2005 Los Angeles Auto Show, Part III

January 7, 2005

2005 Los Angeles Auto Show Index by TCC Team

Ferrari: “Wild Object of Desire”

Frank Stephenson

Frank Stephenson

If anyone was wondering how Frank Stephenson feels about his job as the chief designer for Ferrari and Maserati, he cleared things up Thursday. “For me, Ferrari is a wild object of desire,” said the Moroccan-born stylist, who has spent a little over two years ago with the Italian automaker. “I’ve played at Ferrari,” he stressed. You can’t call that work.” Stephenson’s playful nature can be seen in the form of both the new Ferrari F430, as well as the Maserati GranSport. Prior to heading to sunny Italy, Stephenson put time in with BMW AG where, among other things, he’s credited with penning the popular MINI. Stephenson was the keynoter at this year’s Design Los Angeles Forum.

The Ultimate Los AngelesMachine?

2005 Dodge SUper Bee concept

2005 Dodge SUper Bee concept

There’s no question Los Angelenos love their automobiles, even when they’re stuck in traffic on I-405. To tap into that mobile mindset, fourteen different automakers have set up advanced design facilities along the Southern California coast, and those facilities are responsible for an assortment of popular products and concept vehicles. But what would happen if the designers at those studios had the chance to produce a product specifically earmarked for the Californialifestyle? That was the challenge that eleven of the studios chose to accept, offering their own visions of the “Ultimate Los Angeles Machine.” The three judges assigned to the project found themselves deadlocked until they came up with a Solomon-style solution: picking the best design for the weekday, another for the weekend. Which is which isn’t entirely clear, but the Dodge Super Bee was one of the winners. “It’s what would happen if (wild Californiaaftermarket designer) Big Daddy Roth met Formula One,” explained Chrysler Group’s advanced styling director, Freeman Thomas. Looking a bit like a motorcycle-cum-spacship, the Super Bee weighs barely 1500 pounds and features a 2.0-liter V-8, for rocketing through those windy Californiamountain passes.

2005 Volkswagen Mobile Lounge concept

2005 Volkswagen Mobile Lounge concept

Volkswagen’s Mobile Lounge, meanwhile, is “a more tasteful and creative solution” than today’s massive limousines, said designer Daniel Jenkins. The van-like vehicle’s interior is designed to let you party hearty enough to forget you’re stuck in traffic.

Benz Muscles Up with CLS55

2006 Mercedes-Benz CLS 55

2006 Mercedes-Benz CLS 55

Underscoring its decision to offer a performance version of every product in its lineup, Mercedes used the Los Angeles Auto Show to unveil its latest — and twelfth — AMG model. The CLS55 is a 469-horsepower version of the brand-new CLS, a coupe-like sedan. It shares the same, supercharged and intercooled V-8 already found in the E55 AMG, and will rocket from 0-60 in just 4.5 seconds. The performance edition will hit market in late February, just a month after the U.S. debut of the CLS500. That’s unusually fast for an AMG model and reflects the fact that the brand-within-a-brand’s engineers were actively involved from the very start of the CLS program, according to Rob Allan, U.S. product manager for AMG. Besides the big V-8, the CLS55 AMG will be shod with 19-inch wheels, and given the oversized brakes found in the Mercedes SL55 AMG sports car. Mercedes expects to sell about 1500 of the top-line CLS sedans in the U.S. this year, and though a formal price has not been announced, sources suggest a premium of about 30 percent above the CLS500 is likely.

Jaguar Celebrates Victory

2005 Jaguar XK Victory Edition

2005 Jaguar XK Victory Edition

Last year was a difficult one in many ways for Jaguar, which has scaled back expectations and announced the closing of one of its British assembly plants. On the other hand, the automaker got consistent confirmation that its efforts to shore up quality are paying off — moving to the third spot in J.D. Power’s Initial Quality Survey and ranking highest American European brands in Power’s Customer Satisfaction Index. Jag also celebrated its fourth consecutive victory in the Trans-Am Road Race Series. And to honor that performance, it unveiled the XK Victory Edition. The limited-edition model will debut in June and feature such niceties as four unique colors, choice of 19-inch chrome or 20-inch BBS race wheels, big Brembo brakes, a built-in navigation system, and a Bluetooth system for handsfree cellphone operation. Look for a price tag around $75,000.

Where Are The Japanese?

Once one of the nation’s biggest and most important auto shows, the annual L.A. gathering has faded a bit in recent years. Public attendance remains enormous, but automakers have been shifting their resources — in the form of product previews — to the Detroit auto show that is staged later in January. Los Angeles Auto Show organizers were able to pull together a modest dozen or so unveilings this year, but there were some notable gaps in the offerings. Not a single Japanese manufacturer held a news conference during the two-day media event, with South Korea’s Hyundai the only Asian brand. Privately, officials from several Japanese makers said they were embarrassed by the lack of involvement that, ironically, helped put the spotlight on such domestic brands as Ford, Chevrolet, and Dodge. But the North American International Auto Show in Detroit is expected to draw at least ten times the news media turnout next week, they explained. The L.A. show isn’t likely to gain much more traction until autumn of 2006, when it moves to a new November date, positioning itself closer to the beginning of the new model year.

Saleen Serves Up A Bigger S7

2005 Saleen S7 Twin Turbo

2005 Saleen S7 Twin Turbo

“Just a few years ago, 500 horsepower was considered extraordinary. Today it’s commonplace,” noted Fred Blount, vice president of sales for Saleen, Inc. While “commonplace” may be a bit extreme in itself, there are now at least 20 cars on the road that break the 500-hp barrier, according to a count by TheCarConnection, with more coming. So what is a respectable supercar, such as the Saleen S7, supposed to do? When it launched in 2002, it was the only street-legal car in the U.S.to exceed that barrier. Now the upgraded Saleen S7 Twin Turbo will remain tops in the domestic category by adding twin turbochargers giving it a big boost for 2005. The S7 Twin Turbo edition is rated at 750 hp and 700 lb-ft of torque. Other changes for the new year are meant to improve the car’s downforce and handling, as well as the ergonomics of the interior.

Spyker Takes Beachhead in L.A.

Spyker

Spyker

Dutch car builder Spyker announced its presence today at the L.A. Auto Show. The manufacturer of the exclusive hand-built sports cars is displaying the C8 Spyder and the C88 Double 12S, the street version of the 2003 Le Mans car.

The rear-wheel-driven C8 range has an aluminum Audi V-8 engine with 400 hp and 354 lb-ft of torque, mated to a six-speed manual. A limited-slip differential and ABS are standard. The Spyker C8 Spyder has a top speed of 187 mph; that of the faster Double 12S ranges between 187 mph and 215 mph, depending on engine output. All cars are hand assembled, and custom built to individual specifications of the buyer.
Spyker has presented its car(s) during the Pebble Beach Concours weekend in the past three years and will participate in the 12 Hours of Sebring this year. The company has ten dealers in the U.S. —Henny Hemmes

New Porsche Boxster Officially Here

2006 Porsche Boxster

2006 Porsche Boxster

The North American debut of the Porsche Boxster came today at the L.A. Auto Show. The new Porsche was unveiled in Paris in September, but hasn’t yet gone on sale in America.
The exterior of the second-generation of the Boxster has not been radically changed. Porsche’s Wolfgang Dürheimer said: “The philosophy at Porsche is: change is evolutionary and not revolutionary. Not that we are afraid of making changes; but as no other car on the road looks like a Porsche, nothing should be discarded for the sake of change.”
Porsche took the traditional 911 headlights for the front of the new Boxster and changed the rear in the style of the Carrera GT; and new, larger 17-inch wheels mark a wider stance. A new interior has more room for taller drivers, passengers, and luggage.
Still the new Boxster is not just a cosmetic facelift. It is a re-engineered version of the eight-year-old roadster with more powerful engines and advanced technology, such as standard stability control, a more powerful braking system, and new options that include the Active Suspension Management system, composite ceramic brakes, and a Sports Chrono Package.
The engine of the new Boxster remains the same 2.7-liter, horizontally opposed six-cylinder, but it now has 240 hp, 12 more than before. The Boxster should be able to accelerate from zero to 60 mph in just 6 seconds and has a top speed of 159 mph. The Boxster is priced at $45,800.

The Boxster S upgrades to a 3.2-liter boxer six with 280 hp and 236 pound-feet of torque, teamed to the standard six-speed manual transmission. The S accelerates in 5.2 seconds to 60 mph and has a top speed of 167 mph. With standard 18-wheels and other equipment, the Boxster S sells for $53,100. The new Porsche will go on sale on January 15. —Henny Hemmes

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