The Los Angeles Auto Show gets bigger and carries more weight than ever before. In Part I, we brought you the green vehicles, concepts, and supercars. Part II is all about production-ready vehicles that will be on sale between now and next fall. Quite a selection, from luxury sedans to convertibles to crossovers.
2015 Kia K900
We’ve seen it before: low-priced brand tries to move into luxury market. As any manufacturer knows, you can’t make huge profits selling entry market vehicles. You can sell lots of them and garner decent sales numbers, but the money comes in the higher-end segment. Kia, like Hyundai, has slowly (or rather quickly when you realize Kia in America only started a few decades ago) moved from entry-level bargain vehicles to middle-priced to near-luxury models. For 2015, Kia is jumping in with both feet, introducing its K900 sedan at the LA Auto Show. The K900 is the first rear-drive Kia, and also the first to top the $50,000 base price range. Design wise, the K900 is a natural extension of Kia sedan styling, following through from the Optima to Cadenza and now K900. While it may not set any trends, it looks handsome and upscale, with modern touches such as LED light pipes in the foglamp area, a Jaguaresque crosshatch grille, and multiple-square headlamps.
Two engine choices, a V6 or V8, provide good power, with 320 and 411 horsepower, respectively. The body is comprised of 75-percent high-strength steel for safety and rigidity, and laminated glass and plenty of sound-deadening materials will keep it quiet inside. Speaking of inside, the K900 features all the upscale touches you’d expect in a luxury sedan. There is a three-spoke leather-wrapped steering with redundant audio and entertainment controls, standard leather seats, and soft LED interior lighting. Available genuine white sycamore or dark charcoal poplar-wood can be had on the dash and trim, and the 12-way adjustable driver’s seat with power lumbar is standard on both the V6 Premium and V8 Premium models. There are two packages: V6 Technology Package and the V8 VIP Package, which provide another long list of options.
The K900’s executive-class accommodations continue at the rear of the cabin. Standard features include multi-stage heating for the outboard seats and a full-length panoramic roof with power retractable sunshade on all V8 models. The VIP Package offers rear-seat multi-stage cooling, recline power lumbar, and lateral headrest adjustability. Loaded, the K900 should run in the mid $60,000 range. If Kia’s past successes are the judge of how the K900 will do, we predict success, but it also will depend on the ability of the dealership personnel to cater to this upscale customer who is used to being royally treated at the luxury brand stores.
There were a lot of new products from Audi at the show this year, and they all start with the alphanumeric A3. The new A3 lineup starts with the A3 sedan, then a convertible, then the A3 Sportaback e-Tron, and finally the S3 performance model. The A3’s future is based around Audi’s concept of “Generation Audi,” which focuses on cultural progressive buyers of any age, gender or race.
The Audi A3 sedan is setting the pace for compact luxury vehicles. It is the first to features 4G LTE onboard, MMI Touch, and full LED lighting. It also has a retractable infotainment screen. Starting at $29,999, the A3 competes head to head with the recently introduced Mercedes-Benz CLA. Other standard features include leather seats, HID headlamps, and a panorama sunroof.
Some might think the A3 sedan’s exterior is reminiscent of the BMW 3-Series, but that doesn’t mean it’s unattractive. The A3’s body is clean and well proportioned, and features what Audi calls its new signature “Singleframe” grille with available LED headlamps.
When it comes to performance, the A3 features a choice of five different powerplants, including a 1.8-liter TDI clean diesel (170 horsepower), a 2.0-liter 220-horsepower TDI clean diesel, and a 150-horsepower 2.0-liter clean diesel. All engines are matched to a standard six-speed S tronic transmission. The A3 also offers for the first time an available Audi drive select system that adjust throttle response, shift points and steering effort. The A3 will be on sale in the fall of 2014.
Let’s make this easy: take the A3 sedan we just spoke about, and drop in Audi’s S performance goodies. To start: the 2.0-liter TFSI engine that makes an estimated 290 horsepower. Exterior differences include an aluminum accent for the Singleframe signature grille with a chrome surround and an insert in matte platinum gray. LED headlamps are optional. The rear bumper has a different look than the A3, and a spoiler lip on the trunklid also is unique to the S model. Another giveaway is the S3 badge front and rear. Inside, the S3 has unique instrument gauges, a flat-bottom steering wheel, brushed stainless pedals, and other logos and identifiers on the seats, gear shifter, and start-stop button. We don’t know the pricing yet, but expect it to be relatively north of the $30K starting number for the A3 sedan.
Rounding out the A3 trifecta is the Cabriolet, which is the sedan minus the top. This is the first time the A3 Cabrio will be for sale in the U.S. The roof is a soft cloth stretched over a lightweight “kinematic” magnesium steel mechanism, and can be opened and closed in less than 18 seconds at driving speeds up to 31 mph. The good news is, unlike many convertibles, the stored top doesn’t cut into the cargo capacity. With the top down, there’s just over 10 cubic feet of storage space. In addition, the top features a glass rear window. Like all Audi convertibles, there’s a recessed active rollover protection system that is spring activated, and the actuators are tied into the rollover and front collision sensors to protect occupants when the roof is open. While the A3 is a great-looking vehicle, and the S3 is going to be fun to drive, the A3 Cabriolet would be our choice for zipping around town when the weather is warm.
Not all manufacturers at the auto show had big news. Toyota’s press conference was mostly about a partnership with MIT to study distracted driving and how to lower crash statistics even more. However, the 2014 Highlander Hybrid had a prominent spot on the showroom floor at Toyota’s booth because this was the world debut of this third-generation mid-size hybrid SUV. For 2014, the Highlander Hybrid is an updated design that doesn’t stray far from the previous look, but does have improved aerodynamics and a clean front end. The Highlander has grown about three inches in length and about a half inch in width, more than likely to better compete with the other players in its segment. The seven-passenger interior also has been upgraded, with a new 4.2-inch color LCD display, perforated leather seats in the first and second rows, leather-wrapped shift knob and steering wheel, and standard second-row captain’s chairs. The big news for those who need more cargo room is the 34 percent bump in space for added capacity. Toyota also offers some optional technologies, such as Dynamic Radar Cruise Control, auto high-beam headlamps, a panoramic roof, and a heated steering wheel.
The Highlander also features an intelligent AWD system, along with enhanced suspension, improved electric power steering, and more safety features, including eight standard airbags, available rear parking sonar, blind spot monitoring, lane departure, and more. Toyota also is making its Entune infotainment/connectivity system standard on all models, along with Premium JBL audio with Navigation and App Suite. All this added technology doesn’t come cheaply. The 2014 Toyota Highlander Hybrid Limited bases at $47,300. Add the Platinum package and the price bumps to $50,650, including destination. Being green is going to cost a lot of green for the new Highlander, which will be making an appearance in showrooms in February 2014.
The introduction of the new mid-size Colorado pickup from Chevrolet is either the greatest or the worst idea for 2015. The midsize SUV market is in neutral, with sales that can’t compete with the big boys. The Colorado is all new for 2015, and goes head to head with the Toyota Tacoma, Nissan Frontier, and (sort of) the Honda Ridgeline. Ford, which had a good seller in the Ranger, has made the decision not to introduce a new version in the U.S..
The Colorado initially should do well, as it will offer a lot of great features similar to those found in the Silverado full-size truck, but without the full-size price. Although it doesn’t go on sale until next fall, the Colorado will provide more choices to buyers in that segment. Chevy states that the truck will be the most powerful, with best-in-class towing and payload. Outside, the Colorado has an aggressive beltline with a kick up in the rear window and a steeply raked front windshield. Different grille treatments will mark the different trims. Speaking of trims, the Colorado will come in WT, LT, and Z71 levels, and in two- or four-wheel drive. the Z71 is the off-road version and has a beefier look than the work truck or luxury trim model. For fuel savings, the Colorado features an aluminum hood, active grille shutters, and efficient engine choices. First is a 2.5-liter inline four that makes 193 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque, or a 3.6-liter V6 good for 302 horsepower and 270 lb-ft of torque. For 2016, the Colorado will add an efficient Duramax 2.8-liter I4 turbodiesel to the mix. This engine is already offered in global markets, and we know customers will be happy to see it come to the States. Any one of these engines is a big improvement on the previous generation’s oddball inline five.
Other features we like on the Colorado include the integrated bumper step, EZ lift and lower tailgate, rear under-seat storage, available leather seats, eight-inch color touchscreen with available MyLink and navigation, available Lane Departure Warning system, forward collision alert, and a rearview camera.
Every auto show has to have its Miley Cyrus, and the MINI Cooper Hardtop was this year’s most notorious. Not that there’s anything wrong with this new model, but the fact that everyone was joking about how it looks the same as every other MINI Cooper every made is what earned it the title. The truth is, when you have such an iconic shape for a vehicle like the MINI Cooper, how do you make changes without destroying it? The answer is, you don’t, at least not major ones. But the Catch 22 is, if you don’t change it enough so that anyone notices, how does that attract an audience that’s already seen that show? It’s a tough one for MINI designers, and the marketing department.
This is the third-generation MINI Hardtop, and the press release describes the styling as an evolutionary refinement that reflects the more mature character. Most of the changes are related to a new generation of engines and more driver-assistance technologies. First, the power offerings are a new inline three-cylinder with a 134 horsepower rating and an inline four with 189 horsepower for the S model. Both engines are twin-power turbocharged, and both are mated to a standard six-speed manual transmission or the optional six-speed automatic.
Overall length is up 4.5 inches, which means about three more cubic feet of cargo area for a total of 8.7 cubic feet. Inside, the MINI gets a new display and instrument cluster in addition to the MINI Driving modes that allow the driver to set up the engine acoustics, pedal feel, and steering feedback. Drivers also can switch between Sport and Green modes depending on whether you need to get somewhere fast, or want to save fuel in a saner driving mode.
MINI states that it’s first in the segment to offer optional LED headlamps, along with adaptive light distribution; keyless start is now standard on all models. The MINI Cooper will continue to do well with those looking for a bit of quirkiness mixed with decent driving performance and a quality build.