This year's Los Angeles Auto Show proved to be much better than first expected. When the news hit back in October of some the vehicles that were to debut, the show's organizers listed the Buick LaCrosse and Nissan Sentra as the big stars. Oh dear, this year's show was going to be a snoozefest.
But as we saw in the past week, the LA showed proved to be exciting. There were a number of surprises, along with vehicles that stole the show. Of course, there were the vehicles that maybe should have passed on LA Auto Show.
It is that time to grade the vehicles and find out which ones are the top of the class and which ones need to head to detention.
Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio: Incomplete
Despite Alfa Romeo rolling out the Giulia Quadrifoglio again and providing some juicy information (505 Horsepower, 7:39 lap time on the Nürburgring, $70,000 starting price tag), I still don't believe this car actually exists. Blame Alfa Romeo's track record of pushing back dates. Also, we haven't seen what the lower trim models will look like. The only details are a turbo 2.0L four-cylinder with 276 horsepower and all-wheel drive.
Buick LaCrosse: Incomplete
This car would get a high grade with an impressive interior, updated 3.6L V6, and a number of new tech and safety features. But there is one thing that is giving me pause; the LaCrosse's exterior. We knew that elements of Avenir concept shown in Detroit would influence the next LaCrosse and they are there. But something is a bit off and I can't put my finger onto it. This is a vehicle that I need to see in person before handing out a final grade.
2017 Fiat 124 Spider: C-
While Fiat does deserve a lot of credit for making their Miata-based roadster look much different, it badly needs to go back to the drawing board. Yes, it looks like the 60's 124 Spider. But this modern interpretation is ungainly. Also, could Fiat have done a little bit more to the interior? The only item that is saving this from a lower grade? The turbocharged 1.6 from the 500 Abarth.
2017 Ford Escape: C
Oh Ford, what have you done to the Escape? I understand that you are trying to bring it in line with the Edge, but the new face looks very awkward. On the plus side, the troublesome 1.6L EcoBoost has been shown the door with the 1.5L EcoBoost taking its place.
2017 GMC Canyon Denali: C+
Having to wait till late 2016 for this model is kind of a disappointment. Also, I'm afraid to see what the pricetag on this luxury version will be. Hopefully, GMC has the luxury appointments that can justify the price.
2016 Honda Civic Coupe: A
I'm shocked that I like the new Civic Coupe a lot. The production model mostly stays true to the concept minus a couple of things (the large rear wing and center mounted exhaust). It is quite the sharp-looking compact. When was the last time you could say that about a Honda? S2000 maybe?
2017 Hyundai Elantra: C
I'm getting a bit worried about Hyundai's car designs. The Sonata was a snoozer compared to the last one and new Elantra... well looks like the current one. It seems like they are taking a little bit more risk with their crossovers and I want them to take some of that and put them into their cars once again. But I will say the upcoming Elantra Eco model has me very interested.
2017 Infiniti QX30: B-
Now I like the standard Q30 as it looks quite sharp. Somehow I don't like the QX30 as much despite it being the same model with just a few inches of added ground clearance. Also, how come I can get AWD on the QX30 and not the Q30?
2017 Kia Sportage: A-
Kia continues their trend of producing sharp looking vehicles with new Sportage. The interior looks to be a giant leap ahead of the previous model. Oddly, the Sportage doesn't have small-displacement turbo option like the Tucson. One hope I have the new Sportage: Improved ride characteristics.
Lamborghini Huracán LP 580-2: B+
Rear drive Huracán? Uh, where do I sign up? But I'm wondering why it only produces 398 pound-feet of torque. I know most buy a Lamborghini buy it for looks, but a little bit more torque isn't a bad thing.
2017 Lincoln MKZ: B-
This was something completely out of left field. I don't think many knew that Lincoln was planning to show off anything besides the Continental (something we expect to see next year). There are some good parts to the 2017 model like the new front end which gives Lincoln a bit more of an identity. There's also this interesting feature of actual buttons for the center stack. (OK, that's a bit cold. But we're glad to see actual buttons again.) But then there are some questionable items. The big one being the 400 horsepower twin-turbo V6. Why? I mean it's awesome, but it also brings up concerns about what Lincoln sees itself as. It is a luxury brand trying to fill a space of what it means to be an American luxury car or is it trying to be like every other luxury car on sale? At least the MKZ was being talked about, something you couldn't say about Lincoln since the Continental concept.
2017 Mazda CX-9: A+
When I drove the current Mazda CX-9 last year, it was in dire need of a replacement as it was aging quite fast. The new CX-9 looks to be a real contender with sharp looks (bigger CX-5 isn't a bad thing), luxurious interior, and having the full suite of Skyactiv technologies. Doesn't hurt the engine is also turbocharged. Best in show? I think so.
2017 Mercedes-Benz SL-Class: C
I know that it's a refresh and appreciate Mercedes improving the SL's interior. But I wish they could have gone a little bit farther with the exterior aside from a new grille. This is a vehicle that deserves more.
2016 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport/2017 Mirage: D+
Mitsubishi, I know that you are in the process of a plan to get you back on stable ground and sales are on the rise. But you could have done so much more to these models. A new front end for the Outlander Sport? Four more horsepower and a tweaked front end for the Mirage? A little bit more money in these cars could have done so much to these.
2016 Nissan Sentra: C-
During the press conference of the Sentra, Nissan's senior vice president of sales and marketing Fred Diaz said this was the year of the sedan at the company. Oddly the only model we remember from 'year of the sedan' is the Maxima. While the Sentra did get some elements of the Maxima in the front end, the rest of design matches up with the current Sentra. Nissan's 'year of the truck' for next year will hopefully be more exciting.
2017 Range Rover Evoque Convertible: B
This is one of those vehicles that make you wonder why? But I'll admit that it looks quite sharp. Who knows, this might have a better chance at succeeding than the Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet.
Subaru Impreza Sedan Concept: A-
Much like the hatchback counterpart we saw in Japan, the Impreza Sedan is quite the stunner. Now whether the production model looks like the concept remains to be seen. But considering Subaru's recent track record, this is something we're bit concerned about. At least the Impreza will be debuting a new modular platform that will underpin future Subaru models.
Volkswagen America's CEO Apologizes Again: C+
Volkswagen's apology tour continues with the CEO of the American branch, Michael Horn apologizing during Volkswagen's press conference. Look Volkswagen, we know that you are sorry about the whole diesel emission mess. But you don't need to keep apologizing at every event. It is getting to the point where if someone brings up a question not related to the scandal, you'll be saying sorry. Work on trying to get a fix out there.