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L.A. Auto Show stars automakers' latest rolling stock

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BMW 4 Series Convertible at the L.A. Auto Show.

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BMW 4 Series Convertible at the L.A. Auto Show.

LOS ANGELES -- The Los Angeles Auto Show opened last week and runs through Sunday. Here are some of the most buzz-worthy vehicles introduced at this year's show:

BMW

BMW adds a convertible to its 4 Series line of two-door coupes, which debuted over the summer. The 4 Series replaced the 3 Series coupe; BMW is now reserving the 3 Series name for four-door sedans.

The convertible, which goes on sale early next year, has a three-piece retractable hardtop that can be automatically lowered in 20 seconds at low speeds. To keep away the chill, the car has optional neck warmers in the driver and passenger seats.

As in the 4 Series coupe, there are two engine choices: a turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder with 240 horsepower in the 428i and a 3.0-litre turbocharged inline six-cylinder with 300 horsepower in the 435i. Both have an eight-speed automatic transmission.

The 428i is offered as a rear-wheel-drive or an all-wheel-drive, while the 435i is offered as a rear-wheel-drive only.

Making its North American premiere, the BMW Concept X4 is a thinly disguised concept of the production version, set to go on sale in 2014 and built in the same U.S. BMW plant that makes the five-seat X3 that the 2+2 SUV/coupe is based upon.

BMW says the Concept X4 "combines the rugged looks of a BMW X model with the emotional and sporting aura of one of the brand's coupes -- and, in so doing, brings the Sports Activity Coupe concept so successfully coined by the BMW X6 to another new class."

Chevrolet

CLAIMING its all-new Colorado will offer "real truck capability and versatility to customers who don't require a full-sized truck," Chevrolet went on the offensive to "redefine" the neglected mid-sized truck segment.

The pickup, which Chevy says will also cater to the recreational crowd, is expected to deliver class-leading power, payload and trailering ratings when it goes on sale in fall 2014 as a 2015 model.

The Colorado will come to market with a choice of two engines: a 2.5-litre I4 with an estimated 193 horsepower is standard, and a 302-hp 3.6L V6 is available (final horsepower ratings are pending). Both engines are tuned, tested and validated for truck use, says Chevy, and both feature direct injection and variable valve timing to make the most of power and efficiency. A six-speed automatic transmission is standard.

Chevy says the Colorado will also offer the segment's only diesel engine in its second year -- a Duramax 2.8L four-cylinder turbodiesel already offered in global markets.

The Colorado's configurations are an extended cab model with a six-foot bed, a crew cab with a five-foot bed and a crew cab with a six-foot bed. With the tailgate down, GM says the six-foot bed allows hauling of eight-foot-long items.

The pickup will be sold in WT, LT and Z71 trims, with the off road-inspired Z71 the obvious macho model. It features a gunmetal grille surround -- a change from the chrome standard on the other models -- projector headlamps and unique 17-inch aluminum wheels.

Ford

FORD says its Edge concept vehicle previews the design direction and technology of the company's future SUVs. The lines on the concept are sharper and more angled than on the current Edge, and it adopts the trapezoidal grille shape and narrow headlights of Ford's newer products.

Advanced safety features include an automated parking system that can find and park in a perpendicular space. The system can even be activated remotely, pulling the car out of a tight spot before the driver gets in. The Edge concept also will automatically steer away from obstacles and brake to avoid a collision.

Ford isn't yet saying when the new Edge will go on sale, but it's likely to arrive sometime next year.

Jaguar F-Type Coupe

THE F-Type convertible, which went on sale in the spring, was Jaguar's first two-seat sports car in 50 years. Now the company is adding a hardtop version.

The base model of the all-aluminum coupe -- made, in part, from recycled metal -- has a 340-horsepower V-6 engine and a top speed of 260 km/h. In the middle is the S Coupe, featuring a supercharged V6 (380 hp), a top speed of 275 km/h and a sub-five second zero-to-100 km/h time. Carbon ceramic brakes are also available as an option on the S.

At the top of the lineup is the F-Type R, which has a 550-horsepower V-8 engine and goes from zero to 100 km/h in 4.2 seconds. It has a top speed of 300 km/h.

All versions have an eight-speed transmission and a hidden rear spoiler that automatically rises at 112.6 km/h and tucks back in at 80.4 km/h or less.

Canadian pricing hasn't been announced, but U.S. pricing starts at $65,000, or $4,000 less than the convertible. The coupe goes on sale in April.

Mercedes-Benz

The Vision Gran Turismo super sports car, with its wild and fluid lines and extreme proportions, is drawing viewers to Mercedes' stand at the LA show.

The Gran Turismo is pure fantasy, designed for the PlayStation racing game Gran Turismo 6. The virtual model (a scale model of the show car, complete with Mercedes' signature gull-wing doors) will be available for download next month. While a car like this won't ever be produced, look for some of the design elements, such as the LED lights that replace louvers on the grille, on future super sports cars.

The GLA45 AMG concept, a small SUV from Mercedes' AMG performance division, is closer to reality. Like Porsche and Lincoln, Mercedes is entering the fast-growing, compact luxury SUV market with its upcoming GLA series.

The GLA45 concept has a 2.0-litre, turbocharged four-cylinder engine with 355 horsepower. No word on when it will hit the market.

If you've been saving up your loonies for Mercedes-Benz's V8 super sports car, the aptly named SLS AMG GT Final Edition will be one of your last opportunities to buy one. Available as both a Gullwing Coupe and open-top Roadster, only 350 examples of the 591-horsepower SLS AMG GT Final Edition will be available, starting next March. Once all have been sold, that's it.

Porsche

Porsche is entering the fast-growing compact SUV market with the Macan. The Macan -- the name comes from the Indonesian word for tiger -- is six inches shorter than its sibling, the Cayenne SUV, but features the same muscular look. It also uses some tricks to look more substantial, such as a broad, wraparound hood that encompasses the headlights.

Porsche designed two versions: the Macan S, with a new, 3.0-litre V-6 engine that gets 340 horsepower, and the Macan Turbo, with a new 3.6-litre V-6 that gets 400 horsepower. Standard features include an off-road mode, which adjusts the torque, shifter and other functions for off-roading at the touch of a button. There's an optional air-suspension chassis, which can set the vehicle's ground clearance at three levels. Porsche says the feature is unique to the Macan among small SUVs.

The Macan goes on sale in late spring as a 2015 model at a starting price of $54,300 for the Macan S and $82,200 for the Macan Turbo. Sales of small luxury SUVs are up 25 per cent so far this year, making them the fastest-growing segment in the luxury market.

Subaru

Marking the third generation of one of its most popular cars, Subaru revealed the 2015 WRX at the LA show.

The completely redesigned WRX ups the ante over models from years past. It still borrows its look from the Impreza, but the latest WRX spruces things up with a more aggressive front end, flared fenders and, of course, a hood scoop.

Under the hood nets the biggest changes, with Subaru swapping out the 2.5-litre turbocharged flat-four in favour of an all-new 2.0-litre mill. Lifted from the Forester XT, which is basically a turbocharged version of the BRZ's engine, the WRX pumps out 268 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. The horsepower increase might be marginal over the current 265, but torque is up by some 14 lb-ft. It's also available earlier, at about 2,000 rpm.

Where the previous generation WRX fed its wheels with a five-speed manual, the 2015 WRX will come standard with a new six-speed manual transmission. A supposedly sport-tuned version of Subaru's Lineartronic CVT will also be available, which brings a more advanced all-wheel-drive system. The CVT splits torque 45:55 front-to-rear, while the six-speed manual makes do with a 50:50 split.

The CVT WRX also comes with SI-Drive, Subaru's throttle mapping system. Like the Forester XT, you can choose between Intelligent mode in the name of fuel-sipping, while Sport is the default. Sport Sharp bumps up the car's reflexes and lets you "shift" through eight preset gear ratios.

Inside, the WRX looks largely like the Impreza but classes things up with sportier touches. A thicker, flat-bottom steering wheel is standard, as are a pair of sport seats. Materials have also been upgraded and the WRX earns a set of jazzy gauges. All in all, the WRX's interior seems to be a considerable improvement over the outgoing one.

The WRX is expected to hit dealers early next year.

Volkswagen

As the lines between coupes and crossovers gets ever further blurred, more and more automakers are trying to find niches within niches to differentiate themselves from the hordes of new premium compact-sized coupe-ish crossovers flooding the market. The latest is Volkswagen's CrossBlue Coupe Concept.

Based on the more traditional CrossBlue crossover unveiled at this years' Detroit Auto Show, the coupe version sports an Evoque-like swooping rear roofline and a 415 horsepower plug-in hybrid powertrain that combines a turbocharged V6 gas engine with two electric motors. Volkswagen claims this CrossBlue can travel 20 kilometres electrically and can accelerate to 100 kilometres an hour in just 5.8 seconds.

Its exterior styling may be unusual, but the CrossBlue's interior looks more conventional (read production-ready) and Volkswagen says that Coupe could be produced in either conventional gas or diesel guises as well.

Volkswagen also announced that its first fully electric car, the e-Golf, will go on sale at the end of 2014. The e-Golf is based on the seventh-generation gasoline-powered Golf, designed from the outset to house either a gas engine or an electric motor and battery.

The e-Golf, which will be a five-door hatchback, has a 115-horsepower electric motor and a 264-cell lithium-ion battery that's tucked into the frame beneath the front and rear passenger seats.

Volkswagen says the car can go 112 to 144 kilometres on a charge, depending in part on which of three modes (normal, eco or eco-plus) the driver selects.

At the opposite end of the VW spectrum is the Design Vision GTI concept, a hatch so hot it threatened to set Volkswagen's show display on fire. Thankfully, its bulging fender flares were more than just an idle boast of performance -- the concept car's 503-horsepower, 3.0-litre TFSI V6 said to propel this hottest of GTIs to 100 km/h an hour in just four seconds and 300 km/h if you happen to have an autobahn handy.

-- From the wire services

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 29, 2013 A1

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