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2003 L.A. Auto Show, Part II


2003 Los Angeles Auto Show

2003 Los Angeles Auto Show

additional reporting by Chuck Dapoz

The Los Angeles auto show is underway, and TCC is on the ground to bring you the latest product introductions. Check back with us later for the wrap-up of show news, including word from Porsche and Volvo.

Related Articles:
2003 L.A. Auto Show Coverage by TCC Team (1/1/2003)
2003 Detroit Auto Show Coverage by TCC Team (1/2/2003)

BENZ AFTER DOWNMARKET LUXURY

2004 Mercedes-Benz C320 sports sedan

2004 Mercedes-Benz C320 sports sedan

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Mercedes-Benz isn’t a brand one normally turns to on a tight budget, but the new C230K could make a big splash among those looking for “a value answer,” according to the automaker’s U.S. marketing chief, Dave Schembri. It’s one of two sporty new sedans Mercedes rolled out at the L.A. Auto Show on Friday. The C230K features a supercharged V-6 putting out 189 horsepower through a standard six-speed manual transmission. The sedan features 17-inch wheels, a sport-tuned suspension, sporty body trim and thick-bolstered sports seats. With a base price of $27,990, the C230K becomes the newest of four Mercedes models sold in the U.S. for less than $30,000.

In all, Mercedes now offers four products starting under $40,000, including the C320 sports sedan, which was also unveiled in L.A. The sporty sedan shares many of the features of the C230K, but instead boasts a normally-aspirated 3.2-liter V-6 engine making 215 horsepower. The C320 also gets a 10-speaker Bose audio package, 10-way power front seats and a digital climate control system.


THAT’S “R” AS IN ROAR

Jackie Stewart and Jaguar XJ

Jackie Stewart and Jaguar XJ

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American luxury buyers got their first up-close look at the seventh-generation Jaguar XJ sedan on Friday. The new, all-aluminum luxury car will finally reach U.S. shores by June, company officials noted, a bit later than originally anticipated, due to a variety of delays, including initial problems producing the XJ’s aluminum body. With racing legend Jackie Stewart on hand, Jag revealed the high-performance XJ-R, which features a supercharged version of the sedan’ 4.2-liter, 32-valve V-8. It will turn 0-60 times of a flat 5.0 seconds, the company claims, compared to 6.1 seconds for the normally-aspirated engine package.


GO, GO, LITTLE GTO

2004 Pontiac GTO

2004 Pontiac GTO

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The new Pontiac GTO made its production-trim debut Friday when GM “car czar” Bob Lutz raced up to the stage in the Australian-made coupe. Its Corvette-derived LS1 engine will make 340-hp through its six-speed close ratio manual—or an optional four-speed automatic. And there’ll be plenty of performance parts brought in from Down Under, Lutz revealed. Sales will be limited to about 18,000 GTOs annually, he former Marine revealed, due to concerns by the United Auto Workers, which is worried about seeing jobs shift overseas. But Lutz suggested that the next-generation “Goat” could be jointly developed for both the U.S. and Australian markets, and built on opposite sides of the globe.
GM = GROWTH MARKET?
For the second year in a row, General Motors grabbed an increasing share of the U.S. motor vehicle market. The automaker actually reported a slight, one percent decline in volume, but because the overall market declined last year, GM wrapped up 2002 with a 28.7 percent share. That was no mean feat considering the decades of decline the automaker has suffered. At its peak, in the 1960s, General Motors divisions built six of every ten cars sold in the United States. Hefty incentives were clearly responsible for the ’02 turnaround, especially a December fire sale that boosted sales for the month by 36 percent over the same period in 2001.

2004 Pontiac Grand Prix

2004 Pontiac Grand Prix

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But analysts warn that incentives are having less and less of an impact on U.S. buyers, and GM officials agree that longer-term, they cannot count on cash to keep their momentum going. That will require a flood of new and more competitive product, especially in mainstream segments of the market GM once dominated. Though it was upstaged in L.A. by the roll-out of the GTO, Pontiac’s redesigned Grand Prix is clearly a critical piece in GM’s future plans. The midsize sedan unveiled at the auto show boasts a cleaner, more contemporary look, especially as Pontiac abandons its affair with gaudy side cladding. “We want cars young people aspire to,” declared the division’s general manager, Lynn Meyers. And the Grand Prix, “personifies everything about where we’re going to take Pontiac.”

 
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