My Picks for Best & Worst of the LA Auto Show
Because all those other lists are lazy.
I grew up on Ten Best Lists. With the arrival of the internet, I came to love Ten Worst lists as well. The problem is, Buzzfeedification has led to the dilution of list quality. When The Empire Strikes Back isn’t at the top of a Star Wars list (and Attack of the Clones isn’t at the bottom) someone was born after 1990. Someone didn’t know enough to care, or care enough to know.
This — my Best & Worst of the LA Autoshow, assembled after several days of insomnia, four flights, three packs of Airborne and a gallon of Imodium — is an icepick in the face of Buzzfeedification.
My colleagues have already weighed in with the Jaguar I-Pace, Alfa Romeo Stelvio, Chevy Bolt, Porsche 911 RSR & Hyundai Ioniq. All great, but it reads like a laundry list of the obvious. Show up with anything new/good, and you’ll rise above the flotsam of a calcified industry. The Stelvio looks great, but does it deserve to be on the same list as the I-Pace?
A lot of what I found best was over in the Automobility section, which really should have stayed open for more than two days. As connectivity, sharing and autonomy move mainstream, it makes no sense that they be relegated to the periphery of the LA Auto Show:
Your Mechanic is the Uber of mechanics. Enter your make, model and year into the app, along with a brief description of the problem, and a mechanic will come to you. Does it work? Not for 2014 Morgans or 1973 Citroens, but that it exists at all is a huge step in the right direction. Please, please, please expand this and make it ubiquitous. I’ve been screwed too many times. The costs of towing and difficulty of finding a mechanic in Manhattan already make car ownership wretched enough. I’d have invested in this given the chance.
Navdy is an aftermarket heads-up display (HUD) that integrates with your phone. It appears steep at $799, but not when you consider the cost and clarity of factory HUDs, which I’ve found mostly wretched, if they’re available at all. Wirelessly upgradeable, with onboard maps and inertial sensors in case your phone coverage drops out. Hmmm, I see cameras front and back, which suggests it will do far more than gesture control. No word on if/how this will evolve, but if Hotz’s Autopilot-replicating Comma One was supposed to be $1000, then Navdy’s got to have something something in the business plan. Or Hotz was crazy. Or Navdy is. Or I’m dumb.
Carvi seems like the sister product to Navdy, but is more of a consumer version of technology common to trucking fleets, and targeted — I think — at parents concerned about their kids’ driving habits. The $299 Carvi sensor module looks like a small smoke alarm and contains a forward facing camera. Once affixed to your windshield behind your rear-view mirror, it records video of your driving habits along with a data overlay that includes safe driving tips. There’s talk of insurance discounts, but I’d be very reluctant to share my driving data with the cloud. Any cloud. Even for a discount. Still, this is an important step in the direction of drivers education and assistance. I look forward to the gen 3 and 4 versions.
SeeJaneGo is Uber for women, by women. I wouldn’t have thought this made any sense until a cursory google search revealed how unsafe many women feel using Uber. Not so much a tech or automotive innovation as much as a cultural one, this deserves to exist.
Zelectric Porsche 911
Yup, that’s an electric Porsche 911, built by Zelectric, who are basically the Singer of electrification. Gorgeous. Awesome. Immaculate. Stunning. More info as I have it, as this deserves its own story.
Subaru Viziv Concept
Didn’t see a lot of coverage of Subaru’s SUV concept, but I sure hope the Viziv gets to market. Seriously, most SUVs are gilded junk, with badging you’ll never see in harsh conditions, but Subaru has enough racing and off-road cred to pull this off. If only they got rid of the stupid blue “techie” highlights, they might not fall into the abyss of stupid “future” design elements, as seen on the recent Mercedes electric SUV concept. It also needs another name. What does Viziv mean? It’s as weird as “Tribeca” was for that now-discontinued flop. Come on, just call it the Redwood.
Nissan Star Wars Display
Nissan’s Star Wars tie-in may be just another marketing gimmick, but at least they went all in, brought out some life-sized, uniformed mannequins and built an actual Tie Fighter on the show floor. Buy one of the first 5000 Nissan Rogue Star Wars edition Rogue Ones, and you get your very own Empire Deathtrooper collectible helmet. The latter will surely skyrocket in value even as your Nissan Rogue depreciates to zero.
There were a lot of bad things at the show, but these are the very worst:
Mercedes-Maybach S 650 Cabriolet Burmester “High-End” Speaker Grilles
Burmester is an excruciatingly expensive high-end audio brand from Germany, which just so happens to have licensed their brand to Mercedes-Benz for their upgraded audio systems in-car. Is Burmester that good, even for home use? Go find out for yourself, if you can find a dealer. As a former high-end audio salesman, I’d say no. Is it a good upgrade option for your Mercedes-Benz? Sadly, you don’t have another choice, unless you want to start tearing up your interior and trunk and install something actually good, like Focal, but that’s another article.
But I’m not so much interested in Burmester’s largely overrated sound quality, at home or in-car. I’m offended by the absurd, stupid and tacky addition of the words “high-end” to the Burmester speaker grilles on the rear deck of the new Mercedes-Maybach S650 Cabriolet, a car well over $200,000. If Burmester IS high-end, then adding the words “high-end” is just gratuitous. If not, it’s a lie. Assuming it’s true, it’s like putting “sports car” on the back of your Porsche or Ferrari, or a “C-Cup” tattoo on your chest, or “Big One” on...you know where. It’s pathetic, bizarre and insulting.
The Toyota CH-R DJ
The Toyota CH-R would appear to be just another half-baked crossover/Sport-ute targeted at millennials. I don’t know. But I do know that whoever hired the DJ and thought it was a good idea to plaster a live video of his “performance” behind the car is an idiot. Please watch it for yourself for a new definition of “going through the motions”.
Lexus IS Sriracha
Lexus IS Sriracha Hello, shame? Lexus wants its car back. Oh, wait. Lexus commissioned this horror. The details? None that matter. The green accents are horrible, and more befitting a Tabasco edition Subaru, if Subaru’s marketing people were prostitutes to a brand that has nothing to do with their heritage. Sriracha? Seriously? Someone should be fired. Please, anyone, ANYONE, tell me what the market is for this package, or car.
Nissan Rogue Star Wars Edition Rogue One Deathtrooper Helmets
Yes, I know I listed this among the best in show, but there’s something really weird around a marketing campaign AND COLLECTIBLE GIVEAWAY based on symbols of fascism, oppression and evil. Deathtrooper? Sounds a little SS to me. I mean, why didn’t they give away Rebel Alliance helmets? I LOVE Star Wars. I saw the original in the theater when I was seven. Twelve times. But this is really weird. Really weird. If Jeep is smart, next year there will be a Landspeeder edition Grand Cherokee.
There’s much, much more bad stuff, but I’m well over 1000 words, and have to move on. Want more? Let me know in the comments.
Alex Roy, entrepreneur, President of Europe By Car, Editor-at-Large for The Drive, and author of The Driver, set the 2007 Transcontinental “Cannonball Run” Record in a BMW M5 in 31 hours & 4 minutes, and has set multiple "Cannonball" endurance driving records in Europe & the United States in the EV, 3-wheeler & Semi-Autonomous Classes. You may follow him on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
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