2018 LA Auto Show wrap-up: Audi, Jeep Gladiator, Kia, Porsche and Rivian brought the heat

The show was packed with debuts of production cars and concepts alike, including more than a few surprises. The biggest, though? Jeep's new Gladiator pickup truck.

Manuel Carrillo III/Roadshow

The 2018 Los Angeles Auto Show was a good one, with more new cars, trucks and SUVs than one could easily shake a stick at. Everything from the brutish Jeep Gladiator to the high-tech Rivian R1T, AutoMobility LA, as it's also known, proved why it's one of the most important auto shows in the calendar year by bringing out something new to entice just about everyone who loves cars. Anyone who sets foot in the Los Angeles Convention Center for the LA Auto Show from Nov. 30 to Dec. 9 during the show's public days will not be disappointed.

While auto shows often tend to end up focusing on a single vehicle class -- think SUVs at the Chicago Auto Show or exotics at Geneva -- the LA show didn't seem to this year. But, as we learned from Seinfeld, something lacking a central focus can still be highly entertaining. With debuts ranging from the highly anticipated Wrangler-based Jeep Gladiator pickup to the next Kia Soul, Mazda3, Porsche 911 and all-new Hyundai Palisade SUV, Roadshow's staff found themselves pretty busy putting their butts in all the new seats.

Here's our roundup of the most important debuts so that you'll know what to look out for if you find yourself in LA or if you find yourself shopping for a new ride in a few months. For even more detailed look, be sure to visit our 2018 Los Angeles Auto Show landing page -- it's a convenient way to access all the in-depth coverage of all the individual models that we looked at this week.

Audi's latest electric E-Tron is a sleek GT

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The Audi E-Tron GT is still a concept car -- and holy hell is it a good-looking one -- though it will lead to a full production model that launches in late 2020. Its powertrain technology is closely related to that in the forthcoming Porsche Taycan, and that's a good thing. The key specs that you need to know: It's got a 90-kWh battery pack giving it a 248-mile range, as well as 590 total system horsepower and a 0-60-mph time of 3.5 seconds. The E-Tron GT will help Audi get toward its goal of selling 20 electrified models by 2025, and if more of them look like this, then we're all for it.

2019 Bentley Continental GT Convertible: Topless elegance

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We already love the new Bentley Continental GT, and now there's a fabulous convertible version that can do 207 miles per hour. The top, which Bentley says keeps the cabin 3 decibels quieter than in the old Conti GT convertible, can open or close in just 19 seconds when traveling at speeds up to 30 mph. Under the hood is a 6.0-liter, twin-turbocharged W12 engine, good for 626 horsepower and 664 pound-feet of torque. The convertible is 375 pounds heavier than the coupe, but will still get to 60 mph in just 3.7 seconds. The new Conti GT made its debut in Los Angeles during the week of the show, but strangely, was not at the show itself.

2020 BMW M340i debuts ahead of the LA Auto Show

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BMW debuted its little heart out with a full lineup of hot new luxo-missiles, the most important of which is the M340i xDrive. BMW gave us a glimpse of the 330i at the Geneva Motor Show, and our man Steven Ewing got a chance to get behind the wheel of the new G20-generation 330i at the Nurburgring. This LA debut showed us the most aggressive version (so far) of the next 3 Series, which will make 369 horsepower from its turbocharged straight-six. After seeing it in the metal, we can confirm that it's much more interesting in person, with its more aggressive exterior and interior.

BMW also had the new 8 Series Convertible on hand along with the Vision iNext concept (which still looks like a dye pack exploded inside) and its full-size, three-row X7 SUV, which you can read more about here.

2019 Fiat 500X gets a new turbo engine and more standard tech

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Fiat's subcompact 500X crossover SUV has been on sale in North America since 2016, but it hasn't quite caught fire with consumers (maybe it would if it looked more like the Multipla from the late 1990s and early 2000s). For 2019, a refreshed model debuts with slightly different looks, a new engine, standard all-wheel drive and a greatly simplified model range.

Slight downsizing has occurred in the engine bay, where the 1.4-liter turbocharged engine or 2.4-liter naturally aspirated engine has been replaced with a single 1.3-liter turbo unit. Despite the size reduction, the new engine actually produces a lot more torque than its predecessors: 210 pound-feet (versus 184 pound-feet in the 1.4-liter or 175 in the 2.4-liter). That should make it feel sprightlier than last year's model, despite the fact that horsepower remains modest at 177.

For 2019, the six-speed manual transmission has been nixed, meaning it's nine-speed automatic or nothing. Front-wheel-drive configurations have also been discontinued.

On the plus side, a newly upgraded Uconnect 4 7-inch touchscreen infotainment system comes with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay capability, and adaptive cruise control and front park assist are now standard. 

The Honda Passport returns for 2019

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Honda's Passport expired in 2002, but the nameplate has been resurrected (with 100 percent less Isuzu) as a two-row, five-passenger crossover that slots in sizewise between the CR-V and the Pilot, though it's built on the same Honda Global Light Truck platform used for the Pilot and Ridgeline. The Honda Passport will launch early next year with rugged-adjacent looks and a 3.5-liter V6 engine churning out 280 horsepower and 262 pound-feet of torque. It'll be able to tow as much as 5,000 pounds if optioned correctly, and Honda will offer all manner of roof-mounted racks and accessories.

Honda sees the Passport competing with the likes of the Nissan Murano and revitalized Ford Edge, though Honda's entry does seem a little more rugged than those entries.

The 2020 Hyundai Palisade is a boldly styled three-row crossover

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This year Hyundai debuted the 2020 Palisade, a new three-row, midsize crossover, and gave the first one to a couple who adopted four orphaned siblings. This isn't Hyundai's first crack at a three-row SUV -- you may recall that the short-lived Veracruz fit that bill, followed by the more successful three-row Santa Fe and its recently renamed twin, the Santa Fe XL -- but it does seem like an attractive and well-considered option.

Hyundai recently told Roadshow that the midsize SUV segment moves about 1.5 million units per year in North America, so it will be interesting to see how many of those sales the Palisade will capture when it hits dealers next summer.

2020 Jeep Gladiator offers comfort and capability everywhere

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If this year's LA Auto Show was about one thing, it was the 2020 Gladiator pickup truck. Jeep hasn't offered a pickup truck in its lineup since the Cherokee-based MJ Comanche pickup of the late '80s and early '90s and if the internet's reaction to it is any kind of barometer, it's going to be a hit.

While it's easy to write off the Gladiator as just a Wrangler with a pickup bed, there are a bunch of differences. For instance, it's got a unique five-link rear suspension setup and can tow much more than the standard Wrangler, a segment-best 7,650 pounds and a payload of up to 1,600 pounds. A 3.6-liter V6 engine is standard, but we know that a turbodiesel will be offered at a later date. Don't hold your breath for the turbo four-cylinder version.

Other Wrangler-derived conveniences and capabilities transfer to the Gladiator, such as the folding windshield with available removable hardtops and a folding soft top, plus the ability to ford 30 inches of water when you elect the tough Rubicon model. Mopar also showed off a ton of awesome accessories that will help make your Gladiator unique on the trail. 

The 2020 Kia Soul and Soul EV make their world debut at the LA Auto Show

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Kia brought the new, third generation of the Soul to the LA show. It has sharper styling, more tech and even an X-Line variant with a slightly more rugged look (read: black plastic fender trim). Powertrain choices comprise a 147-horsepower, 2.0-liter Nu inline-four and a 201-hp, 1.6-liter turbo option. Kia also introduced the 2020 Soul EV, which has a 64-kWh battery pack that should yield a driving range of at least 200 miles, though we're still waiting on an exact number. Speaking of electric Kias, there's also a new Niro EV. Like the Soul EV, it has a 64-kWh battery pack and a motor rated for 201 horsepower; Kia says it will return 239 miles of range on a single charge. The hamsters, thankfully, were nowhere to be seen.

Lexus LX Inspiration Series is only a little inspiring

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The Land Cruiser-based Lexus LX 570 is old, though it has received three face-lifts over the past 11 years. Rather than bringing a redesign to the LA Auto Show, Lexus is just showed off the 2019 LX with a new appearance package called the Inspiration Series. In a nutshell, you're dealing with an ordinary LX 570, but "murdered out" as the kids say, with blacked-out 21-inch wheels and a black grille, along with several other dark bits to peg the sinister meters. The Inspiration Series also pegs the price alarms with its $100,420 MSRP, but that's due to a lot of bundled-in optional features.

Only 500 units of the LX Inspiration Series will be made, so place your orders now. While you're at it, you can learn more about this special SUV here.

The sky's the limit in the 2020 Lincoln Aviator

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First shown in concept form this past March at the New York International Auto Show, the Lincoln Aviator was the belle of the ball with its head-turning looks and cutting-edge features. Now the production 2020 Aviator has been fully revealed, with three rows of seating, rakish design and two powertrain options.

Buyers can pick between a 3.0-liter twin-turbo V6 engine with 400 horsepower and 400 pound-feet of torque, with either rear- or all-wheel drive. A plug-in hybrid option is rated for 450 horsepower and 600 pound-feet, though Lincoln hasn't yet offered any details on electric driving range or efficiency. Other luxurious and high-tech features include the ability to use your smartphone as the car's "key," a four-corner air suspension that uses a camera to "read" the road and react to bumps proactively, a 28-speaker Revel audio system and Lincoln's CoPilot360 Plus active-safety suite. The fact that Lincoln used the Detroit Symphony Orchestra for the Aviator's warning tones also truly resonates with our inner car nerds.

2019 Mazda3 sedan, hatchback debut simplified Kodo design

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The fourth-generation 2019 Mazda3 is now here, with both sedan and hatchback versions that follow the styling language previewed by the Mazda Kai concept shown at last year's Tokyo Motor Show. The new car will go on sale in early 2019.

There are lots of changes beneath the surface, too. The Mazda3 base engine will still be a 2.5-liter inline-four, with either manual or automatic transmissions with six speeds. The 3 is also the first production Mazda to use the company's Skyactiv-X compression-ignition engine, which uses a supercharger and a mild-hybrid motor assist. As if that's not enough, the Mazda3 also boasts an upgraded 8.8-inch infotainment system and an infrared eye-tracking Driver Monitoring System that can tell if the driver is looking away from the road.

2020 Mercedes-AMG GT R Pro gets even more extreme in LA

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Mercedes-AMG used the LA show to reveal the Mercedes-AMG GT R Pro, which is an even more bonkers version of the already certifiable AMG GT R. There's no power increase, with the 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8 still putting out 577 horsepower and 516 pound-feet of torque, but the GT R Pro benefits from a revised coilover suspension, adjustable anti-roll bars, carbon-ceramic brakes and retuned dynamic engine mounts. It also adds the AMG Dynamics stability control system, which has Basic, Advanced, Pro and Master modes.

Along with the Pro, of course, AMG has updated all versions of the GT coupe and convertibles with tweaks like restyled headlights, a new rear diffuser, a fully digital instrument cluster and some other interior switchgear changes. Oh, and those vents on top of the fenders are totally making the Roadshow staff swoon.

The Mini John Cooper Works dresses up in Knights Edition spec for LA

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Ever since the first Mini arrived in 1959, the brand has been no stranger to special editions. Yet another one will make its North American premiere at the 2019 LA Auto Show. The Mini John Cooper Works Knights Edition takes a run-of-the-mill John Cooper Works Hardtop and drizzles it with a black and silver shining-armor theme.

The Knights Edition also features a John Cooper Works variable exhaust straight out of the accessories catalog that will let you drive stealthily or broadcast to the world that you're fine with being small and loud, like Gilbert Gottfried. Read more about the John Cooper Works Knights Edition here.

The refreshed 2019 Nissan Maxima gets a bolder look outside and in

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Nissan is updating its "four-door sports car" for the 2019 model year, giving the Maxima a slightly revised look inside and out, as well as extra safety technology on the inside. There's also a new Platinum Reserve style package and a new orange interior stitching for the SR trim level. The car still uses a 3.5-liter V6 engine that sends 300 horsepower to the front wheels. Similarly, the 2019 Nissan Murano crossover receives an update with new lights, new interior trim pieces and a new grille design. It also adds more safety technology, and even diamond-quilted leather in the top-tier Platinum model.

Porsche's new 911 Carrera S refines, doesn't reinvent

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Southern California has long been Porsche's most important market, so it's only fitting that the sports car maker would choose LA to unveil the next generation of its most storied model, the 911. The 2020 911 debuted in Carrera S and 4S guises, with a 3.6-liter turbocharged flat-six engine rated for 443 horsepower, which is 23 more than before. A new eight-speed PDK dual-clutch is your only transmission choice at launch, but Porsche promises a manual is on the way later.

At first blush the new 911 may not look that different than its predecessor, but the car is 1.77 inches wider up front with a bumper and headlight treatment reminiscent of the 993-generation 911 of the mid-1990s. It also has flush-mounted electric door handles and restyled, wide taillights. Extra technologies include features like a Wet Mode, which will adjust the stability and braking systems when it detects water on the road, and standard precollision braking.

The Rivian R1T might be the electric pickup truck of tomorrow

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Electric-vehicle startup Rivian is used the LA show to reveal its R1T pickup truck and its R1S SUV. The pickup claims a 400-plus-mile range and a 0-60 time under 3 seconds, as well as impressive towing and payload ratings. The R1S is a three-row luxury crossover that is also designed for lots of off-roading. It'll use the same motors and battery packs as the truck, though its driving range should be a little longer, at up to 410 miles of range if you elect the 180-kWh battery pack. When production time comes, Rivian has pledged to build its vehicles at the former Mitsubishi factory in Normal, Illinois. The R1T is due in fall 2020 and the R1S should come in early 2021.

2019 Toyota Prius slaps an electric motor out back

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This is a huge year for Toyota at the LA Auto Show, with two major bread-and-butter debuts in the form of the all-wheel-drive Toyota Prius, which adds an electric motor to its rear axle to help it lure people away from crossovers , and the all-new 2020 Corolla Sedan, which also adds a hybrid powertrain for the first time in the US market. Those are all important debuts as they're big sellers for Toyota and now will be even more appealing.

On top of that, Toyota is showing off the sporty-ish TRD versions of the Avalon and Camry.

Get to work with the VW I.D. Buzz Cargo

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Volkswagen's debut at the I.D. Buzz Cargo, the work-van version of the passenger van that debuted last year. In addition to looks that force you to be happy, the I.D. Buzz Cargo features a passenger compartment with three-across seating along with an electric driving range approaching 350 miles. The one at the show was gussied up to look like a racing support van and it made us feel kinda funny, like when we used to climb the rope in gym class.

We have a ton of additional information about the I.D. Buzz Cargo van, which you can check out here.

Volvo 360c is a radical vision for a driverless tomorrow

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Volvo brought a virtual reality demo of its fancy-pants 360c concept, a driverless car designed to leave the sensor hardware carbuncles behind for a smoother, less autonomous-looking (that is, more attractive) appearance. Other than that, Volvo isn't planning to have any other production cars on display. It did, however, have a pile of Amazon boxes for people to sit on, so look forward to that, true believers.

Our editor-in-chief, Tim Stevens, recently got up close and personal with this innovative machine. You can read more about the autonomous 360c here.

Article updated on December 1, 2018 at 10:25 AM PST

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