The 2018 Los Angeles Auto Show ended up having a pretty sweet combination of enticing future tech, good old-fashioned ‘Murican iron and some stuff that was a little bit of both. Not to mention a healthy dose of practical cars that don’t suck. Here’s a rundown of what to get excited about.
The Jeep truck is finally real and it’s exactly what everybody wanted: just a straight up Wrangler dragging a pickup bed. The brochure advertises “100 percent Jeep, 100 percent truck.” Accurate, if a little on the nose.
“That sounds like a goofy catchphrase, but it was actually a significant engineering challenge,” my Jalopnik colleague David Tracy told me over dinner after the first day of the LA Auto Show.
David, as regular readers will know, is tragically addicted to Jeeps and had a significant role engineering the cooling system of the current Wrangler in his previous job at Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. He left to come work with us before development of the Gladiator got close to completion, but recalled working on the project thinking like– “so is this going to be a Jeep, or is it going to be a truck?”
A Jeep needs to be able to off-road, and a truck has to tow and haul. When it comes to suspension and cooling systems in particular, those specialties can be hard to reconcile. Especially when engineers are forced to work within the constraints of Jeep’s famous seven-slat grille.
David was very impressed with the 7,650 pound tow rating Jeep was able to squeeze out of this thing and so am I. I mean, that’s a car on a U-Haul trailer!
As for off-road ability, the long rear overhang and Ram 1500-esque rear suspension means the Gladiator won’t be able to mountain goat quite as well as the standard Wrangler. But it’s still got solid axles, a transfer case, and optional locking differentials. I have a feeling it should be able to wrestle beyond a Colorado ZR2 or Tacoma TRD Pro handily.
Everybody online (including us) has been breathlessly expounding on the amazingness of the Rivian R1T and its three-second 0 to 60 time, endless storage cubbies and the fact that “the production version will look just like this!”
I think this might end up being be the most Instagram’d car of the show, since it kind of looks like an Apple product, which generally means it will be interesting to the non-car-interested public.
As a parishioner of the cult of all things crusty and rusty myself, the Rivian photos and press release had me pretty skeptical. But in person the truck looks quite striking. Space is extremely well utilized, inside and out, and the whole thing’s footprint is reasonably manageable. As for the $60,000-something post-rebate asking price, it’s a big number but it’s right in the same neighborhood of what you’d pay for a loaded F-150, Silverado, or Ram.
I would, however, recommend you retain some skepticism as far as “the production version” and whether or not such a thing will ever exist. The Rivian reps I talked to at the company’s booth could tell me exactly where the truck is slated to be manufactured, but it sounds like distribution and service is still “being worked out.” That doesn’t mean it’s not going to happen, but don’t count on it as a done deal.
The last time I was in a UTV, it ruined my life. As a result, my relationship with vehicles like this is complicated. The combination of low weight, lean track and lots of power is inherently dangerous but I still can’t deny that UTVs pack untouchable off-road performance for what they cost.
Honda has been making this kind of buggy for work for years, but the Talon is the first UTV it has built for straight-up thrashing since single seat off-road go carts were a thing.
The Talon looks really well-made, but its killer app will be the paddle-shifted dual clutch transmission. That’s a distinctive feature over the Polaris RZR and Can-Am Maverick (which use CVT belts) and the Yamaha YXZ (with its three pedal sequential manual) which could potentially make this Honda the most fun UTV to almost kill yourself and a friend in.
The CT6-V is brand new and it already belongs in a museum. So I guess it’s appropriate that Cadillac is displaying it off to the side of its booth at the LA Auto Show, with its engine on a pedestal like an artifact.
As an enormous and mighty limited-production American luxury car, the CT6-V is exactly the kind of thing that enthusiasts go nuts for and nobody buys. As my friend Chris Perkins at Road & Track assessed: This V8 powered monolith is a future classic.
Hot damn. I almost didn’t bother looking at this car, because the last I’d heard, the Lincoln Aviator was a Ford Explorer rebadged into a little bitty Lincoln Navigator. I hadn’t seen one in years, and I’m pretty sure the handful of the originals that aren’t in junkyards now are cowering in buy-here-pay-here lots.
But the new Aviator is nothing less than ravishing.
With sharp headlights, a regal grill, ornate hood sculpting and a very sleek profile, the Aviator gives off a strong whiff of Range Rover Velar with the few best elements of the strange little crossovers Lincoln has been crapping out for the last few years. I really, really liked it as soon as I saw in person and then I opened the door. And then I fell in love.
The Aviator’s interior design is simple but obviously well thought-out. Aside from the speaker and seat control area in the upper corners of the doors, which looks lifted right off a Mercedes S-Class, the Aviator’s cockpit looks original and will I get accused of copy/pasting from the press release if I call it “timeless?” [Yes. -ed.]
I’m not too sure about the giant tablet tacked onto the dashboard, but I’m genuinely excited to drive this thing and I haven’t even bothered to recite the power figures. Which are substantial.
The Mazda 3 has been driving car journalists nuts for years, because it’s a great value, fun-driving, everymanmobile and because it’s such a pain in the ass to decide if we should write “Mazda 3,” “Mazda3,” or the technically correct “Mazda Mazda3.” Ugh.
While it retains one of the worst names in the automotive industry for 2019, it’s also moving up from “nice looking” two downright devastatingly beautiful. The wide mouth is glorious, the lines are all very clean, and the back looks like a freaking Ferrari. The taillight circles, in my opinion, finish it off perfectly. and inside, Mazda’s designers have tidily figured out how to reconcile a prominent infotainment screen with a smooth-flowing dashboard.
I’m very nervous at the prospect of Mazda refusing to fit the manual transmission with the good engine and top trim level, but at this point it could go either way. The company is being tightlipped on packaging.
Regardless, it looks like the Mazda 3 will continue to be a solid option if you want a car that is practical, good-looking and decent to drive.
Porsche has gingerly revised the design of everybody’s favorite rear-engined touring car. As ever it looks subtle and smooth, costs a fortune and will be extremely fast.
I did notice that, from the driver’s seat, the 2020 911 seems to feel a lot larger than the outgoing car. But with the exception of the new PDK automatic transmission console shifter, which oddly looks like a missile switch, the interior in general feels slick and tidy.
Honestly, it can be hard to get excited about these when you live in Los Angeles and they are as populous as Camrys. But for those who are, you can rest assured there will be an endless options catalog of clocks and power levels and stitching colors to obsess over.
I have spent most of my car journalist career kind of dreading going to trade shows, but this year’s LA event has me fired up all over again. that might be partially because I’ve spent the last three months laid up on my couch. Whatever. If you’re into cars and you’re going to be in Los Angeles for the next week, you should come through the show and soak up some of these vehicles in person.