New Atlas spent the bulk of last week touring the LA Auto Show and seeing the latest in all-American (market) cars, trucks, concepts and auto technology. The show's offerings run the gamut from $10K electric three-wheelers to seven-figure hyper-hybrids, making for a delightfully eclectic collection. Here we've picked out the best cars (along with a few bikes and urban transporters) for your viewing pleasure.
Big showings from smaller names
While LA is hosting the typical debut vehicles from name-brand auto companies – the new Jeep Wrangler is a definite standout – many of the most exciting debuts this year seem to have come more from smaller, less familiar names. Aria has emerged from the industry shadows to show the type of hypercar we usually have to wait until Geneva to see, and Saleen has revealed its latest curvy sports car, the simply named 1.
On the more eco-minded end of the spectrum, several new players are showing their in-progress $10K electric three-wheelers. Of particular interest is the three-wheeler from Sondors, a name better known for a much-publicized crowdfunded electric bike from several years back. The company is in the process of using equity crowdfunding to make the jump from two-wheeled, pedal-assist power to three-wheeled automotive power and is using LA to show a rear-driven prototype 2+1 that looks fairly sporty up front. We'll have more about this one in a separate article, but here's a first look.
Three-wheelers are a semi-strange sight at an auto show, but there's something much stranger in LA. The Redspace "REDS" is being designed by an international team led by former BMW design chief Chris Bangle. It looks more like a four-wheeled kitchen appliance than a traditional car, and that's because the funky urban EV has been designed inside out, reimagined around the user experience, with no attachment to traditional car design. It's a "space that became a car," a space that's designed to be as comfortable and functional during the 90 percent of its life that it spends stationary as the 10 percent it's in motion.
The REDS is specifically optimized around the commuting demands of China's sprawling megacities, designed to take back time typically forever lost in maddening commuter traffic. Toward that end, it includes dual-screen infotainment, a highly configurable interior with slide-and-swivel seating, a sliding door designed for tight spaces, and a zero-emissions powertrain supported by solar panels and wireless charging.
Not to be dismissed as a design exercise, the REDS car is the first stage of a production car being prepared by China's CHTC Motors, which plans to proceed with testing and production preparations.
Long-awaited sports convertibles
What better place than sunny Southern California to reveal an open-air variant of one of the world's favorite sports cars? We reckon that's why both BMW and Chevy have chosen the LA show to reveal their latest drop-tops.
BMW first showed an i8 Spyder before its high-performance plug-in had officially made it to market, but it took a few extra years to whip that roadster into dealership-ready form. The extra wait was well worth it, though, as the all-new i8 Roadster comes based on an updated version of the i8 plug-in platform, offering more power, more electric range and a 0-60 mph (96.5 km/h) of 4.4 seconds.
In place of the i8 coupe's rear seats, the Roadster features a soft-top system that retracts in 16 seconds at speeds up to 31 mph (50 km/h). The all-new i8 Roadster will hit the market in Spring 2018 (Northern Hemisphere), alongside the updated coupe, with pricing to be announced closer to launch.
A convertible even longer in the making, the new Chevy Corvette ZR1 Convertible becomes the first ZR1 drop-top since the 1970 model year. An absolutely aggressive open-air machine, the latest addition to the ZR1 family shares the ZR1 coupe's 755-hp supercharged 6.2-liter LT5 V8, making the siblings the most powerful Corvettes ever.
The convertible weighs only about 60 lb (27 kg) more than the coupe and will be able to top 200 mph (322 km/h), according to Chevy. It will hit the market in Spring 2018 (Northern Hemisphere) for a price of US$123,995 after destination, $4,000 more than the coupe.