it’s nice

Finally getting to grips with the Lincoln MKZ

Detail: Mercedes Ener-G-force lamps

The best details

Q: Who the hell brings a dog to a motor show? (A: People in LA)
All the action live from LA

Porsche Cayman – completing a (very subtle) design revolution

Smart wings it with Jeremy Scott concept collaboration

Subaru Forester almost makes the new RAV4 look decent

Toyota Avalon: the cut-price Lexus fastback
Toyota RAV4: the fake sound of progress?

1950S wheels for VW Beetle Cabriolet

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LA auto show: best details in show

Posted by cdnlive November 29th, 2012

If you were busy looking for brand new concept and production cars here in LA, you’d have probably left half way through the first morning. But just because there haven’t been dozens of new unveils, doesn’t mean we’ve not found some interesting details to pour over on the cars here in LA. So from the top, we offer you:

BMW i3 coupe floating centre screen

The i3 coupe interior is a delight pretty much everywhere you look. But we love how the wrapping leather element of the dash concludes to become the arm from which the (floating) centre screen is suspended.

Jaguar stand colour sculpture

Shown sideways here, just to accentuate its arty-ness, the colour sculpture ring on the Jaguar stands resembles one of those electricity pylon details.

Mazda CX-5 180 Concept lamp/grille detail

There are quite a few of these SEMA/custom-type SUVs at the show. Our favourite was this Mazda and the red pin-stripe grille element, which runs into the lamp and then is crossed by the red dash-dot graphic.

Hyundai Veloster C3 Roll top rear deck

We’ve already blogged about this concept and its fixie bike. But the bit we really like is the recycled bits of skateboard that make up the trunk deck floor lining. Reminds us of Freitag bags and feels very fresh and perhaps more importantly, non-corporate

Acura RLX Anodised starter-button

We’ll be honest, it’s completely out of place in the RLX. But this is the kind of start button that a sports car should have – red, and formed out of anodised aluminium

Range Rover lashing points

Good illustration of the Range Rover’s push-up market are these load lashing points, which are exquisitely detailed and give a real sense of perceived – and actual – quality

Lincoln MK-Z headlining rear reading lamps

It wasn’t perfectly executed (pressing the headlining’s a bit odd, and it felt a bit hollow/cheap) but hovering your finger against a little LED, and the reading lamp then illuminating as if from nowhere, is what you might term a nice ‘surprise and delight’ novelty

VW Beetle Cabrio hood/header intersection

So often, convertible soft tops mess up a car’s lines and just look like plain bad fits. We really like the fact that on the new Beetle Cabriolet’s hood, the A-pillar is visually continued by the soft top, forming an impression of a cant rail.

Porsche Cayman rear cubby hole cover

Porsche is really starting to get its detailing and PQ together – in the new Cayman, there are a pair of really neat, sliding lidded cubbyies either side of the rear load area.

by Joe Simpson

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My favourite car of the show

Posted by cdnlive November 29th, 2012

It’s childish, it’s silly but it’s also superbly executed and makes the Mercedes Ener-G-Force look silly. Let me introduce the Jeep Wrangler MOPAR concept.

By Owen Ready

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Finally getting to grips with the Lincoln MKZ

Posted by cdnlive November 29th, 2012

It was a virtually untouchable pedestal-swivelling pre-production concept at the January 2012 Detroit show, and having personally missed its virtually ready production debut at New York in April, it was good to finally see the smart and well-proportioned new Lincoln MKZ in LA.

Hidden in a well-guarded show stand ante room on the first press day, with pride of place instead taken by some fantastic classic cars from Lincoln’s back catalogue, the second day of the LA show saw the Lincoln exhibition space taken over by the new MKZ in numerous colours, some with a large but slick-looking, darkened glass sliding sun roof.

But particularly smart – and apparently a Lincoln exclusive its sister Ford Fusion/Mondeo model won’t get – is a ‘now you see it, now you don’t’ touch-sensitive centre stack display. With the display off, the floating buttress-style stack helps create a very elegant ‘less is more’ cabin feel. But touch the stack when you need to alter aircon or the stereo and its control labels shine into life. It’s a great surprise and delight feature, which is just what Lincoln needs, as it tries to make its cars match the theatre and quality of its new show stands – I just wish at the bottom of the stack it didn’t say SYNC and Microsoft.

By Guy Bird

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BMW i3 Coupe concept the star of LA

Posted by cdnlive November 29th, 2012

Arguably the most future-relevant concept at the LA show was the BMW i3 Coupe. For those starting to suffer fatigue waiting for the exciting electric i production cars to go on sale, scrutiny of the i3 Coupe reassures there is light at the end of the tunnel. BMW Group design boss Adrian van Hooydonk took time out for an exclusive chat with Car Design News and revealed that the Coupe – which shares almost exactly the same proportions as the previous five-door concept – is now 90 per cent of the production version due to launch at Frankfurt autumn 2012.

The most obvious change is in the more production-feasible non-glass lower door area and in a refinement of the interior, but key signifiers like the teardrop style upper DLO with its dropped rear belt line will stay as will the sophisticated vision-enhancing slatted C-pillar. As Hooydonk reasons: “We like a bit of wedge and a rakish shape that makes the car look dynamic but often rear passengers are smaller, they are kids, and you can’t look out properly if you continue that belt line. So we felt for an urban vehicle, all-round visibility for all passengers was a good thing. The C-pillar design has no typical Hofmeister kink either, we didn’t think it was necessary to carry over all elements of BMW design for this car.”

According to Hooydonk the clean and spacious cabin with minimal IP will stay virtually intact for production too, so expect the gear selector on the steering wheel, twin free-standing iPad Mini-style screens and unusual materials all to stay. One particularly interesting material – made out of grass, dried and pressed – can be found as the structure and surface of the inner door panel. “Usually when car companies use this kind of material they cover it in three layers of plastic,” says Hooydonk, but we thought for a car like this, it would be more honest to show it. The whole look and feel of the material – with some fibres visible – reminded us of the first Eames fibreglass chairs. The material grows in nature very quickly so it’s sustainable. All this leads to an aesthetic we’re calling ‘next premium’ although there will still be wood and leather where you need it.”

Along with exposed carbon fibre on the door sills and elsewhere to remind the customer of the i3’s high-tech body structure and graphically clean and sparse all-LED red lights embedded behind the black glass tailgate, the new i3 looks set to stand out like no other electric car currently available.

As BMW wants this car to sell in decent numbers – and to hedge its bets on what technology may be most embraced by customers soonest – the car will initially be offered in both plug-in range extender and full EV options, with the firm expecting 80 per cent of sales to be of the former, less range-anxious model. The supercar i8 will launch in the first quarter of 2014 but there is no word yet whether a three-door i3 will follow.

By Guy Bird

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Fiat 500L Trekking: the 500L that makes sense?

Posted by cdnlive November 29th, 2012

We’re still getting to grips with the looks of the 500L – tottering-stance et al – and of the fact that Fiat plans to expand the 500 into a wider range; nee sub-brand.

So there was a degree of trepidation when we heard about the 500L Trekking here in LA. But the reality of it is that the 500L Trekking might be the version that really makes the 500L make sense. The lower body cladding and front mask – although it gives the car a bit more of a chin – actually lends the car some attitude. It grounds the stance a little better and there’s now some much needed accent over the wheels, dragging your eye down and taking some of the perceived weight out of the body side.

And maybe it’s just us, but this dark lower cladding, yellow body and white roof colour scheme worked better than previous cars we’ve seen too. Neat lamp graphic too – how come we’re not getting this in Europe Fiat?

And in anecdotal news that will be music to Fiat’s ears, the three American journalists we sat in the 500L with – who came from middle American states – were keen to tell us just how much more successful they thought Fiat would be with this car than the regular 500. Seems that the adage is true. In the US, bigger is always better.

by Joe Simpson

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Subaru Forester almost makes the new RAV4 look decent

Posted by cdnlive November 29th, 2012

Not one person we spoke to at the LA show had anything positive to say about the new Subaru Forester. Even next to the conceptually similar new Toyota RAV4 it looks poor. The previous version was inoffensive if wholly conventional where as this new model is both dull and ugly. Quite an achievement.

Like the RAV4, the Forester lost sight of its original raison d’être a few generations ago and is now just another compact SUV. Its interior is perhaps slightly preferable to the outside because it’s so soporific there is almost nothing to say about it. Yes it’s practical and no doubt hardy but then so are elasticated waistbands.

Subaru has always had a wholesome, engineering-led and slightly offbeat vibe backed up by neat, functional design. But in this instance the design actually detracts from the appeal. You’d never buy a Subaru for its design (SVX excluded) but this is perhaps the first time you wouldn’t buy one because of it.

By Owen Ready

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Kia Forte: it’s nice

Posted by cdnlive November 29th, 2012

The Forte is a more important car than you might first think. The c-segment sedan market is a huge growth area right now. We might still be wedded to the hatch in Europe, but in both the US and perhaps more importantly China, without a C-sedan, you’re stuck. Cars like Audi’s new A3 sedan (seen up until now in concept form) suggest the breed’s come of age – a well judged C-segement sedan is now actually as big as a three-generations ago D-segment A4 or 3-Series. And that’s allowed the proportion to really breath – no longer feeling crunched up, and really helping the design.

And so it proves with the Forte. For our money, like the European Cee’d, the cab and A-pillar is still a little too far forward. But other than that, there’s very little we can pick fault with. This is a very handsome, mature and immaculately surfaced car. The details – particularly the front and rear light graphics – are very modern, and feature more advanced technology than some would-be premium brands. Sold also as the K3/Cerato in other markets and first seen as long ago as July, this is nonetheless our first really look a the Forte and on this viewing it deserves – and we expect will – do well in the US market. It also makes us look forward to the forthcoming Coup version, always a college kid favourite in the US. It’s great to see a mainstream production car that really stands up to scrutiny and looks great in the metal.

by Joe Simpson

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Smart wings it with Jeremy Scott concept collaboration

Posted by cdnlive November 29th, 2012

When Car Design News got wind of Smart preparing a concept car with fashion designer Jeremy Scott just after the Paris show there was considerable concern. Known for his outrageous designs for a plethora of popstars – including Kanye West, Lady Gaga and Beyonce, as well as winged high-top sneakers for Adidas – it didn’t seem like Smart and Scott were exactly a perfect fit.

But we’re happy to be proved wrong and say the resulting concept actually has way more substance than we were expecting. Firstly, significant changes have been made to the exterior and interior – it’s far more than a few lazy tweaks to colour and trim with exterior decals added, as is so often the case with such collaborations. Secondly, the changes have been executed with skill and care. The predicted wing additions aren’t flimsy like their Adidas cousins but bristling with LEDs and properly worked into the design of the wider track rear fenders; the new dashboard air vents really do look like Madonna’s conical metal bra, as intended, and the overall quality of the quilted leather seat finish and real chrome-dipped interior parts does resemble the look and smell of a designer handbag, as Scott wanted.

Thirdly, and perhaps most surprisingly, Smart is aiming to put the concept into small-scale production – maybe up to 200 – so not the usual cut-and-run one-off marketing ruse. Of course they’ll have to be some changes for safety and feasibility reasons, like 50 per cent smaller wings for a start, and a likely Brabus-sized circa £5000 price hike over the regular Smart fortwo, but still, there’s something solidly fun about this concept. And the fact that it’s already annoying traditional ‘car guys’ on internet chat forums makes it funnier still – and brave of Smart to follow through on.

As the normally conservative-with-a-small ‘c’ head of Mercedes Interior design, Hartmut Sinkwitz candidly told Car Design News: “When I saw his Adidas sports shoes I immediately thought we should use the wings. It has to be crazy enough to be provocative and more collaborative than just sponsoring fashion shows. A brand needs emotional highlights, it won’t be loved for reliability alone. This concept is about mixing the freedom of the fashion industry with the careful execution of the car industry.”
And done with conviction, fair play to that.

By Guy Bird

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1950s wheels for VW Beetle Cabriolet

Posted by cdnlive November 29th, 2012

Global unveils of cars you already know about with their roofs removed seldom create much extra excitement, so we weren’t expecting much from the new VW Beetle Cabriolet, until we clapped eyes on the 50s special edition that was promoted as part of its launch at the LA auto show.

Sporting 1950s Beetle era convex chrome hubcaps with black-painted outer sections made a real difference to the vibe of the new model, alongside the monochrome black paint job, chrome door mirrors, plus beige (or black) leather interior. After all, if you’re going to bother doing retro, you might as well hit all the nostalgia buttons hard, and those chrome caps are certainly among the best for that (see old wheel image for reference).

The fact it’s a trim you can actually buy for a premium of £600 over the equivalent 1.4 TSI petrol Sport version (at £24,655 in the UK), rather than just remaining a showcar touch, makes it even better. MkII of the new Beetle is growing on us as a result, but avoid the 60s and 70s versions, which are more expensive and whose wheels and paint jobs aren’t as stand-out.

 By Guy Bird

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