Wings of desire: The Los Angeles Auto Show

High-performance cars are back on trend at the Los Angeles Auto Show, writesKavita Daswani

PUBLISHED : Friday, 07 December, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 07 December, 2012, 11:35am

With a top speed of 315km/h, and a 6.3-litre V8 engine that produces 622 horsepower, the new Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG Black Series is the marque's fastest car. The new Jaguar XFR-S will be available to only 500 customers worldwide. The third-generation Porsche Cayman S, which is lighter, faster and more efficient than its predecessor, can zoom from a standstill to 100km/h in 4.6 seconds.

Those were some of the luxury cars making their debuts at the Los Angeles Auto Show, which runs until Sunday.

Causing the most excitement was the new gull-wing SLS AMG Black Series, widely touted as an "extreme" car.

"The AMG is already an incredible car," says Ed Hellwig, editor of car research website "But this newest one really shows how dedicated AMG is to stretching the envelope in terms of performance. Mercedes wanted a race car for the streets, and this is the most extreme AMG ever built."

The SLS AMG Black Series has not yet been priced. But the new Jaguar XFR-S will retail for US$99,000 in the US, and cost much more in Hong Kong with the city's high first registration tax. According to Hellwig, it is similar to the Benz Black in that it is "the highest level and highest performance version of the Jaguar sedan".

The XFR-S is powered by a supercharged five-litre V8 that has an output of 550hp, giving it a top speed of almost 300km/h.

Bentley, which showcased its new Continental GT3 in Paris in October, held the North American preview of the car in Los Angeles. The carmaker says the US is beginning to edge out China as the top buyer of its ultra-deluxe cars. China overtook the US as Bentley's biggest market earlier this year.

Brendan Flynn, director of communications for the Los Angeles Auto Show, says the number of world debuts by top brands coincides with a resurgence in confidence in the economy, with sales figures rising for luxury cars in North America overall and California, in particular.

"In years past, they might have held off on some of those introductions, or not promoted them quite as widely," Flynn says. "But there is a sense that there is much more enthusiasm for these cars now."

Green cars are also typically a big part of the show. But the key difference between the current show and previous ones is that the focus was on electric cars that are already headed to production, rather than the concept cars that typically occupy that space. These include the new Honda 2014 Accord Plug-In Hybrid, which will get 49 kilometres per litre of petrol, and Audi's A1, which will get an impressive 120 kilometres per litre.

Fiat unveiled the first battery-powered version of its popular 500. The 500e musters 111hp and has a range of almost 130 kilometres when fully charged. Fiat says a full charge takes less than four hours at 240 volts. The 500e will go on sale in the first half of next year.

BMW also unveiled a sportier version of its all-electric i3 concept, saying the coupe is one generation away from becoming a production model. The new hatchback is rated at 170hp and has a range of 160 kilometres per charge. It will go on the market next year.