See the Hits and Misses from the 2015 LA Auto Show (what car moves you?)

LOS ANGELES — The most-talked-about debuts here are the Fiat 124 Spider, Mazda CX-9,Buick LaCrosse, and Lincoln MKZ. That’s four of the three all-new debuts for this show — the MKZ is a mid-cycle refresh, with a new interior, front clip, and optional twin-turbo 3.0-liter V-6. And yes, you read that correctly: The editors from the “No Boring Cars” magazine believe the new Buick is worthy of interest. Our latest installment of show premiers we like, dislike, or that puzzle us at the third major auto show of the season include the opinions of contributing web columnist David Kiley and automotive analyst Joe Phillippi.
2017 Fiat 124 Spider Front Three Quarter 02
Miss: Fiat 124 Spider

Yes, it’s cuter than the Miata, and yes it successfully evokes the nostalgia of the old Fiat 124 Spider. But to me, the restyle is too obvious. The proportions are off, and I just can’t get past the impression that the front and rear ends are simply grafted onto the Miata (which they are, basically). Plus, the only differences I noticed inside were the Fiat badge on the steering wheel and a different font for the gauges. Otherwise, it’s a straight-up Mazda, which isn’t a bad thing, but it just seems disingenuous (not that most buyers will notice or care). The Miata’s cohesive look is much more appealing to my eye, even if it isn’t quite as “pretty” as the 124. — Joseph Capparella

2017 Fiat 124 Spider side
2017 Fiat 124 Spider interior
2017 Fiat 124 Spider rear three quarter 02
2017 Fiat 124 Spider interior view
Hit: Fiat 124 Spider

The Fiata turns out to be a more controversial design than its platform-donor, the ND Miata. To me, it blends a clean, modern look with nicely balanced retro cues. All the sheetmetal is unique. Downside is that the Spider, which is a full 5.5 inches longer than the Miata (despite sharing the same wheelbase) looks too relaxed. Here’s hoping that when Fiat says it retuned the shocks and springs, the engineers didn’t go too soft. I’m also perturbed that the upper of two trim levels, as well as the limited-edition launch model, come only with a six-speed automatic. For now, though, I’m looking forward to spending enough time with this beauty before it goes on sale next summer to sort out such issues. — Todd Lassa

2017 Fiat 124 Spider Front End 02
Miss: Fiat 124 Spider

As much as I want to like the Spider, and although I’m happy it exists, I can’t help but think it looks like a shrunken-down Panoz Esperante (not a compliment). Its proportions are all wrong compared to the perfectly shaped Miata, and while there’s something to be said for the added cargo space afforded by a longer rear overhang, a roadster should be more about looking cool than hauling groceries. — Eric Weiner

Hit: Fiat 124 Spider

The Fiat Spider is just what the struggling Italian brand needs to juice up some foot traffic for dealers. The 124 Spider is a legit competitor to Mazda Miata. With the sexy lineage to Turin working for the 124 Spider, I’m not sure why Mazda did this deal. — David Kiley

2017 Buick LaCrosse Side Profile 01
Hit: Buick LaCrosse

This big sedan is low, long, and elegant. Who cares if it’s front-wheel drive? It looks great. Buick has nailed the idea of a “premium brand,” and this stylish and luxurious LaCrosse exemplifies a perfect balance that fits just right in between Chevrolet and Cadillac. –J.C.

Hit: Buick LaCrosse

I care that it’s not rear-wheel drive, especially after the 2015 Detroit show Avenir tease. Buick is the only North American General Motors brand without a RWD model, and it could use a halo to — pardon the pun — lift all boats. Sounds like I’m calling it a miss, doesn’t it? I must admit the new LaCrosse wears its short dash-to-axle proportion well for a car that’s 197.5 inches long. The interior on the top trim level unveiled here is nicely done too. Even the fake woodgrain appliques look convincing. Still, Mazda showed a new CX-9 Sport with real wood and aluminum inside; I expect no less from the Buick Avenir if and when GM finally gives it the green light. — T.L.

2017 Buick LaCrosse front end 04
2017 Buick LaCrosse cabin
2017 Buick LaCrosse front end 02
2017 Buick LaCrosse wheel
Hit: Buick LaCrosse

Good on Buick for distilling the best of the Avenir concept into a sedan that is leaps and bounds more handsome and attractive than its predecessor. It remains comfortable inside, but there’s a level of style and maturity in this design we haven’t seen in Buick showrooms for quite some time. Let’s hope this is the start of a trend and not just an aberration. — E.W.

2017 Buick LaCrosse Rear Three Quarter 01
Revelation: The New Buick Diet

The new Buick LaCrosse is 300 pounds lighter than the old model. That is the equivalent of removing a Kenmore side-by-side refrigerator from the car. Nice packaging. — D.K.

2016 Nissan Sentra SL Front Three Quarter 05
Revelation: Sedans still matter, or do they?

The single phrase I heard most often at this year’s show was this: “Despite growth in the crossover and truck markets, sedans still matter.” And indeed, there were plenty of sedan debuts to go around: the Buick LaCrosse, the Lincoln MKZ, the Nissan Sentra, the Hyundai Elantra, the Subaru Impreza Sedan concept. But it’s funny to me that automakers seem almost a bit defensive about the shift that’s going on, as they seem over eager to reemphasize their non-crossover offerings. Maybe it’s that idea of not putting all your eggs in one basket, or maybe it’s simply to appease us auto journalists, many of whom harbor a strong anti-SUV/crossover bias. — J.C.

2017 Cadillac XT5 Front Three Quarter
Miss: Cadillac XT5

Looks like a zombie bean counter escaped its crypt and stumbled back into its old office at the GM Renaissance Center headquarters. The new XT5’s interior left me scratching my head. Seems there was some serious cost cutting involved on some very visible touch points. Notable is a gaping hole smack at the bottom of the center stack with mouse fir lining. Where’s the cubby door with an unpowered clock spring actuator that silently opens to the touch? Center console cup holders have a sliding cover that needs to be pushed open and pulled shut, unlike the powered unit on the CTS. Stalks for wipers and trafficators feel cheap and make a broken Popsicle stick sound when used. Door bins feel flimsy and need a soft inner lining. Oh, and no cubby in the headliner to stash sunglasses. Let’s not even get into CUE. Not a knob in sight despite plenty of complaints from the owner base. Yes, it’s a prototype, and maybe some bits are not fully dialed in yet. But, the XT5 is supposed to be the volume leader for Cadillac in a fast growing segment where it’s been way behind. — Joe Phillippi

2016 Mazda CX 9 Front Three Quarter 021
Hit: Mazda CX-9

Mazda is truly on a roll. The CX-9 has a promising new turbo engine, a sleek exterior design, and a knockout interior with truly luxury-grade materials. And beyond the excellent design, I also have every reason to believe that it will be the best-driving car in its class. Let’s hope Mazda can sell a lot of these, because the high profit margins for big SUVs would surely be welcome for such a small company. — J.C.

2016 Mazda CX 9 front end
2016 Mazda CX 9 rear three quarter
2016 Mazda CX 9 interior
2016 Mazda CX 9 rear end
Hit: Mazda CX-9

Mazda really stepped up with the new CX-9, which now looks more like an SUV than a crossover. The premium GT model on the stand has an upscale, Audi-like interior (good benchmark!) with leather and real wood and satin metal accents. Heading to market next spring, it is part of a plan to move the brand upmarket where profit margins are heftier. It’s a challenge, but this product has a truly premium look and feel. Pricing will head upwards a few ticks across the model range, likely topping $40K in luxe trim. Looks like a winner. — J.P.

Hit: Mazda CX-9

Aside from a nicely executed design and seriously impressive interior, the CX-9 boasts some major improvements that will be a welcome upgrade for three-row crossover shoppers. It boasts 20 percent better fuel economy, 310 lb-ft of torque early in the rev range at 2,000 rpm, and major work on reducing NVH. It could herald the way forward for an even better generation of Mazdas. — E.W.

2017 Jaguar F Pace Front Three Quarter
Revelation: Truth in Oil-Burning

Jaguar Land Rover will have diesel versions of all of its models except the F-Type by 2017. And North America chief Joe Eberhardt says, “Please … test all of them to your heart’s content … the fuel economy and emissions are all as we say they are.” — D.K.

2016 Volkswagen Beetle Denim Front Three Quarter
Revelation: VW Won’t Let Dieselgate Keep it Down

Volkswagen of America chief Michael Horn says about 120,000 of the roughly 482,000 2009-’15 2.0-liter diesel buyers have signed up for the company’s “customer loyalty” cards. This prompts them into dealerships for a software fix to clean up their engines and deplete performance and fuel efficiency. No doubt some VW fanboys will try to forgo that fix and leave the half-C-note on the table. That’s long been the problem with VW in the U.S.: It appeals to its diehard fans, not to Toyota, Honda, Nissan, and Subaru shoppers. Still, Horn says his company will not retreat: “VW is committed to this market. VW is committed to making things right,” he says, “and VW will continue to introduce great new product.” But that hasn’t worked for 40 years. The struggle will be that much greater now. — T.L.

Audi S8 Plus Front End
Revelation: Audi Clean Non-Diesel

Audi of America chief Scott Keogh says he expects 20 to 25 percent of Audis sold by 2025 to be electrified — “either full electric or some kind of plug.” Audi has a concept it calls C-BEV for “C-segment battery-electric-vehicle.” It has a range of 300 miles. — D.K.

2017 Lincoln Mkz Reveal Front Three Quarters 02
Hit: Lincoln MKZ

While I, the jury, am still out on the face of the MKZ, the interior blew me away. So many of the practical bits of the Continental concept’s interior have made it into the MKZ. The entire cockpit has been executed beautifully. Premium touch points are everywhere. An instantly responsive touch screen accompanies precisely executed knobs and buttons (Think high-end hi-fi tuner.) placed in intuitive locations. Doors close with a reassuring bank vault-like chunk. And door locks actuate almost silently. Metal speaker grilles shout luxury. It’s all there. — J.P.

2017 Lincoln Mkz Reveal Steering Wheel
Miss: Lincoln MKZ

Most of Lincoln’s promotional material for the new MKZ features head-on shots, because that’s the only thing that they’ve changed on the exterior. I don’t mind the Jaguar-ish front end, but I really wish they’d made the MKZ look fresher in a more comprehensive sense, as there’s a distinct lack of harmony between the lean face and the chunky rear. The saving grace, of course, is a 400-hp brand-specific 3.0-liter. Too bad I don’t care about it in the MKZ, and all I can think about is how rad it’s going to be in the Continental. — E.W.

Hit: Lincoln MKZ

I think Ford is probably wasting it time trying to carve out a new niche in premium/luxury with Lincoln, but the refreshed MKZ sedan is offering a 3.0-liter twin-turbocharged V-6 with a 400 horsepower, 400 lb-ft of torque engine option. A 245-horsepower, 2.0-liter turbo four and a hybrid also will be available. You can’t say they aren’t trying. — D.K.

2017 Lincoln Mkz Reveal Front Seat
Miss: Lincoln MKZ

Lincoln admits that it can’t become a world-class luxury brand overnight, and the MKZ’s new grille and powertrain are baby steps towards a larger goal. But the problem is that it’s taking steps in many different directions. The Continental concept foretold the idea of “quiet luxury” rather than sportiness, but the MKZ now has 400 horsepower and a “Driver’s Package.” The old split-wing grille was meant to evoke nostalgia, but now that’s gone, and the new face just makes me think of Jaguar. I don’t see any cohesive vision for where Lincoln is headed, and that doesn’t give me much hope for the future. — J.C.

2017 Lincoln Mkz Reveal Rear Three Quarters 02
Revelation: Lincoln’s mixed message

Lincoln Motor Company president Kumar Galhotra told an Automotive Press Association luncheon in Detroit recently that the brand now represents “quiet luxury.” In his L.A. Auto Show unveiling of the facelifted MKZ, he used the term “progressive luxury,” then repeated the “quiet luxury” description, then introduced the 2017 model with the optional twin-turbo V-6. I’m not about to give a thumbs down to a sporty premium sedan, but I am confused. The all-wheel-drive version of the twin-turbo MKZ is rated 400 horses and 400 lb-ft; the front-wheel-drive version is rated 350 horsepower, while retaining the AWD’s torque number. Sounds like a lot of potential torque steer rather than “quiet luxury,” to me. — T.L.

2017 Hyundai Elantra Front Three Quarter 03
Miss: Hyundai Elantra

I’m sure this will be a significantly better car than its predecessor. But the more conservative design comes just as big-name competitors like the Civic are going in a more extreme styling direction. Every recent Hyundai debut has been a step forward in terms of refinement, but does that have to come at the expense of progressive design? — J.C.

2017 Kia Sportage SX Turbo Front Three Quarter 01
Hit: Kia Sportage

Kia’s new Sportage should throw some fear into sales volumes of Ford Escape, Toyota RAV4, and Honda CR-V. Kia does every generation of its cars better and at better values than the stalwarts. On the other hand, there seems to be no end in sight of buyers for compact crossovers, so everybody, including Kia, wins. –D.K.

Miss: Kia Sportage

This is the first Kia design since Peter Schreyer took over that doesn’t look good to my eyes. The stubby nose doesn’t match the long, sleek profile, and it has sort of Nissan Juke look to it, without the funkiness. — J.C.

2016 Honda Civic Coupe Front Three Quarter
Hit: Honda Civic Coupe

The Civic Coupe isn’t pretty, and certain angles are awkward and bulbous. But I applaud Honda for going out on a limb, and the two-door really does have a sportier stance than the sedan. — J.C.

Miss: Honda Civic Coupe

Honda fans of yore would have forgiven the Acura-wannabe nose and the bustle tail from the old European Civic for truly revolutionary design, engineering, and packaging. I have yet to drive one, but on paper the 10th-gen simply looks like it’s best-in-class, not beyond its class. In the old days, Honda would have offered the upgrade 1.5-liter turbo with a six-speed manual, for young first-time buyers who can’t afford an Si or Type-R, or the insurance premiums. — T.L.

2016 Honda Civic Coupe front end
2016 Honda Civic Coupe rear end 02
2016 honda civic coupe reveal wheel
2016 Honda Civic Coupe rear three quarter
Revelation: Honda Civic coupe

Rarely does a concept car get translated so convincingly into production as it was with the Honda Civic coupe. It has none of the awkward angles and surfaces of the Civic sedan, and I’m chomping at the bit for an Si version with some attitude and a manual gearbox. — E.W.

Alfa Romeo Giulia Front Three Quarters 02
Miss: Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio

Call me crazy, but I’m not sure that the Fiat-Alfa Romeo dealers are going to get that much traction with the 505 horsepower Giulia when it hits U.S. shores next year. After they burn through the curious Italophiles, are there really that many buyers for a $70,000 sedan of unknown quality and a startup dealer body for the alleged number of buyers who are said to be bored with BMW, Mercedes, Lexus, Porsche, and Audi? — D.K.

2017 Infiniti QX30 Front Three Quarter 02
Revelation: The Infiniti Q30 and QX30 are nearly identical

Infiniti’s maligned naming scheme aside, the Q30 hatchback and the QX30 “crossover” are impossible to tell apart visually. I walked around the Q for a good five minutes thinking it was the QX, as both cars are relatively tall, and even the hatch version has plastic cladding on the fenders. – J.C.

2016 Jeep Wrangler Backcountry Front Side View
Miss: Purple Wrangler Eater

Jeep Wrangler Backcountry in bilious purple. It’s like some twisted act of an un-American interior designer who can’t stop saying “feng shui” or “duvet.” Nobody I want to have a conversation with paints a Jeep this color. — D.K.

Scion C HR Concept Front Three Quarter 02
Hit: Scion C-HR concept

It’s a smart move to give this little crossover to Scion rather than Toyota, as it seems like a good fit for the struggling brand. Yes, it’s ugly, but so is the Nissan Juke, and that’s been a big success. — J.C.

Miss: Scion C-HR concept

The Toyota C-HR was one of my misses from Frankfurt. Slapping the badge of a struggling sub-brand on it doesn’t make it any better. — T.L.

2017 Fiat 124 Spider front end
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