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L.A. Auto Show Preview: Electric Cars and Sports Cars Share Spotlight

Electric cars will share the spotlight with gas-guzzling performance cars at the Los Angeles Auto Show—a dichotomy that suits the city.

California is by far the largest market for electric vehicles, but it’s also among the top markets for high-end sports car manufacturers like Ferrari, Lamborghini and Porsche. Whether it’s being green or flashy, people in the Golden State like to prove a point with what they drive. They’ll have several new options at both ends of the fuel-economy spectrum, based on what’s being unveiled at the L.A. Auto Show.

General Motors is ready to help electric cars go a little more mainstream with its new Chevrolet Spark EV. The little four-door hatchback uses many components from the Volt, but doesn’t have a gasoline engine to act as a generator for the batteries. It’s pure electric and has to be plugged in to recharge. It will have fast-charging capability, which is a feature that has been absent on electric cars so far. Though some refer to it as a microcar, it seats five, unlike the Smart Fortwo Electric Drive, which, as the name suggests, only has room for two people.


On the complete other end of the spectrum, Mercedes-Benz is punctuating performance in L.A. by showcasing a new super-rare edition of its SLS AMG sports car. The SLS AMG Black Series gets even more horsepower than the already stupidly fast regular version and drops more than 150 pounds by using lightweight components.

Ford will follow through with another recurring trend—downsizing—when it reveals a new minivan that is smaller and more fuel efficient than current models, which have gotten so bloated that calling them “mini” is a bit of a misnomer. It will be offered in two- and three-row configurations and with a choice of two four-cylinder engines.

Other significant debuts run the gamut, from hot new sports cars, like the Porsche Cayman, to much less flashy transportation, like the redesigned Subaru Forester and Toyota RAV4.

The 2012 L.A. Auto Show opens to the public November 30 and runs through December 9. Here’s a rundown of some highly anticipated debuts.

2014 Chevrolet Spark EV

2014 Chevrolet Spark EV (Credit: General Motors)

If the Spark EV does what Chevrolet promises, it will bring a level of fun and convenience not currently seen in affordable electric vehicles. This little hatchback’s 100 kilowatt motor puts out the equivalent of 130 horsepower and a muscle-car-worthy 400 foot-pounds of torque—that’s more than a Porsche 911 Carrera. All that power will propel the Spark EV from 0 to 60 miles per hour in less than 8 seconds.

But perhaps the most unique feature is an optional charger that will take only 20 minutes to power the Spark EV’s lithium ion battery to 80 percent. Much of the technology on the Spark EV is proven, with more than 75 percent of propulsion system components derived from the Volt and GM’s hybrid truck programs. The battery will be warranted for 8 years or 100,000 miles. Though the battery will be at least 20 kilowatt-hours, Chevy has not said what the estimated range will be on a full charge. Nor has it said what the Spark EV will cost when it goes on sale in California next summer.

2014 Ford Transit Connect Wagon

2014 Ford Transit Connect Wagon (Credit: Ford)

Ford is jumping back into minivans in the United States after abandoning them years ago, only it’s not using the “m” word. The Ford Transit Connect Wagon is smaller than popular ones like the Honda Odyssey and Toyota Sienna, but larger than the Mazda 5. Ford already sells a trim seven-seater similar to it, called the Galaxie, in Europe. So the mini-minivan, so to speak, is not a new concept.

But the Transit Connect Wagon is a totally different vehicle, based on the robust Transit Connect commercial van, which launched in the United States in 2009. This gives it some serious towing and hauling capabilities—2,000 pounds and 1,200 pounds, respectively. There will be two versions, a five-seater and a longer seven-seater, each offering a choice of two four-cylinder engines. Ford says the smaller of the two engines, which will be turbocharged, should get more than 30 mpg on the highway. The Ford Transit Connect Wagon goes on sale in the fourth quarter of 2013.



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