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2023 Los Angeles Auto Show – THE DIRECTOR’S CUT

KIA LA AUTO SHOW

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2023 Los Angeles Auto Show – THE DIRECTOR’S CUT

2023 Los Angeles Auto Show

THE DIRECTOR’S CUT

Los Angeles, California – To most mainstream media, automotive topics are invariably reduced to either Tesla or, more recently, the UAW and its industry-wide strike. Happily, there’s more going on in the business than Elon Musk or the battle for a sustainable wage. These are transformative times for the auto industry, and while the return to urban zip codes and the rise of ride services have rendered automobile ownership an option, many still rely on their cars, trucks and SUVs to navigate life. As you might have guessed, the rising cost of those cars, trucks and SUVs make the right purchase even more important. And there are few better ways to make an informed decision than to visit an auto show, making back-to-back comparisons there on the show floor. Happily, Los Angeles still has an auto show, and if living in car-obsessed Southern California, it’s still worth your attention.

Shaking off the uncertainly of public events during Covid, in the run-up to the November show the organizers still looked tentative, but then, so did the show’s participants. None of the Germans (with the exception of Volkswagen) planned to be there, nor did most of the luxury or high performance makes; presumably, their prospective buyers can have the auto show brought to them. 

Most notably, given the economic setback represented by the UAW walkout, all of Stellantis – Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep and Ram – took a pass; in that I’m a long-time Jeep owner, and son-in-law Ethan Dietrich co-owns Chrysler’s Pacifica hybrid, the Stellantis brands were missed. But I’m guessing Stellantis will still find money for an ad on the Super Bowl broadcast…

Happily, there was also much on display at the LA show, enough to consume most of our 4-hour timetable. And in the absence of so many, the Japanese and Koreans took up the slack, making this – on the LA Convention Center’s two levels – Asia Major.

Concepts, of course, are the currency with which show organizers elevate their presentations above those shows competing in the same sphere. And while you can see pics and descriptions online, nothing can quite prepare you for Kia’s entry-level EV3 or sedan-ish EV4 quite like seeing them. Obviously, a lot of people did see them, but Kia’s almost-ready-for-the-showroom EV9, a 3-row crossover that you could actually sit in, would seem to have displaced them for at least some of that attention. The EV3 brings upscale design to a (presumably) accessible price point, while the EV4 purports to reinvent the sedan. 

Hyundai was making an appropriately big deal about its all-new, midsize Santa Fe. And if equipped with an aftermarket set of wheels and tires (as shown on a mildly modified, more dirt-specific version) I think Hyundai has something. But as it sits, the Santa Fe’s Land Cruiser-esque vibe is marred by a set of undersized wheels and tires swallowed by its wheelwells; its stance could be likened to Rocky Balboa in a tutu. The good news: Aftermarket wheels and tires will be readily available, as will a modest lift kit. All of that will work, until Toyota is ready to sell you its Land Cruiser.

Before leaving Hyundai, I’ll mention the refreshed Elantra and all-new Kona. As I’ve written, the new Kona is larger than the old Kona; it’s also less quirky. It seems to be more of a car, but perhaps less of a destination. The Elantra refresh looks to be a win, while the updated Elantra N continues to be the grand bargain.

Although Toyota didn’t bring its new Land Cruiser (and why-the-hell not?), Lexus did bring the upmarket GX 550 in both mall and Overtrail versions. Its slab-sided sheetmetal is almost obsessively retro, while a hybrid V6 powertrain is fully of this century. As you might guess, checking it out from behind the wheel meant you stood in line, but this is one off-roader presumably worth the wait. Pricing has only recently been announced, but think $60K to start, and mid-$70s for the Overtrail – which may, for many Lexus prospects, be Overkill.

Toyota, to its credit, did fill roughly the Back 40 (acres) with anything and everything, including its GR performance brand, along with the all-new Tacoma and Camry. The Tacoma doesn’t look too different from the old Tacoma, but visually it’s more athletic, and with its available i-Force MAX 2.4L turbo I-4 hybrid boasting more than 300 horsepower and 400+ lb-ft of torque, it should functionally be waaaay more athletic. 

In its design the new Camry is decidedly evolutionary, but every model is now a hybrid, and all-wheel drive versions will be more widely available. With that, I’m waiting to see the new Land Cruiser. 

From Lexus to Honda was a relatively short walk, while Honda’s all-new Prologue EV is, for the Japanese carmaker, a relatively big step. Built in partnership with GM, and sitting on the General’s Ultium EV platform (as is the Prologue’s sibling, Acura’s ZDX), the Prologue breaks no new stylistic ground, and to this set of eyes that’s just fine. There’s competence – and confidence – in its design, and while I can’t see any EV passed down among generations as a CR-V can be passed down, the Prologue looks to be a keeper. 

04 2024 Prologue Elite
2024 Prologue Elite

One Honda I’d enjoy keeping (if built) is the Prelude, a hybrid-electric concept which looks to be production ready. Like the Prologue, its design is adult, which represents a fresh departure from many of the competing Japanese and Korean brands; it’s also a departure from some variations of Honda’s own Civic. If the production version doesn’t knock you on your back with its price point, I’m in.

I’m also in on Ford’s recently announced Mustang Mach-E Rally. At this point I’ve driven the Mach-E for a total of two weeks, and have come away impressed with each press loan. But at no time in those two weeks did I have a huge desire to take the EV down a logging trail or ranch road. Someone, however, in Dearborn apparently did, if only to tow a snowmobile. And for that we have the Rally, which looked compelling, even when parked beside the Bronco Sports and Ranger Raptors. 

The Mach-E Rally

A model on which I’m not yet sold – and not yet on sale! – is Volkswagen’s ID Buzz, the company’s reinvented take on its own Microbus. Regrettably, with its inflated proportion and (relatively) tight interior, this is more of a Macrobus. I’ll wait, thank you very much, for an EV GTI.  

The ID Buzz by Volkswagen – Photo: James Lipman

Finally, in a space off the show floor close to where, if memory serves, Porsche would stage its exhibit, the Kevin Hart Kollection was on display. And among the dozen or so cars, many were exceptional, but Hart’s ’59 Corvette – dubbed Mint Condition – was, in my view, most memorable. Regrettably, the positive impression of Hart’s cars was marred by an Adults Only soundtrack, which seemed more than odd for an exhibit at a family-oriented event. It may be prudish, but kids don’t need to be introduced to ‘m*therf*cker’ at an auto show; let them pick it up on the school playground, where the descriptive (noun or action verb?) presumably belongs. Most kids – of course – have a mother.

Hart’s ’59 Corvette

Boldt, a contributor to outlets such as AutoTrader.com, Kelley Blue Book and Autoblog, brings to his laptop some forty years of experience in automotive retail, journalism and public relations. He is a member of the Texas Auto Writers Association, The Washington Automotive Press Association and L.A.'s Motor Press Guild. David is the Managing Editor of txGarage, a regular panelist on the AutoNetwork Reports webcast/podcast, and the automotive contributor to Dallas' Katy Trail Weekly.

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