LA Auto Show Opens

LA Auto Show 2018-Publicity-H 2018
Jon Alain Guzik

Hot releases from Porsche, Mercedes-Benz, Bentley and more.

The SUV is still king of the car market.

The LA Auto Show, on now through Dec. 9 at the Convention Center downtown, opened in the wake of news that American automaker GM would be laying off 7 percent of its workforce, shuttering 14 North American plants and discontinuing production of several models, including the much-beloved Chevy Volt. GM is moving toward an all-SUV lineup, in step with competitors who are rolling out bigger, less fuel-efficient, luxury vehicles to meet consumer demand. 

To wit, in L.A., Mercedes-Benz showed off a new GLE SUV, which, thanks to its new E-Active Body Control feature, which prevents the GLE from getting stuck in the mud, bounced onstage like an East L.A. low rider. The automaker also debuted a new G-Class, which is sure to sell like gangbusters when it hits dealers next month. BMW presented its new, three-row X7 SUV, while Audi had its e-Tron EV SUV onstage as well as its new luxe Q8 SUV.

Everywhere you looked, there were SUVs as far as the eye could see, even in automotive emission-policing California. Lincoln, whose six-figure Navigator was a surprise best seller last year — it was sold out for most of the last two quarters — showed off an all-new for 2020 Aviator, which may be smaller, but still hews to its larger siblings’ American super-luxury ethos.

Honda got in on the SUV action, too, bringing back the Passport name plate with a mid-sized SUV, while Hyundai offered a new full-size SUV called the Palisade, and Jeep unveiled an awesome 2020 Jeep Gladiator, which is essentially a Jeep Wrangler with a pickup bed and caused this reporter's heart to flutter with desire.

On the green side, one of the most ubiquitous cars in town — the Toyota Prius — debuted a new 2019 All Weather Drive-e model, meaning you could take a Prius (and not the SUV) up to the ski cabin in Big Bear, assuming it actually snows this winter.

Stealthy electric car startup Rivian, fresh off a half-billion-dollar fundraise, unveiled R1S and R1T models at Griffith Observatory with an very high-profile appearance by Rihanna. Both models are on the show floor and worth a peak from this Tesla-of-trucks company. The R1S is a swell-looking SUV and the R1T is a fun full-size pickup truck, both built off the same underpinnings. Both are concepts for now, though you can put down a $1,000 deposit for a tentative 2020 delivery. If you're in the market for a luxury EV sooner,  take a deep look at the new Jaguar I-PACE.

On the luxury sports car and sedan side, Porsche showed off an all-new 911, designated the 992, with an Armie Hammer hosted spectacular at the Porsche Experience Center in Carson. Bentley has a lovely new Continental GT Convertible, which you can now option with a tweed (!) soft top, and Mercedes-Benz took the wraps off updated and more powerful AMG GT R and GT R Pro models.

As usual, there were a slew of concepts, from the outre, like the BMW Vision iNext electric concept — which, when I was on the show floor, seemed to drive itself, much to delight of the crowd. More accessible were a Toyota TJ Cruiser Concept, Mitsubishi’s neat space-age electric concept, the e-Evolution, the Volkswagen I.D. Buzz Cargo van EV concept, and the swoop-y shaped Hyundai Le Fil Rouge concept.

But, the best in show was the Audi e-tron GT, which shares a lot of underpinnings with the forthcoming Porsche Taycan. Like the star it is, the Audi stunner will make its feature film debut in 2019’s Avengers 4, which I am sure is when dealers will also open their order books. Boom.