2019 LA motor show: full report and pictures
We round up all the new models and debuts from one of America's biggest annual automotive events
Welcome to Autocar's extended coverage of the 2019 Los Angeles motor show, one of the last major shows of this year's automotive calendar.
As ever, it is a uniquely Californian show that plays home to a varied mix of SUVs, V8s and electric cars. Manufacturers including Audi, Ford and Volkswagen are all in attendance, with major announcements expected throughout the week. Some brands even jumped the gun, revealing all ahead of the show floor opening to the industry.
We were on the ground in LA to bring you all the news as it breaks from the show, as as well as providing insight and comment from industry figures, and first drives of some of the biggest new launches.
-LA 2019: show report-
Wheeled vastness, electric vehicles and fast-breeding mid-size SUVs were the most visible exhibits at an LA show marked by the welcome arrival of heavy rain and hail to a parched California. Whether this sudden shift was merely weather or a symptom of climate change, there were certainly signs of fundamental change at the show, where the electric Mustang Mach-E is Ford’s surprisingly potent – and fairly pricey, at £40,000 upwards – Tesla fighter. VW’s ID Space Vizzion concept, the E-Tron Spaceback that makes Audi the first premium player to introduce a second EV, the new-to America electric Mini and numerous plug-in hybrids will all be able to take advantage of the fact that California’s solar and wind power quite regularly generates surplus electricity in need of a home.
Yet the industry’s growing battle to introduce affordable electric models was overshadowed, literally, by the bombastic trucks littering much of the Chevrolet stand, a spectacular ultra-high-riding, highly modified Ford F250 pick-up in the main entrance foyer and any number of medium to large SUVs. Not all of them from US manufacturers either, Mercedes unveiling AMG versions of its GLE and GLS, Audi its potent RS Q8, Toyota a new Highlander SUV of a size unremarkable in an American context, Land Rover its Defender and Kia its not-for-Europe Seltos. The almost absurd contradiction in all this can be hard to explain, but to understand the big trucks follow the money – these beasts are highly profitable US best-sellers – while the EU’s CO2 squeeze, China’s commitment to EVs and Tesla’s sales success explains the heavy peppering of battery-powered cars at this show.
Which also explains the strange avenues some manufacturers are travelling in an effort to clean up the car and maintain its appeal. Who would have thought that there would one day be a five-door Mustang SUV punching out as much as 459 electric horsepower, or that BMW would have hired a couple of musicians to devise soundtracks for its EVs, or that it would be harvesting methane from a US dairy farm to produce electricity? VW, meanwhile, will plant 1000 trees to compensate for the 1000 miles that its Atlas Cross Sport R will travel in the Baja 1000 off-road race and Subaru, which had turned its stand into a virtual slice of US National Park, would be planting no less than half a million trees to rebuild US forests destroyed by fire.
Even the unchanging is changing. There’s a new Mustang Shelby GT 500, but there’s now a Mustang EV. There’s a new Corvette, this the legendary sportscar’s first US show appearance, but its engine lies behind the driver rather than in front. On the other hand, some things really don’t change. Dodge celebrated 50 Challenger years with a very limited limited edition of 490 multi-hued cars, FCA’s policy of starving most of its brands of genuinely new product underlined by the sorry 300C saloon at the back of a Chrysler carpet park of ageing minivans and a modest Fiat stand deprived of its one-time mainstay 500, now deleted.
Yet this show was optimistic, as motor shows almost invariably are.
*Thursday 21 November, 1000 GMT*
Last few udates from the show floow. "Big show for Hyundai," says editor Tisshaw. "Not only is it previewing its new design language with the Vision T SUV concept, but also its plans for its first mid-engined car with the RM19 prototype. Think of that for a second: a mid-engined Hyundai. That’s remarkable progress from the company in such a short space of time."
The sun always shines in LA, right? Not today: heavy rain and thunderstorms are rattling the convention centre, and each executive giving a speech has made pretty much the same gag about the weather at the start of their presentations.
Kia has a new SUV at the show, but it’s not for the UK. The Seltos is sized between the Stonic and Sportage in European terms, a gap Kia has just filled with the XCeed in Europe. The Seltos will instead be offered in the US, Korea, India and the Middle East.
*Thursday 21 November, 0900 GMT*
Jaguar stole a march on its big German rivals with the I-Pace, but Mercedes-Benz and Audi have caught up with launches in their own. And now in the case of Audi, it’s gone past Jaguar with the launch of its second electric car, the E-Tron Sportback. Jaguar has built up so much goodwill and reputation-changing momentum with the I-Pace, the XJ, which is also going all-electric, can’t come soon enough to keep the story going.
Unusual stat of the day: the Toyota RAV4 Hybrid and its 0-60mph time of 5.8sec is the now second fastest accelerating Toyota now after the Supra.
California is second only to China in terms of start-ups, and there are two here showing new models and outlining plans. Bollinger is the maker of a very tough-looking SUV and pick-up sister car for an apocalyptic world, and says that of the 1500 or so pre-orders it has received have come from the UK. Karma, born out of the ashes of Fisker, has shown GT and GTS versions of its Revero swoopy saloon and also the dramatic-looking SC2, which it says will go into production with a seven-figure price tag should it draw the interest it hopes.
*Thursday 21 November, 0700 GMT*
The new Land Rover Defender is being sold in the US for the first time, and makes its US debut here. Starring alongside it is the Defender that’s been used for filming in the upcoming James Bond film No Time To Die. It’s the first time we’ve also got to see the Defender in more of a natural environment: filthy and covered in crap. And it looks even better this way, too. How many cars are designed where looking good when so dirty is so important?
BMW’s controversial styling is seen again here in LA, this time on the 2 Series Gran Coupe. The small saloon is effectively the 1 Series for the US, albeit with a much bigger grille. Graceful it is not, but it doesn’t look quite as vast in the metal as it does in pictures.
Subaru’s stand in LA wins the no-expense-spared award this year. It’s been converted into a national park, with a fake geyser exploding throughout the day… The crowds around the cars were nothing compared to that around that of the German Shepherd adoption charity that Subaru had invited onto its stand, your correspondent particularly taken by three-year-old Sophie.
*Wednesday 20 November, 2200 GMT*
“Big fan of the new Mini JCW GP,” says editor Mark Tisshaw. “The previous two have been riots to drive, and judging by the looks the new one, I’d imagine it’d be more of the same. It’s got some mad detailing, including the double-deck rear wing you can fit your fist through the middle of, and some extraordinary flared wheel arches.” Road comfort and civility doesn’t seem to have been a priority here…
Los Angeles remains the show of polar opposites, where high performance SUVs sit along the latest electric cars. Take the Mercedes-AMG GLS 63, a giant of a machine that looks far too big for US roads but somehow seems to manage to blend in in LA. It’s sat right next to Mercedes’ EQC electric car on the stand, the two almost cancelling each other out in their approach to the environment.
The BMW M2 CS is BMW’s latest rear-drive compact coupe, but it won’t be the last. Product boss Peter Henrich confirmed that successors to the 2-Series coupe and cabriolet would remain rear-wheel drive, which means the next M2 will too.
*Wednesday 20 November, 2115 GMT*
This year’s Audi LA motor show star has only just been revealed, but design boss Marc Lichte has already confirmed next year’s. “In one more year here we will present a coupe as well,” he said, not naming directly the E-Tron GT but we all know what he meant.
VW’s full-blooded, all-in approach to electrification will see electric cars built in the US at its Chattanooga plant from next year when the ID Crozz SUV concept makes production. The 1000 new jobs and $800 million investment in the plant is part of a wider $65 billion investment in electrification the VW Group is making, as VW USA CEO Scott Keogh reminded the assembled crowd at the unveiling of the ID Space Vizzion concept. Keogh spoke of VW as a pioneer in this space, and the size of the investment received whoops from the crowd, those there seemingly forgetting the elephant in the room that started in the US as to why VW has had to take such a lead in the first place…
Audi created a wall of its new digital matrix headlights to play a light show to accompany the unveil of its E-Tron Sportback on the eve of the LA show. At the front were two headlights spinning and mounted on robot arms, their action and the accompanying music make it seem like the set of Simon Pegg/Nick Frost movie The World’s End. Which probably isn’t the Hollywood effect they were going for.
*Wednesday 20 November, 2015 GMT*
The Petersen Automotive Museum, the world’s most popular museum of its type, was the location for VW’s unveil of the ID Space Vizzion concept. The link has come about because VW has partnered the Petersen in a new exhibition detailing the industry’s history in electric cars, and the path that has led to the current boom in electrified technologies. This fantastic Back to the Future-spec DeLorean on display in the lobby isn’t part of it though…
Marc Lichte, Audi design boss, promised a whole host of new Audi electric models in the years to come at the unveiling of the new E-Tron Sportback. They’ll need to, for by 2025 Audi has pledged 40% of its cars sold to be electrified. “Our commitment to electrification has just started,” he said. “This is our next step to an all-electric future.”
Barely seconds after the covers came off the new VW ID Space Vizzion concept, VW USA CEO Scott Keogh confirmed it would make production in 2022, and likely called ID5 according to our sources as a sister car to the ID5 saloon previewed by the Vizzion. That could potentially leave VW with three very similar-sized estate cars in the market: the Passat estate, long-rumoured Arteon Shooting Brake, and the ID5 estate. Something will have to give…
*Wednesday 20 November, 1930 GMT*
In the metal, the E-Tron Sportback looks better than the pictures give it credit, and it seems an altogether more-rounded visual proposition than the E-Tron it is derived from. Its rolling refinement, from the passenger seat at least, is a level up from any electric car, and the perceived quality of the cabin beyond reproach. This is as classy as an electric car as we’ve yet seen.
Teslas are as common a site on LA’s streets as Ford Fiestas are in the UK. And most of them are the Model 3, which regularly makes top 10 sales charts on any given month. The rules on front numberplates seems relaxed at best here, which makes a Model 3 both easy to spot over a Model S and its slim grille, but also showcasing just how anonymous the Tesla front-end styling really is. It could be anything, really, which shows just how impressive a job Tesla has done on promoting its technology when its designs are so plain.
How big is too big for an alloy wheel? 23 inches? That’s how big the Audi RS Q8’s alloys are, the same size as the Lamborghini Urus. But Audi exterior design chief Andreas Mindt reckons that really is now it for ever-larger alloys, as the limits of physics are finally reached - not for the want of trying from car designers. Read more from Mindt on this here.
*Wednesday 20 November, 1830 GMT*
Brave move from Audi on Monday night in LA, putting undisguised versions of its new E-Tron Sportback onto public roads to demonstrate to us its impressive new lighting technology. In a world where cars are kept so secret until the moment the covers come off to try and avoid leaks, this was ballsy, but no eagle-eyed LA car spotter managed to get the scoop.
There are some incredible driving roads less than an hour from LA, many of them criss-crossing over canyons to the west of the city. Head there on the weekend, and you have to keep your wits about you to steer clear of the bikers who rule the roads, yet cars are well represented, too. If there’s a higher concentration of Porsche 911 GT3s this side of the Nurburgring, we’re yet to see it.
A remote helipad on top of some parkland and hills overlooking the LA Dodgers baseball stadium and the rest of the LA skyline was where Audi showed us the new RS Q8 super-SUV just ahead of its official unveil. Again, none of the morning hikers or dog walkers who were around realised they could have had a scoop. Yet what Audi did would have been nothing out of the ordinary for the locals, who a security official said there was filming going on everyday in the spectacular location, where locals have learned to look the other way.
*Wednesday 20 November, 1730 GMT*
Bugatti hosted an event on the eve of the LA show to showcase the Chiron that recently set a world speed record for a production can when it travelled just shy of 305mph at the hands of Brit Andy Wallace. Wallace said the Bugatti spent a week at VW’s 12-mile-long Ehra-Lessien test track in setting the speed, gradually building it up. When the engineers gave the nod for the attempt, Wallace said he did a 125mph installation lap, by the end of which his palms were sweaty at what was to come. The straight is 5 ½ miles long but one mile is needed to slow down, so he had 4 ½ miles to play with to set the record. At those speeds, a mile is covered in 11secs and a football field is covered in 0.8secs. The raw footage doesn’t do justice to how hard the car was to keep in a straight-line, says Wallace, not because of the car being unstable but because of how at those speeds how big even small imperfections in the road surface feel.
LA is the place to go car spotting. Hang around Beverly Hills, or down by the coast in Malibu, and you will see the rarest of the year. Just a few minutes watching the world go by on the coastal highway was all it took for a Koenigsegg to pull up at the traffic lights, swifty followed by a Bugatti Veyron. It made all the Lamborghinis and Ferraris that were around almost as common as Ford Fiestas, although intriguingly not one McLaren came into view.
Fewer than 700 Bugattis are on the road, all of them extremely powerful and none electrified, and none doing more than about 1000 miles per year. Yet the firm still wants to be seen to be making a statement on environmental responsibility, so announced on the eve of the LA show it would start to plant 4000 trees each year for carbon offsetting.
-LA motor show: What's on display-
There are plenty of big names revealing new metal at this year's show. While we've focused on the models most likely to go on sale in other markets as well as the US, there's still lots to see.
Although Aston Martin chose China for the official reveal of its first ever SUV, it also made sure to bring one to Los Angeles. The £158,000 SUV promises the kind of sporting pedigree Aston is famed for, with a 4.0-litre V8 delivering 542bhp. A luxury interior and capable off-road credentials should make it a threat to the likes of Bentley's Bentayga and the Porsche Cayenne Turbo.
*New Aston Martin DBX: 542bhp SUV charged with reviving firm*
*E-tron sportback *
The rakishly styled Sportback variant of Audi’s E-tron electric SUV carries over the standard car's 402bhp twin-motor powertrain, but the Sportback sees major efficiency gains that help boost range to 278 miles - a significant step up over the E-tron.
Visual changes are largely limited to the reshaped roofline and a subtly restyled rear end, which includes an LED brake light bar similar to that of the A8 luxury saloon.
*Audi E-tron Sportback revealed as electric coupe SUV*
Only the second of Audi's Q line-up of SUVs to carry the RS badge, and the first to go on sale in the US, the RS Q8 made a splash at LA with a bright green colour scheme, massive 23in alloy wheels - and the small matter of a 4.0-litre V8 and mild hybrid powertrain putting out 591bhp.
*2020 Audi RS Q8 arrives with 591bhp mild hybrid V8*
*2 Series Gran Coupé*
The largest model in BMW’s 2 Series line-up made its public debut at LA, following a reveal in October.
The firm’s first small four-door coupe sits atop the same front-wheel-drive platform as the smaller 1 Series, and shares that model’s range of petrol and diesel powerplants. The range-topping M235i xDrive, however, gains all-wheel drive and will take on the Mercedes-AMG CLA 35, with a 2.0-litre twin-turbo petrol unit pumping out 302bhp and 332lb ft.
*New BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe squares up to Mercedes CLA*
The run-out version of the current-generation M2 performance coupé, the M2 CS sheds weight with plenty of carbonfibre parts and gains aero improvements to shave down those track day times.
Naturally it also gets more power, with M Division's S55 six-cylinder engine boosted to 444bhp - or the same output as the larger M4 Competition. It is on sale now in the UK, with prices starting at £75,320.
*New BMW M2 CS: official details of 444bhp, £75k run-out special*
*M8 Gran Coupe*
At the other end of BMW’s performance saloon range is this, the fearsome M8 Gran Coupe. Going up against the Porsche Panamera with up to 616bhp from its 4.4-litre twin-turbocharged V8, the five-door version of the firm’s new M8 is priced from £120,935, with deliveries due to take place at the start of next year.
*BMW M8 Gran Coupe revealed as Porsche Panamera rival*
*B1 and B2*
Newly established American firm Bollinger showcased prototype versions of its B1 and B2 electric SUVs. The rugged-looking off-roaders sit atop a skateboard-style chassis and have been engineered to meet road-legal requirements around the world. In spite of their aerodynamically unfriendly design and imposing size, the boxy models will hit 60mph from rest in just 4.5 seconds, thanks to a pair of electric motors that combine to produce 614bhp.
*Bollinger reveals electric off-roader and pick-up truck*
Ford kickstarted its electrification strategy with the sleek SUV inspired by the Mustang sports car, showing the model for the first time at LA ahead of the main show.
Due to go on sale in 2020 as a rival to Tesla’s new Model Y, the Mustang Mach-E will offer a range of 370 miles on the WLTP cycle in extended battery form. At launch, a range-topping First Edition version will produce 332bhp, with a GT model set to make around 459bhp shortly after.
Electric Ford Mustang Mach-E is Tesla Model Y rival
Hyundai's 'ground-breaking' new SUV concept takes inspiration from 2018's Le Fil Rouge show car, previewing a futuristic plug-in hybrid production model to sit below the Santa Fe seven-seater.
Technical details remain scarce, even after the covers came off, but the car itself has a sleek, rakish roofline, squared-off wheel arches and a bespoke, moving grille design with integrated cooling flaps and customisable lighting.
*Hyundai Concept T Plug-In Hybrid previews new compact SUV*
It's an open secret that Hyundai's N division is working on a 'halo' model, which could arrive with an electrified powertrain. LA gave us the closest look yet at the project, in the shape of the RM19 concept.
The development platform is based on a Veloster TCR race car, only made road-legal and with a mid-mounted engine.
*Hyundai RM19 concept previews hot N 'halo' car*
1085bhp and a colossal 10,500lb ft of wheel torque are on the cards for Karma’s electric hypercar, which was shown in concept form at this year’s show.
The design is said to preview the future design direction of the Sino-American car company, while performance is suitably stratospheric: 0-60mph is promised in 1.9 seconds, while the 120kWh battery aims to provide 250 miles of range.
*Karma SC2 revealed as high-tech 1085bhp hypercar concept*
A hotter version of the already-warm Revero GT made its first appearance at LA, promising a 0-60mph time of less than 3.9 seconds from twin electric motors and a turbocharged three-cylinder petrol engine.
*Hot Karma Revero GTS achieves 0-60mph in 3.9sec*
The long-awaited reborn Defender will be coming to the US next year, and is the first Defender to do so officially. That's mainly why the Defender 90 took pride of place on Jaguar Land Rover's stand here in LA, alongside a Defender 110 that was used for stunt work in the upcoming 007 adventure No Time to Die.
*New Defender makes UK debut at Goodwood Revival*
The long-teased Lexus halo model was finally shown off in production form at this year's LA show. Previously revealed as a concept, the soft-top LC will arrive first in '500' form with a 5.0-litre V8 engine. A V6 hybrid is expected to follow later.
*Lexus LC500 Convertible revealed in LA as production model*
*AMG GLS 63*
The flagship Affalterbach SUV receieved hybrid assistance for the first time at this year's LA show, the familiar 4.0-litre V8 paired with a 48v starter-generator for a total 603bhp power output.
The seven seater luxury SUV is expected to go on sale in the UK early next year.
*New Mercedes-AMG GLS 63 unveiled as 603bhp seven-seater*
*AMG GLE 63*
Smaller but no less hardcore than the GLS with which it shared a stage, the GLE 63 also recieves a mild hybrid V8 powertrain for 2019. A sub 4.0-second 0-62mph sprint and 174mph top speed (with the optional AMG driver's package) are promised when it goes on sale in the middle of 2020.
*New Mercedes-AMG GLE 63: V8 super-SUV gains hybrid tech*
Conceived as a rival to the Range Rover SVAutobiography, Bentley Bentayga and Rolls-Royce Cullinan, the Maybach GLS is an ultra-luxurious reworking of Mercedes’ GLS flagship SUV.
The standard model’s silhouette is retained, but spy shots show that the Maybach version will feature bespoke design elements inspired by 2016’s Maybach 6 coupe concept. There are suggestions that the top-of-the-line GLS could also offer improved rear legroom, courtesy of an extended wheelbase.
*Mercedes-Maybach GLS drops camo ahead of reveal*
*John Cooper Works GP*
Mini's fastest model yet, the 300bhp JCW GP, has been teetering on the edge of an unveiling for a while, with prototypes making public appearances at high-profile events like the Nurburgring 24 Hours and Goodwood Festival of Speed, but now the wraps have finally come off. The 302bhp hot hatch will have a £34,995 starting price and be limited to 3000 units worldwide.
*302bhp Mini JCW GP unveiled in LA*
Launched as the entry point into Porsche’s new Taycan electric super-saloon range, the 4S offers considerably less power than the top-run Turbo and Turbo S models, but is also much more affordable, with prices starting at £83,000. Range is a still-respectable 252 miles in standard guise, with an optional Performance Battery Plus pack bringing that up to 287 miles.
*New Porsche Taycan 4S unveiled with £83,000 price*
Elon Musk will unveil his firm's long-awaited electric pick-up truck on 21 November at an independent event separate from the motor show itself. He has revealed little so far of what to expect from the model, beyond its size (similar to a Ford F-150), and cost (less than £39,000).
He has noted, however, that its final design will not match that of the numerous predictive renders circulating online, and will more closely resemble an 'armoured personnel carrier from the future'.
*Tesla pick-up to be revealed on 21 November, Musk says*
*RAV4 Prime PHEV*
Toyota followed up its future-looking Tokyo motor show display with the unveiling of a new hybrid version of one of its biggest-selling models. The RAV4 PHEV offers more electric-only range, power and battery capacity than the existing self-charging hybrid, with UK deliveries expected in the second half of next year.
*Toyota RAV4 Plug-in Hybrid launched with 302bhp powertain*
*Atlas Cross Sports*
It officially made its debut earlier this year, but LA was the first chance for the public to get a close look at the Atlas Cross Sport. The American-built, American-sold SUV has a sportier shape than the standard Atlas, with room for five occupants inside instead of seven.
*New Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport SUV revealed for US market*
*ID Space Vizzion concept*
Volkswagen revealed the latest addition to its ID range of electric vehicle concepts in the form of a Europe-focused, Passat-sized crossover estate destined for production in 2021. It is expected to deliver as much as 367 miles of range on the WLTP cycle.
The production version will follow a wave of big-selling crossover and hatchback-style EVs from VW and its Skoda, Audi and Seat partner brands, as part of the company’s drive to produce 15 million MEB-based electric cars before 2028.
*Volkswagen ID Space Vizzion previews ID 5 crossover estate*
*2018 Los Angeles motor show: all the news and pictures*
*2018 Los Angeles Auto Show: our star cars*