2 Glorious Days at the 2011 L.A. Auto Show

I had the privilege of attending the 2011 LA Auto Show.

Actually it’s officially called the Greater LA Auto Show, which makes me think there is a significantly lesser one too. Luckily I hit up the right one.

It was my first experience at a major auto show – as far as I understand, LA is one of the biggest, surpassed only by Frankfurt, Tokyo, New York and possibly Detroit. As far as I’m concerned, it was absolutely huge.

Now, the scale of the Frankfurt show is something else entirely. A friend of mine was at this year’s Frankfurt show, and shared a ton of pictures with me. It looks like manufacturers pull out all the stops there, but from my perspective, and from a first-timer, LA was truly awesome! I guess if my aspiration is to make it to Frankfurt one day, LA was the best place to prepare myself for the insanity.

I’m not going to bore you with further details. Suffice it to say that it’s a big trade show, and it’s important to the manufacturers, especially those who may be premiering new cars to the world.  I appreciated the passion of each manufacturer, as they revealed what they had worked on to the world.  Whether I cared about the vehicle or not, it was interesting to experience how much a new vehicle means to a manufacturer – and how much effort goes into introducing the bouncing baby to the automotive world.

I’d love to share the experiences and vehicles that I stood out for me during these three days in LA, for one reason or another. I’m posting them in no particular order, other than the order that I saw them in.

I’m assigning my patented, scientifically-derived WIN (Wildsau Importance Number) from 1-10 to each one, and I’ll briefly tell you why I took something about this particular experience, event or vehicle away with me.  Of course, my WIN system is ridiculous, and not a rating of the actual car, but rather how important it was to me at the time.  An emotional rating, if you will.  Give me a break, I just had some fun with it.

As usual, when I say “briefly”, I mean “if you’re lucky, it could come in under 10,000 words”.  Anyway, you can just look at the pretty pictures too. Here we go:

The Montage Beverly Hills

WIN: 9/10

I stayed at the Montage Beverly Hills. I can’t overstate the volume of hospitality that is showered on their guests, and the exceptional level of luxury in every single facet of what they do there. Also, if you’re a car person, the parking lot is a constant smorgasbord of exotic automotive flavors. Highly recommended!

Ferrari and Maserati of Beverly Hills

WIN: 6/10

A quick stroll down Wilshire Boulevard will land you on the (almost invisible) doorstep of this dealership. The showroom and back hall are littered with pre-owned Ferraris and a few new Maseratis. It’s just amazing to be in the presence of so much incredible machinery. When I first stepped in, I didn’t know which curves and swooping lines and deep lustrous paint jobs to soak up first. Be forewarned: the previously-loved Ferraris for sale all come “as-is”, with no warranty implied or given.

2013 Ford Mustang Reveal party

WIN: 7/10

On the evening of November 15th, I was invited to the reveal party for the new 2013 Mustang. The cars are cool, no doubt (650 HP in the Shelby GT500, anyone?), and the party was something to behold. It was in the fabled Belasco Theatre, and there was nothing that wasn’t thought of. Unlimited food and drinks and the hospitality was second to none – we were left wanting for nothing. It was epic – but there was a crowning moment for me: The 2013 Shelby GT500 was presented to us by the legendary Carroll Shelby himself. To be in the same building as him, never mind the same room, was a big deal to me.

The incredibly beautiful Mitsubishi i-MiEV

WIN: 0.5/10

Haha – just seeing if you’re paying attention. I guess on some level the i-MiEV is important because it’s an electric vehicle, and will compete with the Nissan Leaf, and others, but seriously – a woodie wagon? That’s an embarassment to all the cool woodie wagons out there. C’mon, Mitsu.

Audi e-tron

WIN: 8/10

I absolutely love this car, for several reasons. First of all, it’s loosely based on the Audi R8, which is near the top of my favorite cars list. It’s beautiful. It’s breathtaking. It belongs in a museum celebrating awesomeness. Secondly, it’s a responsible and somewhat forward-thinking car – it’s a hybrid, with an electric component, and a turbo-diesel engine. Although this is a priceless, hand-made one-off that will never see production, it shows us where Audi, and others, could be headed – and the future looks delicious!

Lexus LFA

WIN: 8/10

I used to hate the LFA. I can’t explain it, but I just felt it was an over-priced, bloated, obsolete showcase for Toyota, and I never felt much of anything toward it except disdain. Until I saw one in the flesh. Yes, I’ve seen the Nurburgring videos of this monster absolutely destroying the Nordschleife. Yes, I understand that it’s faster than most cars ever conceived. But it took seeing one in real life to make this car come alive to me. I love it now, and I can see why someone would buy one. It does so much so well, and it really does look hot. Also, Adam Carolla was talking about it. See? Right there he’s saying “Hey, it’s that awesome Wildsau guy! How do I get his autograph?”

Subaru BRZ concept

WIN: 7.5/10

I wasn’t expecting to fall in love with this car. But I did. Pictures don’t really do this one justice. It’s got presence. And it’s a big deal. It’s the love-child, the result of a joining of forces by Subaru and Toyota. And it’s a beautiful baby. It uses Subaru’s boxer engine, and I think that will go a long way in bringing the center of gravity down and making this car highly tune-able. I really like the purposeful lines, and the aggression it exudes. I wasn’t sold on the front end – it’s a bit meh, but the rest of it says track-ready! If you want to see what the front end SHOULD look like, see the Scion FR-S later on in my post. It’s this car’s twin underneath. It’s going to be fascinating to see how Subaru markets this bad boy, because it’s rear-wheel drive. Which is breaking Subaru’s one commandment that they’ve set out to carve into stone over the last decade or so, which is everything Subaru is all-wheel drive. Either way, I can’t wait to drive one!

Mercedes C63 AMG Black Series

WIN: 9/10

Why is this ridiculous thing so important to me? Because I want it. I want it bad. It is ludicrous in every way, as is every other Black Series car AMG has festooned the planet with. And that’s what makes it one of my wanted cars. There isn’t anything sane about it, and even the looks are exaggerated, from the gargantuan fender flares, the monster rubber and the goofy wing – not to mention the 510 HP lurking under the hood. Of course, not even Stevie Wonder would be surprised at that – have you heard one of these? It will peel your flesh off. With awesomeness.

Cadillac CIEL

WIN: 8/10

There are several reasons I am smitten by the CIEL. The looks just do it for me. It is enormous – I mean, seriously, this is thing is a leviathan. It’s opulent. It doesn’t make excuses, or pussy-foot around some eco-weenie’s agenda. Nope, it’s just a statement. Pure and simple, it’s something Cadillac wanted to do, and it does two things for me – it goes back and gives a knowing nod at their roots and history, while taking a big step into the future. And it does those two things in terms of styling and in terms of tech.

Ford Focus ST

WIN: 7/10

I was dying to see this car – and I wasn’t disappointed. The styling alone speaks volumes, but the bite under the aggressive skin backs up the bark. Ford should sell a lot of these if the price remains reasonable.

Ford Escape

WIN: 6/10

This vehicle gained some importance to me while I visited the show. Maybe it wasn’t so much the vehicle itself, which I did quite like, but rather the vibe surrounding it. The Escape is one of Ford’s stars. It has been the #1 selling SUV in America. That’s no small feat, even with the shrinking fortunes of the SUV market. So what did Ford do? Instead of the if-it-ain’t-broke, don’t-fix-it approach, they redesigned the entire vehicle from the inside out. This is as all-new as it gets, including the drivetrain.

The looks and feature set appealed to me, although it’s too small to fit my family. I realized how valuable this vehicle was to Ford as I admired Ford’s incredible passion for this vehicle and their dedication to bringing something new and fresh to the market. It will be interesting to see whether North America continues to embrace the Escape – it certainly brings a lot to the table, from what I learned, but it also has strong competition.

VW Golf R

WIN: 9/10

This is one of the cars that I’m most excited about. It might look like a GTI, and somewhere, deep down, it is one. But this one is actually the GTI’s insane twin – on steroids. Lots of changes under the familiar skin, including all-wheel drive, bigger brakes, retuned suspension and 27o HP snorting out of dual center tailpipes, make this a car I can’t wait to drive.  Not to mention the lovely changes to the familiar skin itself, with looks akin to some of it’s Audi RS cousins, with those huge intakes in the front.  Need four doors?  No problem – that’s available.  And it’s a car that mere mortals can afford. How do you beat that?

Jaguar C-X16

WIN: 8/10

I was honestly surprised that some folks weren’t taken with this vehicle’s design. I know design is subjective, but I loved this car the second I laid eyes on the real thing. I felt it was another nod to a company’s heritage, as well as a futuristic look at options for what might be coming, including a hybrid powertrain. I’ve heard that some GM designers were quite critical about this car – hilarious, considering what GM has brought us lately, design-wise. Hey, everyone’s entitled to their opinion, most of all in terms of looks, and in my opinion, this car is a winner. It’s real, it’s possible, and it’s not too out there for Jaguar to actually bring it to production.

Porsche 911

WIN: 10/10

Don’t get me wrong.  My WIN scores aren’t a reflection of what I think of the car as a vehicle – it’s a reflection of how important this car was to me at the LA Auto Show.  This car has faults, no doubt.  I wasn’t completely smitten with the front end styling.  It’s expensive.  So, you see, it’s not perfect.

It is simply not within my vocabulary to describe what I feel about this car. The 911 has always been my dream car. I mean, if you play your cards right, you could afford one some day, right? Sure, I’d love a Bugatti too, but realistically, this is still the car for me.

The 1993 3.6 Turbo was the last Porsche that excited me – and until now, has always been my favorite. That all changed when Porsche unveiled this thing. I needn’t say any more.  I love you, new 911.  I love you very much.

Fiat Abarth 500

WIN: 6/10

I haven’t had the pleasure of driving a 500 yet, but I hope when I do, it’s an Abarth. I’ve heard almost exclusively positive reviews about the fun factor of the 500, and the Abarth can only make that better. 60% more horsepower, lower ride height, fatter rubber, two big exhaust pipes and character. What’s not to love? Well, there probably are some things, like the interior, but let’s focus on the positive, mmmmkay?

Sadly, Fiat also introduced the Gucci 500.  You may all shake your heads in collective sorrow for humanity at this time.

Land Rover DC100 – the Defender concept

WIN: 5/10

I love this more for historical reasons. I was always a Defender fan, and remain a big fan today. I thought you’d find me driving a Defender 90 some day, with the retarded V8 they put in the North American model, but would have preferred a real Defender 110 with a diesel in it. Sadly, they never made it here. That’s why I was excited to hear there is a Defender concept and that Land Rover isn’t dumping the Defender line. I’m not sure how I feel about this, but it’s good to know that we’ll likely have Defenders for future generations to jungle-hop with.

Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet

WIN: 1/10

Just checking to make sure you’re still awake. This is on my top 5 dumbest vehicles list. Honestly, if you buy this vehicle, or even like it, or even appreciate the thinking behind it, I will unfriend you on Facebook, and never take you or your kids seriously. Ever.

Toyota Prius V

WIN: 2/10

Gotcha! You thought I was back to being serious, didn’t you? Actually, I’m a wagon nerd, and I have to say, compared to the normal Prius, the V caught my eye. But that’s like saying, compared to the fresh, steaming manure pile swarming with huge black flies over there, this dog with no legs and no tail and no hair is actually kind of endearing and cute. Sorry, I couldn’t come up with anything better. But yeah, I’ll pass on the Prius, period. Now that I think about it, it will make a lovely taxi cab. I’ll boost it up to a 2/10 for that. That’s important, isn’t it?

Audi R8 GT Spyder

WIN: 9.9/10

I really can’t think of anything about this vehicle that I don’t passionately love. I deducted 0.1 points because I don’t have one.

Volvo You concept

WIN: 6/10

I was pleasantly surprised by the Volvo concept – the more I looked at it, the more I saw some innovation and potential. Good on them for heading in a new direction – who knows how much of this we’d ever see in production, but I liked what I saw. Except the name. “YOU”? Really?

Scion FR-S concept

WIN: 7/10

Now this was a yummy car – the technical twin to the Subaru BRZ. A slightly less purposeful look, with more emotion in it. I just wish Toyota had claimed it for themselves and put out a sports car again. It’s got potential, with tons of room to move when you hand it to tuners – why not tell the world that Toyota hasn’t rolled over in its Corolla-shaped casket and bowed out of the sports car game for good? I think Toyota would benefit far more from bringing this car to market than Scion will, but hey, that’s just me.

Hot Wheels Bone Shaker

WIN: 10/10

The Bone Shaker – in real life. Come on!

Rolls Royce Ghost – but only this particular one

WIN: 8/10

I hadn’t seen a lot of Rolls-Royce Ghosts to date – we have a few in Edmonton, but they’re rare.  Once I arrived at my hotel in Beverly Hills, anything less than an SLS-AMG, a Bentley or a Rolls-Royce seemed quite pedestrian in comparison.  The affluence is astonishing, and you almost get conditioned to seeing very expensive vehicles rolling in and out of the hotel’s courtyard.  But this one was different.  Why?  Because it’s the hotel car – and I got a ride in it.  As in, I got chauffeured in it.  I felt like royalty for a few hours, and I have to say, it was fun.  The car itself is nothing to sneeze at, and the comfort and luxury in the back seat is significantly beyond anything I’ve ever experienced in any car before.  But for one afternoon, this car was mine.  I’ll never forget that experience.

Thanks for coming along for the ride. 

I saw a lot in LA, in Beverly Hills and at the Auto Show, and I enjoyed every moment of my visit.  To date, a major auto show was on my bucket list, and I am very grateful for the chance to have been there and experienced it.

It would be remiss of me to neglect the personal contacts I made in LA, including meeting several online friends with whom I share a passion for all things vehicle-related, and being able to connect with endless industry and manufacturer contacts.  Highlights were meeting Ian Merritt and Lois Holakeituai – both awesome people who made my day!

I want to thank Ford Canada for giving me this awesome opportunity, and for making every moment there an awesome one.  Their hospitality and their ability to make us feel special at every event made a great stay a truly memorable one, and I’m very grateful to them for that.