This year’s LA Auto Show, held at the Los Angeles Convention Center, once again did not disappoint. While many of this year’s booths looked the same, there were a few standouts among the crowd, including the much anticipated unveiling of the Mario Kart.
Collins Reiter was on the scene and found several cars that auto show attendees will be giving thanks for over the holiday weekend.
The most anticipated unveiling at this year’s show was the specially designed, life-sized Mario Karts. Designed by West Coast Customs, in conjunction with Nintendo, the two karts were unveiled as part of the release of the new Mario Kart 7 for Nintendo 3DS, slated to hit stores December 4. The display featured two karts, the first, Mario’s Standard Kart, complete with a Super Glider and the second, Luigi’s Bumble V Kart with Propeller. After the press conference unveiling, booth attendants were on hand to give the crowd a test play of the all new Mario Kart 7 prior to its release.
The second booth that caught my eye was Fiat. Ever since the Fiat 500 Abarth was released and the J.Lo commercials hit the airwaves, this little car has been popping up all over LA roads. The Fiat is powered by a 1.4L 16v Multi Air Turbo engine complete with Abarth induction and dual exhaust system. It boasts a standard 5 speed transmission, 2 Mode electric power steering, and 4 wheel ABS. With 160hp and 170 lb-ft of torque, this small car packs a punch. While I love the exterior design, once inside, it felt very claustrophobic. The back seat is non-existent, and even with a convertible top, I felt my head would hit the roof should the top go up. Clearly this car is meant to give the Mini Cooper a run for it’s money, but the Mini has an incomparable amount of space on the interior, still making it the clear compact car of choice in my opinion.
This year Hyundai unveiled two new models for 2012, the newly designed Azera and the highly anticipated Veloster.
Boasting sleeker lines and a fiercer grill, the Azera is now the fifth Hyundai to adopt their signature Fluidic Sculpture design, meant to create the appearance of constant motion. The 2012 Azera is powered by the new Lambda II 3.3L GDI engine and six-speed automatic transmission. With 293 hp and a best-in-class 23 mpg, it provides stiff competition for cars in its class. The car also comes equipped with nine standard airbags, an impact-reducing front seat system, spacious head and leg room, standard 18 inch alloy wheels, Xenon headlights with LED accents and standard leather interior. The final feature that makes this car so special is the fuel economy strategy Hyundai is rolling out. Weighing in at a mere 3,605 pounds, the Azera is up to 400 pounds lighter than other vehicles in its class, making it more fuel efficient.
Equally as impressive was the 2012 Veloster. While lacking in engine power (the 1.6L 4 cylinder engine only produces 138 hp and 123lb-ft of torque), it more than makes up for it with style. Sleek and sophisticated, it looks mean on the outside. It boasts a true third door, giving easy access to the more than roomy backseat, dual centered chrome-tipped exhaust, 18-inch alloy wheels with painted inserts, a rear hatch, panorama sunroof and LED headlights. The interior is just as sleek with navigation system and XM Satellite radio displayed on a 7-inch multimedia touchscreen. The screen also comes equipped with a 115V power outlet and connections for video or flash drive, making it possible to play video games while parked. The car features proximity key entry, push button start, steering-wheel mounted audio and cruise controls, bluetooth hands free calling, and remote engine start. With a base price of just over $17,000, it makes this compact car worth taking a second look at. Although, based on the horsepower, I’d have to take it for a test run before driving one off the lot. If you feel the need for speed like I do, best to wait until they release the turbo version, rumored to have 203 hp, in 2013.
Leaving the Hyundai booth, I found myself heading over to Ford, not expecting to be that impressed. Instead, I was blown away. Ford has stepped up their game recently, and it was evident at the booth this year. The first model that caught my eye was the redesigned 2013 Escape Titanium. Gone is the boxy body and truck-like feel, and in it’s place is a sleek, sophisticated and well-designed small SUV. Available at dealerships in the spring of 2012, this model comes equipped with the latest SYNC with MyFordTouch driver connect technology, and a standard Personal Safety System. Parking assist makes it easier to parallel park, while the Blind Spot Information System (BLIS) assists with navigating lane changes and exiting parking spaces. It also comes with a hands-free power liftgate, making it easy to load your cargo without having to set it down and fumble for your keys, a feature everyone can appreciate. Add to that a 2.0L EcoBoost engine which combines direct fuel injection and turbocharging, and you get a great looking ride that provides style and enviable fuel economy.
Next, I found myself drawn to the 2012 F-150 SVT Raptor. For the show, Ford set up a mechanical lift and split the body of the car from the chassis to show auto show attendees just what this truck packs under its beautiful exterior. The engine, a 6.2L V8, delivers a whopping 411 hp and 434 lb-ft of torque. At 11 mpg city and 16 mpg highway, it’s hardly an economical buy, but those looking to own this gorgeous beast are hardly concerned with saving money on fuel. Beyond the engine under the hood, the SVT Raptor boasts a new Torsen front axle and off-road front end camera system. The Torsen system adds grip to the front end of the truck. This allows it to literally pull itself up over obstacles by shifting torque from the wheel that has zero traction to the wheel that has traction. The front end camera is activated through the LCD productivity screen and gives the driver a clearer view of what’s in front of them while off-roading. All this coupled with an interior that makes you feel as if you’re relaxing in a living room, and you’ve got all the ingredients for both an off-road adventure and smooth highway driving experience.
The final car to make an impression was the Doking, an electric prototype car built in Croatia. The Doking first garnered attention in Frankfurt at the 64th annual International Motor Show in September of this year. The car was upgraded from concept to prototype for the event. The LA Auto Show marks its US debut. This tiny car is powered by a synchronous motor with permanent magnets (45kW). There are two available models, the XD2 and XD4. The XD2 comes equipped with 2 motors and 90kW/120PS of power, while the XD4 has 4 motors and 180 kW/240 PS. The acceleration on the XD4 isn’t bad either, coming in at 0-100km, or 62.5 miles, in just 4.2 seconds. Top speed for the car is 140 km or 87.5 miles per hour. Not impressive, until you see just how small this car is and how fast it would feel driving it at that speed. The Doking Spec Frame (DSF) aluminum chassis provide safety and stability and the central location of the battery creates a low center of gravity and ideal ratio of mass, improving performance. What I found most interesting about this car was the seating arrangement. The driver sits in the center of the car with two passenger seats on either side, positioned slightly back from the driver seat. In my mind this is the perfect James Bond car. He sits in the center with two hot Bond Girls on either side. What more could a driver ask for while saving the planet from dirty exhaust?