Best and worst cars at the Los Angeles Auto Show – USA TODAY
LOS ANGELES — There were plenty of new sport utility vehicles, and cars and trucks of all sorts, making their debut at the Los Angeles auto show — some good, some not so good.
Fiat Chrysler dominated the show with the all-new Alfa Romeo Stelvio and Jeep Compass, but there was plenty more to see during the show’s press preview days last week -– including some vehicles whose time may have passed, or may never come.
Here are my hits and misses from the first North American auto show of the season:
Hit: Alfa Romeo Stelvio
Alfa Romeo launches its new Stelvio, the company’s first SUV, at the LA Auto Show.
This lusty luxury-sport SUV just may be good enough to deliver on Fiat Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne’s promise that the long-dormant Alfa Romeo brand is the key to FCA’s fortunes. Based on Giorgio architecture that underpins the thrilling Alfa Giulia sport sedan, the Stelvio promises Italian passion and more power than a Porsche Macan Turbo, a 0-60 mph in 3.9 seconds and top speed of 177 mph.
The classic Alfa grille and LED signature lights make the Stelvio immediately recognizable from the front, but its profile is undistinguished.
U.S. sales should begin in the first half of 2017.
Miss: Ford Ecosport
Ford’s subcompact Ecosport SUV won’t go on sale til 2018, but some of its features already seem out of date. The hard surfaces of the dash and doors betray the Ecosport’s origin as a vehicle developed for developing markets.
Instead of being integrated smoothly into the control panel, the Ecosport’s big 8-inch touchscreen sticks out like somebody propped an iPad on the dash
A tailgate that’s hinged at the side rather than the roof will reduce the Ecosport’s usefulness in tight parking spaces.
None of that bodes well for a vehicle that make its first appearance in America not long before competitors like the Honda HR-V and Mazda CX-3 are due for midcycle updates and the Chevrolet Trax gets a complete makeover.
Hit: Jeep Compass
Styled like a baby Grand Cherokee, the compact Compass should sell like hotcakes, based on Jeep’s enduring appeal and the fact that the profoundly lackluster DaimlerChrysler-developed SUV of the same name it replaces scored 66,000 sales last year. The Compass’s interior is trimmed materials that look and feel good. Power comes from a 180-hp 2.4L engine linked to a nine-speed transmission, so don’t expect to win any drag races.
If Fiat Chrysler can overcome the quality problems that frequently bedevil it, the Compass and Stelvio could be game-changers for the company
Late to the party: Volkswagen Atlas and Subaru Viziv-7
Volkswagen has created one of its largest SUVs yet with the U.S. market in mind. It received its debut in Santa Monica, Calif.
Video by Chris Woodyard, USA TODAY
Yogi Berra was talking about a restaurant when he said “Nobody goes there anymore. It’s too crowded.” We may be about to find out if the same is true of the booming market for family hauling SUVs with three rows of seats: Volkswagen and Subaru’s first sallies into the segment may have missed its sales spurt.
The Atlas has a roomy interior – it’s nearly six inches longer than a Toyota Highlander. Power comes from a 238-hp 2.0L four-cylinder or 280-hp 3.6L V6.
Its styling is unspectacular except for a blingy, Land Rover-style grille and headlights. The Atlas goes on sale early in 2017.
The Viziv-7 concept’s styling bears little resemblance to the seven- or eight-seat production model that will become Subie’s biggest and most expensive vehicle.
If the soon-to-arrive VW is late to the party, Subaru will test its buyers’ patience to the limit by making them wait til 2018 for the new SUV.
Miss: Toyota C-HR
When Toyota killed its Scion brand, the automaker sentenced itself to selling this oddball subcompact SUV through the mother brand, but one must wonder why the automaker thought its first entry in the fast-growing segment should challenge the quirky Nissan Juke rather than more popular mainstream models like the Chevrolet Trax and Honda HR-V.
The rear door handles – placed just below the roofline – are a new sort of child-safety device: Out of reach so small children won’t venture into the claustrophobic rear seat.
Hit: Jaguar I-Pace
Jaguar took the styling of its hit F-Pace SUV and added electric power to create a sensation. Jag’s first electrified concept, the I-Pace is about the same size as the F-Pace, but features aggressive rear fenders, a low roofline and gaping rectangular grille. The concept should have a range of 220 miles and accelerate to 60 mph in about 4 seconds, thanks to performance-tuned all-wheel drive and two electric motors that generate 400 hp and 516 lb-ft of torque.
A production version of the I-Pace will debut in 2018. Supplier Magna Steyr will build the I-Pace for Jag in Austria.
Miss: Mazda CX-5
Mazda’s compact SUV looks new for 2017, but the updates are skin deep. The CX-5 gets new sheetmetal from nose to D-pillar to bring its looks in line with the popular CX-9, but its drivetrains, interior and other features are nearly unchanged.
The CX-5 will offer a fuel-efficient 2.2L diesel engine in the second half of the year, and Mazda’s inventive G-vectoring system promises to improve road feel, but this popular SUV will have its hands full versus all-new compacts like the Honda CR-V and Chevrolet Equinox.