After a futuristic show in Tokyo and Dubai, all eyes of the auto enthusiasts are now on the Los Angeles Auto Show, where automakers are debuting their key models this year.
Updated versions of big sellers like the Ford Escape, Nissan Sentra and Hyundai Elantra are there, as well as new luxury vehicles like the Alfa Romeo Giulia sedan, the Cadillac XT5 SUV and the Land Rover Evoque Convertible.
There’s some flash, with the Porsche Cayman GT4 Clubsport race car, and some hints of the future, with concept cars from Volvo and Subaru and a three-wheeler from startup Elio Motors.
Automakers are showing off in California because it’s a hot market. It leads other states in new vehicle sales, according to IHS Automotive, and sales there are expected to hit their highest level in a decade this year.
Here are some of the hot cars at this year’s show, which opens to the public Friday:
ALFA ROMEO GIULIA:
Fiat Chrysler’s Alfa Romeo brand jumps into the midsize luxury sedan market with the Giulia. The Italian-made car with the trademark triangle grille, hood creases and beefy-looking exhaust comes with a Ferrari-derived 2.9-liter, 505 horsepower twin-turbo V6 that takes the car from zero to 60 mph in 3.8 seconds. Alfa says the new rear-drive sedan has near-perfect front-to-rear weight distribution for crisp handling. Initially it comes only with a six-speed manual transmission. Production begins for North America late in the second quarter. The Giulia will start about $70,000.
The first of four new crossover SUVs that finally will give General Motors’ struggling luxury brand entries in the hottest part of the global auto market. The XT5 is slightly smaller than the aging SRX it replaces, yet it has more interior room. The company says use of unique laser welding techniques and lighter-weight, high-strength steel help make the five-seat crossover 278 pounds lighter than the outgoing model. That makes it more agile. In the US, the 2017 XT5 gets an all-new 310 horsepower 3.6-liter V6 with an eight-speed automatic transmission. It looks similar to the SRX but it’s rounded without the severe angles of the old vehicle. Pricing wasn’t announced, but the SRX starts at $36,600. Production starts in the spring.
HONDA CIVIC COUPE:
Honda’s new two-door Civic Coupe is the second in a series of Civic variants coming to the U.S. over the next 18 months, including a five-door hatchback. The Civic Coupe has a sportier ride and styling and a quieter, more refined interior. It’s more spacious inside, with an added five inches of rear legroom. New options include Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capability. Under the hood are two more powerful engines: a 158-horsepower, 2-liter four-cylinder and the Coupe’s first turbocharged engine, which gets 174 horsepower. Both get an estimated 35 mpg in city/highway driving. The 2016 Civic Coupe goes on sale in March. Coupe pricing wasn’t announced, but the 2016 sedan starts at $18,640.
FIAT 124 SPIDER:
Fiat gets away from cute, bulbous and tiny with an Italian-designed two-seat sports car. The low-slung convertible has some classic looks of its predecessor from nearly 50 years ago, but it comes with many modern updates. The rear-wheel-drive roadster is powered by Fiat’s venerable 1.4-liter turbocharged engine that puts out 160 horsepower. It comes with six-speed manual or automatic transmissions. Price wasn’t announced. It arrives at dealers in the summer.
The 2017 Lincoln MKZ is getting an updated look and a big increase in power. It’s the first production model to drop the brand’s polarizing grille - which looked, to many, like the mouth of a baleen whale - in favor of a design that debuted on the Continental sedan concept earlier this year. The new grille is a mesh made up of repeated, rectangular Lincoln logos; it has an elegant, mid-century modern look. Under the hood is a new, Lincoln-exclusive 3.0-liter V6 engine with 400 horsepower; that’s a 100-horsepower increase from Lincoln’s current top-of-the-line V6. A hybrid is also available. The MKZ also has new technology, including an adaptive cruise control system that can work in stop-and-go traffic and a high-end audio system. The 2017 MKZ goes on sale in summer 2016.
Ford’s small SUV, which got a major redesign in 2013, gets some updates for the 2017 model year. The new Escape has a wider, trapezoidal grille to match its bigger sibling, the Ford Edge. For fuel savings, it has two new EcoBoost four-cylinder engines - a 180-horsepower 1.5-liter and a 245-horsepower 2.0-liter - and stop-start technology, which automatically shuts off and restarts the engine at stop lights. The Escape is the first vehicle with Sync Connect, which lets users do multiple tasks through their phones, including unlock doors and remotely start the car at the same time each day. The new Escape goes on sale in summer 2016. Pricing hasn’t been announced.