AutoMatters: 2013 LA Auto Show

Ford exhibit

By Jan Wagner

Situated in the large halls of the Los Angeles Convention Center and running through Dec. 1, the 2013 LA Auto Show includes tastefully presented new car ‘showrooms,’ special exhibits, a large hall dedicated to the aftermarket and vendors, and more. It features world and North American introductions of new automobiles, with an emphasis on ‘green’ vehicles. AutoMatters previewed the show during Press Days.

Of the ‘green’ vehicles, one in particular stood out. Hailed as representing a new age of electric mobility, the soon-to-be-available BMW i3 is not so much a groundbreaking automobile as it is a state-of-the-art, ultra-efficient evolution of the electric car technology pioneered by such cars as the Chevrolet Volt.

Subaru Legacy Concept debut

Essentially the i3 is a plug-in electric car with an optional range extender gasoline engine. So is the Volt, except that its range extender gasoline engine is standard equipment and its range is much greater. The range extender in the i3 is a motorcycle engine with a two-gallon fuel tank. If it performs like the one in the Volt, it should generate sufficient electricity to keep the i3 going until you can plug it in and recharge it, thus eliminating the range anxiety that many drivers feel when driving an electric car. As long as gas stations are nearby (remember, the fuel tank is small), you should not find yourself stranded on the road due to having used up all of your vehicle’s initial electric charge.

Electric BMW i3

Frankly, I think that until electric vehicles offer the driving range and energy replenishment (recharging) times comparable to those of gasoline-fueled automobiles, they should all come standard with some sort of range extender engine to eliminate range anxiety.

Powertrains aside, the four-passenger BMW i3 is quite different from that of the Chevrolet Volt. From its radical styling that includes doors that open outwards from the center of the vehicle to provide easy access to the interior, to the very efficient utilization of the space within, the I3 takes full advantage of its modest footprint.

BMW calls the i3 a premium car. It uses “carbon-fibre-reinforced plastic” for its passenger compartment. This material, as was demonstrated in an off-site experience center to showcase the i3, is at once very strong and very light. It is also, no doubt, quite expensive.

Mercedes-Benz AMG Vision Gran Turismo concept

I took the opportunity to drive an i3 in Los Angeles. The fleet of German-market i3 demo vehicles, modified so that they could be driven on American roads, did not include one with the range extender gasoline engine.

Like other electric vehicles, it offers instant torque and plenty of it. That gives it great acceleration from a standing start.

Mercedes-Benz AMG Vision Gran Turismo concept

Driving an i3 will probably require a change in one’s driving style, due to its pronounced regenerative braking that helps to replenish the car’s electric charge. If you sharply lift off of the accelerator pedal, the i3 slows abrubtly. The effect is almost as if you pressed hard on the brake pedal, so when driving the i3 you will need to learn to lift off the accelerator pedal more gradually. It is easy to do that – it just takes a little bit of practice.

BMW dealers are taking orders now and deliveries of the i3 will begin early next year.

For me the hands-down, standout vehicle at this year’s LA Auto Show was the Mercedes-Benz AMG Vision Gran Turismo concept vehicle, which you will be able to download and drive virtually on the PlayStation®3 in Gran Turismo 6 (release date: Dec. 6, 2013). It is absolutely stunning – perhaps the most beautiful car that I have ever seen.

Porsche Macan world premiere

Something rare occured at this year’s LA Auto Show: a new Porsche model was introduced. It is called the Macan. It has five doors, five seats and room for a lot of your stuff. You and I would probably describe it as a compact SUV, but Porsche being Porsche calls it a sports car. However it is described, it is a Porsche and I look forward to driving it to confirm that it indeed is a sports car.

High fashion played a role in this year’s LA Auto Show. At the smart exhibit there was a winged, very limited edition electric smart by American fashion designer Jeremy Scott. One evening, Lamborghini and Alcantara hosted an elegant fashion show at trendy Vibiana – a converted church in downtown LA.

– 88th birthday boy George Barris at Motor Press Guild breakfast

Vehicles that were primarily intended for fun included the Campagna T-REX 16S three-wheeled motorcycle.

As always, please write to me at AutoMatters@gmail.com with your comments and suggestions.

Copyright © 2013 by Jan Wagner – #308r1 AutoMatters

Cadillac

Campagna T-REX 16S motorcycle

Limited edition 2014 electric smart by Jeremy Scott

Car guy Robert Herjavec of “Shark Tank” on ABC

Related posts:

  1. AutoMatters: Orange County International Auto Show
  2. AutoMatters: 2012 LA Auto Show
  3. AutoMatters: NASCAR’s 2013 Auto Club 400 – The Most Exciting Yet?
  4. AutoMatters: 2013 Consumer Electronics Show & PMA@CES
  5. AutoMatters: Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles – Coming Soon?

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Posted by Staff on Nov 29, 2013. Filed under AutoMatters, Columns, Editorial Columns. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

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