L.A. Motor show: the highlights
[updated: Mercedes CLS, Mazda6, Lexus RX 'L', Nissan Kicks added]
Next to Detroit (NAIAS), Los Angeles (LAAS) is the motor show to be for North American petrolheads. This year’s edition seems yet again a tribute to the car type that symbolises all things American: the SUV. Clearly, electrification is less high on the agenda than in Europe, but lightweighting and increasing fuel efficiency of conventional combustion engines are – as demonstrated by these highlights.
Infiniti QX50: variable compression engine
The most remarkable feature of this Audi Q5-rivalling crossover is its variable compression petrol engine - an industry first. This VCT 2-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine boasts performance figures of a 3-litre V6 petrol whilst posting fuel efficiency numbers you would rather expect from a diesel. Power is transmitted either to the front wheels or to all four wheels through a CVT automatic.
Jeep Wrangler: weightwatcher and mild hybrid
An American icon like the Jeep Wrangler is not an easy model to modernise without risking compromising its key values. The result of the new JL generation can be summarized as giving more of everything: more power, more features, more off-road ability – but not weight. In fact, the Wrangler shod 90 kilos, mainly by using aluminium. Interestingly, Jeep introduces a 48V mild hybrid based on a turbocharged 2-litre four-cylinder petrol.
Subaru Ascent: seats 8, introduces 2.4 boxer engine
The popular segment of three-row large SUVs, today dominated by the Ford Explorer, gains another Japanese competitor. The chunky Indiana-built Ascent is powered by a turbocharged 2.4 boxer engine, mated to a CVT with 8 virtual speeds and variable all-wheel drive with torque vectoring. The standard Ascent seats 8, but the second row can be replaced free of charge by 2 captain’s chairs. Safety-wise, this big Subaru comes standard with a suite of ADAS called EyeSight.
Lincoln Nautilus: the MKX revisited
The large SUV from Ford's luxury brand Lincoln reincarnates into the Nautilus. Power comes from two turbocharged petrol engines: a 245 hp 2-litre four-cylinder and a 335 hp 2.7 V6. Both use an 8-speed automatic and drive all four wheels, but to save fuel, the rear wheels can be decoupled during cruising to enhance fuel efficiency. Ford’s Sync 3 ensures connected infotainment, while the addition of an adaptive cruise control with stop&go function makes motorway driving safer and more comfortable.
Nissan Kicks: less quirky Juke-successor
Seven years after its introduction, the maverick Juke is released from duty and replaced by the much more conventionally styled Kicks. Playfulness is replaced by maturity, something that immediately becomes clear when you take a look at the dashboard. Apple Car Play and Android Auto have found their way to the 7 inch touch screen. Power comes from a modest 1.6 petrol driving the front wheels.
Mazda 6: better still, inside and out
The Japanese carmaker's Kodo design language and product substance keep maturing. The revamped Mazda6 features a sexier nose, while minimalism rules on the inside. The dash carries an improved central display and is covered in materials that have never been more premium. The 2.5 petrol engine can now be had with a turbo, in which case it produces 250 hp. The reengineerd chassis and steering system should make the 2018 Mazda6 a better car to drive. Moreover, Mazda says it has put a lot of effort in containing noise, vibrations and harshness (NVH).
Lexus RX 'L': stretched to fit another 2 passengers
Toyota's premium brand wants to attract customers who ignored the RX350 or 450h before because the model did not offer a third seat row. The 'L' version adds 11 cm to the rear overhang to make room for passenger 6 and 7, who enjoy their own climate control and cupholders. The second seat row can be replaced by two captain's chairs, incidentally. For the rest, the elongated RX has the same features as the standard model.
Mercedes CLS: mild hybrid and 5 seats
The third generation of Mercedes' four-door coupé hides much more innovation than its modestly evolved styling would have you think. The car features a combination of E- and S-Class components, borrowing the latter's latest ADAS and the former's (revamped) chassis and interior. Contrary to its predecessor, the new CLS seats five (instead of four). Finally, it integrates a 48-volt battery fed starter-motor in the 9-speed automatic transmission to become a mild hybrid.