November brings a host of special things for me – Thanksgiving, my birthday, and it’s when the international auto show descends upon Los Angeles.
Every year, I look forward to hitting the sprawling Los Angeles Convention Center. I get to take in all the new car offerings from the major manufacturers and wares brought by dozens of aftermarket companies.
California is one of the largest car buying markets in the United States and serves as a shining embodiment of American car culture. As such, manufacturers spare no expense or effort on their displays. This year, there were many important new cars on display.
So with much anticipation, I yet again headed downtown. Here’s what I found on my annual pilgrimage to the 2019 Los Angeles International Auto Show.
Where else to begin but by covering the most important new car in years? No other vehicle in recent memory has received more coverage, more accolades, and more hype than the all-new, mid-engine C8 Corvette. Chevrolet did not disappoint, having not one, but two sparkling examples of America’s sports car on hand.
The C8 represents the architecture always envisioned by the car’s spiritual father, Zora Arkus-Duntov. The eighth-gen Vette is revolutionary in many ways. In addition to being the first Corvette to have its engine behind the passengers’ heads and in front of the rear axle, the new Stingray also reinvents the model’s construction, materials, and very raison d’être.
Aiming to no longer be an also-ran sports car, but run with the big dogs like Ferrari and Lamborghini, Chevrolet designed the car from a clean slate. In fact, only a single part from the previous generation’s car found its way into this one. Everything else is brand-spankin’ new.
This includes an all-new 6.2-liter LT2 V8 engine that puts out 495 horsepower and 470 pound-feet of torque when equipped with the optional performance exhaust.
Also new (and undoubtedly heretical to the faithful) is the only gearbox offered: an eight-speed Tremec DCT, paddle-shifted, dual-clutch unit. Yes, you heard that right, for the first time in its history, the Corvette will no longer be available with a manual transmission.
This combination of hardware will result in a seriously fast car, with a zero-to-sixty time of 2.9 seconds. The cab-forward/long-rear-haunches look matches virtually every supercar there is today. The driver-focused cabin vastly improves upon the design and materials of any ‘Vette before it.
I took a while to examine all the lines of the two Stingrays at the show. I can say it is an extremely aggressive-looking, if not quite beautiful car. The front seems to borrow heavily from the likes of the Lamborghini Aventador and Huracan, while the side profile has some touches of McLaren and even some Acura NSX to it. Sadly, as with the past three generations of Corvette, I found the design loses steam at the rear, where things seem to lack cohesiveness and generally appear too busy.
Nonetheless, the C8 is a quantum-leap forward for the Corvette, and I look forward to seeing how they look on the street.
Also present was the mildly restyled 2020 Camaro. To my eye, the Camaro has gotten much better looking with its latest refresh. Chevy seems to have fixed the lone element in the design that wasn’t quite working: the black horizontal bar that previously existed between the upper and lower grilles. It’s now body-color, lending a more integrated look to the front.
The Camaro’s interior could still use some massaging as far as I’m concerned. The materials used are of lower-end quality, lending to a very plasticky-feeling driving environment.
FoMoCo also brought some big guns to the show. Two of its new 2020 Shelby GT500s were on display – one in Race Red with white stripes, and another in Twister Orange.
These 760-horsepower, 625 pound-feet of torque, beasts are powered by a modified version of the GT350’s 5.2-liter V8. In GT500 guise, the engine is blessed with a 2.65-liter supercharger providing 12 psi of boost. It also sports larger valves and springs, CNC-ported heads, and most notably, a cross-plane crankshaft that replaces the GT350’s flat-plane crank.
The orange Shelby was equipped with the $18,500 Carbon Fiber Track Pack. The upgrades include a rear seat-delete, Recaro racing seats, a carbon-fiber instrument panel, adjustable-strut top mounts, a massive carbon-fiber rear wing, and most apparent, Michelin Pilot Cup Sport 2 tires wrapped around 20-inch carbon-fiber wheels.
While undoubtedly a worthy performance pack, that price tag would be quite hard for me to swallow. It would push the price of a GT500 well north of $90,000. That’s quite a lot of money for a Mustang if you ask me.
Ford also brought one more consequential Mustang to the show in the form of its all-electric Mustang Mach-E crossover SUV. Aimed squarely at competing with Tesla, the Mach E combines performance with affordability in one high-tech package.
The GT performance model will churn out roughly 460 horsepower from two electric motors. That’s enough to power the Mustang Mach E to 60 miles-per-hour in 3.5 seconds, and affords a range in excess of 300 miles.
The interior also takes a page from the Tesla playbook, with massive touch screens doing away with all traditional gauges. Synthetic leather replaces real hides to please animal lovers, as well.
While there are some subtle Mustang styling touches on the Mach E, especially in the headlight and taillight treatment, they really weren’t enough for me to think of it as a Mustang. As I walked away from the vehicle, I wondered to myself about the wisdom of diluting the timeless pony car’s heritage to market a new SUV. Time will tell, as the Mustang Mach E won’t hit the market until 2021.
Fiat Chrysler Automobiles had a positively massive display at the show. There seemed to be close to two-dozen Jeeps and some serious muscle cars from the House of Dodge.
The top of the line Challenger – the Hellcat Redeye Widebody – featured a Triple-Nickel silver exterior with a blacked-out hood. All Hellcats receive a mildly updated interior for 2020 when the plus package is selected, which includes a leather-wrapped dash and doors. Real carbon-fiber trim on the dash and console with an Alcantara headliner are also now available.
The Challenger R/T Scat Pack 1320 drag-oriented car was also on display. An “11.72” in grease marker on the quarter window denoted the best quarter-mile time the car on hand pulled at the drag strip.
2020 represents 50 years since the original E-Body Challenger hit the market, so all ’20 Challengers will wear “Challenger 50” badges on their grilles.
To further celebrate the anniversary, Dodge debuted a pair of unique, limited-production, Challenger 50th Anniversary cars at the LA Auto show.
Painted in Gold Rush and Sinamon Stick (a rusty orange), the two cars on display had a retro Shaker hood scoop, special wheels, and unique badging and trim on both the interior and exterior. Available with both 5.7-liter and 392 cubic-inch Hemi V8 engines, less than 2000 of the Challenger 50th Anniversary cars will be built. Other hues available will include Frostbite (light blue), Hellraisin, TorRed, F8 Green, and GoMango orange.
Another great Dodge offering at the show was the first example of the 2020 Dodge Charger Hellcat Widebody I’ve seen. All Charger Hellcats will come in this spec from now on, and it will be an option for Scat Pack Chargers. The TorRed Hellcat at the show looked fantastic. The widebody treatment enhances the look and performance of the Charger immeasurably. A mean-looking car!
CUSTOM/CLASSIC CARS AND AFTERMARKET SUPPLIERS
For the custom crowd, there was much to choose from in the “Garage Display” downstairs.
Everything from customized hypercars to modified pickups were on hand. Companies such as SS Motorsports, West Coast Customs, and DUB were showing off their vehicles and wares.
Aftermarket parts, wheel manufacturers, and suppliers abounded. For the collector, the Burning Rubber Toy Group had, literally thousands of scale models from which to choose.
Other notable displays included vintage license plate vendors, tin automotive sign distributors, and much more.
A gaggle of prestigious muscle cars from the past sat gleaming in the lights as well, including a rare, early-1967 Shelby GT500 convertible.
The Los Angeles International Auto Show is no less than a blast each and every year. If you live in Southern California and love cars, make it your business to head downtown to check it out.
See you next year!