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 |  Nov 17 2011, 3:07 PM

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If there’s one thing you can guarantee in Southern California, it’s the opportunity for a bit of glamor and glitz. Probably not surprising then that Lamborghini, at a very exclusive gathering in Beverly Hills, elected to unveil the latest member of it’s Gallardo family – the LP550-2 Spyder.

Among the attendees that gathered at the world introduction of the new rear-drive convertible were actors Dominic Monaghan (perhaps best known for his role as Merry in Lord of the Rings), Ralf Moeller (Conan the Adventurer -TV series) and Lake Bell (Boston Legal, How to Make it in America).

Filippo Perini, who head’s up Lamborghini’s design centern, gave a rare glimpse at the company’s design process, by doing live sketches of the Gallardo LP550-2 Spyder during the event.

Further distractions included a fashion show, highlighting the new Automobile Lamborghini Winter Collection and music spun by DJ Cobra, which alternated between modern trendy club tunes and seriously old school New Wave, R&B and Hip Hop.

Stephan Winkleman, Lambo’s CEO essentially summed up the evening by saying that [the new 550-2 Spyder] “will appeal to a very special group of customers – many in Southern California – that enjoy a spirited driving style paired with the sheer exhilaration of open-air driving.”

Gallery: Lamborghini LP550-2 Spyder

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See video from the reveal below:

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 |  Nov 16 2011, 4:42 PM

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Some used to say that Southern California was just about the only place in the world where it was truly practical to drive a British sports car.

Lack of rain meant Lord Lucas, the celebrated “Prince of Darkness” (an ailment related to the Lucas-brand electrical systems used on British cars) rarely struck, while the temperate climate almost never required the services of near useless heaters and leaky convertible tops. Additionally, dry conditions and twisty canyon  roads just begged for a bit of enthusiastic motoring,  an aspect, which when working well, such machines as Jaguar XK-Es and Austin-Healeys were able to deliver in spades.

Today, British sports cars tend to be a lot more reliable and leak free, as well as considerably faster and even better handling than those machines of yore. Nonetheless, So Cal is still considered to be their spiritual home. As a result, if a company like Jaguar is going to unveil a car with a ridiculous beast of an engine and a convertible top, it makes sense to do it at the Los Angeles Auto Show.

As Jaguar’s global brand director, Adrian Hallmark stated, the XKR-S convertible sacrifices none of the performance of its coupe counterpart and indeed, development mules spent hours and hours being flogged around the Nürburgring. Having sampled the regular XKR ragtop and the XKR-S coupe, we can only wonder the sensation 550 horsepower and 502 lb-ft of torque can do in an open top car that boasts a rigid, lightweight aluminum architecture, retuned suspension and steering, plus an upgraded Adaptive Dynamics system compared with the standard R.

Jag claims the flagship XKR-S convertible can sprint from rest to 60 mph in 4.2 seconds and will go on to  an (electronically limited) top speed of 186 mph. That makes it the fastest open top Jaguar ever built and also one of the most exclusive (Jaguar has said it plans to allocate just 25 examples to the US market for 2012). So if you want one as desperately as we do, better try and get your order in as soon as possible (the coupe version is already sold out).

Besides the ragtop XKR-S, Jaguar also chose Los Angeles as the North American debut for the C-X16 concept, which has been making waves since first being revealed back at the Frankfurt Motor Show in September. Whether or more likely when, a version of this two-seat gas electric hybrid stunner will reach production still remains to be seen, though we probably shouldn’t rule out the possibility of examples sitting in Jaguar showrooms before the second half of this decade begins.

Gallery: Jaguar XKR-S Convertible

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Gallery: Jaguar C-X16 Concept

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 |  Sep 12 2011, 6:00 PM

Using the Mercedes-Benz E220 BlueTec, as a foundation; noted German tuning house Brabus has unveiled its latest Hybrid Project, powered by a direct injection diesel engine with Brabus ‘Eco’ technology and dual electric motors housed in the rear wheel hubs.

Making its world debut at the 2011 Frankfurt Motor Show (IAA); the Brabus Hybrid project was developed by the firm’s ZERO EMISSION business division which, in conjunction with Germany’s Federal Ministry of the Environment, works on alternative drive technologies.

On this new Hybrid, in ‘Eco’ mode, each of the wheel hub mounted electric motors produces 50 kW of continuous power, while in ‘Sport’ mode, output is increased to 80 kW.

With a total (combined) peak power output of 160 km and 1,180 lb-ft of torque, the twin electric motors are designed to supplement the 2.2-liter CDI BlueTec diesel, which is equipped with a Brabus PowerXtra DE (V) performance tuning kit, that includes an auxiliary control unit and revised engine mapping, designed to optimize fuel economy and reduce emissions.

Although power on the BlueTec diesel is up slightly as a result of the Brabus tweaks (220 hp versus 197); the biggest goal was a bump in torque, which now stands at 330 lb-ft (up from 295). This provides better throttle response no matter whether the car is in hybrid or conventional (diesel mode).

Despite the added weight of the electric motors and the car’s Lithium-Ion battery pack, the Brabus Hybrid still boasts fairly spritely performance. According to the company, it’s able to sprint from 60 to 120 km (37 to 74 mph) in 5.6 seconds, decent statistics for a relatively heavy mid-size sedan.

Other features on the car run to typical Brabus exterior upgrades,in this case a unique front fascia, aluminum front fenders and rocker panel extensions, along with 19-inch Brabus Monoblock alloy wheels, shod in Continental low-profile tires. There’s also a height adjustable suspension with premium Bilstein shocks and upgraded brakes.

Inside, an upgraded instrument cluster, special drilled foot pedals and Brabus LED illuminated sills are among the unique touches added to the Benz E-Class cabin.

GALLERY: Brabus Hybrid

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