The 2006 Los Angeles Autoshow
by: Eric Shen
1/6/2006
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Quick, what do Frankfurt, New York, Chicago, and Detroit have that Los Angeles does not?

If you said lousy weather and NFL teams you'd be right (Frankfurt's NFL Europe team is called the Galaxy - sigh)

If you said highly acclaimed, internationally respected and significant car shows, you would also be correct.

Criticisms of the LA Autoshow are plentiful and unfortunately, mostly true. Like the city itself, it's large in size, yet insignificant and stagnant. The buzz and excitement normally associated with international shows is replaced with a flickering fluorescent hollowness and the numbing sense of wasted time, money, and floorspace. It doesn't have the relevance or significance of the New York or Detroit shows yet isn't a tidy consumer-friendly show like Chicago. It is not, as some have suggested, an tasty appetizer in advance of the NAIAS in Detroit, but rather inconveniently timed detour on the way to Cobo Hall.

But in spite of all of this, we went. Why? Because, well, we love cars and while the LA Autoshow doesn't have many things (buzz, appeal, sexy models shivering in gossamer gowns) it has a few four (and three) wheeled creations worth a look. Here is the best and the worst of the 2006 LA Autoshow:

Reasonably New Stuff
(aka the buzz – lower case intended)
There are two schools of thought when it comes to all new vehicle introductions at LA Autoshow. Conventional wisdom argues against unveiling an all-new car at this buzzless void because it precedes the vastly more popular and well attended North American International Auto Show by less than a week. The counterpoint is that a debut at LA means you can essentially be the talk of the show, versus potentially being lost amidst the jostling and jockeying in Detroit.

Still, it's no surprise that there were only a handful of North America debuts and even fewer World debuts at this year's LA Show. Highlights include the Mercedes-Benz S600, Audi Q7 SUV, Porsche Cayenne Turbo S and Saleen S331. Here's a closer look at two that you may find more realistic:

2007 Mazda CX-7
It would be easy to write-off the CX-7, Mazda's all-new crossover SUV as simply a taller version of the Mazdaspeed6. After all, the CX-7 seats five like the MS6 and has the same 2.3-liter turbocharged 16-valve all-aluminum 4-banger and all wheel drive system. Surprisingly however, the CX-7 doesn't share the Mazda6 platform – it is built up on a Frankstein monocoque structure that utilizes the front end of the Mazda3 and back end of the upcoming Mazda MPV (that the US will not see). The powertrain and most of the running gear is cribbed from the MS6 however, which means the CX-7 should be fun behind the wheel. With independent suspension all around, 244 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque, the CX-7 appears more RX-7 than SUV, but we'll let you know as soon as we drive one. Pricing was not released, but expect to see them at dealerships by the summertime.

Toyota Yaris Sedan and Pricing
The other world debut was Toyota's all new Yaris Sedan and the announcement of pricing for the Yaris and FJ Cruiser line.

Coming soon to this very website will be a comprehensive review the all-new Echo replacement, the Toyota Yaris. Toyota announced that the Yaris would be coming to the US a few months ago, but showed only the egg-shaped 2-door Liftback. At the LA Show, they drew back the covers to unveil Liftback's stablemates, a 4-door Sedan and sporty S-model sedan. Mechanically, the Yaris Liftback, Sedan, and S-model are identical; all are front drivers powered by the same 106hp 1.5-liter 4-cylinder VVT-I engine found in the Scion xA/xB twins.

Although each model showcases designs that cater the Japanese and European markets they were built for, it is the individual styling that sets them all apart. The Liftback is definitely the cutest of the bunch, with a button nose, big-eyes and a Pikachu-like stance. The Sedan has a few changes including a front grille reminiscent of the Mazda3 and an overall shape that carries the new Camry and Avalon styling. The Yaris S Sedan is designed to appeal to buyers looking for sporty styling, with side rocker panels, front and rear under bumper spoilers, and available aluminum alloy wheels.

For budget cars, they are surprisingly well equipped, with standard features like air conditioning and a high-tech instrument panel. But make no mistake, Toyota is feeling the heat in highly competitive subcompact sector and has come out swinging. This aggressively priced trio are poised to help steal back market share from the Koreans; the base price for the Liftback will be $10,950, while the Yaris sedan will be $11,825. The S-sedan will start at $13,325. Expect all three to hit showrooms by Spring 2006.

Toyota's other big announcment was the pricing of the soon to be released (and soon-to-be reviewed on this website) FJ Cruiser. The buzz is strong for Toyota's new bad boy off roader and these prices should send shivers down the spines of the Jeep and Hummer brand managers. The base model FJ Cruiser, with two-wheel drive and a 5-speed automatic will go for $21,710. Four-wheel drive versions with the 6-speed manual gearbox are priced at $22,890, while an automatic four-wheeler will cost you $23,300. Quite a nasty gut shot to a segment featuring $30,000 Hummer H3s and $28,000 Jeep Rubicons. The only contender seems to be the $19,000-ish Nissan X-Terra.

Next Generation Honda S2000 Concepts
Recently Honda partnered with two of the nation's automotive design schools, Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California and the College of Creative Studies in Detroit, Michigan to design the next gen S2000. Student teams were given brief on the parameters of the project – basically design an S2000 for the year 2015. Two winning designs from each program were selected to be shown at the LA Autoshow in Honda's booth.

All four, as seen here, were judged by Honda designers to have elements they found interesting and inspiring, but this does not mean that any of these designs will show up in the next gen S2000 (if one is to come out). Simply put, this was an exercise meant to give students and designers the opportunity to interact and learn from each other.

Volkswagen GX3
(aka Looks like somebody lost a bet at VW)
(aka Simply the Raddest 3-wheeled Car Ever).
Volkswagen showed off their Eos 4-seat convertible, which like many cars on the show floor, debuted at an earlier, much more prestigious car show. They also displayed the backwards trike concept "car" you see before you. VW calls it the GX3 and gives us these erection inducing details: 10 lb/hp power-to-weight ratio (1200lb curbweight), 1.25g road holding, and 46 mpg. It is powered by a tranverse, rear mounted 1.6-liter 4-cylinder that makes 125hp and 112.5 ft-lbs of torque and enables the GX3 to sprint to 62mph in 5.7 seconds. Row all the way through the 6-speed gearbox and you'll eventually top out at 125mph. Suspension is double wishbone with coilovers in the front and an aluminum mono swing arm in the back. Oh and about that back tire – 315/30 on an 18x12-inch rim. Whoowhee.

The GX3 was conceived for the US by the Moonraker team and Volkswagen's Design Center in California. VW claim's they'll build it and sell it for about $17,000 if they get enough interest. To drive one, you'd need motorcycle license and a pair of brass cajones.

Kamikaze Integrated Performance Vehicle
(aka Oh Wait, this is the Raddest 3-wheeled Car Ever)
In the aftermarket section of the Autoshow, tucked away in a corner booth was this surprisingly similar 3-wheeler from the Martino Motor Company. Called the Kamikaze Integrated Performance Vehicle, this backwards trike is 200 lbs lighter and almost 300hp stronger than the GX3. Powered by an intercooled turbocharged, 1300 Suzuki Hayabusa motorcycle engine, the Kamikaze makes 400hp to the wheel and looks like the integration of a crotch rocket and shifter kart via a high speed head on collision. Which is funny only because the concept for the car originated from a wrecked ‘Busa (the curved intercooler wasn't damaged, it's shaped that way to accommodate the front wheel of a motorcycle). The frame is built from aircraft grade 60601 T6 aluminum and uses a Chassis Works hot rod front end. A massive Hoosier Pro-Street Radial tire sits at the back, with Advan A032R at the front. The cockpit features a Kirkey Racing seat and weird handlebar controls that look part motorcycle part fitness equipment. Sweet but can you drift it?

Tuner Friends!
This year's Autoshow was much less tuner friendly than in years past, but there were still a number of notable modified rides on the show floor. Here is a sampling of a few of them.

DG Motorsports Mazdaspeed6 LSS (Luxury, Speed, Style)
DG Motorsports used the new Mazdaspeed6 to showcase their carbon fiber fabricating ability, lacing the MS6 in carbon fiber everything, including down spoilers, grille, driving light surrounds, rocker extensions, and rear fascia panels. The carbon fiber rear spoiler was a David Green design and the interior treatment was attributed to Superior Carbon Fiber. The drippy black PPG paint was by applied by Dan Hatch and the car was lowered on Mazdaspeed lowering springs and Volk Racing GT-7 wheels (19x8). The only engine mods seemed to be the Sebring Tuning exhaust.

Troy Lee Designs Customized MX-5
One of the first customized MX-5s was this mostly cosmetic creation put together by Troy Lee Design and his band of merry contractors. Following Lee's concept and paint, Keith Dean created body modifications including the unique dual side draft exhausts. L&G Enterprises applied the PPG paint and detailed it, while famous SoCal interior shop Stitchcraft refinished the cockpit and seats in sexy red leather. Performance upgrades include Eibach suspension, a Wilwood big brake kit with cross drilled rotors, and Volk Racing 18-inch GT-C wheels on Yokohama Advan tires (225/40/18)

Volvo XC70: Terra Firma Crusha
This one was shown at SEMA but somehow we managed to miss it – although how that happened we can't figure out because this thing was amazing. It looks like the grocery getter from hell, but the stunning part is the performance. Through minor miracles known as Garrett's GT2835R turbo, Aquamist in-cylinder cooling and ipd/MTE Stage III software upgrades, this Volvo now puts out 408 ground pounding horsepower and 398 lb-ft. of earth moving torque. Perfect for guys with kids named Terren.

Aging Rocker Theme Car #1:
Mercedes Benz/Rolling Stones Special Edition R-Class
Nothing says "I'm old and hip like the ‘Stones, but don't want to break my old hips getting into a sexy sports car" like this special edition R-Class by Unique Autosports. Slathered in DuPont Hot Hues paint and dropped on 22-inch Lowenharts, this baby boomer cruiser pays homage to the oldest rock'n'roll band in the world. You may not enjoy styling of this R-Class, but your parents are probably wetting their Depends at the thought of rolling to their next bridge party while rocking out to "Satisfaction" on the Alpine/JBL sound system. TV mounted headrests will let them catch episodes of Martha Stewart Living, while custom Rolling Stones floor mats and head rests will remind them of just how hip they (your parents and the band) used to be. "Start me up!"

Aging Rocker Theme Car #2: Paul McCartney Lexus RX-400h
Lexus's booth featured this RX400h splashed with a giant guitar design signed by Paul McCartney. We have no idea what this is all supposed to mean, since there were no details given, but rumor has it the interior was recovered in baby cow hides removed during veal processing and the Hybrid synergy drive uses a special blend of 87 octane and the blood of bottlenose dolphins caught in fishing nets. Who says rich rockers and the boomers that love them aren't concerned about the environment?

Lopes 55 model Sprinter
Urban Racer promotes an active lifestyle and vehicles like the Lopes 55 model truly put the sport and utility back into the SUV segment. Sportsmobile customized this Dodge Sprinter van specifically for mountaing bike champion and avid motorcrosser Brian Lopes. The Lopes 55 model Sprinter is a specially built dirt and moutain ike hauler that can hold 2-3 dirt bikes and gear, or several more mountain bikes. The passenger area has been converted to living area with a bench seat that converts to a bed, and small kitchen area complete with a mini-fridge. Of course, a booming sound system and flip down LCD TV comes with the package, but perhaps the best feature in these fuel conscious times is the high torque Mercedes Benz sourced diesel that gets 22+mpg.

The Four Horsemen of the Eclipse
The diamond star booth showcased three 2006 Mitsubishi Eclipses tuned by aftermarket partners and one done up in-house by Ralliart. The tuner versions ranged from full race to street performance to mostly show; while the Ralliart version to the Eclipse back to the original concept of all wheel drive, turbocharged performance. Here's a break down:

2006 Mitsubishi Eclipse GT by Road Race Engineering
Built for NASA racing, the Road Race Engineering Eclipse GT was stripped of its interior and strengthened by a custom 12-point FIA-approved roll cage. Aero modifications included a carbon fiber 3D-2 GT carbon fiber wing by Rotora, Carbon Trix lower front lip spoiler, carbon trix accents. Inside, Road Race installed a Racetech RT409 FIA-approved Kevlar competition racing seat with cam locking 3-inch harnesses. The instrument panel featured a Zeitronix Datalogging UEGO display and GReddy gauges for oil press and coolant temp. Chassis modifications consisted of TEIN Type Flex coilover with Road Race Engineering adjustable camber/caster playes, Progress sway bars (rear) and Energy Suspension bushings. Brakes feature Rotora's 4-piston calipers on 13"-inch slotted directional floating discs, with ceramic pads and stainless steel lines all around, while the wheel and tire package consists of Enkei RP F1 19x8.5 and Toyo T1-R (245/35/19) all around. Engine mods were limited by the NASA rule book, but Road Race Engineering added their own equal length headers, race exhaust system, cold air intake, programmable fuel controller, as well as a Fluidyne radiator and RC Engineering big bore throttle body. To help counter the Eclipse's torque steer, especially given the performance enhancements, Road Race improved the drive train with a Quaife LSD, ACT 6-puck Extreme clutch and ACT Xact chromoly flywheel.

2006 Mitsubishi Eclipse GT by D3
The street brawler of the group was the Eclipse put together by D3. The first tip-off was the PWR front mount intercooler peaking out of the bumper. We didn't get to verify the existence of twin turbochargers by turbochargingsystems.com, but they're supposed inside, along with an NX Express nitrous system, an upgraded ECU by D3/Spilt Second, TurboXS blow off valves and boost, and Cool Tek fans and oil cooler. Handling modification include Eibach lowering springs, D3 chassis bracing and polyurethane bushings.The cockpit is finished with OMP racing seats, harnesses and a steering wheel. The entertainment system features an Eclipse AVN7000 headunit, reverse camer, and amps, Image Dynamics speakers, Acelle 15" monitors, and Scosche wiring and capacitors.

Sex appeal was provided by Shine Street in the form of a front fascia, side skirts, carbon fiber fender flares and side rocker panels, in addition to a Fiber FX carbon fiber hood. Auto Indulgence did the paint and install, while Mackin' supplied the Volk Racing GT-V 19x9.5-inch wheels.

WORKS 2006 Eclipse GS TR Edition
Noted Mitsubishi tuner WORKS has more experience with the Lancer Evo but apparently went all out with their GS TR edition. They created a whole catalog of WORKS parts for the Eclipse, including a "Brain flash P2" factory ECU Prototype flash, "Aperture" throttle body, "Inhale" high flow intake kit, prototype supercharger kit, "Exhale" stainless mid pipe and stainless steel axle back muffler. Suspension modifications include "Ride" springs, an adjustable 24mm rear sway bar, and a front and rear strut tower brace. Braking is handled by AME Big Orange 4-piston calipers biting 2-piece floating rollers via Teflon-Kevlar lines. A factory Mitsubishi Aero bodykit and alloy fuel are the only body modifications. Wheels are AME Circ-Spec 19x9 inch with Toyo Proxes T1R tires (275/35/R19). Inside, the the driver is treated to a Defi VSD Basis HUD and 60mm boost gauge.

Eclipse Ralliart Prototype
(aka How to get rid of that nasty torque steer)
Built by the Aria Group, a respected SoCal prototyping shop, the Eclipse by Ralliart is stunning example of how factory efforts can trump even the most painstaking aftermarket endeavours.

Beneath the PPG Hot Red Mica paint is a body composed almost entirely of carbon fiber – yup, the roof panel, hood, front fenders, front and rear fascia, rear wing and mirrors are crafted from the stuff. Even the hoops of the wheels are made from carbon fiber, although the center spoke and hub are alloy.

Inside, the rear seats have been removed, and replaced with a filler panel and a Rockford Fosgate sound system. The remaining seats are Recaros recovered in leather and Alcantara. Racing gauges, a custom harness bar, and Evo inspired steering wheel round out the racy looks, but the real story is under the hood.

Instead of a naturally aspirated V6, the Eclipse Ralliart features a 4G63 turb 4-cylinder pulled from the Lancer Evo. The Evo awd system is also on board, installed by Millenworks, as is the Evo VIII MR's 6-speed manual transmission, though augmented by an RPS triple plate clutch. More Evo VIII goodies were bolted on as well, including a rear diff and the rear suspension (although all of it was upgraded by a Road Race Engineering/Mullerized coilover kit.)

Engine and drivetrain modifications are many and include ARP head studs, a high flow fuel pump and injectors an HKS turbo kit, HKS 264-degree cams and air/fuel controller. The car breathes through an AEM custom air intake and 2.75-inch turbo back exhaust. Brakes are 8-piston Brembos in front with 15-inch slotted rotors and a 4-piston/13.5-inch rear setup.

And finally, the Ugliest Car at the LA Autoshow
(aka perhaps the Ugliest Car Ever)
My heavens, who would do such a thing to a BMW M7? Oh wait, BMW never made an M7.

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