Porsche, Audi and Rivian — the best cars from the LA Auto Show

A mega SUV, an electric truck and the rebirth of a German icon

By HANNAH ELLIOTT / Pic By BlOOMBERG

This week, visitors to the Los Angeles (LA) Auto Show might find it feels a little different from the other trade shows that have dominated headlines in 2018. In addition to showing the electrics and massive SUVs that dominated headlines at the trade shows from Geneva to Detroit this year, LA had something for everyone. Closer to it, at least.

Along with the likes of Audi AG’s electric E-Tron GT and Bayerische Motoren Werke AG’s first-ever three-row SUV, the 60 debuts included updates on large luxury sedans, a couple of practical and expensive convertibles, and the latest imagining of the 54-year-old Porsche 911.

What’s more, the show suffered two large gaps in its otherwise-customary executive attendance: Nissan Motor Co’s Carlos Ghosn and Mary Barra of General Motors Co (GM) did not attend. In fact, Nissan’s unexpected ouster of its longtime leader and GM’s news that it will close seven plants, cut 14,000 jobs and stop production on several sedans nearly drowned out news of a new, Wrangler-like pickup from FCA US LLC’s Jeep and several all-new SUVs from Honda Motor Co and Hyundai Motor Co, which were supposed to be big attention-getters.

That said, there were still plenty of cars to see on the show floor. (It’s open to the public from Nov 30 to Dec 9.) Here are some of the best. — Bloomberg

Speed Racer 

The Mercedes-Benz AMG GT Pro (main picture) is a super-aggressively tuned version of AMG’s twin-turbocharged V-8 engine, paired with AMG’s seven-speed, dual-clutch gearbox. It has a stiffer suspension, less weight and stickier tyres to provide greater grip and speed.

The carbon-ceramic braking system, optional on the regular AMG GT R, comes standard on the Pro, as do lightweight, twin five-spoke forged alloy wheels. A lot of standard carbon-fibre trim appears inside and outside the car.

Meanwhile, it has the same 577hp, 4.0-litre, twin-turbo V8 and seven-speed, dual-clutch, transaxle setup as the excellent Mercedes AMG GT. Pricing and availability dates haven’t been announced. We do know that only 750 examples of the GT R Pro will be made.

Ford’s Big Move

The Aviator is the first of two new SUVs coming from Ford Motor Co’s Lincoln brand by 2020 and will be the first Ford product to allow owners to use smartphones to unlock doors and start the vehicle.

The Aviator, with a design inspired by the downward slope of an airplane wing, is styled to woo wealthy young people who appreciate its softer lines and massive, plush interior. It might go up against the likes of the Cadillac Escalade, the Audi Q7 and the Volvo XC90.

“From our competitors, there’s an overwhelming feeling in the marketplace of masculinity, overtness and aggression,” David Woodhouse, Lincoln’s chief designer, said in March. “We want to be about seduction, not attack.”

The Future of Audi

The Audi E-tron GT concept is a 590hp, all-electric “coupe”. It has a 100kWh battery pack, a 248-mile range and a zero-60mph time of 3.5 seconds. It will be able to charge to 80% battery strength in 20 minutes. More than 60% of the car has the same components as Porsche’s electric Taycan sedan.

Audi unveiled the E-Tron SUV in September and the PB18 E-Tron supercar a few weeks before that. An Audi E-Tron Sportback will come next in the line-up. The Audi E-Tron GT will go into production by 2021.

“By 2025, 30% of our volume will be electric,” Audi of America president Mark Del Rosso has said.

Eighth Generation Icon

The Porsche 911 GT2 Carrera 4S. Porsche showed the new 911, known internally as 992, in two versions for its world premiere — a two-wheel-drive (2WD) 911 Carrera S and an all-wheel-drive (AWD) 911 Carrera 4S.

Porsche AG executives have stopped short of promising a hybrid, but have for months said it’s a strong possibility for future 911s. The 992 shows how it could be done: Its new, eight-speed PDK gearbox is slimmed down enough to easily accommodate a hybrid motor in the future.

In the meantime, the turbocharged, flat-six engine produces 443hp, a 23hp improvement over previous models. There’s a totally new configuration of cabin instruments and computer screens. A manual version of the car will come out in 2019.

Performance in a Suit

The BMW M340i. BMW returns to the show in LA with its largest-ever product offensive, featuring three world premiere production vehicles and a new concept, the Vision iNext SUV, that will preview the German automaker’s vision for the future.

With the M340i, BMW has used a 3.0-litre, six-cylinder inline engine that gets 382hp and 369lb-ft of torque. According to early numbers, it will be able to hit 62mph in 4.2 seconds and have a top speed of 155mph. A 2020 M340i xDrive version will offer AWD.

Pricing is unreleased, but the car will hit dealerships in summer 2019.

Electric Newcomer

The Rivian Automotive LLC R1T electric pickup truck. According to company executives, the R1T can hit 60mph in an astounding three seconds and can tow 11,000lbs. With its crew-cab and short bed, the R1T will be taking direct aim at the Ford F-150 Raptor and the truck offerings from Chevrolet and Fiat.

As an electric vehicle, though, it is far from alone. All told, nearly one-third of the debuts slated for the 2018 LA Show are electric or use alternative fuel, according to Lisa Kaz, president and CEO of AutoMobility LA and the LA Auto Show.

All of Rivian’s rigs will be assembled at a former Mitsubishi plant in Normal, Illinois. Deliveries are expected to take place in late 2020.

Affordable Practicality

A 2019 Honda Passport and a Talon Sport 1000R side-by-side utility vehicle. The Passport will join Honda’s line-up of automobiles, landing between the compact CR-V and larger Pilot.

Indeed, the company already dominates the SUV game with its CR-V. Its all-new Passport will be slightly larger and more expensive than that one, and will offer a third row of seats.

Honda will build the Passport in Lincoln, Alabama. It will go on sale in 2019.

For Drivers Only

The BMW M850i xDrive convertible and coupe. The convertible on the right is the open-air version of the handsome M850i coupe that BMW showed earlier this year.

Each has an impressively low, wide stance and a long, elegant body; the M850i convertible comes with a V-8, 523hp engine that can hit 60mph in 3.9 seconds. Its fabric roof deploys in 15 seconds. More importantly, it’s one of the few convertibles on the market with folding rear seats, allowing a lot more storage in the rear, even with the top down.

BMW, which showed a pre-production version of the M8 earlier this year in Geneva, is engaged in its biggest rollout of new models and variants in history. The M8 will ultimately be available in three versions — a two-door coupe, a convertible and a four-door.

The Dominator

A Jeep 2020 Gladiator Rubicon. Jeep is using the Wrangler-like pickup truck to re-enter the popular midsize truck market for the first time in more than two decades.

To make the truck, Jeep lengthened the Wrangler wheelbase by 19 inches and gave it a modified high-strength steel frame, adding 400lbs in the process.

The new model still has Wrangler’s fold-down windshield, removable top and doors, and 4WD for maximum off-road pleasure. Pricing is expected to run from US$35,000 (RM146,300) to US$45,000, depending on the trim level.

The Future of BMW

The BMW iNext concept SUV will have a range that approaches 300 miles, power equivalent to 600hp and a zero-to-60mph sprint of fewer than four seconds.

But its real focus is the back seat. BMW star designer Adrian van Hooydonk said the interior was inspired by boutique hotels. Indeed, the jewel-toned carpeting over a back seat shaped like a lounge chair seems an array you might find it in a hotel. The wooden console and flooring along the base of the car in front look like Swedish furniture. Tall windows and a panoramic rooftop provide enough room for four adults to recline comfortably, drenched in daylight.

Pricing on a production version of the Vision iNext is far from announced, but manufacturing is slated to begin in 2021.

Luxe Family Hauler

The BMW X7 is BMW’s direct challenge to the biggest of the big SUVs on the market, such as the Mercedes GLS, Cadillac Escalade and Lexus LX. It is 5.15m (16.9ft) long, offers space for as many as seven passengers and can lug as much as 2,120 litres (74.9 cu ft) of cargo.

Inside, in addition to the customary touchscreen, voice command and gesture-control features, BMW has built a panoramic “Sky Lounge” roof option that can be illuminated with more than 15,000 graphic patterns.

It comes standard with three rows of seating, with captain’s chairs available in the middle rows. Pricing is likely to start at more than US$100,000.

German Workhorse

The 2019 BMW X5 is BMW’s all-new, fourth generation X5. In LA this week, the company showed two X5 variants — the X5 xDr40i (US$61,695) and the X5 xDr50i (US$76,745).

The xDr40i comes with a six-cylinder engine that gets 335hp, and the xDr50i has a new V8 engine that gets 456hp. Both engines are turbocharged and come with an eight-speed automatic transmission.

The new model is larger than its predecessor, adding from one to almost three inches to the vehicle’s length, width, height and wheelbase. The additional size will help it compete with such offerings as the Porsche Cayenne, Audi Q7, Range Rover and Infiniti QX80.