2019 LA Auto Show: Highlights, headlines, and everything awesome

From EVs with organic interiors to 600-hp SUVs, the 2019 LA Auto Show had it all

Los Angeles normally hosts the last event on the annual auto show circuit. Lawmakers in the Golden State have gone to significant lengths to promote zero-emissions vehicles, so you’d think the event would focus solely on electric cars, but that’s never been entirely the case.

While we saw some pretty cool EVs during the 2019 edition of the show, many of the headlining acts were mammoth SUVs with luxurious interiors and a huge amount of power. High-performance hot hatches were well represented, too, and Nissan dared to introduce an economy car in the City of Angels.

Here are our highlights from the 2019 LA Auto show. They’re the cars we’ll still be talking about at Thanksgiving, the ones we can’t wait to drive in 2020, and the concepts we’re hoping to see in showrooms sooner rather than later.

2021 Audi E-Tron Sportback

Audi’s electric car offensive is in full swing. Those familiar with the company’s terminology will know right away that the Sportback is a swoopier version of the electric E-Tron introduced in 2018. Both models share a wide selection of parts, including their basic platform and their electric motors, but the Sportback stands out with a fastback-like design that puts a bigger emphasis on form than on function. It’s a little bit like Audi’s answer to the BMW X6, with an electric spin.

At the other end of the spectrum, the German firm also introduced a hot-rodded model named RS Q8 that roars with a 4.0-liter V8 twin-turbocharged to make 600 horsepower. It’s the most powerful SUV Audi has ever released.

2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E

Is this electric crossover really a Mustang? Yes, and no. Well, mostly no, but kind of. Confused? Just remember this: it’s the first ground-up electric car Ford has ever designed, and while it shares no parts with the Mustang we know and love, it draws inspiration from the emblematic pony car to stand out in an increasingly crowded pool of battery-powered crossovers. The 2021 Mustang Mach-E lineup will include standard- and long-range variants, rear- and all-wheel-drive models, plus a performance-oriented model that wears the GT badge. Pricing starts at $43,895, but you’ll need to wait until at least late 2020 to take delivery, and show even more patience if you’re after the aforementioned GT trim.

Hyundai RM19 concept

Adam Kaslikowski/Digital Trends

We’ve grown surprisingly accustomed to using Hyundai and mid-engined in the same sentence. The South Korean company has teased us with high-performance hot hatch concepts for the past five years without bringing any of them to production. It’s too early to tell if the RM19 unveiled at the Los Angeles Auto Show is the one that will finally see the light at the end of a production line. While it looks like a meaner Veloster, it’s an entirely new car powered by a 390-horsepower, 2.0-liter turbo-four installed where you’d normally expect to find the rear seats. Please, Hyundai: Do it.

The RM19 was joined on stage by a concept called Vision T, which previews the next Tucson. And, on a more realistic note, Hyundai introduced an updated version of its Ioniq EV with big horsepower and driving range gains.

2021 Kia Seltos

Positioned between the Soul and the Sportage, the 2021 Seltos helps cement Kia’s status as one of America’s value champions. It’s a subcompact soft-roader, so you might reasonably expect it to be as alluring as a toilet seat, but it’s not. Kia once again proved small doesn’t mean basic by giving the Seltos an interesting design, a full range of powertrain options that includes all-wheel drive, and a long list of technology features including cutting-edge infotainment systems, an available surround-sound system, and even electronic driving aids you’d expect to find in bigger, more expensive cars.

Pricing hasn’t been announced yet, but expect the Seltos to start under $22,000. The crossover shared the spotlight with the updated variants of the Niro, which is offered with a hybrid, a plug-in hybrid, and a battery-electric powertrain.

2021 Mercedes-AMG GLS 63 S

600 horsepower. Not long ago, that was an immense amount of power to have under your right foot, and you could only experience it in a handful of high-end cars. Fast forward to 2019, and it’s almost become a new benchmark. The newest member of the 600 Or Bust club is the Mercedes-AMG GLS 63 S, which packs precisely 603 horses from a twin-turbocharged, 4.0-liter V8 engine. There’s also a 48-volt mild-hybrid system on board which injects 21 additional horsepower into the driveline for short bursts of time, and does its best to keep fuel economy in check.

We’ve seen studio apartments smaller than the GLS, which is good and bad. On one hand, it effortlessly seats seven adults. On the other hand, it’s big and heavy. If you want 603 hp in a more compact package, Mercedes-AMG also introduced the 2021 GLE 63 S during the Los Angeles show. It offers the exact same powertrain but it’s lighter and a little bit nimbler.

2020 Mini John Cooper Works GP

The John Cooper Works GP is not an ordinary Mini. It’s the most powerful street-legal car the BMW-owned brand has ever produced, certainly one of the rarest in recent memory, and it’s the model designers chose to receive several 3D-printed parts. The shift paddles are notably 3D-printed with metal, which is a cool feature we haven’t seen in a production car before. The engine — which, for better or worse, is not made with a 3D printer — is a turbocharged, 2.0-liter four-cylinder that makes 306 horsepower and 331 pound-feet of torque. It’s bolted to an eight-speed automatic transmission.

Mini will make 3,000 examples of the John Cooper Works GP worldwide. Pricing starts at about $45,000.

2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime

Experience has taught us what to expect from each auto show, but we never saw a plug-in hybrid, 302-horsepower RAV4 with 39 miles of electric range coming. The 2021 RAV4 Prime is powered by the same 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine as the existing hybrid model, but it’s joined by an array of upgraded electric components. Toyota pegs its zero-to-60-mph time at 5.8 seconds, which is pretty darn quick considering the RAV4 was never designed with any kind of performance in mind.

Pricing information and fuel economy figures will be released in the weeks leading up to its mid-2020 on-sale date. While it’s not the only plug-in model in its segment, we think it’s the one that’s going to convince a lot of buyers to get a car with a plug.

Volkswagen ID Space Vizzion concept

Volkswagen’s ID Space Vizzion concept was one of the more forward-thinking models introduced in Los Angeles. Part of the ongoing ID series of design studies, it takes the form of a station wagon with a slick design, and a powertrain that’s fully electric. We like the interior, which relies on an augmented reality head-up display to put key information right in front of the driver. While the ID Space Vizzion is merely a concept, Volkswagen hinted it could morph into a production model that would be sold primarily in the North American and European markets. In other words: Keep your fingers crossed.

Volkswagen also announced its entry into the Baja 1000 race with a buggy shaped like the new Atlas Cross Sport. It will fly through the desert thanks to a turbocharged, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that makes no less than 600 horsepower.

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