Overseas brands hogged the spotlight at this yearâs Los Angeles motor show, as BMW, Mercedes, Mazda, Lexus, Infiniti and Subaru all revealed important new models.
Fiat-Chrysler led the local contingent with an all-new Jeep Wrangler.
Here are the highlights:
Soft-roaders may be flavour of the month but there’s nothing soft about Jeep’s new Wrangler. It has more off-road ability thanks to a two-speed transfer case, electronic front and rear axle lockers, limited-slip differential, 760mm wading depth and improved rock-crawling ability.
Under the bonnet there is likely to be a choice of the existing 2.2-litre diesel or V6. Both engines will be matched to an eight-speed transmission for the first time and the V6 will get stop-start tech for further efficiency.
The brand hasn’t messed much with the look but a new power canvas roof lets the outside in at the press of a button.
Jeep says changes to the suspension make it more refined on the road, while lightweight materials have reduced weight and the eight-speeder improves fuel efficiency.
The Wrangler should arrive in 12 months.
There’s a sleek new look for the Mazda6 but the headline news is the turbocharged four-cylinder engine from the Mazda CX-9.
The engine, with outputs of 170kW/420Nm, will give the new 6 a sportier edge as it competes for a share of the shrinking, cut-throat mid-size sedan market.
It will be standard on the GT and Atenza versions, while others will get an upgraded version of the existing four-cylinder petrol engine with cylinder deactivation, or the 2.2-litre diesel.
The body and suspension have been revised for a more comfortable ride and quieter cabin.
The new Mazda6 is expected to arrive in the second half of next year.
This replacement for the unloved Tribeca is the biggest vehicle Subaru has made, seating up to eight.
It will be left-hand drive only for now but its new 2.4-litre four-cylinder turbo (about 195kW/375Nm) is sure to make it to Australia at some stage.
A fabric-roofed spyder joined an updated version of the i8 coupe on the Bavarians’ LA stand. BMW says changes to the i8’s hybrid set-up mean that the new model runs more often on electric power only, for greater efficiency. The lithium ion battery and three-cylinder turbo engine also are more efficient.
The roadster is slightly slower and thirstier than the coupe, taking 4.6 seconds to reach 100km/h and using 2.1L/100km compared to 4.4 secs and 1.9L. Electric range is down from 55km to 53km.
Infiniti’s mid-size SUV will be crucial to the future of the brand, particularly in Australia where it has struggled to gain a foothold.
The QX50 is built on a completely new front-drive platform, with a variable compression turbo engine the brand claims is a world first.
Lexus has unveiled a seven-seat version of its family-sized RX SUV.
The new option will be available in Australia in February on the RX350L and RX450hL. The rear of the car has been extended by 110mm to accommodate the third row of seats, although the wheelbase stays the same.
The third generation of Benz’s swoopy four-door CLS coupe will accommodate five people for the first time when it goes on sale next year.
New four and six-cylinder petrol and diesel engines are available.
A new “comfort control” feature uses lighting, fragrances, seat heating and massaging to put the driver at ease, while an office function loads addresses from calendar entries into the car’s satnav.
The German maker is showing sportier versions of the Cayman, Boxster and 911 but the talking point in LA is likely to be the hybrid Panamera sports wagon. The hybrid drive, lifted from the 918 supercar, delivers a combined 850Nm of torque from as low as 1400rpm.
Porsche claims that delivers a 0-100km/h sprint of just 3.4 seconds, while achieving 3.0L/100km on the European fuel use cycle. The plug-in hybrid’s claimed all-electric range is 49km.