Swimming pools, movie stars, and lots of brand new cars: that’s Los Angeles in a nutshell. America’s biggest new car market served as the backdrop for more than a dozen new car debuts.
With relatively cheap gas and increased consumer interest in high-riding crossovers and SUVs, this year’s show is a reminder that new car buyers want room passengers, gear, and a commanding view of the road ahead. SUVs and crossovers dominated the headlines, although there was plenty of talk about eco-friendly technologies.
The auto show opens to the public Friday.
Here’s a look at the 7 most important debuts at the Los Angeles Convention Center:
2019 Infiniti QX50
Suddenly, Infiniti’s curvy styling all comes into focus with the 2019 Infiniti QX50. This compact luxury crossover enters a crowded market, but its upmarket style and a turbocharged engine designed to balance performance and fuel economy should help it stand out.
2018 Jeep Wrangler
No vehicles is as emblematic of its brands as the Jeep Wrangler. Even though it looks like last year’s model, it’s hard to say that Jeep is playing it safe with the 2018 Wrangler. It’ll be available as a hybrid and a plug-in hybrid and it offers far more off-road chops than ever before. Plus it looks fantastic.
2018 Lexus RX350L
Three-row crossover shoppers now have a reason to visit a Lexus showroom. The automaker simply stretched its hot-selling RX and stuffed in a third row of seats. Success? Well, it looks good, and it hardly dilutes the RX’s virtues.
2019 Lincoln Nautilus
Sure, it’s just a Lincoln MKX with a new grille and a new name, but the Lincoln Nautilus signals that the brand is getting more serious about its luxury intentions. The brand will drop its wonky MK-nomenclature in favor of more evocative names. Nautilus is a good step.
2019 Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class
Its looks may be evolutionary, but the Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class boasts an advanced inline-6 engine mated to a mild-hybrid powertrain that should will eventually make its debut in other cars bearing the brand’s three-pointed star badge. We can’t wait to drive one. And to stare at it more.
2018 Nissan Kicks
Nissan’s decision to call the Kicks a crossover is a misnomer. It’s only offered with front-wheel drive and it boasts just 125 horsepower. Still, it’s stylish and we expect it to be priced aggressively.
2019 Subaru Ascent
As if Subaru dealers needed more foot traffic, the automaker’s new three-row Ascent crossover gives Outback and Forester owners with growing families no reason to be disloyal to their favorite brand. More than just a longer and taller Outback (it’s actually not related to the Outback at all), the Ascent also debuts a new turbo-4 engine.
The 2019 Kia Sorento is a three-row crossover SUV with a subtly revised look and an updated drivetrain for the 2019 model year.
You’ll have to squint to see the differences between the 2019 Sorento and the 2018 model—or perhaps you’re better of parking them next to one another. The Sorento will be available in L, LX, EX, SX, and SXL trim levels.
Outside, the updated Sorento has tweaked front and rear bumpers. The cube-style fog lights that debuted on the Kia Sportage a few years ago have made their way up to the larger Sorento. A trio of new wheel designs available in 17- to 19-inch diameters also set the updated Sorento apart from last year’s model.
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The Sorento adheres strongly to the two-box shape that has long defined three-row crossovers, albeit with detailing that’s more upmarket than its reasonable price point. Kia hasn’t yet announced figures for the 2019 Sorento, but it’s unlikely the base price will stray far from 2018’s roughly $27,000 price of entry.
Full-LED headlights will be available on Sorento SX and SXL trims, while EX and higher trim levels gain LED taillights.
The upgrades continue inside with a revised steering wheel design, modified air vents, and upgraded instrument cluster graphics. Perhaps more importantly, the Sorento’s interior can be trimmed in upscale nappa leather dyed in new mahogany and terracotta shades for 2018 with revised upholstery patterns. Power front seats are included on most trim levels, while SX and SXL variants gain power lumbar for the passenger’s seat for 2019.
The three-row crossover offers about 74 cubic feet of cargo space when the second and third rows are folded. We’ve found previous Sorentos to offer good comfort up front, decent space but limited padding in the second row, and room best suited to children in row three. It’s unlikely that the 2019 will change dramatically.
Optional interior upgrades include a power panoramic moonroof, dual-zone automatic climate control, and a 630-watt Harman Kardon-branded audio system. Newly standard is a 7.0-inch touchscreen for infotainment that includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. A wireless charging pad is a new option for the Sorento.
EX and higher trim levels now come standard with forward-collision warnings, adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitors, rear cross-traffic alerts, and a surround-view monitor.
The 2019 Kia Sorento comes standard with a 2.4-liter inline-4 and offers a 3.3-liter V-6 as an option. Last year’s turbo-4 has been dropped, but Kia says that it is working on a turbodiesel engine that will eventually show up in this three-row crossover.
The base turbo-4 is rated at 185 horsepower and shuttles power to either the front or all four wheels via a 6-speed automatic transmission. Sorento’s V-6 provides more thrust: 290 hp, sent again to either the front or all four wheels through a new 8-speed automatic transmission that has two more gears than last year’s model.
Prior Sorentos have shown off a well-controlled ride and accurate, if light steering. We’ve not yet driven the 2019 Sorento but will update this space when with impressions once we get behind the wheel.
Sorentos with all-wheel drive and the V-6 are rated to tow up to 5,000 pounds. Although not intended for off-road use, the Sorento’s all-wheel drive system includes a center differential lock that can transfer power between the front and rear axles more quickly for improved inclement weather traction.
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