The 2011 Los Angeles Auto Show rolled into downtown’s L.A. Convention Center last week, debuting the usual (and unusual) new suspects of the automobile industry. I’m particularly nostalgic for these events because they symbolize the earliest and most consistent memories I have of connecting with my motorhead father, Harvey Siegel.
And since I’ve been attending auto shows since I was a little girl, I thought it fitting to remain juvenile in my account of the visit. Let’s be honest, the whole thing is a popularity contest anyway, and so I harken back to my childhood by passing judgment in the purest form: Senior Superlatives -- Automotive Edition.
For those of you who were lucky enough to avoid this high school tradition, “Senior Superlatives” is a list of sweeping labels that some kid who’s head of the yearbook gets to assign to members of the senior class. If you’re 17 years old, it’s the stuff of nightmares -- unless you’re bestowed coveted title of Most Likely to Succeed. OK, let’s get down to it (and if you are scoring at home, the show runs through Nov. 27):
BIGGEST FLIRT: 2012 Audi R8 GT Spyder
I’m never sure if I’m flirting with the R8 or if it’s flirting with me. Likely the former, as the R8 is only a car and cannot convey complex emotions. Regardless, a love affair has long since ensued between me and this naughty-looking V-10. Even though I miss the R8 coupe’s signature side intakes, its sexy squinty headlights and the 5.2L V-10 still makes me weak in the knees.
BIGGEST WALLFLOWER : 2012 Coda
Aw, poor Coda. It means well, but visually couldn’t be less enticing. If you looked up “car” in the dictionary, it would picture a nondescript four-door vehicle. That’s what a Coda looks like. Part of the appeal of having an electric car is driving something that is complete with Jetsons design -- otherwise you don’t get credit for saving the world. Zero emissions? Great! But zero charisma? I'd rather snag a Prius for less money and get the full extra credit.
MOST LIKELY TO BE COMPLETELY MEDIOCRE: 2012 Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet
I mean, why buy a Murano SUV to begin with, let alone a convertible version? A harsh question, to be sure, but with a price tag of more than $40,000, how can one find a purpose for this clunky and somewhat unattractive car? I have to CrossCabriolet this off my list because there’s no time for mediocrity when it comes to the competitive world of SUVs.
CLASS CLOWN: 2012 Nissan Juke
With a name only a vowel away from being a “joke,” the Juke is painfully over-designed -- even before you tick the box for the “Make It Yours” exterior customization option. Sorry, Juke, I'd rather “make it someone else’s.” But cool your jets, Nissan fans: Japan's answer to the muscle car, the GT-R, wiped the Juke smile off my face with its bulging body and twin-turbocharged V-6 that puts out 530 horsepower.
MOST LIKELY TO END UP IN JAIL: 2012 Lamborghini Aventador LP 700-4
With 700 horsepower and a V-12, if you don’t have a run-in with the law it’s just embarrassing. When I asked a representative of Lamborghini, “Who the hell can buy this mid-engine monsoon with nearly a $400,000 sticker price?” he replied: “Mostly brain surgeons.” I don’t know what’s more terrifying: the fact that it delivers 0 to 62 miles per hour in 2.9 seconds or that the world’s smartest surgeons are joyriding in a car that, due to their better judgment, they should not be driving at all.
BEST BODY: 2012 Aston Martin One-77
Good lord this thing has more curves than Sofia Vergara in a push-up bra.
MOST UNFORGETTABLE: BMW i8 Concept
Two of the reasons you can’t get this fully electric sports car out if your brain are because a) it looks like space and b) it’s in the new Mission: Impossible -- Ghost Protocol trailer, which airs on TV every seven seconds. Indeed, the i8 is impossible to ignore. Its half-translucent shell is the most exotic design I’ve ever seen in an electric car, and it is actually going into production in 2014. It’ll make you proud to plug in. (Sorry, Coda.)
MOST LIKELY TO BECOME PRESIDENT: 2012 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG Gull-Wing
This regal coupe transcends all other candidates in its class. I would pass any bill authored by this 563 horsepower roadster, except the bill that comes with actually purchasing it. But that’s only because I’m a liberal and pay a lot of taxes.
DIRTIEST MIND: 2012 Dodge Challenger SRT8
I may have gotten a little pregnant from sitting in this animal. With tuning from Dodge’s Street and Racing Technology division enhancing the Challenger’s already testosterone-oozing body to the tune of 470 horsepower and 470 pound-feet of torque, the Challenger makes me nervous in all the right ways.
MOST LIKELY TO SUCCEED: 2012 Kia Optima Hybrid
No, I wasn’t wooed to award Kia this honored title because its booth had an interactive computerized dancing gerbil in a windbreaker. However, that element did warm me up to pay close attention to the company’s stellar sense of humor, which then led me to be pleasantly surprised by the Optima Hybrid. This fuel-efficient sedan is genuinely affordable -- it starts at about $26,000 -- and actually looks, dare I say, kind of awesome. Don’t knock it ‘til you try it. Kia should change its slogan to: “Kia. Who knew?”