I was very fortunate to attend the 2013 LA Auto Show on Press Day courtesy of my friends at Kelley Blue Book, which is the first time I’ve been to a “Press-Only” event on this scale. It was a truly amazing experience, as each automaker had a 20 minute press event where their president or other C-level executive would brief the press on the latest and greatest from the company, and then introduce 1-2 new models they’re debuting as part of the show. I was really impressed at what great presenters each auto exec was, it was clear these speeches were well rehearsed and these executives have spent a lot of time honing their public speaking skills.
Audi was of course my favorite event, where they debuted the all-new A3 line-up; the A3 sedan, the S3 sedan, the A3 etron, and the A3 convertible. Scott Keogh (above), President of Audi of America, gave the opening remarks and was an excellent presenter – he gave an update on Audi’s phenominal growth, their commitment to building technologically advanced and “connected” cars, and a goal of hitting 400% growth by 2018. Most of all, he introduced the new A3 lineup, which should definitely help towards that 400% goal – I am SO EXCITED over these cars.
I’ve been saying for a while now that while I love my B7, I wish it were smaller and lighter. The new A3 delivers on that front, as these cars are perfect sized for a 20-30 year old that only needs occasional use of the back seat – I wouldn’t want it for a large family, but it’s perfect for someone who wants something a little more versatile than a 2 door coupe yet doesn’t want to sacrifice the sportiness, fuel economy, and handling of a sports car.
The A3 etron will be a great car for the eco-friendly, and Audi intentionally designed it to work well as a car first, and an electric car second – it still has a gas motor for road trips (and to charge the electronic motor, I presume) yet has plug-in hybrid capabilities for shorter commutes and city driving. It still looks like a “normal car” and has all of the luxury and refinement you’d expect from an Audi, which is much different than competitors in the segment like the Prius or even the upcoming Cadillac ELR which feel like a step down from the Audi.
The A3 convertible will be an interesting offering, and I’m guessing will be most popular with the female demographic. It isn’t something I’m terribly interested in, but I think it will find a market here.
The S3; however, is where it’s at for me. It’s an absolutely beautiful car, the 296hp turbo engine will be a lot of fun (and I’m guessing highly tunable with a bigger turbo, exhaust and software), and it’s size and weight will make sure it’s very peppy and enjoyable to drive. The car was debuted in red which is my favorite color, which leaves just one question for me – price. The A3 is rumored to start around $29-30K here in the US Market (that’s FWD and Auto though, one combo I won’t be doing again), and guesses as to the S3 pricing have ranged from $39-50k. If Audi could price it under $40k that would be amazing, although I’m guessing most would choose at least a few options like a rear sports diff to push it into the low 40s – still, not a bad price. When these come out, I’m going to have to take a long and hard look at my finances and strongly consider buying one of these 🙂
Last but not least – the A3 sedan will be a great car for a wide & diverse group of buyers here in the US. Gone is the hatchback form and introduced is the sedan – while I never minded the hatchback personally, the sedan should sell much better here in the US. The lines on it are great, and the price point of this car should ensure a good volume of sales especially among younger buyers. Those younger buyers are then likely to become lifelong Audi buyers (such as what happened to me) after they fall in love with the brand, the design, and the service that Audi delivers.
In addition to the A3 series lineup, Audi had a matte blue R8, a matte Daytona Grey RS7, and a silver RS5 cabriolet on display, as well as display of their interior & exterior finishes, some new steering wheel designs, and even their recent KBB Best Resale Value Award for the Audi A5 in the luxury segment – congrats, Audi!
Jaguar Land Rover
Following Audi, my second favorite event was Jaguar / Land Rover. I’ve been a lifelong Jaguar fan as my grandfather was a Jag collector, and I’m super happy to see the brand thriving and the new designs that Ian Callum is penning taking the show by storm. The F-Type Coupe was introduced, and although it’s really just an F-Type with a fixed roof – it’s still an impressive debut. Jaguar also debuted an SUV concept and Land Rover introduced the Range Rover Autobiography edition which is an extended wheelbase Rover with even more luxury packed into the back seat – perfect for those who prefer to be driven around rather than drive themselves.
Porsche had their own hall of the LA Convention Center and rolled out the red carpet for the press with the “Macan Lounge” that offered gourmet food and even champagne for those interested. They of course debuted the new Macan, which is built on the Audi Q5 platform and will slate under the Cayenne for Porsche SUV buyers. The Macan is more directly comparable to the SQ5 but offers unique features such as air ride suspension, rear sports differential, and a DSG suspension. Between the size and those features, this is going to be a REALLY fun car to drive. Furthermore it’s extremely good looking, so I think this car will be a smashing hit for those that can afford.
Also on display was the 918 Spyder, a plug-in hybrid version of the Panamera, and the new Porsche 911 Turbo S Cabriolet. The 918 Spyder is truly amazing in person, I had only seen photos online up until this event. I was saddened the Porsche Carrera GT (their previous halo car) never was quite the sales success it should have been, and hope the brand has more success with the 918 Spyder.
The team from Stuttgart also had an impressive display, introducing a bevvy of new vehicles including the GLA, GLA45, AMG Vision GT concept and the SLS Final Edition. The Mercedes executive explained the business case for the GLA – the compact crossover is growing in importance and interest among buyers – I can’t help but think this car is going to be a bit of a flop for them, much like the R-series. The Mercedes styling direction just works better on some models than others, and I’m not really sure it works well on the GLA’s proportions, ride height and body style. Time will tell and I’ve certainly been wrong about these kinds of things in the past, but I am confident this will never be my favorite Mercedes in the line-up.
The Mercedes AMG Vision GT was a really amazing concept however. It was super low, wide, had humongous wheels, and screamed “impractical concept car” but at the same time commanded quite a presence and gave us all a sneak peak of what the SLS replacement might look like. I think it’s no coincidence the debut the SLS final edition and this car simultaneously, giving the SLS its swan song while getting our wheels turning on what it’s replacement will look like. I’m excited to see a toned down version of this car in more of a production-ready form, once they give it a normal paint job, remove the LED light show in the grille, and give it a more practical ride-height and wheel/tire combo I think this car will still command quite a presence and excite a lot of buyers.
Aftermarket & Others
Lotus had a great display, as did Saleen. The Aftermarket hall was full of nicely modified cars, although it was no SEMA. I did spy some of the Liberty Walk cars that made quite a splash at SEMA (although I can’t say I’m personally a fan of this styling whatsoever), and also spotted was the GMG Lamborghini Super Trofeo of Jenner Racing which is raced by Bruce Jenner of “Keeping up with the Kardashians” fame. Mr. Jenner and his family are now doing less reality TV shows and more racing, which I think is awesome. There were a lot of other great cars in display, including many more Audis. I’ll let the pictures do the rest of the talking, so sit back and enjoy!