Hit: 2018 Jeep Wrangler
There’s a lot of pressure when you reinvent something as beloved as the Wrangler, but the Jeep team has managed to modernized the SUV without giving up any of its personality. Trimming weight and adding technology keep the Wrangler relevant in today’s car market, while improved off-roading abilities will appease off-road enthusiasts. The more you look around, the more clever details you’ll find. Those hood latches serve as winch guides, for instance, and under the trunk floor are special holders for the bolts you’ll undo to remove the roof, windshield, or doors. Couple that with a design that’s new but still pays tribute to classic Jeep (and Willys) styling, and you’ve got a recipe for a Wrangler that should be as popular as ever.
Miss: Nissan And Star Wars
At this point, I don’t really understand why Nissan keeps beating the Star Wars thing to death. There’s no product placement in the movies. You can’t buy the show cars that we’ve now seen at three separate auto shows. The only real thing that’s come to fruition from this partnership is, well, the Rogue: One Rogue Star Wars Limited Edition. It was cool the first time. Now it’s just getting old.
Hit: Small Crossovers
It’s no secret that entry-level CUVs are easy wins for automakers these days – this is one of the hottest segments in the market. We saw a number of new ones debut here in Los Angeles, and there isn’t a bad one among them. Nissan brings the Kicks over from other markets to offer a more mainstream-looking replacement for the Juke. Hyundai’s Kona offers turbo power and funky style. The Volvo XC40 takes all the things we love about the Swedish automaker’s design and packs it in a tiny-tough package. Toyota even showed us the weird FT-AC concept, with adventure in mind. Keep ‘em coming, folks.
Miss: 2019 Lincoln Nautilus
Lincoln announced it’ll be transitioning back to real names instead of alphanumeric nomenclature. At the LA Auto Show, Lincoln presented a new one: Nautilus. But it’s not a new vehicle. It’s barely even a mid-cycle refresh. It’s the MKX crossover with a new nose – that’s it. Launching a new vehicle with a new nameplate gives you the opportunity to make a big splash. But with the MKX-to-Nautilus transition, we might just be hearing a lot of, “Wait, what’s that one called again?” And wasn’t that the problem in the first place?
Hit: 2018 Chevy Corvette ZR1 Convertible
When I asked Corvette chief engineer Tadge Juechter what his team’s goals were for the new ZR1, he had a pretty succinct answer: “We want to do better than we’ve done previously in every way.” The new top-dog Corvette is not just about horsepower, though it’s got a lot of that. It’s not just about a superlative top speed, though it has one. And it’s not only about wild styling, functional aerodynamics, or a super-loud exhaust – even though all three are present and accounted for. What’s impressive about the Corvette ZR1 is that it underlines Chevrolet’s ability and desire to build some of the most impressive performance machines on the planet. It is, by far, the most exciting, most adrenaline-pumping debut on display here in L.A.