Top 10 Cars of the 2012 LA Auto Show

Luke Vandezande
by Luke Vandezande

As a car that wasn’t freshly unveiled during the show, the Lamborghini Aventador Roadster doesn’t qualify for the list, but it’s hard to look past.

With two carbon fiber panels forming the roof, the car converts quickly from an open to closed cabin with the roof tucking tightly under the hood.

Just like the head-turning Aventador coupe, this car sources power from a 6.5-liter V12 engine with 700 hp. Unlike the closed cockpit version, Lamborghini needed a way to mitigate the noise that screaming powerplant makes. Its engineers managed that with a rear windshield that can be adjusted to reduce wind buffeting and to shelter occupants from the engine howl.

Running 0-60 in three seconds, it’s good to get excited about such a sexy car, even if it debuted elsewhere. But what made the list? Venture through AutoGuide’s top 10 list to see.

Some might think it’s easy to do well when the bar is set low and in some cases that’s certainly true. But it probably isn’t when the question involves replacing a car that struggled to sell.

Regardless, Acura is launching its 2014 RLX luxury sedan. Closer to a BMW 5 Series or Mercedes E-Class on the outside, Acura built an in-between car of sorts. Despite the mid-level luxury shell, the brand insists its new flagship is actually in line with the 7 Series or S-Class when it comes to the car’s interior.

SEE ALSO: 2014 Acura RLX Prototype Test Drive

The car gets a 3.5-liter V6 good for 310 hp and 272 lb-ft of torque. Some might find that offensive given the brand’s assertions about similarities with German luxury brands. Still, Acura is trying to counteract some of its traditional handling shortcomings by offering its Precision All-Wheel Steering (P-AWS) system to augment handling in the front-wheel drive car.

While it might prove to be just as much of a bane for Acura as the RL, the car’s middle-of-the-road approach to luxury is enough to give it the bottom spot on the list.

Taking the brand’s city-friendly 500 Abarth sports car to a different place, Fiat is offering a ragtop version of the car in 2013. Aside from that, the car is almost completely the same.

It keeps the 160-hp 1.4-liter turbocharged engine with 155 lb-ft of torque which can be temporarily tweaked to 170 lb-ft in overboost. Just like the coupe version, the car keeps its same upright seating positing, specially appointed interior and more aggressive looks.

Despite that, it really is a very different car because of its retractable cloth roof. Unlike most convertibles, which require either a complete stop or ridiculously low speeds to move the top up and down, this car allows drivers to retract at up to 60 mph and raise the roof at 50.

Fiat managed to sell out of the Abarth in only two months last year, which suggests this second-run of sorts will probably see just as many hand raisers.

Inspired by the long lusted after G-Class, the Mercedes Ener-G Force concept is the winner of this year’s LA Design Challenge.

The car was originally meant to be an interpretation of the ultimate law enforcement vehicle, though the version Mercedes brought to its booth was in civilian trim. It uses four separate electric motors — one for each wheel. Water is stored stored in tanks on the roof and converted to hydrogen to power those electric motors, offering a total range of 500 miles.

While the car is still little more than a wild-eyed concept, it’s hard not to applaud Mercedes for having something so unusual while most other brands brought little more than run-of-the-mill renditions on production cars.

With any luck, this means Mercedes might be thinking well into the future for the G-Class.

The down and dirty details on Mazda’s fuel frugal sedan, the Mazda6 SkyActiv-D, are still generally shrouded, but the brand just confirmed during the L.A. Auto Show that it will be sold in the U.S.

Better still, the car built on Mazda’s relatively high revving diesel engine will be available midway through next year.

The brand isn’t offering specific power figures for the car just yet, but as a prototype the engine made 165 hp and 350 lb-ft of torque. What Mazda will confirm, on the other hand, is that it has a 5,200 rpm redline, meaning the motor is likely the same as the unit AutoGuide tested in August, 2011.

It isn’t a sports car, and there’s not much to get excited about from a design perspective here, but the fact that buyers will be allowed to choose diesel as an option is probably one of the most exciting pieces of consumer-related news delivered during the L.A. Auto Show this year.

It’s hard not to have a soft spot for Aston Martin’s elegant styling, even if the brand struggles with creating new designs. It’s still recognizably a Vanquish, but the brand says this is a “new breed of grand tourer.”

Sift through the stacks of promotional hyperbole and you get this: a 6.0-liter V8 with 565 hp — 45 more than the outgoing DBS. Apart from having a more muscular engine, the car also makes extensive use of carbon fiber body pieces.

The car doesn’t really break any new ground for Aston, and at $279,995 there are definitely cheaper ways to buy a car capable of 4.1-second 0-60 times. Still, there’s something special about its low-slung styling and grille that clings to its dignity despite the Ford Fusion’s best efforts.

Like harboring the Incredible Hulk under your floorboards, Mercedes put AMG’s most powerful engine to date under a thin layer of carbon fiber in its new SLS AMG Black Series.

The car has 622 hp and 468 lb-ft of torque and sounds nothing short of vicious. Mercedes wasn’t shy about showing that off during the car’s unveiling, but nobody seemed to mind. But the exhaust note isn’t even the most striking thing about this car.

Its bright yellow paint makes the car almost impossible to walk past without a wayward glance. Stopping to stare, you’ll quickly notice just how much carbon fiber the brand put into its range-topping SLS.

The masive rear wing is one of the hardest pieces to ignore, and increases downforce substantially at high speeds while managing to keep drag in check — or at least that’s what AMG says.

Hot as the bright yellow Mercedes is, one of the few things more apparent than its in-your-face looks is how few people will be able to afford one. That’s where the new XFR-S comes in. Well, at least more so than the Merc.

At $99,000 it slots in closely with the BMW M5 and Mercedes E63 AMG. While most won’t call that affordable, the Jaguar’s 550-hp supercharged V8 is certainly more of a bargain than the SLS.

With four doors, it’s also a more liveable car. Despite that, it’s also sure to turn heads everywhere you go thanks to its big carbon fiber spoiler and striking blue paint. The V8 growl wont hurt either.

Before clicking away in disgust, think about the logic. Sure, the Civic is sort of like Spam where the past two cars are like beluga caviar, but fried spam tastes good and you can afford it.

What’s more, Honda listened to the world and refreshed the car only a year after its current generation launched. The result? A range that offers a compact sedan, hybrid and hotter Si that climbs into 200-hp territory — all within most new car buyer budgets.

Better still, the car gets updated styling inside and out that leave it looking and feeling less like the budget car you cringe over and more like something you might actually buy.

It’s light, it’s fast and the platform could outperform the 911 if Porsche would only give the order. After all that, it’s hard not to love the Porsche Cayman — the brand’s hardtop take on the well-loved Boxster.

Prices start at $52,600, but the Cayman S will retail for $63,800, plus a $950 destination charge. That’s still a bargain, especially when you realize that the Cayman S has only 20 hp less than the previous generation 911. The Cayman S comes with a 3.4-liter flat-six with 325 hp and jets to 60 mph in 4.4 seconds thanks to a seven-speed PDK transmission.

Better still, the interior looks strikingly similar to the new 991 with a long, broad center console and updated cabin.

With a 1.6-liter EcoBoost engine that makes 197 hp and 214 lb-ft of torque at 3,500 rpm, what’s not to love? While some might frown at the idea of having a front-wheel drive performance car, the Fiesta ST promises to be what the Civic Si can’t: turbocharged right from the factory.

Ford is already struggling to keep its Focus ST on the shelves, and that car has a higher MSRP. The Fiesta ST doesn’t have as much power, but then again it’s also much lighter.

Sold exclusively with a six-speed manual transmission, even a fool can tell that Ford has the young performance market pegged like a Navy Seal sniper.

Luke Vandezande
Luke Vandezande

Luke is an energetic automotive journalist who spends his time covering industry news and crawling the internet for the latest breaking story. When he isn't in the office, Luke can be found obsessively browsing used car listings, drinking scotch at his favorite bar and dreaming of what to drive next, though the list grows a lot faster than his bank account. He's always on <A title="@lukevandezande on Twitter" href="">Twitter</A> looking for a good car conversation. Find Luke on <A title="@lukevandezande on Twitter" href="">Twitter</A> and <A title="Luke on Google+" href="">Google+</A>.

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  • G978 G978 on Dec 05, 2012

    It may not be a sports car but it should be the best driving midsize sedan. Great design too and one people can actually buy and use on a daily basis. well done Mazda.

  • Brian Brian on Dec 13, 2012

    The 1.8 liter turbo engine from Ford is being recalled for engine fires. Maybe not the car you want to put as #1 on your list, unless its a car that is most likely to kill you list.