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2017 Los Angeles Auto Show: Winners and Losers

The 2017 edition of the Los Angeles Auto Show was a busy one. Our editors covered two dozen new or updated vehicles over the past few days, ranging from the affordable 2018 Nissan Kicks to the opulent 2019 Mercedes-Benz CLS.

Related: 2017 Los Angeles Auto Show: Best in Show

This year's show was SUV-heavy: Ten out of the 12 vehicles covered in our Winners and Losers wrap-up are utes, as Americans increasingly flock to them for their added utility, passenger space and ride height. editors Aaron Bragman, Fred Meier, Joe Wiesenfelder and, I, Brian Wong, put our heads together to try to figure out what won and lost here in L.A.

2019 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1

2019 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1

AB: Winner

The last Corvette Z06 I drove already did things that supercars costing twice as much couldn't do. Add in another 100 or so horsepower, even more downforce and a specially tuned suspension, and I'm almost afraid to drive this thing. Almost.

FM: Winner

A car that's as crazy-fast as it looks and a bargain to boot versus anything that can keep up with it. Unveiled here was the droptop, which forces a few compromises versus the coupe, but take a look and I think you'll find them all worth it.

JW: Winner

I agree on the merits my colleagues cite, but beyond that, it continues to strike me that traditional auto-show excitement is hard to come by. Sports cars and concept cars aren't as popular as they used to be, so when something like the ZR1 comes along and gives showgoers something to gawk at, I say "winner."

BW: Winner

It feels weird to call something that starts well into the six figures a bargain, but when you factor in its capability, it makes sense. As Aaron said in his video, this is the "least expensive over-200-mph car with a convertible top that you can buy." The merits of going 200-plus mph with the top down are debatable, but what's not is that the Corvette ZR1 is everything an ultimate performance version of a car should be: head-turning, a little manic and obscenely fast.

2018 Hyundai Kona

2018 Hyundai Kona

Aaron Bragman: Winner

Sure, the styling is a mashup of the worst elements from four other ugly cars. But it's what's inside and under the hood that make the Kona a winner. A hot turbocharged Used Engine , a sporty suspension, all-wheel drive and a spacious interior mean this thing will sell like crazy.

Fred Meier: Winner

Aaron is so right about the styling, and what doesn't seem borrowed from another small SUV doesn't make it any better. But the interior is spacious, with a usable backseat, and the plentiful hard plastic bits at least have interesting textures. What really distinguishes the Kona in this crowded small-utility competition is offering a turbo Used Engine with a seven-speed automatic, all-wheel drive and a fully independent rear suspension upgrade that could make it one you'd enjoy driving.

Joe Wiesenfelder: Winner

The Kona is overly cladded and busy-looking, and that slot above the grille is one of the stupidest design elements I've ever seen on a car. But I try not to let exterior styling drive my conclusions, and this is a well-equipped and appointed new model. If Jeep really wanted this lighting scheme to itself, it would have extended it past the Cherokee (it hasn't).

Brian Wong: Loser

I will concede the point to my colleagues that the Kona's under-the-skin bona fides are intriguing. There isn't really anything that's fun to drive in this segment currently (unless you count the Mini Countryman, but that's in a different price category), and that Used Engine /suspension combination should offer some excitement. But as Aaron said, this is a mashup of four other ugly cars, and ugly plus ugly, carry the ugly and you get ... loser.

2019 Infiniti QX50

2019 Infiniti QX50

AB: Winner

Finally, an Infiniti with a decent interior. I still wouldn't quite put it up against a Mercedes-Benz in a head-to-head luxury shootout, but it's no longer embarrassingly out of date and low-rent. The novel variable-compression Used Engine has me curious, too; it's the first Infiniti in years that has me excited to sample it.

FM: Loser

It hurts to say because the QX50 is so improved. The styling is classy and the interior now actually says "luxury." But it doesn't say Audi or Mercedes or Lexus or Volvo luxury. And why a two-screen, knob-and-touch media system with no smartphone integration in a full redesign? Again, it lags the luxury leaders. The new variable-compression Used Engine is interesting, and I'm as excited as Aaron to try it. But this is a tough category, and I still see the QX50 having to sell on price.

JW: Winner

I get what both of you guys are saying. It definitely looks good outside and great inside, and while I haven't seen full specifications yet, the backseat felt more accommodating to me than its predecessor's. I can't say it knocked me out, but neither were there any big shortcomings. I'll call it a winner based on the improvements and Used Engine tech.

BW: Winner

This version of the QX50 is a quantum leap forward from its predecessor, and the new wheelbase also gives it a big improvement in usability: Cargo room behind the backseat has grown by nearly 70 percent. Like Fred, I'm miffed by the media system — that second screen doesn't feel particularly useful to me, and the system is in dire need of Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. But the rest of the changes work well enough for me to call it a winner.

2018 Jeep Wrangler

2018 Jeep Wrangler

AB: Winner

They took everything that owners loved about the old Wrangler and improved all the stuff that owners hated. The changes represent an astonishing level of action based on feedback — for instance, the doors are now lighter and made of aluminum, and can be easily carried thanks to a new inner-panel design. The rear wiper has been relocated for better visibility. There are no zippers on the removable soft-top. The list goes on. Jeep's given even perfectly happy current owners many, many reasons to get a new one.

FM: Winner

The Wrangler didn't need reinvention, only improvement, and to its credit, Jeep kept the best and set about fixing the rest. The changes seem aimed at making capability and flexibility of the Wrangler easier and simpler to enjoy with a long list of better designs in big and little ways — design changes that also might offer needed improvement in reliability. Meanwhile, Jeep brought new things to the party that add significant value, such as the new turbo four-cylinder Used Engine , better interior materials, up-to-date multimedia tech and LED lighting technology.

JW: Winner

I had in mind a list of Wrangler features and characteristics — things like the mechanical transfer-case lever and upright windshield — that I'd envisioned an imaginary Jeep marketing weenie battling to "improve" in the redesign. I pored over the 2018, and it appears the ghost weenie lost the entire war. This generation is better where called for and Wrangler everywhere else. Bravo.

BW: Winner

I think of the Wrangler a lot like family — you love them, but there are some things that bother you that you just accept you'll have to put up with. Jeep's improvements to the JL version are in that vein: Keep the things you love (the ruggedness, the design, the confidence to drive over pretty much any terrain), but drop the annoying parts. It's easier to take off the roof and doors as well as drop the windshield; there's better technology inside; LED lighting outside ... win, win, win.

2018 Lexus RX L Models

2018 Lexus RX 350L

AB: Loser

This smacks of "the dealers begged us for an affordable three-row crossover, so we threw this together last week." An unusable backseat for anyone larger than a preteen that's not only too small but impossible to get into? This feels like a half-assed stopgap.

FM: Loser

Does my butt look big? Yes. The small "stretch" ruins the proportions of a good-looking design, and what you get in return is a nearly useless third row.

JW: Loser

"If you're going to do something, do it right," said someone who definitely didn't call the shots at Lexus. Lexus already has an ill-suited three-row SUV called the GX. It needed something better.

BW: Loser

This is a loser because the only parts of the RX 350L that really work are the parts that come from the standard model. When I tried to test out the third row, I couldn't get the second row back into place without turning my body 90 degrees to the side or manspreading the maximum amount my pants would allow — but that locked my knees on both sides of the second-row seat.

2019 Lincoln Nautilus

2019 Lincoln Nautilus

AB: Loser

Kudos to Lincoln for finally ditching the stupid MK-whatever names. It's only about five years too late, but better late than never. Sadly, the new styling now makes the car look even more like an Audi Q5 — and like the also-redesigned MKC, which I (no lie) walked over to on the show floor thinking that it was the Nautilus.

FM: Winner

The new front end has more presence, and looking more like an Audi Q5 is nothing to be ashamed of when you're aspiring to higher luxury. And thanks for a real name, any real name. Also, the new turbo 2.0-liter base Used Engine promises improvement on the performance and efficiency of the V-6. Yes, it looks like the MKC, but have you parked that Q5 next to a Q3?

JW: Loser

It's darn close, but there are still some inconsistencies in the quality of interior materials, some low-grade plastics sticking out here and there amid the nice open-pore wood trim and aluminum speaker grilles. Remember when Volvo made the jump from premium to luxury with the XC90 redesign and those that followed? Lincoln got stuck on the way. The Nautilus is a highly useful SUV on the verge of greatness. I should be happy about the name change, but when 10 years has passed, being proven right doesn't feel like vindication — a point I've made at work a few times.

BW: Loser

First, Nautilus is a great name for a vehicle even apart from our glee that "MK-whatever" is gone. Unfortunately, the rest of the changes don't live up to the name for me. The Nautilus doesn't seem to address the things that really bothered us about the MKX — the column shifter and the inconsistent materials — and when I stack it up against the other "new" premium SUV to appear at the show (the QX50), I lean toward the Infiniti.

2019 Mercedes-Benz CLS Coupe

2019 Mercedes-Benz CLS

AB: Winner

It's been fun to watch Mercedes-Benz styling evolve over the past few years. The CLS was always a style leader, but it eventually was outshone by the cleaner lines of the Audi A7. Not anymore — Mercedes took all the style that has adorned its coupes and successfully applied it to a four-door. And that interior is just gorgeous.

FM: Winner

A stunning shape, a beautifully crafted interior and a good sign for Mercedes four-door designs to come. Plus, it's stuffed with the ample luxury and tech features of the S-Class sedan in a much less stuffy package. The high-tech new inline-six-cylinder with 48-volt electrification is just icing on the cake.

JW: Winner

Yes, it's a nice-looking sedan (four seats plus fixed roof equals sedan), but I wasn't fully onboard until I sat in it. The wood is beautiful and the controls have a precise feel, including the airflow knobs on the afterburner-looking vents. And the metal speaker pods in the ceiling? They're like jewelry. The "Star Trek" replicator in the glove box put it over the top for me. Someone said this was part of the active perfuming system, but I know intergalactic tech when I see it. One Romulan Ale, please! (For my passenger, of course.)

BW: Winner

I'll take that ale, Joe, to give a toast to Mercedes, because the CLS immediately jumps to the head of the line as the Benz I'd most like to have. The S-Class is too pretentious for me, but as Fred said: This is less stuffy and just cooler all-around. I was also a huge fan of that giant wood-trim piece that stretches from the steering wheel across the whole dash.

2018 Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross

2018 Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross

AB:  Winner

I'm so torn with this one. On one hand, I actually dig the styling and nicer interior it feels suitably modern and upscale, if a little anonymous, but has plenty of room despite the low-looking roof. I don't even mind the loony name. What kills me is the new multimedia system they stole a page from Lexus and made a trackpad control, which is a terrible idea (imagine trying to use a laptop while driving down the highway). Thankfully, it seems to be a redundant controller for the touchscreen, so you're not being forced to use it like you are in a Lexus. If that's the case, I'll allow it.

FM: Loser

Not bad looking and comfortable inside, with better materials than many in its class. But I'm all in with Aaron on the Lexus-like trackpad, and I'd throw in the Prius-like split rear window, which seems like an attempt to echo an old Eclipse spoiler. Combined with the fat back pillar, rear visibility is terrible.

JW: Winner

I begin this exercise annoyed by brands that have too many overlapping models, and that's the case here considering the Outlander and Outlander Sport. I also noted the poor rear visibility, but I like the exterior and the interior styling, and -- knowing what I'm about to say about the Nissan Kicks -- the optional all-wheel drive keeps this model in the winner column.

BW: Loser

The exterior styling is busy, but that isn't what tips the Eclipse Cross into loser territory for me. First, I haven't met a touchpad in a car that I've liked. Second, there are no volume or tuning knobs, one of our staff's trademarked pet peeves. The rest of the Eclipse Cross wasn't intriguing enough to get me to overlook this, and for a vehicle that's about to jump into one of the most hotly contested automotive segments, it lacks a feature that really makes it stand out.

2018 Nissan Kicks

2018 Nissan Kicks

AB: Winner

If Nissan is telling the truth and the price on this thing is going to hover near the $20,000 mark well-equipped, this could be an astonishing value. The cabin is remarkably spacious; the styling is sharp; it even has passable fake leather on nicer trims. We'll see how it drives (it had better not drive like a Sentra or Versa ... or a Toyota C-HR), but I'm cautiously optimistic.

FM: Loser

Another small, budget-priced wagon/hatchback with SUV aspirations in appearance but little power and no all-wheel drive. It's spacious for the class but feels narrow, with no room for console storage and no armrest for the passenger seat. It's not bad-looking, and the interior materials and technology are a cut above the similar Toyota C-HR. But overall, it's nowhere near as a distinctive as a C-HR or Kia Soul. And the higher trims will bump close to a better Nissan choice: the more capable Rogue Sport.

JW: Loser

Nissan already has the Rogue, Rogue Sport and Juke SUVs. Am I being naive to think they could have given us one class-obliterating subcompact-priced model with the investment they'd save by having one or two models below the Rogue rather than three? Simple rule: If it looks like an SUV, it needs four driven wheels. Whoever justified omitting all-wheel drive because the Kicks is meant for city use hasn't experienced a full season of municipal snow-removal efforts.

BW: Winner

Joe's right that it would make more sense for Nissan to condense its small SUV offerings (and I think they will, soon). But evaluating the Kicks on its own, it does a few important things well that make it a winner for me. My biggest gripe with SUVs in this class is a lack of room for passengers, but the Kicks can seat four adults comfortably with ample leg- and headroom while still offering good cargo room behind the backseat (25.3 cubic feet). And its aggressive pricing, starting "well below" $19,000 according to Nissan, is a bonus.

2019 Subaru Ascent

2019 Subaru Ascent

AB: Loser

A slightly bigger Outback is not what I'd expected from a new three-row Subaru crossover. The third row is extremely tight and, like the new RX 350L, won't see much duty as a place for adults. The Ascent will keep Outback owners who want a third row from leaving Subaru showrooms, but it's not likely to draw in new customers — and it strikes me as quite likely to cannibalize Outback sales.

FM: Winner

Subaru's goal is to keep Outback, Forester and Crosstrek buyers in the fold as their families grow. The Ascent should do it, and I see the tidier footprint as a plus. Whether the Ascent lures Honda Pilot shoppers is another question, but like the Pilot, the Ascent is loaded with minivan-like family features, not to mention captain's chairs on cheaper, cloth-upholstery models and advanced safety tech on all models. And that important third row has decent cushion height and headroom for a 6-footer, plus easier access than many bigger three-rows.

JW: Winner

I didn't expect to care for it because I'm one of the few reviewers who respects the Outback but doesn't understand what the fuss (or the Love, if you must) is all about. And in the age of the -Challenge-winning mammoth Volkswagen Atlas, is an SUV the size of the Ascent significantly better than the discontinued Tribeca? My suspicion is yes, if only barely. With the exception of the comically obsessive — and clunky — covering of every power outlet, audio jack and USB port in sight, the interior quality of the show vehicle was impressive.

BW: Winner

Like my colleagues, I was impressed by the Ascent's interior materials and family features (eight USB ports and 19 cupholders are a good kind of overkill). What tipped me over the edge to winner territory were safety features. Used Engine ering/eyesight.html">Subaru's EyeSight technology is standard and includes automatic forward emergency braking, adaptive cruise control and lane keep assist. Only the Toyota Highlander matches the Ascent in this category, and in some competitors, those features are only available on higher trim levels (looking at you, Chevrolet Traverse).

Toyota FT-AC Concept

Toyota FT-AC Concept

AB:  Winner

I'm calling this one a styling buck, as it has no interior or powertrain details. So we're left to try to figure out what it is: A new RAV4? Junior-sized 4Runner? Tacoma-based-hybrid-powered-upcoming-Bronco-fighter? Regardless of where Toyota goes with it, I think it looks dynamite.

FM: Winner

It's a concept, and it's the idea behind it that's a winner. The FT-AC looks great, with hints of a Tacoma in front, and seems to hold out promise of a rugged, interesting new Toyota with off-road credibility sized between the blander RAV4 and Highlander SUVs.

JW: Winner

Hey, we're sort of starved for concept vehicles, and this is one that's also a hot commodity in the real world: a small SUV. That spells winner.

BW: Winner

This one is hard to call given the lack of details (and lack of interior), but I have to say that I like what Toyota is selling. The FT-AC is a stretched RAV4 with more off-road capability thanks to locking front and rear differentials, which makes it sound like a baby 4Runner. I was also tickled by the storable bike storage rack in the back — those racks always look awkward and ugly without a bike on them, so on-demand storage that stows when not in use is a cool trick that I hope to see on a production vehicle soon.

2019 Volvo XC40

2019 Volvo XC40

AB: Winner

Volvo keeps knocking it out of the park. Inside and out, it's managing to create unique, stylish vehicles that actually don't look like anything else on the market. Especially inside — this thing probably has the most stylish interior in the class and actually is one I'd put up against Mercedes-Benz's offerings.

FM: Winner

Just when you thought you had Volvo nailed as a purveyor of serene, matte-wood Zen luxury, they come up with a compact SUV to shake up that lookalike category with distinctive style and fun, even whimsy. It's also full of features that show real attention to the kind of small details that create satisfied owners — maybe not the fuzzy interior panels made from recycled water bottles, but even with those, I admire that they took the risk.

JW: Winner

Surely this more affordable model will be where Volvo finally goes astray, right? Nope. I agree that the fuzzy door panels are barely more appealing than those in the BMW i3, but it doesn't drag down the overall effect of the XC40's interior. How am I going to hide this model from my wife after declaring the XC60 too rich for our budget?

BW: Winner

You can hide it at my place Joe; I'll keep it nice and safe for you. Volvo's third SUV option builds off the winning formula Volvo found with the XC90 and XC60, and shrinking it down even further doesn't lessen the effect — I loved the XC40. The styling, interior quality and packaging are all top-notch.

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