New Jeep Wrangler, two large SUVs tee up for LA auto show
Early bets on the stars of the upcoming Los Angeles auto show include the new Jeep Wrangler, and larger SUVs from Subaru, Lexus.
Wayne CunninghamManaging Editor / Roadshow
Wayne Cunningham reviews cars and writes about automotive technology for CNET's Roadshow. Prior to the automotive beat, he covered spyware, Web building technologies, and computer hardware. He began covering technology and the Web in 1994 as an editor of The Net magazine.
Next week, when we all emerge from our Thanksgiving-induced food comas, the Los Angeles auto show serves up another kind of feast, a table full of hotly anticipated cars, and likely some surprise unveilings. Roadshow editors are eager to hit the show floor, with the big draw this year being an all-new version of the venerable Jeep Wrangler.
SUVs seem the order of the day for this year's show, as Subaru, Lexus and Infiniti have teased new and updated vehicles. In addition, Toyota promises an intriguing SUV concept. Passenger cars in the mix include a new Mercedes-Benz CLS and a Mazda6.
Wrangler has been an offroad icon for many years, the apex of Jeep's Trail-Rated reputation. We expect Jeep to maintain, and likely improve, the Wrangler's offroad chops, as the company knows this model's value to the brand. Hints suggest that Jeep will lighten the Wrangler's load with aluminum in its structure, boosting fuel economy. Leaks suggest the new model will get a 2-liter turbocharged engine, along with a V6.
For modern comfort, there's a hint that a power-retractable top will be available. The Wrangler is likely to be available with FCA's latest UConnect infotainment system, with connected navigation features. We also expect historic Wrangler cues to remain, such as a fold-down front windshield, for those whole live on a diet of bugs, and removable doors to help dust up the cabin.
Fans of Subaru with growing families will be happy to know they can stick with the brand, as the automaker will show off its new Ascent SUV in Los Angeles. Ascent is an all-new model for Subaru, an SUV able to carry at least six, and probably seven, in its three seating rows. Given Subaru's fans, that might mean any combination of kids and dogs.
At the New York auto show last April, Subaru showed off a concept version of the Ascent, which we don't expect to change much for production. The grille looks beefier than that on the Outback, but the low roofline keeps the concept from looking too mammoth. We expect a 2.4-liter flat four cylinder engine under the hood, along with the availability of Subaru's Eyesight driver assistance system, which uses cameras to detect traffic and pedestrians ahead.
As with Subaru's other SUVs, expect all-wheel-drive to come standard, and a ground clearance specification of 8.7 inches.
Lexus RX 350L
Given the popularity of Lexus' five passenger luxury SUV, the RX model, a don't-mess-with-success strategy might seem wise. But as its recent jaw-dropping redesign hasn't hurt sales, it looks like Lexus has a bit of wiggle room, so came up with a larger, three-row seating version of its most popular SUV. Enter the RX 350L, where we assume the "L" designation stands for large.
Lexus released little information about the new RX variant, but it is fair to guess it won't deviate much from the five-passenger model. The stretched body will likely carry the same, massive "spindle" grille and sharp lines. The 3.5-liter V6 engine of the RX 350 will certainly serve for the RX 350L. The biggest questions come around how that third row will be packaged, including how easily it will be to access. Will it seat adults comfortably or serve as a rolling black site detention center?
Infiniti SUV update
After a period of little activity, Infiniti has been showing increased life in the past couple of years, reenergizing its model line-up. For the Los Angeles show, the company has promised us "the most advanced Infiniti in our history." With no photo or other information beyond a designer's sketch of the car's profile, we're left to mere speculation.
However, it looks like Infiniti is updating its QX50 small crossover model. If it follows the update given to the Q50 sedan, that would mean a new, efficient engine and sport handling technology. Given Infiniti's boast, we expect a bit more, like maybe Infiniti's equivalent to sister-brand Nissan's Pro-Pilot driver assistance technology.
Toyota FT-AC concept
In Toyota nomenclature, "FT" means Future Toyota, signifying a concept vehicle, and in this example, "AC" stands for Adventure Concept. What we have from Toyota about the FT-AC concept debut is a name and a very dark photo of the front end. What we expect is a look at Toyota's thinking towards what a future small to medium-sized SUV might look like.
The photo released by Toyota shows a set of LED lights on either side at the top of the windshield, a modern take on rollbar-mounted KC lights of the past, suggesting offroad capability. Might the FT-AC be a Wrangler-competitor, or a future version of Toyota's 4Runner? It might be an evolution of the FT-4X concept shown at the New York auto show earlier this year. We have questions, and will soon have answers.
Leaving the world of SUVs for high-end luxury, Mercedes-Benz sent out a couple of teaser images for its new CLS-Class. This top-to-bottom update promises to take the existing four-door coupe, with its very lovely styling, and applying the company's latest engineering, styling and technology.
So far, we know that this updated model will be sold in the US as the CLS450 and CLS450 4Matic, as rear-wheel- and all-wheel-drive versions. Under the hood, expect a turbocharged six cylinder engine. The new CLS-Class shares a platform with the E-Class, so expect some carry over equipment, but Mercedes-Benz is likely to push this new car into a higher echelon with more luxurious cabin appointments.
And a few more things
Along with these highly anticipated cars, we're looking forward to a roadster version of BMW i8 hybrid sports car and a refreshed Mazda6 sedan, not to mention a few debuts that automakers are currently keeping under quiet about, waiting to pull back the curtain.
The 2017 Los Angeles auto show kicks off with the Automobility conference and press preview the week after Thanksgiving, with most cars being unveiled on Wednesday, Nov. 29.