SUVs are draw at L.A. Auto Show
LOS ANGELES — The floor at this year’s Los Angeles Auto Show will look a lot like America’s roads: full of SUVs.
Hyundai and Nissan will debut new small SUVs at the show, while Subaru will take the wraps off its new three-row SUV, the Ascent. Jeep will show a new version of its rough-and-tumble Wrangler, while Infiniti, Lexus, Lincoln and Porsche will debut more refined models.
A combination of low gas prices, growing millennial families and a host of new models is fueling the SUV boom. As of October, overall U.S. vehicle sales were down 2 percent compared to the same period last year, but SUV sales were up 6 percent, according to Autodata Corp.
The L.A. show will also have plenty of eco-friendly models in a nod to California buyers, who purchase a higher percentage of hybrids and electrics than the U.S. as a whole thanks to state tax credits and other incentives. Land Rover will debut its first-ever plug-in gas-electric hybrid, while Volkswagen will show its upcoming family of electric vehicles. Porsche will also have a plug in hybrid.
Here are some of the vehicles being unveiled at the show, which opened to the public on Friday:
The Kona will be Hyundai’s first subcompact SUV in the U.S. market, competing against the Honda HR-V, Chevrolet Trax and other small rivals. Eye-popping color options like lime and bright turquoise will help it stand out from that crowd. The Kona sits low and wide and shares Hyundai’s new “cascading” mesh grille, which debuted on the 2018 Sonata. There are two engine options: a 2.0-liter, 147-horsepower four-cylinder mated to a six-speed transmission or a turbocharged 1.6-liter four-cylinder that puts of 175 horsepower and is paired with a seven-speed transmission. An all-wheel-drive system is optional. Optional safety features include a forward-collision avoidance system with pedestrian detection. The Kona goes on sale in the first quarter of 2018.
SUVs of all sizes are so popular these days that Nissan is introducing its sixth entry in the U.S. The compact Kicks is even smaller than the hot-selling Rogue and Rogue Sport. The sculpted Kicks will start at under $19,000 and comes standard with automatic emergency braking as well as a 1.6-liter, 125 horsepower four-cylinder engine. It’s also got a continuously variable transmission that lets the engine operate at the most efficient speed possible. Nissan estimates the fuel economy for the front-wheel-drive-only Kicks will be 33 miles per gallon in combined city and highway driving. It’s supposed to have ample rear-seat legroom despite its coupe-like sloping roof. More specific pricing will be announced closer to when the Kicks goes on sale in the spring.
Mercedes debuts the third generation of its CLS four-door coupe. The fastback roof and minimalist styling remain, but there are two major changes: For the first time, the CLS will seat five and it’s also a mild hybrid. An electric motor works in tandem with the new six-cylinder engine, boosting acceleration. Mercedes says the engine puts out 362 horsepower and 369 pound-feet of torque alone and gains an additional 21 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque with the motor. Inside, there’s a system that adjusts the seats, massagers, music, lighting, climate control and even adds a touch of fragrance based on six moods a driver can choose, including “Joy” and “Comfort.” The CLS goes on sale next fall. Pricing wasn’t released, but the current CLS starts at $75,150.
Lincoln’s midsize MKX SUV gets a new name, Nautilus, in an effort to separate itself from the alphanumeric luxury crowd. It also gets its first refresh since it went on sale in 2015. The 2019 Nautilus swaps its V6 engine for two turbocharged four-cylinder choices: a 2.0-liter that puts out 245 horsepower or a 2.7-liter with 335 horsepower. The Nautilus adopts Lincoln’s signature mesh grille. It also has a suite of new safety technologies, including a system that keeps the SUV centered in its lane and an evasive maneuvering system that can automatically steer the vehicle around obstacles. The 2019 Nautilus goes on sale in the spring.
CHEVROLET CORVETTE ZR1 CONVERTIBLE
The fastest, most powerful version of General Motors Co.’s Chevrolet Corvette gets its first drop-top in nearly a half-century. Chevrolet says the convertible won’t hurt the 755-horsepower car’s performance much. It’s only 60 pounds heavier than the standard coupe and still will have a top speed of over 200 miles per hour. The only changes for the convertible are the structure for the car’s folding top and repositioned seat belt mounts. The 2019 ZR1 made its debut earlier this month in Dubai. The ZR1 last had a convertible in its original model year in 1970. The coupe starts at $119,995 including shipping, while the convertible starts at $123,995. They’ll hit showrooms this spring.
Infiniti’s midsize, five-seat SUV gets a complete overhaul, starting with a rigid but lightweight new underbody made from high-strength steel. The 2019 QX50 sits up higher than the outgoing model and has a beefier, more confident look. Under the hood is what Infiniti says is the world’s first production-ready variable compression ratio engine. The 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder automatically adjusts the pistons’ performance to optimize power or fuel efficiency. Infiniti says the engine delivers 268 horsepower and 27 miles per gallon in combined city and highway driving, a 35 percent improvement in fuel efficiency over the outgoing QX50. The new QX50 also boasts Infiniti’s ProPilot driver assistance system that can automatically control braking and speed and keep the SUV within its lane. The QX50 goes on sale in the first quarter of 2018.
Known for its small all-wheel-drive cars and SUVs, Subaru enters the big people-hauler market with the new Ascent. It’s got three rows of seats and can carry as many as eight people. Built in Lafayette, Indiana, the Ascent will be sold only in North America to satisfy its thirst for bigger vehicles. The all-wheel-drive Ascent is powered by a new 2.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine. Second-row captain’s chairs are optional on some versions. The price wasn’t released, but the Ascent will go on sale next summer.