LA Auto Show 2017
Top-5 Picks

Tom’s buddy Clinton has an automotive habit.  Interventions and 12-Step programs didn’t seem to work.  So we started iDriveSoCal, asked him to be a contributor, and nicknamed him “The Professor.”  We’re kidding of course but Clinton really knows his stuff.  He habitually monitors every manufacturers output year-in-and-out.  Hear his thoughts on this year’s LA Auto Show and find out which vehicles made his Top 5-List.


***Transcript***

Recording date – December 14, 2017

Clinton Quan: There were a number of refreshed and all new vehicles at the L.A. Auto Show. There was definitely an emphasis on subcompact and compact crossover utility vehicles. A refresh is when a manufacturer makes slight revisions or design changes to the automobile. Usually it’s in the headlights and the tail lights and there might be some changes in the interior. Whereas an all new vehicle, usually, it’s an all new design, new platform, possibly new engines, and new transmissions.

Some of them are actually called 2019. So a manufacturer is allowed to designate a vehicle a 2019 model the first of the year. So starting January 1st of 2018 a manufacturer can designate that automobile as a 2019 model.

Tom Smith: Welcome to iDriveSoCal, the podcast all about mobility in the automotive capital of the United States, Southern California. I’m Tom Smith, and joining me today is a friend of mine, also a transportation engineer, also one of the biggest car guys I know, Clinton Quan. Clinton, say hello to everybody.

Clinton Quan: Hi, Tom. Hi, everyone. I’m glad to be here.

Tom Smith: I’ve known Clinton for a number of years. His knowledge of cars is striking. I’ve scratched the surface of it. I can’t seem to stump him on many of my questions. He’s more of a new car kind of guy and what’s coming out rather than a kind of like antique or muscle kind of guy, not that you don’t know about those. You do, but it’s just your wheelhouse is kind of forward, and I’m getting vigorous nodding from Clinton right now. But Clinton does a ton of car shows. He’s test driven, like, everything that I’ve ever mentioned to him, he’s like, “Oh, yeah, I’ve driven that. Yeah, I’ve driven that.” Exotics, crazy stuff and manufacturers actually reach out to Clinton for his input. So with all that in mind, I grabbed Clinton and asked him to be a contributor for iDriveSoCal, and this is our first podcast together, so thank you very much for joining me, Clinton. And if it’s okay with you, I think I might give you the nickname “the Professor”.

Clinton Quan: Sure, that’s fine.

Tom Smith: That’s okay with you?

Clinton Quan: That’s fine.

Tom Smith: All right, cool. So joining me today is the Professor. So we dispatched Clinton, now aka the Professor, to the L.A. Auto Show and we’re going to talk a little bit about that. But before we do, Clinton, the L.A. Auto Show is the first of the auto show season and being here in Southern California, being here in Hollywood, we’re all familiar with the awards season, but the L.A. Show is the first of the auto show season. What comes after that?

Clinton Quan: Next is the North American Auto Show also known as the Detroit Show. And that takes place in January, second is the Chicago Auto Show in February, and the last one is the New York Auto Show in April.

Tom Smith: Okay, so L.A., Detroit, Chicago, New York.

Clinton Quan: Yes.

Tom Smith: So it’s just kind of goes west to east.

Clinton Quan: Yeah, pretty much.

Tom Smith: All right, I’m sure that’s how they intended it to. So the beginning of the season is here in L.A., and you hit that show. Big picture, what’s the overview?

Clinton Quan: There were a number of refreshed and all new vehicles at the L.A. Auto Show. There was definitely an emphasis on subcompact and compact crossover utility vehicles.

Tom Smith: All right, and let’s explain what is refresh as opposed to all new.

Clinton Quan: Well, a refresh is when a manufacturer makes slight revisions or design changes to the automobile. Usually it’s in the headlights and the tail lights and there might be some changes in the interior. Whereas an all new vehicle, usually, it’s an all new design, new platform, possibly new engines, and new transmissions.

Tom Smith: All right, so refresh is… All new is like every five or six years maybe seven years?

Clinton Quan: Yes.

Tom Smith: And then refreshes somewhere, halfway, every three year, usually, if it’s a five year vehicle. You know, cars are kind of like suits or jeans, or it’s like new and improved. Every year you have to do a little something new, right, to spice it up and sell it and market it. But I guess that’s how it works in the automotive business. We do something brand new every five to seven and then a partially…the refresh halfway and something new each year. What do they do in that something new each year kind of thing typically? Is there a norm or how do they handle that?

Clinton Quan: Well, usually, as I mentioned, it’s an all new design, and this is the way to get consumers excited about a new product. A lot of people lease cars now. So that’s usually every three, four years or so. And this is a great way to get people into a completely brand new vehicle as well.

Tom Smith: Right, I got that, but so you have the all new is every five to seven. The refresh is halfway in between. What do they do? And we know what they do for the refresh. What do they do like each year to kind of keep it fresh? Is it just different for every manufacturer?

Clinton Quan: With most manufacturers there’s just minor changes. They might change the number of trim levels. They might add more option as standard equipment. They might change the packaging.

But it’s different with each manufacturer. The major changes usually don’t happen until the third year.

Tom Smith: Got it, okay. And then, obviously, that’s the way for manufacturers to make money, too, right? Because you retool an entire production line to make Car

A, 2018 Car A, and then you need to do that for a number of years in order to make money back on it. But then you have to sell new cars every year, too. So I guess that’s how they do it, right?

Clinton Quan: Yes, that’s how they do it.

Tom Smith: Thank you for helping me walk through that. Now, your top five here for 2018, but, actually, before we get to the top five 2018, is everything a 2018 that’s coming out or some of them actually called 2019s?

Clinton Quan: Some of them are actually called 2019. So a manufacturer is allowed to designate a vehicle a 2019 model the first of the year. So starting January 1st of 2018 a manufacturer can designate that automobile as a 2019 model.

Tom Smith: Okay, so then that’s why I can be marketed to via television, radio, internet, podcast, what have you, in late 2017 for 2019 that’s going to be available on showrooms starting January 1st 2018. So to the 20…and your top five, are they all 2018s or you got some 2019s in there?

Clinton Quan: Actually, there is one that is a 2019 model. That is the all new Infiniti QX50. There’s actually not a 2018 model, so they decided to wait until next year to come out with the all-new 2019. And this is a completely brand new vehicle. It has a beautiful elegant design. It’s actually called Infiniti’s powerful elegance.

Tom Smith: Okay, well, hold on. Just a little bit of a spoiler there. I wanted to figure out if we were going to go number one to five or go five to number one. So before… How should we do this? And have you have you figured them out that way? Are you looking at it from, “Hey, this is my number one pick,” or you just kind of grouped them all together and said these are my top five?

Clinton Quan: I just grouped them all together. My top five.

Tom Smith: All right, fair enough then. Then we can just do as you were starting with the QX50. Let’s talk that.

Clinton Quan: Okay, yeah, that is a compact sport utility vehicle or known as a crossover utility vehicle. It’s got an all new engine. It’s a two liter inline-four turbocharged engine that produces 268 horsepower, 280 pound-feet of torque. But I think what really distinguishes this compact utility vehicle is the new design. I think it’s one of the best looking compact utility vehicles out there along with the Audi Q5 and the Volvo XC60, and the Interior has a very premium feel to it. Infiniti calls it a handcrafted feel. As soon as you step into this vehicle, you’ll know what I’m talking about. It is beautiful inside.

Tom Smith: All right, all right, so the Infiniti QX50, but that’s a 2019.

Clinton Quan: It’s a 2019 model, and it will come out I believe sometime in the spring of 2018.

Tom Smith: And that is that is a complete brand new, it’s not refresh.

Clinton Quan: It’s a completely brand new vehicle, not a refresh.

Tom Smith: All right, well, that’s exciting. So the 2018…they had a 2018…

Clinton Quan: Actually, there was not.

Tom Smith: There was not a 2018 at all?

Clinton Quan: There was no 2018 at all.

Tom Smith: So they went from 2017 to 2019?

Clinton Quan: Yeah. And sometimes manufacturers will do that. When they’re coming out with a brand new vehicle, they will just ship a model year and move onto the next.

Tom Smith: That’s interesting. Now being a car guy, do you ever like look through the auto traders or the cars.coms of the world and notice like anomalies where somebody says, “Oh, the 2018 QX50,” and you say, “Aha! There wasn’t that 2018 QX50.”

Clinton Quan: Yeah, I’ve actually caught that a number of times on websites or magazines where there are those mistakes.

Tom Smith: See what I’m saying, podcast listeners? The professor. All right, so the 2019 QX50, what’s the next one?

Clinton Quan: One of my favorites and something that I’ve really been looking forward to is the refreshed 2018 Mazda6. If you look at every other midsize sedan in that segment such as the Toyota Camry, the Honda Accord, or the Nissan Altima, they all offer a base engine, which is the four cylinder engine, and then they offer a more powerful engine either a four cylinder turbo or a six cylinder engine. So this is the first time, for this generation, the Mazda6 is going to get a more powerful engine, and it’s going to get the same 2.5 liter turbocharged inline-four that the CX9 has. It produces 227 horsepower but, more importantly, it’s got 310 pound-feet of torque, which is the most torque of any midsize sedan in its segment.

Tom Smith: And we just talked about the Infiniti, which is, obviously, from the Nissan family, and they’ve never had… Well, you step on one of those cars, you know that there’s some engine underneath here, right?

Clinton Quan: Yeah.

Tom Smith: And Mazda is taking this, you said it’s a six?

Clinton Quan: Yeah, it’s the Mazda6. It’s their mid-sized vehicle. And I think it’s one of the best looking midsize sedans on the market whether you’re talking about non premium or luxury vehicles. And it’s got beautiful curves. It looks great from every angle, from the front, the rear, the side, three quarter front, three quarter rear.

Tom Smith: And now it’s got a little bit more when you step on it.

Clinton Quan: Yup, also, for 2018 there is a new signature trim. And for those of you who know about the CX9, that has a signature trim as well. So this is very similar. It’s got that Napa a leather. It’s got a Japanese Zen wood accent in it as well. So another thing they’ve done is they’ve refreshed the interior, and they’ve given it a real premium feel and look to it as well.

Tom Smith: Very nice. Okay, so we got the QX50 from Infiniti. We got the 6 from Mazda. What else do you got?

Clinton Quan: There’s also the all new Lexus LS 500 and that is their flagship full size what I call executive luxury sedan. So it’s comparable to a Mercedes S Class, a BMW 7 Series, Audi A8. And this one has a bold and expressive design. I think it’s one of the most stylish full size sedans out there. It also has some really interesting interior treatment. It has wood and glass accents that have a Japanese cultural influence. There’s also an all new engine. They will no longer be using the V8 in the full sized sedan. It’s a 3.5 liter V6 turbo, but it produces 416 horsepower.

Tom Smith: So is that actually more horsepower than the V8 they were putting in it previously?

Clinton Quan: Yeah, it’s actually quite a bit more. The V8 engine in the previous generation LS had about 380 horsepower. So this is quite a bump up but, more importantly, it’s got 442 pound-feet of torque, so it’s got a lot more torque.

Tom Smith: Now, you mention horsepower a lot and you mention torque a lot. For me, personally, I always look at it is just simply–and I think this is the same thing just using different metrics–but power to weight ratio, right? I got X number of pounds. I got X number of horsepower. The end result is ultimately I’m going to go Y fast, right? Is that the same?

Clinton Quan: Horsepower is what gives you the top speed in a vehicle and the torque is what gives you the acceleration. So a lot of people here in America, they really just look at the horsepower. But if you want to see how fast a car will go from 0 to 60, you also really need to look at the torque. And turbocharged engines usually have a good amount more torque than a normally aspirated vehicle, a car that’s non turbocharged.

Tom Smith: And ever since the economic collapse ’08, ’09, we’ve been producing cars that are significantly more …everything, better gas economy, nicer to the environment, more efficient, thank you. And as part of that, the engines are shrinking, but we’re tuning them up more, it seems, including with turbos. Now, back in the day, I remember turbo like, “Oh, turbo, sweet. It’s like oh yeah but it’s got this lag when you step on it.” Right? The terrible lag is kind of a thing of the past.

Clinton Quan: It really is a thing of the past. If you test drive most cars now, and a lot of the cars are turbocharged, you’ll feel that torque pretty instantaneously. There’s not a lot of lag in it and probably very few models where you will experience that lag.

Tom Smith: Okay, okay, all right, so we have the… You said it was a new or refresh LS?.

Clinton Quan: This is an all new LS, LS 500.

Tom Smith: Okay, all right, so we got three down. What are the other two?

Clinton Quan: Probably my favorite…

Tom Smith: One at a time of course.

Clinton Quan: Yes, the 2018 Kia Stinger and there were four of them at the L.A. Auto Show that I saw: two standard Kia Stingers and then there were two which I believe were from SEMA, so they were heavily modified.

Tom Smith: All right, and SEMA, for those that don’t know, I think everybody listening to this particular podcast is probably going to know SEMA, but SEMA is…?

Clinton Quan: The Specialty Equipment Manufacturers Association show in Las Vegas.

Tom Smith: So out in Vegas they tune-up the cars, doll up the cars, take them to the manufacturer and make them even more special.

Clinton Quan: Yes.

Tom Smith: So, sorry to interrupt you, the Stinger, they had to regulars and two that were from SEMA?

Clinton Quan: Yes. And the Stinger, it’s an all new vehicle. It’s a very specialized vehicle. There’s really I wouldn’t say anything in its class right now. It’s a sport back so it’s similar to an A7, an Audi A7 or a Porsche Panamera but slightly smaller. I’ve read some car reviews and a number of editors have compared it to both vehicles. This car is available with two different engines, either a 2 liter inline-four turbocharge that produces 255 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque. What most people are excited about is the GT version and that has a 3.3 liter V6 turbocharge producing 365 horsepower and 376 pound-feet of torque. The GT version actually is faster from 0 to 60 than a Porsche Panamera.

Tom Smith: Really?

Clinton Quan: Yeah.

Tom Smith: Well, now, the Panamera can come with a number of different engines as well, so which engine are you taking about?

Clinton Quan: Well, we’d be talking, obviously, the base engine. You wouldn’t be able to compare it to the other engines.

Tom Smith: Okay, okay, just to be clear.

Clinton Quan: Yes, but it’s about half the price of the Porsche Panamera.

Tom Smith: That’s the thing, right? So what are we talking about for pricing on this car?

Clinton Quan: The base Stinger starts around $32,000. That’s with the 2.0 liter, four-cylinder turbocharged engine. And there’s a premium version which is about $37,000. Then the GT version which has the 3.3 liter V6 turbo starts at about $39,000. Then there’s a GT1 that’s about $43,000. And then the top of the line GT2 is about $49,000, I believe, with rear wheel drive and about $51,000 with all-wheel drive. So that would be fully loaded.

Tom Smith: So we’re talking about a $19,000 swing from the base to the top line, 32 to 51, right?

Clinton Quan: Yeah.

Tom Smith: Did I do my math right on that?

Clinton Quan: Yeah, but yeah, you’re also getting a much bigger and more powerful engine.

Tom Smith: You’re getting a lot more car.

Clinton Quan: You’re getting about 110 more horsepower.

Tom Smith: All right.

Clinton Quan: Yeah, 255 to 365.

Tom Smith: And that is not a refresher; it’s a brand new model.

Clinton Quan: This is an all new model. Kia has never had a car like this before and there’s really nothing else on the market in this segment at this price point. Volkswagen will be coming out with an all new model to replace the CC which is called The Arteon but that will come out next year. I believe it’s a 2019 model. It’s going to be in that same class. It’s got the sport back design, but it’s only going to be available in a 2 liter inline-four from what I’ve read. I don’t believe they will have a more powerful engine.

Tom Smith: The Professor, ladies and gentlemen, the Professor. And so that gives us four of the top five. What do we have for the for the number five?

Clinton Quan: Number five will be the new top of the line Porsche 718 Boxster and Cayman GTS. And this has a 2.5 liter inline-four turbocharged engine producing 365 horsepower and 317 pound-feet of torque. It has a top speed of 180 miles an hour and will hit 0 to 60 in 3.9 seconds with the PDK transmission.

Tom Smith: With a PDK transmission?

Clinton Quan: Yeah.

Tom Smith: Okay.

Clinton Quan: That’s the automatic not the…

Tom Smith: Is that pretty darn quick? I guess that’s pretty quick. 3.9 seconds is pretty darn quick. PDK, that’s quick with a K-W.

Clinton Quan: That’s a good one.

Tom Smith: Okay, but that is basically a new souped up Boxster?

Clinton Quan: Yeah, it’s the new top of the line trim. So the 718 is already out. Most people now call it the Boxster or the Cayman. That’s what it was known as when it came out and Porsche decided to designate 718 for both models. And the Boxster is the convertible version and the Cayman is the hardtop version.

Tom Smith: All right. Okay, so those were your top five from the L.A. Auto Show this year 2017. But those are the 2018s that are coming out, except the QX50, which is the 2019. What about anything in your back pocket? Any one or two honorable mentions?

Clinton Quan: Yeah, I’ve got a couple of honorable mentions. The Jaguar E-PACE, that is an all new Jaguar as well. That is a subcompact crossover so that would be comparable to the Audi Q3, the BMW X1, and the Mercedes GLA. It’s a very small compact crossover. Most of the vehicles in this segment honestly don’t look very good, but I think this one is very, very stylish. It’s got a 2 liter inline-four turbocharged engine, 246 horsepower, and 269 pound-feet of torque.

Tom Smith: All right. And did you say you had a couple of honorable mentions? You have one more for us?

Clinton Quan: Yeah, one more. It’s a 2019 model and it’s the all new Audi A8, which is their flagship luxury sedan. And this one is loaded with a lot of new technology. It’s got level 3 autonomous capabilities. They also say it’s got the lowest curb weight of any vehicle in its class. I think they used a lot of aluminum. It’s also ultra luxurious inside and that’s synonymous with Audi interiors. They’re really known for their interiors. Anyone who’s driven the Audi knows that they make some of the best interiors out there.

Tom Smith: Okay, level 3 autonomous.

Clinton Quan: Yes, so that it wouldn’t be able to drive itself fully, but I would say it’s mid-level autonomy.

Tom Smith: So that means if I’m on the highway, I can take my hands off the wheel?

Clinton Quan: Yeah.

Tom Smith: Entirely?

Clinton Quan: Yeah. And there are some situations, I believe, where they will warn you when you need to put your hand on the steering wheel.

Tom Smith: Okay, can you define…and is it just the three levels of autonomy? Level 3 to 1?

Clinton Quan: Well, no, I believe there is… It gets pretty technical. I believe there’s five levels of autonomy so Level 5 would be fully autonomous.

Tom Smith: Okay, I think that’s another podcast topic entirely. All right, well, very good. Did I miss anything? So you want to cover any last points for us?

Clinton Quan: I think we’ve covered pretty much everything. Those were my favorite cars at the L.A. Auto Show this year for 2017.

Tom Smith: All right, there you have it. The Professor, Clinton Quan’s favorite picks from the 2017 L.A. Auto Show and those are the 2018 plus one 2019 model. And this was our inaugural voyage as Clinton Quan, the contributor, and also the Professor. So Clinton, thank you, again, very much.

Clinton Quan: Thank you, Tom.

Tom Smith: And one other thing. Clinton is very active in auto shows all over the southern California area and on our website, you can click on his Instagram, which he’s very active on. But what is that Instagram again?

Clinton Quan: It’s @socalautoenthusiast.

Tom Smith: @socalautoenthusiast. If anybody wants to follow Clinton and his auto show comings and goings, that’s where you can do that. Thank you so much. Until next time, this is iDriveSoCal. I’m Tom Smith. Take care.

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