2006 marks the first year in some time that the Los Angeles Auto Show does not overlap with the Detroit show. That means that manufacturers are finally able to do significant introductions here, instead of having to choose between the two
Jeff and I are here in the press room, and will soon be making our way to the many press conferences and model introductions scheduled for today. Included are the public revealings of 3 new Honda and Acura concepts. Stay tuned for photos and comments today, and we should have some video soon after.
We just attended the Nissan press conference. Besides alluding to a new, small crossover to be introduced soon (probably a CRV competitor finally), the big news was the official introduction of the Altima coupe and the Nissan Sentra SE-R and SE-R V-spec.
My thoughts? The Altima coupe is going to be a winner. It'll be priced similarly to the existing Altima with similar engine options. There will also be a more sporting interior and suspension. But the real killer is how it looks. To me, its a G35 coupe with some different details. And looks sell in the coupe market. Jeff doesn't feel quite as strongly as I do on the looks, so you'll have to judge for yourself.
The SE-R, on the other hand, doesn't look very exciting. While we don't know how it drives yet, we do know some specs. 200 hp/180 lbs-ft (probably from a QR25 I4), available LSD and a price around $20k starting. Nissan's spokesman made some comments about best power/$$ in the class. Unfortunately for them, they seem to have forgotten about the Mazdaspeed 3! Looks wise, the car is very bland. Jeff compared it to a chopped Saturn Ion. Nissan is about 2 years too late with this model. With the Civic Si, VW GTI and MS3 already lighting up the sales charts, I don't see many people outside of Nissan enthusiasts ponying up for the SE-R, especially if it responds to modifications like the last one did (IOW, poorly compared to its turbocharged or VTEC equipped competition). Maybe they'll up the power to 220 hp before it goes on sale next March to generate more interest.
Well, we busted through the Honda and Acura press conferences and visited a few other manufacturers along the way. We'll be going back tomorrow for a few hours to get some pics of things we missed, but here's the short story.
First of all, I think Honda has had a very successful show. They have reaffirmed their position as a environmental leader by featuring the FCX concept prominently in their booth. Honda has the only fuel cell vehicle in the hands of a consumer, and their targeted release of a low production vehicle based on the FCX in 2008 (yes, they said that and repeated it in our on camera interview :) only cements their leadership position. Others, like GM, are trying to steal the limelight (GM is accepting applications for their fuel cell Equinox in June, 2007), but Honda is truly out in front.
Next, the intro of the Step Bus and Remix showed that Honda has not forgotten its roots. The Step Bus is an innovative, inexpensive (at least it should be if produced), practical and economical vehicle that would easily find a home in urban environments. It takes what Scion has tried to with the xB to another level (and it is mid-engined and RWD to boot!!).
The Remix, as the name implies, pulls styling and design cues from Honda's past and mixes them in a modern way. To be honest, when I first saw the PR photos the Remix, I wasn't so sure about the styling. But in person, it really is stunning. The rear haunches/fenders are curvaceous and in the aluminum paint evokes thoughts of a billet piece of metal. The aircraft like greenhouse structure is aggressive and stylish (reminds me a little of an NSX or HSC - very little, but it does) and the stance of the car is wide and powerful. About the only part of the car that I wasn't really sure about was hood to front bumper transition. I can see why the hood had to be that way to fit with the rest of the car, but the transition just doesn't quite do it for me. But I can see a lot of these styling elements making their way into a future small Honda. Dare I say, CRX? (they asked us to please not ask about the CRX in our interviews :)
I can't be as positive about Acura's intro. Some of you have already gotten into spirited discussions about the Advanced Sedan Concept. Watch our interview for more details and explanations. My opinion is as follows. Some of the details are excessive - no doubt about it. The reat boat tail and center break line are almost harsh. But there are also critical things I like. The Chrysler 300 like greenhouse is one. The scalloped lower panels are another. The long hood, short deck also hints at a much bigger powertrain than anything Acura currently has - and we all know they need that if they aspire to a higher status among customers. What is important to remember is this a styling experiment. It doesn't reflect any immediate model plans. So give your feedback - not only on what you don't like, but what you do like. It will make a difference!