The Best of the L.A. Auto Show 2012

By Michael Lockhart

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The Best of the L.A. Auto Show 2012:

After the Moscow and Paris Motor Shows kicked off the next generation of vehicle debuts in August and September, respectively, the next round of auto mayhem began this week in Los Angeles, where manufacturers came together to show off their latest and greatest production and concept rides, primarily mid-2013 releases, and offered industry reps and fans the first glimpses of model year 2014.

Amongst the three major American shows of L.A., Detroit and N.Y., Los Angeles primarily caters to the highly influential (and affluent) West Coast crowd and notably features some of the best European designs, while the Big Three manufacturers largely hold out until their Motor City hometown’s time in the spotlight early next month.

This year’s crop delivers yet another dose of high-octane adrenaline with major performance announcements from Benz and Jag, along with some creative options, such as Acura’s flagship RLX boasting no less than 16 combined headlights and VW’s vintage-inspired Beetle soft tops that channel the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s, complete with authentically retro hubcaps and finishes that are truly a work of art (watch for more details in a few weeks).

As usual, our job here is to slim down the pickings into our absolute favorite rides of the 2012 show and let you know what toys you should definitely be asking Santa for. Playmate Pilar Lastra even dropped by to check out the new MINI Paceman for us!

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Just when we thought the gorgeous beast that is the SLS AMG could not get any better, including its electric variant we named Best Green Vehicle in Paris, the AMG performance division has outdone itself by offering up a version of the gull-wing coupé as part of its highly exclusive Black Series, only the fifth model to carry the title. Inspired by the SLS AMG GT3 sports car, the street-legal Black Series carries a wickedly light curb weight of only 1550 kg and boasts an envious 6.3-liter V8 capable of over 630 horsepower. With a top speed of over 195 mph and a zero to 60 rate of 3.6 seconds, this high-tech road devil will be available next summer.

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When we named the brand new F-Type Best in Show at Paris, we really thought that Jag had exhausted global design head Ian McCallum (caught laughing maniacally in L.A.—we kid) and his God-given talents for producing the best looking vehicles for the company in eons. Wrong again. Somewhere in his busy schedule he’s found the time to pull together an ultra-high-performance variant of the company’s staple sedan, the XF. While the other top performer and Playboy’s 2012 Car of the Year, the XKR-S, made waves, it’s transferred its mechanics to the XF (550-hp engine, etc.) and allowed for beautiful aggressive new body work and a bold spoiler that really puts this car into another league.

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By now, anyone who knows anyone who knows anything about Honda and the invincible safety, sales and reputation of the Civic has heard that the car’s redesign and launch for 2012 turned out to be a somewhat ill-advised move that alienated critics and risked hurting the brand if something was not done immediately. Lo and behold, Honda has somehow managed to face the criticism head on and redesign their spokescar once again for 2013 (new body work, grilles) and found a way to throw in a number of exciting new features without making a major dent in the consumer price, as exemplified by the sports-minded SI above. We would definitely say this fast turnaround was well worth the effort.

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While we were excited to hear that BMW’s i division was launching yet another concept at L.A., which turned out to be the Coupé version of the megacity plug-in extended-range i3 vehicle we saw last month in New York, we were flabbergasted to discover that Volvo had put out a sexy Swedish sports car in the form of the S60 with mods from performance company Polestar. With a six-cylinder on board producing more than 186 mph and a zero to 62 of 3.9 seconds, consider us highly impressed and eagerly awaiting our turn behind the wheel.

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Everyone’s favorite SUV makes its grand redesign entrance in America this week with a striking all-aluminum unibody—a first globally for a Sports Utility Vehicle. Engineered from the ground up, the five-liter V8 is 39 percent lighter than its predecessor, which will translate to an enhanced off-road experience and superior agility thanks to the adaptive dynamic suspension system. While many have criticized this market in general for environmental factors, this “featherweight” improvement on the classically styled Rover will be a lot easier on the gas tank and will be much lighter on CO2 emissions.

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Well, Mercedes, how do we say this nicely…It seems that your designers decided to take some time off after your Best in Show vehicle above and allowed NASA’s Mars Rover team to take over the design of this vehicle instead. While we don’t hate it per se, we are slightly concerned by how much the medical/utility kit that extends from the trunk looks like a sci-fi bazooka ready to fire. We admit to being intrigued by the hydrogen tanks on the roof. Do they power the weapons system, too?


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