What do you get when you combine the hottest new cars on the planet with a city that's defined by the automobile?
You get the 2014 LA Auto Show, of course. And I was lucky enough to score an invite to this year's Press Days, so I got to wander through the LA Convention Center, rub elbows with all the industry folks and check out the latest rides firsthand.
With over 30 world debuts this year, the show was as action-packed as ever. But if you know me, you know I'm not afraid to play favorites. Check out my three favorite cars from the 2014 LA Auto Show.
1. Ford Shelby GT350 Mustang
I'm a diehard Mustang guy, in case you haven't heard, so I'm always fired up when there's a new Mustang in town. But here's the thing -- you don't have to be a Mustang fan to appreciate the 2016 Ford Shelby GT350 Mustang. You just have to appreciate high-revving naturally aspirated engines and manual transmissions, because both come standard on the GT350. In fact, you can't even get an automatic if you want one. That's how serious this machine is.
I love the Shelby because it fixes everything I don't like about the regular Mustang GT. The standard exhaust system is far too restrictive, muffling the GT's 5.0-liter V8 almost beyond recognition, but the GT350 gets a free-flowing setup that sounds fantastic. I should mention that the Shelby's 500-plus-horsepower engine is more than just a massaged version of the GT's V8; it's a unique design that displaces 5.2 liters and employs a flat-plane crankshaft, just like a Ferrari V8, which is why it revs to 8,200 rpm and sounds so pure. The handling's tighter, the brakes are bigger…you name it, the Shelby does it better. This is the ultimate Mustang, no doubt about it. If I were going to buy a new Mustang, I'd definitely make it a Shelby GT350.
2. Jaguar F-Type
The F-Type coupe/roadster is Jaguar's Porsche 911 fighter, and the 2016 model inches closer to 911 territory. For one thing, you can get a manual transmission now, although only with the supercharged V6 engine -- the supercharged V8 remains automatic-only. For another, the V8 convertible is now rated at 550 horsepower, just like the V8 coupe, erasing the drop-top's previous 55-hp deficit. And get this, every V8 model will come standard with all-wheel drive going forward, so if you want a rear-drive F-Type V8, you'll be looking at a 2015 model or earlier.
I'm a little bummed about that, because the rear-drive V8 was born to drift and do big smoky burnouts. It was an enthusiast's dream; the AWD system won't let you have quite as much fun. But it's safer, no doubt, for inexperienced drivers who might accidentally unleash more of those 550 horses in a corner than they're ready for. And remember, the Porsche 911 Turbo employs all-wheel drive, too. All in all, the 2016 F-Type is a step forward for Jaguar's most capable sports car. Maybe next year they'll unveil the model I've been waiting for -- an F-Type V8 with rear-wheel drive and the manual shifter.
3. BMW X5 M
I've made it clear in my columns that I'm not a big fan of the modern turbo craze, but I make an exception for heavy SUVs, because they really benefit from a turbocharged engine's massive low-end torque. That torque is the stuff that launches you quickly off the line, and the all-new BMW X5 M's 4.4-liter twin-turbo V8 has got an astounding 553 lb-ft of it. Do you remember the turbodiesel Volkswagen Touareg V10 TDI? I'll never forget the dump-truck torque it delivered, and guess what -- it had 553 lb-ft, too. So the gasoline-powered X5 M matches the Touareg V10 diesel in the stump-pulling department, and oh yeah, it's got 567 horsepower as well, not to mention a new eight-speed automatic (replacing the old six-speed) with a launch-control mode.
Zero to 60, if you're wondering, takes 4 seconds flat, putting the porky X5 M in a virtual dead heat with the abovementioned Jaguar F-Type V8.
I'll tell you another thing I like about the X5 M: it finally makes the new X5's body look right with its standard staggered-width 21-inch wheels. To my eye, the lesser X5 models' wheels look too small; they're dwarfed by all that metal above. But the 21s are proportional. They're what this truck needs to look its best.
I've never really had a thing for superfast SUVs, but I'm not gonna lie, I dig the idea of having one of these babies in my driveway.
Are you going?
If so, tell me about your top picks in the comments.
Editor's note: Whatever you drive, keep it running right and looking good with Advance Auto Parts. But online, pick up in-store in 30 minutes.