Los Angeles Auto Show:

2008 L.A. Auto Show – 2009 BMW 7-Series

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BMW used the 2008 Los Angeles International Auto Show to launch its new 2009 7-Series flagship. The primary changes to the 7-Series include revised interior and exterior styling and an improved iDrive system. I guess “revised” may be too mild a word, but even though practically every exterior body panel (except the roof) is new, the 7-Series does not look much different.

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At a glance, the primary differentiator between the 2009 7-Series and its predecessor is the pronounced character line running down its bodyside just below the windows. The styling of the front end has evolved a bit with a stronger looking hood surface and front fascia. The headlamps include translucent eyelids and have the subtle halo lighting first seen in the 5-Series several years ago. The Bangle Butt is less pronounced and now the rear end of the Seven looks much more conventional.
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Details are important and BMW’s signature cue – the Hofmeister kink at the rear of the DLO (daylight opening) is shadowed in the sheetmetal. Nice touch, but very, very subtle.
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You can still show the profile of the 7-Series and Lexus LS460 and not be able to tell the difference.


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Auto Show Season In Full Force

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Three Months, Three Continents, Three Auto Shows: Where Am I?
In the myriad of VehicleVoice posts are stories and podcasts from the Frankfurt, Tokyo, and Los Angeles auto shows. To get these stories, someone needs to attend the shows, and that is very often me.
Auto shows get us close to real cars and the people who created them, giving us our look behind the scenes. As a product analyst for AutoPacific, I attend major shows around the world. Despite sore feet, long hours, pressure to process the information quickly and yet well, and time away from home that tries the patience of both my husband and myself (my cat has given up on me), these opportunities aren’t to be missed.
Like the old traditional model year, my auto show season starts in September in Europe and runs through April in New York. The only thing worse than the travel schedule is trying to cover an auto show from my desk in Southfield, which I’ve also done. Without getting on a plane and being there, we miss the nuances, tidbits, and details necessary for informed evaluation.

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Halle 5 at the 2007 Frankfurt Auto Show

2007 Show Season Started in Germany
Odd years mean the Frankfurt show in September and the Tokyo show in October; L.A.’s show is annual and now in November. Between January and April, the Detroit, Chicago, Geneva, and New York shows are held. Even years mean Paris in fall. The British Motor Show used to be held in the fall of even years, but they abandoned Birmingham a few years back and a show in London has not gained traction yet. This year, I attended media drives for the Ford Focus and Chevrolet Malibu, a background event with the New Chrysler, and various Detroit-area events between show travel. I’ve just finished my last trip for 2007, in Phoenix to drive the 2009 Nissan Murano.
Between September 1 and December 6, I spent twenty-four days on the road, turned my football-reading-napping Sundays into work-from-home days (at least then I’m near my sports-junkie husband for a whole day), and many late nights in the office. I racked up nearly 34,000 in-flight miles and stayed in seven hotels in seven cities. Over thirteen weeks, I spent about forty days actually in my office.
The pressure comes from getting what I’ve learned written for VehicleVoice readers and for AutoPacific clients, audiences hungry for information but each with specific needs and interests, and doing so quickly enough to be relevant. This means reporting on about 120 major reveals and incorporating uncounted minor tidbits into the AutoPacific Competitive Battleground at www.eautopacific.com along with the stories you see on Vehicle Voice. And, like most employees in most companies, I have several other projects that also need tending.
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Regardless of city, the Nissan GT-R is a star on any 2007-08 Nissan stand


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Infiniti Announces Pricing on 2008 EX35 – $31,300 – $36,250 (to well over $40K)

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SUVs are on their way out and Crossover SUVs are on their way up. Those in the market for a versatile vehicle with seating for four full size adults and cargo, the ride quality of a car and the image of an SUV have flocked to Crossover SUVs. It’s not a new concept but the idea really didn’t catch on until Lexus came out with their RX 300 in 1998. XUVs as they’ve come to be called are typically built off of a unitized car platform and owners really appreciate the benefits. They tend to cost less than SUVs, get better fuel economy and handle better.

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LA Auto Show – Green, Schmeen: Porsche Gives North America a look at the New 2008 911 GT2

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Giving us all a little break from the green car parade at the LA Auto show, Porsche gave North America it’s first look at the 2008 911 GT2. Based on the current 911 Turbo, the 911 GT2 is a beast, not designed for your average LA attorney. We had a few minutes with David Pryor, Vice President of Marketing of Porsche Cars North America. David, a 911 driver, summed it up like this, “The GT2 is the perfect blend between the Porsche Turbo and the GT3. The GT3, at 415 horsepower, is the most powerful naturally aspirated six cylinder engine in any production car. The twin turbo GT2 has ONLY 530 horsepower.


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Porsche Cayenne Hybrid Protoype

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The LA Auto Show was beginning to feel a birthday party for Ed Begley. Fuel cells, hybrids, bluetec, plug-ins, clean diesel. How about a brief introductory course in the “New European Driving Cycle”? While technology is making green more interesting all the time, you can’t replace horsepower with the warm and fuzzies of a green car. Thank God for Porsche. Certainly, our friends from Stuttgart won’t let us down. Wrong. Porsche came to the 2007 Los Angeles Auto Show with a green pitch, albeit somewhat tempered.


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LA Auto Show – Maserati Quattroporte GT S – Tired of Blending In?

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Is your S-Class blending in?

Does the word BMW sound passé? Are you too young for a Bentley but owning a Ferrari was a lifestage or two ago? There may still be hope. A little known, often forgotten, manufacturer may just have the answer. They offer true exclusivity, segment leading personalization and hand-crafted attention to detail. They’ve been known to produce cars with extraordinary performance and luxury but meant for everyday use.


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2009 Lincoln MKS – LA Auto Show

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On Monday, November 6 Ford gave Detroit-area journalists a glimpse of the 2009 Lincoln MKS Mid-Luxury Car. We had reviewed the concept of the MKS previously in VehicleVoice and found the car lacking. In its first incarnation, the MKS came across as a JapoEuro design exercise without much American flair. It was bigger than it looked and that is not necessarily a good thing. Given the somewhat lukewarm reception that the MKS concept received, especially in light of the very positive reception of the MKR Concept at the 2007 North American International Auto Show, Ford’s product development team went to work on upgrading the MKS in subtle ways.

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Production MKS Execution Now Has Presence
The production MKS now has the presence and ambiance that it should have had all along. The former blandonymous grille has been replaced by Lincoln’s new double wing face grille. There is a Lincoln logo mounted in the space between the grille wings. Character lines are crisper. The taillights are reminiscent of Maserati European taillights of a few years ago… with backup lights mimicking the boomerang effect of the Maserati pieces.
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The interior is very upscale and continues Lincoln’s interior themes first seen on the Navigator, MKX and MKZ. Ergonomics appear to be excellent, but this is characteristic of Ford’s large entries produced at their Chicago Assembly Plant (Taurus/Five Hundred, Taurus X/Freestyle, Sable/Montego).
But… a “Flagship” It’s Not – Four Reasons
Reason One: Ford describes the MKS as its “Flagship”. While it will be its newest passenger car entry, the venerable Town Car is Lincoln’s Flagship until Ford simply cannot justify continuing the Panther lineup (Crown Victoria – now fleet only, Grand Marquis, Town Car) produced at Ford’s St. Thomas, Ontario assembly plant. But, with such a high percentage of Town Car sales to the fleet and executive car business, maybe Ford is not counting Town Car any more.
Reason Two: Another reason we don’t buy into MKS as a flagship is the MKR concept shown at last year’s Detroit show. A wow piece if ever there was one, the MKR showcased all of the Lincoln design cues in one place. A stunning piece of work! Now, if they would produce the MKR on a RWD V8 platform, I’d buy it.
Reason Three: The MKS is V6 only. In the beginning, the MKS program included the 4.4L V8 found in the Volvo XC90 and S80. This Yamaha-built unit is terrifically expensive and I guess Ford decided not to pony up to add it to the MKS. Mistake.
VehicleVoice and AutoPacific have conducted several research projects on what makes an ideal $50,000 luxury car and the evidence is very clear that a V8 engine in the lineup is the price of entry for a car in this class. The V8 does not have to be standard, but it needs to be offered. Sure it may be a low installation rate – especially with $3.00 per gallon gasoline, but the image halo of a V8 is indisputable. Having a twin turbo direct injection V6 gives MKS some performance panache, but there is no replacement for numbers of cylinders and displacement.
Reason Four: You will be able to get into a base MKS for less than $38,000. This is not flagship pricing. Clearly, Ford is leaving room at the top of the heap for a premium priced flagship with the specifications necessary to really command price points over $50,000.
Let’s not forget Reason Five: Nomenclature. Hopefully, once Jim Farley gets his feet on the ground he will review Lincoln’s present nomenclature plan and scrap it. Not clean or easy, but having Lincoln’s with alphanumeric nomenclature is folly. Go back to names!
Ford’s press release for the MKS is shown below the fold.
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2009 Dodge Journey: A New SUV for the Road

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As Dodge works to reinforce and develop an international presence, a new SUV for the range is being introduced at the 2007 Frankfurt auto show in September. Named Journey, the first official U.S. sighting will be at the Los Angeles auto show in November, ahead of U.S. sales first quarter of 2008. Dodge is going after young families and young couples about to start a family; in life stages, Journey is set to step in once the realities of family life have been accepted, but the appeal of a minivan’s practicality hasn’t won out over that vehicle type’s staid image.

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Being built at Chrysler’s Toluca, Mexico, facility, Journey will go up against the likes of the Ford Edge, Chevrolet Equinox, Mazda CX-7, Nissan Murano, and Toyota Highlander. It isn’t quite big enough to take on the Saturn Outlook or upcoming Ford Flex, but Dodge also offers a minivan and Durango SUVs for full seven- or eight-passenger lifestyles. Dodge will offer the Journey in its typical SE, SXT, and R/T trim levels, with standard five or optional five-plus-two seating. Instead of relying on elements of modern SUV styling (like the Lexus RX and Edge) or going ultra stylish like Mazda’s CX-7 and CX-9, the Journey offers a modern take on the traditional SUV look. It retains Dodge’s aggressive personality in a segment that more typically offers soft edges and styling. It will make a nice addition to a landscape crowded with me-too styling.
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Journey will complement the truck-based Durango and Nitro SUVs, and is the best-looking product to come from the Chrysler D-segment platform. The Journey is significantly larger than the Dodge Avenger and Chrysler Sebring sedans on which it is based, sporting an extra five inches in wheelbase and two inches in overall length. Dodge refers to the Journey’s three-row seating arrangement as for only “occasional use” and calls it five-plus-two instead of seven-passenger or emphasizing the third-row aspect. This should help avoid criticism for a small third row by reducing expectations of a full-size third row from the beginning. Not a terrible idea.


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2007 Detroit Auto Show: Mazda Ryuga Refines Nagare Theme

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Detroit Concept Furthers Los Angeles Nagare
Back at the LA show in November 2006, Mazda showed a concept called Nagare to LA audiences (click here for our report). The Nagare (pronounced na-ga-reh) described future Mazda design themes as an expression of where Mazda styling might be in 2020. In Los Angeles, Mazda promised to follow it up with concepts at Detroit and Geneva in 2007 that would gradually grow closer to something we’ll see in showrooms soon. Mazda delivered the goods in January 2007 with Detroit’s Ryuga concept.

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Nagare is one of more than 100 Japanese words describing the embodiment of motion, fitting for the first Mazda to explore their new surface language, and also the general name of Mazda’s new design philosphy. The second concept is the Ryuga (“ree-yoo-ga”). And, you guessed it, ryuga is another Japanese word for motion, this time “gracious flow.”
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VehicleVoice#55 – Land Rover LR2 North American Debut

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Land Rover has always been the smart choice for people who wanted to go off-roading – we mean really off-roading, like on safari, running away from charging rhinoceros off-roading. And the nicest things about a Land Rover, was that you could flee that rhinoceros in style and comfort. But recent quality issues and reliability disappointments have tarnished Land Rover’s sterling reputation. They’re hoping the all new LR2 puts those issues to rest.
The LR2 was unveiled to North America at the Los Angeles Auto Show earlier this month and AutoPacific Senior Consultant Jim Hossack was on hand to have a first look. He liked what he saw.

Show Runtime – 2:28


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