Intros & Newcomers
Some people may attend an event like the 2015 Los Angeles International Auto Show to get a chance to see all the candidates for a new car purchase in one setting. Some may just want to see the cars they’ve been reading and hearing about for a year. We go to see what’s new.
Finally! The real thing!
Honda has been teasing us about a sequel to the 1990 – 2005 game-changing NSX mid-engine exotic, with Superbowl adds featuring Jay Leno and Jerry Seinfeld fighting over first delivery rights, for years. Now it’s actually here, and you’ll pardon us for being underwhelmed.
Acura’s NSX follows current exotic practice with a hybrid powertrain featuring a mid-mounted 500 horsepower twin turbo 3.5 liter V6 and three electric motors for a total power output of 573 horsepower.
This is not news. Twenty-three years ago Jaguar introduced the XJ220 with a 3.5 liter twin turbo V6 and 542 horsepower. BMW, Porsche, Ferrari and McLaren have all introduced exotic hybrid sports cars in the last year, many with specifications that far surpass the new NSX.
The car is not even built on a carbon fiber tub – nearly mandatory in order to be taken seriously these days.
So it’s a little hard to get excited over such limited progress. In point of fact, it sounds only marginally more exciting than a standard Corvette – not even a Z06. It isn’t even all that exotic looking. Maybe it would look more compelling in a brighter color.
At an estimated price around $160,000, it will have little competition among mid-engine exotics. Depending on options, perhaps an Audi R8 might qualify, and a McLaren 570S is just a bit more dear.
A Big Gamble
Fifty years ago, Ford committed huge resources in a bid to unseat Ferrari as the premier maker of endurance racing machinery. They succeeded, sweeping the podium at Le Mans with their NASCAR-engined GT40s. Since then they produced a more civilized tribute to those cars in the limited-production (and bargain-priced by exotic standards) Ford GT.
But that was a street car – sold for fast touring and showing at your local concours d’elegance. Now Ford is getting serious again. Their new exotic could bring new glory to Ford – or fall flat on its face.
Ford’s new GT is another 3.5 liter twin turbo-powered exotic. Get in line quickly (only about 1,000 will be made) and you may be able to buy one – depending on how much equity you have in your house, or how deep your pockets are. Pricing is estimated at about a quarter million dollars.
Ford is counting on the tie-in between the race version of the GT and its turbocharged small displacement consumer “EcoBoost” products to bring those power trains popular legitimacy as they move away from large displacement naturally aspirated engines.
Ford Focus – Video Game Version
With youth less interested in car culture (Many teens no longer lust after that first driver’s license.) it has become important to place automotive products where the kids will see them – in computer games where the reigning champs are Japanese and European hot hatches.
That EcoBoost ethic that informs and powers the new Ford GT also motivates the finally-come-to-the-US Ford Focus RS. Only 2.3 liters, but sending 350 horsepower and 350 pound-feet of torque to all four wheels, so those who were mesmerized by the YouTube exploits of Ken Block can now become hot hatch hooligans too, for a base MSRP of $36,605.
Return of the Italians
Alfa Romeo is a brand with a racing heritage that predates Ford’s by a half century or more. They ceased selling cars in the United States in 1995. Although frequent rumors had them returning many times, it was not until the expensive high-performance 8C Competizione was offered here in 2008 that the marque reappeared.
That car had extremely limited production, but at last, in 2014 they introduced the lightweight, sharply focused 4C Coupe, making a more affordable Italian sports car available again.
But that car’s narrow focus on driver involvement (no power steering) at the expense of comfort insured that it would never sell in high volumes. For that, and for the long-term viability of the brand, they needed a sedan – one that could satisfy the high expectations of Alfa enthusiasts – the Alfisti.
The initial offering in the US is the upscale Giulia Quadrifoglio model, expected to sell in the $70,000 range. Expected later is a 2.2 liter “Multijet” turbo four that makes 197 horsepower and 320 pound-feet of torque in the corporate sibling Jeep Cherokee.
When Alfa Romeo’s Giulia sport sedan came to the US, Alfa came out with all guns blazing with the highest performance version, the 505 horsepower Quadrifoglio. Alfisti expect great things, with a reported lap time at the Nurbürgring faster than a BMW M4.
Okay. we didn’t come up with that one. It’s what some in the press are calling Fiat’s new sports car built in collaboration with Mazda.
A little background.
In 1966 Fiat introduced a sports roadster powered by a sweet little dual overhead cam four, and priced within the reach of ordinary enthusiasts. The body was a Pininfarina design penned by Tom Tjaarda, who worked on the Chevrolet Sting Ray and DeTomaso Pantera, among others.
One of those others was the beautiful Ferrari 275 GTS, and no one could look at that car next to the Fiat 124 Spider and miss the resemblance.
Top: The Fiat 124 Spider of the sixties and seventies. Middle: The “Fiata” – 2016 Fiat 124 Spider, introduced at the LA Auto Show. Bottom: The Ferrari 275 GTS.
Mazda’s MX-5 Miata has earned near-universal praise for having resisted the trend toward making succeeding versions of successful cars bigger, heavier, and more powerful. Instead they concentrated on driver satisfaction, making the cars nimble and responsive, with perfect balance.
Fiat took that chassis and clothed it in a shameless tribute to the sixties car. The result, in your correspondent’s opinion, is drop-dead gorgeous.
They sacrificed some of the Miata’s lightness in lengthening the car and giving it an unmistakable Italian flair. Instead of the Mazda’s fine 155 horsepower 2-liter four, they installed the Multiair turbo four from the 500 Abarth, which contributes a 10 horsepower bump and more significantly, 32 more pound-feet of torque.
If this car comes in at a small enough price premium over the Miata, it should sell sensationally, or there is no justice in the car universe. If they install a 200 horsepower Multijet turbo four and call it the Abarth version, even better!
Another “3-Series Fighter”
It’s been out a while, but this was our first look at Jaguar’s entry into the ongoing sweepstakes to see if anyone can unseat the BMW 3-Series as the entry level luxury Sport Sedan of choice. (See the Alfa Giulia above.)
Enthusiasts bewail the fattening-up of the 3-Series, so they may welcome the Jaguar XE that is reported to have returned to the foundations of the BMW 3-Series’ appeal. It is said to sacrifice perhaps a few inches of interior room to a lighter (thanks to a new aluminum architecture) more agile persona.
The last vestiges of the Ford influence at Jaguar will soon pass as they replace the 2-liter turbo Ford four with a similar “Ingenium” base engine (with a turbo diesel variant) to go with the AJ V6 supercharged 3-liter.
Porsche 911 Targa
We confess that the charms of the original Porsche 911 Targa are lost on us. In our eyes the Targa bar interrupted the car’s lines, and made the rear window (when there was one) too vertical. Porsche has brought back the concept, and in so doing has, in our humble opinion, corrected that flaw.
A good compromise between a coupe with a sunroof and the (IMO) hunchbacked Cabrio, the new Targa preserves the familiar profile while offering open motoring. This one had an as-equipped price around $125,000.
Car of the Year
Chevrolet made quite a haul this year, with their redesigned Volt garnering a Green Car of the Year Award, and winning both the Truck and Car divisions of Motor Trend‘s “of the Year” awards.
It’s difficult to accept for a hereditary Ford guy, but as good as the 2015 Ford Mustang is (and it is sensational), Chevrolet has come up with a serious competitor.
The previous generation Camaro was handicapped by a foundation shared with a sedan, leaving that car hundreds of pounds heavier than the Mustang, which is built on a dedicated chassis shared with no other car.
The new Chevy also shares its chassis with other cars, but it is the thoroughly modern one that underpins the Cadillac ATS, and comes in under the Mustang in weight. If you can get past the gunport slits they offer for windows, it appears that the cars compete well with the Mustang.
Smaller, lighter, and more powerful than its predecessor, the Motor Trend Car of the Year Camaro is well equipped to compete in the pony car wars.
Our rule for convertibles is that they have to look at least as good with the top down as the hardtop did before they took the top off. In our editorial opinion, the Camaro Convertible (not yet released) meets that criterion. In fact, without the letter-box windows, the car looks better with no top.
One note: It appears that Motor Trend has a typo in their data panel for the Camaro SS. That’s the one with the Corvette V8. They list the base price as $37,295 and the “as tested” price as $38,585 compared to their $46,380 estimate for a Mustang GT.
We went to Edmund’s and priced out a car with only performance options and came up with an MSRP for the Camaro of $48,275, and a comparably equipped Mustang Premium Coupe at $39,480. At that price, for 0nly $1,720 more you could get a stripped Mustang Shelby GT350 with its screaming flat-plane-crank V8.
Come on Down!
The Auto Show is always a challenge to reporters. There are just too many cars. We came as close as we could to getting a picture of every car at the show, taking just under a thousand pictures. Sorting through them and coming up with the ones you’ll want to see and read about is a tough job, but someone has to do it. Glad we could step up. We’ll have more in subsequent blogs.
CARMA is a publication of The OM Dude Press
a service of Options in Mobility
Author, Editor, Publisher, Reporter, Historian, Archivist: Dick Stewart.
All photographs are by the author unless attributed otherwise.
Click on the images to view more detail. If the cursor is a plus sign in a circle, clicking again will yield full resolution.