The 2007 Los Angeles Auto Show is kicking off the new American automotive model year in style. With over 15 models making their North American debuts, the show is proving that it can measure up to Detroit as a launchpad for new vehicles. Here is our roundup of brand-new production cars from the show floor.
The 2008 Buick Enclave is a stylish entrant into the crowded crossover SUV segment. The Enclave is offered in CX and CXL trims and comes with an impressive lineup of optional comfort features, including a rear-seat DVD entertainment system, a voice-activated and touch-screen navigation system, a Bose audio system, and XM Satellite Radio. All Enclaves will come with a 275-horsepower V-6 engine, and will be available in dealer showrooms next summer.
The 2008 Aura Green Line Hybrid makes use of the same belt alternator system (BAS) technology that GM pioneered in the Saturn Vue Green Line Hybrid, and will deliver a 25 percent increase in fuel economy over the gasoline-only Aura, according to Saturn. Production of the Aura Green Line Hybrid is scheduled to begin in March 2007, and the car is expected to have a base price of less than $23,000.
The Saturn Vue also gets a makeover for the 2008 model year. Exterior lines are considerably softened compared with the previous model's, and vents have been added to the front fenders--we assume to better cool the big, 3.6-liter V-6 engine in the XR and Red Line versions. Any Vue with a V-6 also gets a new six-speed automatic transmission. But Saturn doesn't end its technical upgrades there. The Vue will now have a navigation system as an option, and even the standard stereo plays MP3 CDs. There will also be a new Green Line version of the '08 Vue, which will serve as the platform for GM's much-anticipated plug-in hybrid vehicle.
Ford chose the LA show to unveil its redesigned 2008 Escape, which comes in straight gasoline or hybrid flavors. The Escape gets an exterior redesign that emulates its big brothers in Ford's SUV lineup, with the front grille and headlights serving to emphasize the Ford-truck look. On the tech side, the Escape gets a much-needed overhaul with a bigger LCD screen, an in-dash six-CD changer (which was under the passenger's seat in previous models), and an auxiliary jack that comes standard.
We saw the coupe version of the second-generation 2008 Audi TT earlier this year in Paris, but we had to wait until LA to set eyes on the convertible. Bucking the trend among automakers toward retractable hardtops, Audi chose a traditional cloth top for its roadster, which comes with either a turbo-charged four-cylinder engine, or a 3.2-liter V-6 that churns out 250 horsepower. In common with the coupe, the TT convertible features a self-activating rear spoiler that deploys when the car travels at speeds above 75mph.
The Nissan Altima has had something of a personality change over the last couple of months. First, it appeared as a hybrid, and now it sheds two of its doors to try its hand as a coupe. The 2008 Altima Coupe is offered with the same choice of engines as the sedan: a 2.5-liter four-cylinder, and a 3.5-liter V-6. It also comes with many of the upscale tech features that we have seen in Infiniti models, such as an Intelligent Key, Bluetooth hands-free calling, and touch-screen navigation.
As well as the power roof (which can be activated from a switch in the cabin or with the car's key fob), the 2008 Chrysler Sebring convertible comes with a wealth of tech features including Chrysler's MyGig system, which gives drivers a built-in 20GB hard drive for storing audio and visual media files and navigation information. The system downloads files either by ripping discs or via an integrated USB 2.0 port in the head unit. MyGig also provides the car with real-time traffic navigation, which is delivered via Sirius Satellite Radio.
BMW unveiled its next-generation, 2008 X5 in LA, and we're pleased to announce that the cassette player from the 2006 model is gone. In its place is a veritable host of interior tech features, including a simplified iDrive, a rear-seat entertainment system that pops up from the central rear console, and a snazzy new manumatic shifter. The 2008 BMW X5 also features an available third row of seats and two choices of engine in the form of a 3-liter in-line six-cylinder plant making 260 horsepower, and a 4.8-liter V-8, good for 350 horsepower. Most impressive were the new X5's power seats that can be adjusted in more than 20 different ways.
Chrysler showed off its 2008 Sebring with a power-retractable hardtop, following the recent trend among automakers to offer an alternative to traditional ragtops. Like that of the Volvo C70, the Sebring's roof folds away in an elaborate process of interleaving panels, with the whole process taking less than 30 seconds from start to finish. Chrysler claims that the car will be able to fit two golf bags (the perennial unit of volume measurement for automakers) in the trunk when the top is down. The Sebring Convertible will come with the choice of a four-cylinder, or one of two V-6 engines.
The 2008 GMC Yukon Hybrid will be the second production car to use GM's two-mode hybrid system that lets cars operate entirely on electric, entirely on gasoline, or on a combination of both. The V-8 Yukon Hybrid will offer drivers a 25 percent increase in fuel economy over the gasoline-only Yukon, and will arrive at dealers toward the end of 2007.
Also going topless for the LA Auto Show is the Aston Martin V-8 Vantage. The soft-top stows beneath a hard tonneau cover to ensure that the Vantage convertible doesn't lose any of its flowing exterior lines. The car comes with available GPS navigational system with a retractable in-dash display and an optional integrated Bluetooth telephone, into which users have to insert their cell-phone SIM cards. Not quite up to 007's standards.
For those denizens of LA who want a Lamborghini Murcielago but just can't do without the sunshine, the Italian automaker has the answer in the form of the $350,000 Murcielago LP640 Roadster. The new drop-top Lambo offers new front and rear bumpers, a new rear diffuser, and new brake lights. Inside, the instrument panel has been redesigned, and now features a Kenwood media player. Unchanged is the Murcielago's 6.5-liter, 12-cylinder engine that can catapult the beast from 0 to 60mph in less than 3.4 seconds.
There's a new baby in the Land Rover family. The LR2 compact premium SUV arrives fresh from its European launch, and provides a smaller alternative to those who want the prestige and off-road capabilities of a Land Rover, without the gas-guzzler tax. The LR2 comes with a 3.2-liter inline six-cylinder engine, and is loaded with many of the tech goodies we've seen in its Range Rover and Land Rover big siblings, including Land Rover's Terrain Response system.
At the other end of the compact SUV market, the 2007 Kia Rondo looks to attract buyers looking for an entry-level crossover. The standard five-passenger Rondo has option of a third row of seats providing seating for seven, and comes with either a four-cylinder or V-6 power plant. It comes in a choice of EX and LX trim levels, with the latter offering an MP3-compatible stereo, a few extra speakers, and some interior leather trim.