LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles Auto show opens to the public today, and the flurry of new models being unveiled underscores increasingly fierce industry competition on technology, efficiency, and horsepower.
The show features major debuts including the long-awaited redesign of the Toyota RAV4 sport utility, the new Porsche Cayman, and Acura’s flagship RLX. Meanwhile, Audi unleashed new diesel versions of four models and Ford offered a Fiesta with a turbo three-cylinder engine small enough to fit in a suitcase.
Sitting in front of Chevrolet’s new Spark EV — a sub-$25,000 electric car with more torque than some Ferraris — General Motors North America President Mark Reuss said automakers have emerged from the economic downturn leaner, with sustainable operations making large investments in innovative products.
“You can look around this show and basically see yourself driving anything here,” Mr. Reuss said. “I’m not sure I could have said that at any auto show in the past.”
Even as technology and fuel efficiency grabbed the spotlight, Mr. Reuss and other auto executives remain keenly aware that consumers still focus on the fundamentals. Asked what factor most determined what consumers buy, Mr. Reuss didn’t hesitate: “Reliability and durability.”
“No one wants to be accused of buying something stupid,” he said.
Making their world debuts at the event:
● JAGUAR XFR-S: It’s the second model in Jag’s ultra-high performance lineup, with only 100 being offered for sale in the United States during the 2014 model year. It has a 550-horsepower supercharged V-8 engine that takes it from zero to 60 in 4.4 seconds, yet it avoids a gas-guzzler tax by getting 23 mpg on the highway. The car starts at $99,000 and goes on sale early in the summer.
●PORSCHE CAYMAN: The third generation of the two-seat mid-engine sports coupe is lower, longer, lighter, and faster than the old model, yet more efficient, Porsche says. The base model has a 2.7-liter, 275 horsepower engine, while the sportier Cayman S has a 3.4-liter motor with 325 horsepower. The S can hit 60 mph from a standing start in 4.4 seconds. The Cayman goes on sale in the spring and starts at $52,600.
●TOYOTA RAV4: The fourth-generation of Toyota’s RAV4, which practically invented the crossover segment when it first went on sale nearly 20 years ago. The latest RAV4 has sharper, more aggressive styling, better fuel economy (up to 31 mpg on the highway), a new six-speed transmission, and other features to help it compete against its archrival, the Honda CR-V.
●HONDA CIVIC: Honda is showing off a new Civic compact car. Honda did a lightning-quick revision of the popular car after realizing that compacts from other automakers had caught and passed the top-selling Civic. Honda is expected to address criticism that the 2012 model was noisy, cheap-looking, and didn’t handle or perform as well as older Civics.
●FIAT 500e: The Fiat 500 mini-car is bulking up and going electric. The Italian automaker is showing two new versions of the 500 at the show: An all-electric model that Fiat says will go 80 miles when fully charged and a longer, four-door model that seats five and offers twice the room of the tiny 500. The 500e will go on sale in California in the second quarter of 2013, while the elongated 500 will hit dealerships all over the country in the middle of next year.
●BMW i3: The battery-powered concept car, which swaps the traditional steel body for lighter carbon fiber, gives some clues about where BMW is going with its first electric car. BMW says the concept car can go 80 to 100 miles on a battery charge. It has a 170 horsepower electric motor and is rear-wheel drive. Battery cells are under the floor, lowering the car’s center of gravity for better handling. The cell around the passengers is made of carbon fiber reinforced plastic. No word on when the car will hit showrooms.
●ACURA RLX: It’s a new version of the aging big Acura, the RL. The 2014 RLX will have an all-wheel steering system that controls the steering angles for better handling, a new communications setup and LED headlamps. It’s also 275 pounds lighter and has a new 310-horsepower V-6 that gets 31 miles per gallon on the highway.
●CHEVROLET SPARK EV: An all-electric mini-car that will go on sale in California, Oregon, Canada, and South Korea next summer. Other markets are expected to follow. General Motors won’t release many details, but says the Spark EV will cost less than $25,000 with a federal tax credit and will go at least as far on a charge as rivals like the Nissan Leaf and Ford Focus EV, which can go more than 70 miles.
●FORD TRANSIT CONNECT WAGON: After a six-year hiatus, Ford gets back into the minivan business with the Transit Connect Wagon. It seats up to seven, has dual sliding doors, and will be instantly recognizable thanks to its short size and high roofline. It will get 30-plus miles to the gallon and start around $20,000. It goes on sale in the fall.