Car show, car show, meet, meet, car show, car show, SEMA, track event, track event, track event — and eventually, the cycle ends, if only momentarily. It's the end of the year and the absolute avalanche of back-to-back-to-back events is overwhelming. Car shows packed with pretty much the same entries I saw back in March, albeit with a different sticker scheme, or perhaps sitting on borrowed wheels, and track events that require home departures in the 3:30-4am range, have taken their toll. Nevertheless, when the auto show rolls into town, I always make it a point to stop by to see what the OEMs are doing, what innovations are on hand, and sometimes crack a grin here and there as the attempts at reaching an often misunderstood community of enthusiasts, while still playing it safe, are pretty fun to witness.
As I made my way through the metal detectors and into the Los Angeles Convention Center's West Hall, I quickly realized not coming to the event on Media Day was a huge mistake. Though it's the middle of week, the crowd is basically shoulder-to-shoulder, and the brisk winter air (SoCal brisk is like 65, so it's not like I'm wearing ear muffs and a parka) has abruptly transitioned to sweltering, just uncomfortable enough for me to regret bringing along my backpack — and my shirt. And pants.
The first OEM I encounter is Honda, and its booth is big — really big. The outer perimeter features just about everything in their current line up from the new Civic Si coupe prototype to the Fit and HRV, and as I make my way around the half circle, I see the 2017 Ridgeline, Pilot, and Odyssey.
The booth looks exactly the same as last year's, but with a few newer chassis. The spotlight in 2015 was the new Civic coupe, and this year it's the highly anticipated Type R commanding attention.
The majority of the crowd seemed to be gravitating toward the 10th generation Civic models that were strategically lined up in coupe, sedan, and hatchback form. During a show like this, people are free to open doors, pop hoods or hatches, and generally paw the hell out of the vehicle's interior as they please. Actually, I'm not sure if that's something they allow, but no one seems to say anything, and trust me, the mistreatment is real. Slamming doors like a domestic abuse offender, trying their hardest to jam the automatic transmission selector into Drive and, for some curious reason, knocking on the infotainment console like it's the door to Narnia. Take away the sound, squint your eyes, and you'd swear they were chimpanzees getting their first experience inside a modern-day vehicle — but I digress.
Adjacent to Honda town was the Kia booth. Now, years ago Kia didn't carry any type of clout in the automotive world, but things have changed dramatically. The once tiny upstart that made its way to the U.S. in the early '90s has shown significant growth year over year, especially after a shift in focus to the European market about a decade ago.
The model line continues to grow and Kia has, in recent years, presented special projects to display at events like the SEMA Show and other auto shows. Fresh from Vegas was this autonomous creation dubbed the Niro Triathlon. Designed for active lifestyle types who choose to not drive but would rather be Uber'd about with their triathlon equipment in tow, it's a glimpse into a scary future where rather than stirring gears and screaming up a mountainside road, we may all be texting legally as our cars do the heavy lifting (and, it has electrolytes!)
I caught the Kia hamsters in an impromptu jam session, surrounding a youngster as I was leaving the booth, and wouldn't you know it? Upon further investigation, these were not abnormally large rodents with a penchant for subpar banjo exploits but rather people inside of big, sweaty suits. Your whole life is a lie.
Ok, now here we go. Star Wars nerds, look no further, the Nissan Rogue One Star Wars Edition model is on its way — available as you read this. Shadowed by a massive Tie Fighter and a loud, booming video montage that incorporated Star Wars-esque sounds into a presentation that exemplified the upper most ... I'll be honest, I'm not sure what it was all about as it was too long to hold my short attention span, but people were talking about this SUV non-stop. Other than the stitched floor mats, Star Wars logos embossed in the cup holders, and the rather crooked door badge, not much is different between this special edition model and the standard Rogue. That is until you purchase one of 5,000 units available stateside (400 for Canada), and get a call from Nissan to make sure they're sending your shiny new Imperial Death Trooper helmet to the right address! That was fake excitement; I'm just not that into it, but you do honestly receive a genuine helmet and if you're an avid collector, I imagine that's well worth the massaged sticker price of $28,950.
Three reasons you spend $112,980 on this gorgeous new GT-R Premium: 1.) 22 estimated MPG highway; 2.) 3 months complimentary Sirius XM; 3.) carpeted GT-R floor mats. Also, there's apparently a 565hp twin-turbo mill, ATTESA E-TS AWD system, and big Brembos behind the 20-inch Rays Engineering wheels. I mean, if that's your thing.
Like a siren song, the GT-R attracts people like no other. Lots of people. People that know cars, people that don't know much about cars, and especially people that don't know anything about cars but swear they do, so they throw out "too bad it won't be a GT-R bro" anytime they're not sure what to say. It doesn't get much better and though the look and formula haven't changed much since the R35s inception, it stands proudly on its merits.
The Nismo 370Z and Sentra were both positioned just behind the GT-R with their red highlighted bits and pieces and brought in some of the crowd as well. Now the 370 is a personal favorite of mine, as I was already a fan of the standard model and the Nismo version gives you more power, a reworked front and rear end, and a sultry interior. If I didn't already drive a Kia Niro while wearing a hamster suit topped by an authentic Imperial Death Trooper helmet, I'd be all over it.
This mid-engine Porsche 911 RSR is absolutely amazing. Nothing more to say.
Galpin's Hall of Customs featured a room full of modified cars that included Honda, Aston Martin, Mazda, and more.
Fiat's booth was highlighted by this aggressive looking 500 Abarth, and this 124 Spider that someone will undoubtedly say looks just like a Miata.
One of the most remarkable features on the latest iteration of Nissan's R35 is the magnetic kid retrieval option. Shown here with the hood and right quarter panel magnets activated, this precision system has a range of 15 feet and features adjustable sensitivity.
The Highly anticipated Focus RS is already being spotted on the streets and it will be interesting to see how the Type R can stack up against this AWD dynamo.
Many show-goers, like this gentleman, stopped by KFC for a three-piece combo prior to touching everything on the display vehicle's interior, especially the non-powered infotainment screen.
When you want something a little flashy but also want to wake up everyone within a 16.8-mile radius upon startup.
With the rear seats down, the rear cargo space on the new five-door Civic hatchback is substantial.