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L.A. Auto Show in high gear

More than 30 world and U.S. debuts are on stage in L.A.

Posted: November 19, 2010 6:00 a.m.
Updated: November 19, 2010 6:00 a.m.

The L.A. Auto Show comes to the Los Angeles Convention Center.

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What a difference a year makes. The L.A. Auto Show, open now through Nov. 28, has bounced back from last year's drastically scaled back spectacle to offer visitors more than 50 world and North American debuts of production and concept vehicles.

Pontiac and Hummer are no more, but Fiat will attend the show for the first time in 27 years - when it abandoned the U.S. market. Fiat introduced its new tiny Fiat 500, a car with a rich history. Attendees at the show can view the new U.S. version of the Fiat 500, a three-door hatchback with rounded styling, which evokes the original 500 from 1957. The U.S. version of the 2012 Fiat 500 subcompact will sell for $15,500.

The L.A. Auto Show is rich with machines that are poetry in steel and chrome - as well as carbonfiber and fuel efficiency.

Electric is the new mantra, with the Nissan Leaf electric car joining the Honda Fit EV Concept electric vehicle as cars generating huge "buzz" at the show.

Also on everyone's radar is the Wheego 2011 Life, a 100-mile-range electric two-seater. This is the first highway-speed vehicle for Wheego. The car meets all 2011 automotive standards as set by the National Highway Transportation and Safety Administration.

It also qualifies for a host of rebates and tax credits. Good thing because the vehicle, which takes five hours to charge from 50 percent to 100 percent, costs $32,995, and that's before the $1,995 air conditioning.

Among the "can't miss" exhibits is the Porsche offering, ensconced - as always - in Petree Hall. Guests are greeted immediately upon entry with a classic 1952 Porsche 356, the first Porsche offered for sale in the U.S. The exhibit showcases the U.S. debuts of the 911 Carrera GTS and the 911 Speedster - as well as a host of other beautiful machines.

I must say, however, the new Cayman R is on display in a rather ugly shade of bright green that should be illegal.

Concourse Hall is another "must see" stop with the new Lotus Evora S and IPS, Exige RGB Edition, Elan (Concept), Elise (Concept), Esprit (Concept), Elite (Concept) and Eterne (Concept) enticing guests to stop and dream.

I miss Ferrari and Lamborghini - sadly neither is at the show this year. Spyker, another former luxury mainstay, was also nowhere to be seen.

However, Morgan/Peranan, Aston Martin and Rolls-Royce can be found nestled up to Lotus in Concourse Hall.

The Fisker Karma (and if you have to ask the price, you can't afford it) was among my favorite vehicles viewed. It's an elegant machine offering up 403 horsepower with a top speed of 125 mph. Oh yes, it's a plug-in hybrid as well.

While touring the show stop and consider the Lincolns. My heart went pitter-patter at the sight of a burgundy Lincoln sedan with simulated wood on the steering wheel, on the dash and inset into the interior doors. The Bridge of Weir leather-trimmed seats beckoned and I sat inside the vehicle, briefly. At the mid-$40,000 price range, the car also was reasonably priced for the comfort and luxury it offered.

I also flipped for the Maybach, but who wouldn't? The top-of-the-line luxury automobile retails for hundreds of thousands of dollars, but with the nifty "put your feet up" legroom in the back seat, who wouldn't find that kind of feature enticing?

However, for perfection in automotive beauty, find your way to the Jaguar exhibit and the Jaguar C-X75 range-extended electric supercar. The Jaguar concept makes its U.S. debut at the L.A. Auto Show.

If your heart doesn't stop when you see this car, you're dead. Or you have no soul.

The C-X75 offers drivers a total of 780 horsepower, a top speed of 205 mph and zero to 62 miles per hour in 3.4 seconds.
I'm in love.

There were no Hummers climbing impossible hills at this year's L.A. Auto Show, or Jeeps perched on sculptures of mud, but there was a Mini Cooper hanging from the wall - and another tethered to an thick rope.

By default the award for most ambitious display goes to Mini Cooper. It seemed they were the only ones really trying to do something innovative.

Scion, for the record, needs to think up a new display. We've seen the cars perched on that erector set for too many years now.

If you love automobiles, head to the L.A. Auto Show. It's worth the effort and the price of admission. It's a wonderful place to dream and celebrate the L.A. car culture - it's who we are.

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