Los Angeles's 99th International Auto Show was its usual smorgasbord of glitzy paintjobs and glitzier models both human and automotive, though with some serious substance behind both. It's kind of like walking naked through a field of gleaming Lamborghinis, as it were (and as it was, minus the nudity).
Flat-out highlights were Bugatti's $1.2-million 1,001-hp Veyron, the new Mercedes S-Class, and BMW's M6. In a concept-heavy field, Volkswagen's outrageously styled GX3 three-wheeler - which, according to VW brand chief Wolfgang Bernhard, "we will see this on the streets of California soon" - was a stand-out amid the impressive collection of Lambos, Ferraris and Porsches on show.
VW's Bernhard joined BMW's design chief Chris Bangle among any number of industry bigwigs both domestic and international at the Staples center this week, at a prestigious affair that usually attracts more higher end models than Detroit in a fortnight or so. It's LA, stupid.
And the city's assorted media types here on Wednesday and Thursday also saw a number of important North American roll-outs from the big stables' high-earners, and soon-to-be high earners, including 2007 Chevy Tahoe, reviewed here last week and revealed at Times Square on New Year, GMC's Yukon XL and Toyota's 2007 Yaris mini. The show's doors open to the public today.
I had the pleasure of pulling up to the show in Chevy's latest Corvette Convertible, a bonafide road-rocket whose performance stands alongside almost all of the cars on show, and which will be reviewed in the coming weeks.
One of the few to better it was its sister model on display inside, the Z06, whose more technically advanced 505 horsepower, 7.0-liter V-8 manages to shave near a half-second off the 6.0-liter test-car's 0-60 time. Which in the Z06 is 3.7 seconds, with a top-out at 198mph.
Congratulations to GM's West Coast Advanced Design Studio just announced as winner of the Design Los Angeles showcase, for its GMC PAD concept that "enables cultural and geographical freedom for the modern city dweller", i.e., it shortens any commute as a movable lifestyle, well, pad. It features advanced media entertainment systems, enhanced securiy, and runs on a diesel-electric hybrid engine.
Mercedes unveiled its new S-Class, in a grand ceremony themed on the film Memoirs of Geisha, in which a 1938 Maybach appeared. A new-release Mayback 57S, whose AMG-tuned engine produces a belting 612hp, was also on display alongside its ageing yet stunning film-star cousin.
Special mention goes to the Daimler-Chrysler communications team, who laid on for the S-Class unveiling a presentation that included a performance artist/dancer deftly twisting in some ceiling-mounted fabric, which I'm sure is called something, accompanied by a band that features a string instrument which was also, bizarrely, hooked to the ceiling.
Mercedes' new S-Class debut is an extremely important roll-out for the luxury carmaker in a state that buys most of its imports, and little wonder Merc wanted to create a bit of a coup. Its PR bods duly noted that 60 of the new $140,000-plus cars sold in about three hours in a Saks event in New York recently, with Cali buyers now further enticed to step into dealers, drop-jawed and with wallets wider.
BMW's M6, built on Bangle's somewhat controversial "flame surfacing" design principles, hopes to succeed where the Germans have previously failed: in replicating the success of the original E24s first rolled out of Bavaria in 1976. This one will prove popular in California though, whose residents' high-spending habits could, just maybe, be the reason for Bangle's appearance to promote the 500hp V10 luxury coupe.
Most interesting was France's Citroen C4, on display as the winner of the 2005 Solutia International Design Award. The importance of the European market was also highlighted by Toyota, whose Yaris sales will be heavily dependent on small-car markets in France, Spain and Portugal, as well as the emerging US market for superminis.
Similarly innovative, VW's GX3 was developed in VW's design studio in Simi Valley, which will shortly move to Santa Monica. The 1.6-liter, four-cylinder two-seater with a five-speed manual transmission pumps out a decent 125hp, which is bang on for what VW terms "a motorcycle".
Other concepts worth a mention include Jeep's Gladiator and Hurricane, with the latter's dual V8 engine (one for the environmentalists), and crazy wishbone back axle allowing the SUV to spin 360-degrees. It can also hit 60mph in under five seconds, apparently. Maserati's low-slung V12 Birdcage 75th was also gorgeous.
But for now I'll take a Chevy Corvette - albeit a yellow one, but of course with astonishing performance and capable ride - with a keen eye on the Z06, and a century of Los Angeles auto shows next year.
*LA Auto Show, Friday through Jan.15. Dates: Friday through Jan. 15. Los Angeles Convention Center, 1201 S. Figueroa St., Los Angeles. $10 for adults, $7 seniors; Parking: $10.*