Los Angeles might be America’s best auto show even if New York, Detroit, and Chicago draw more, claim more tradition, or boast bigger convention centers. Southern California is America’s epicenter for cars, style and culture. Other shows are where you see the next big pickup truck or taxicab. LA is where you see the future and that’s reflected in the technologies and designed unveiled this week. There would be even more if the Tokyo Motor Show wasn’t the same week and drew some cars such as Toyota’s fuel cell concept that would be in LA otherwise. Here are the five best from Los Angeles.
Porsche Macan, the small crossover
Porsche is riding two trends with the Porsche Macan: sedans give way to SUVs and crossovers, and customers who want a lot of tech in small vehicles. Already, the big Porsche Cayenne SUV outsells the classic Porsche 911 sports coupe by 2-1 in the US. The Macan is a compact crossover that would compete with the Audi Q5, BMW X3, Land Rover Evoq, and Mercedes-Benz GLK. It’s actually built on a Volkswagen family platform also used by the Audi A4 compact sedan and Q5 SUV. To make sure it’s not just a pricy VW, the two V6 engine choices would produce 340 and 400 hp. A serious off-road mode raises the suspension and allows for approach and departure angles of 27 and 24 degrees. For those whose adventures are limited to interstates, there’ll be the usual driver aids such as adaptive cruise control and lane departure warning. The sloping roofline hurts cargo capacity, but others in this class such as the Evoq have shown the looks trumps practicality.
Starting price would be around $ 50,000, which would give the Macon enough exclusivity to be in demand and Porsche estimates it might sell 50,000 units a year and some analysts think it might be half again as much, equal to half of Porsche’s worldwide sales volume. Part of the price is the admission charge to the Porsche lifestyle. At the rollout in LA, the Macan shared the stage with tennis player and now Porsche brand ambassador Maria Sharapova.
Lincoln MKC, the small American crossover for Millennials
Pay attention, under-40 Americans: This compact crossover is the car that redefines the Lincoln brand and “reinvents Lincoln” for younger buyers. The Lincoln MKC is the best-selling Ford Escape SUV redone to Lincoln specifications. The body is more stylized (rounded, swoopy, less cargo capacity) than the Escape and it offers some technology not seen on the Ford version. Lincoln highlight the Approach Detection feature which means the car senses when you walk up with a smart keyfob and when you get within nine feet of the car, it lights up like a cruise ship and projects a pair of 3-foot-wide “welcome mats” of lighting onto the ground by the front doors. The instrument panel is a combination of analog and digital gauges. The center stack continues with MyLincoln Touch, its version touchback of the MyFord Touch system that clobbered both brands in quality surveys although it’s actually not that bad for people who bother to read the manual. The touchscreen remains but some of the secondary controls such as volume have reverted back to knobs.
The big change is an embedded data modem to monitor the car from afar, unlock doors, or program a cold-weather remote start. From inside the car, it can be used to call for assistance. The MyFord / MyLinoln Touch cars of the past five years allowed the user to connect his or her cellphone for emergency notifications or to create an in-car WiFi hotspot. With embedded cellular modems now costing as little as $ 100, Lincoln has realized there needs to be a high-end solution for premium brands, especially when every $ 15,000 Chevy being sold comes standard with OnStar. The MKC will be available in late spring or early summer with a starting price in the mid-thirties, meaning it’s about ten grand short of playing in the Porsche Macon arena. When Approach Detection is the tech feature Lincoln trumpets most loudly, it makes you wonder if Lincoln really is playing in the Audi-BMW-Porsche polo field.
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