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Rob’s Top Cars from the 2018 Los Angeles Auto Show

Fall in Los Angeles is a fun time. While the rest of the country bundles up to brave the dropping temperatures and inclement weather, we Californians are still going to car shows, having barbecues with our gearhead friends and participating in fun events with our car clubs.

One of the best things that fall brings to SoCal automotive enthusiasts is the Los Angeles Auto Show. California is one of the largest car buying markets in the United States and as SoCal serves as a shining embodiment of American car culture, manufacturers spare no expense or effort on their displays.

As such we were excited, as we are every year, to head Downtown to the Los Angeles Convention Center and immerse ourselves in the fun. Here are my takeaways from the show that I thought you’d enjoy:

Cadillac CT6-V

2019 Cadillac CT6-V | Photo by Rob Finkelman

In recent years, GM has invested a lot into reinventing its premium brand. New models, new designs and new marketing initiatives have revitalized Cadillac, and with the bolstering of their V-Series high-performance cars, Caddy had created a halo line that could finally compete with the likes of BMW’s M-Division, or Mercedes AMG.

Almost.

What they had been lacking was the “Big Daddy,” the top dog in the V-Series. Well, they require it no more. The new for 2019 CT6-V now sits atop GM’s premiere slew of cars, and if you ask us, it was well worth the wait.

The CT6-V’s 4.2 liter, twin-turbo “Blackwing” V8 engine. (Photo by Rob Finkelman.)

The CT6-V packs a hand-built, exclusive to Cadillac, 4.2-liter, twin-turbo V8 codenamed “Blackwing” that churns out 550 horsepower at 5700 rpm and 627 lb-ft of torque at 3200 rpm.

With “Hot V” architecture, the turbochargers are located between the heads which minimizes turbo lag while simultaneously making the engine more compact.

The motor is mated to a 10-speed, paddle-shifted, automatic transmission and an all-wheel-drive system. Aggressive suspension tuning aims to eliminate body roll and recalibrated Magnetic Ride Control dampers are standard. A mechanical limited-slip differential is fitted.

Other goodies include lightweight 20-inch aluminum alloy wheels, high-performance summer tires, four-piston, monoblock Brembo brakes, an active-valve sport exhaust, and a variety of computer-controlled driving modes that alter the stability-control mapping, all-wheel-drive torque split, rear-wheel steering, and suspension firmness.

Aesthetically, I thought the CT6-V was a home run. Up front, there’s a dark finish mesh grill, LED headlights and an aggressively shaped fascia. Along the flanks are sporty looking lower-body aero bits. Outback are LED tail lamps and a rear deck spoiler. Inside is a plush yet sporty environment, finished in Alcantara, carbon, and piano black materials.

Quite a car.

Chevrolet Corvette ZR-1

The all-new for 2019 Chevrolet Corvette ZR-1 | Photo by Rob Finkelman

Chevrolet had a suitably enormous display at the show to accommodate their massive fleet of cars and trucks, but there was only one that screamed “show-stopper,” and that was the all-new, 2019 Corvette ZR-1.

The top dog of the extensive Corvette line is not for the bashful or faint of heart. Underneath the outrageously flared and vented bodywork lurks a supercharged 6.2-liter direct and port injected LT5 V8 that packs an astonishing 755 bhp and 715 lb-ft of torque, making it one of the most powerful production cars sold in America, alongside the Ferrari 812 Superfast, Dodge Challenger Demon and Hellcat Redeye, and the Bugatti Chiron. That’s some serious company.

Available with a seven-speed manual transmission with automatic rev-matching or an eight-speed automatic with paddle-shifters, power is transmitted through the 3.42 rearend to the ground where it shreds its back 335 series Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires.

The show car boasted the ZTK Track Performance package that includes an almost comically huge adjustable rear wing, removable end caps for the front splitter, and specific tuning for the standard magnetorheological dampers.

Standard niceties onboard include an active-valve, performance sport exhaust, a carbon fiber engine cover that pokes through the hood, a carbon fiber roof panel, a carbon fiber ground effects package, standard Brembo carbon-ceramic brakes, performance data and video recorder, dry sump oil system, electronic Limited-Slip Differential (eLSD), drive mode selection and a rear differential cooler.

With a base price of $119,995, you’d better start saving your pennies to buy this little bundle of insanity.

2019 Ford Mustang Bullitt

The new for 2019 Ford Mustang Bullitt | Photo by Rob Finkelman

Just like Steve McQueen, the star of the 1968 movie that this car pays homage to, it’s a declaration that Bullitt Mustangs are cool. It’s also a factual statement that it’s been a while since we had one, all the way back to 2009.

But in just a few short months you’ll be able to order the latest iteration of this low-volume Mustang variant, and as such, Ford had a pre-production model on display front and center. Available only in the Dark Highland Green of the iconic movie car or black, the Bullitt sports a variety of standard add-ons and unique features that differentiate it from a standard Mustang GT, and make it a genuinely desirable car.

Starting with the exterior, the Bullitt features a black, hexagonal mesh grill insert devoid of a Mustang logo, just as the car in Bullitt had. Bright chrome moldings surround the side windows and lend a classic touch.

The car sits on a set of 19-inch, gloss black aluminum heritage wheels with a polished lip that replicate the wheels the movie car wore and partially cover the red Brembo six-piston brake calipers. The rear features a somewhat too large Bullitt faux gas cap, a rear spoiler delete, and an exclusive diffuser.

Inside the car, one finds a 12-inch LCD gauge cluster that simulates two classic-looking gauges. A white cue ball style shift knob and some limited-edition badges invoke an appropriate air of exclusivity. Unique dark leather seating with a Highland Green contrasting accent stitch is classy and comfortable.

But it is under all of this that the Bullitt stands out from all of its Mustang brethren. The iconic 5.0-liter Coyote V8 is present but is tweaked to offer 480 bhp and 420 lb-ft of torque. The additional oomph is the result of a higher-flowing CAI and intake manifold with longer runners, and a larger 87mm throttle body.

Of great joy to us is the fact that only one transmission, a six-speed manual with active rev matching, is available.

Regarding handling, the Bullitt is essentially a GT with the Level 1 Performance Package that includes a Torsen limited-slip differential out back, a bigger rear sway bar, heavy-duty front springs, and optimized traction and stability control.

Saving the most refreshing bit for last, the Bullitt comes standard with an active-valve sport exhaust that was sonically tuned to emulate the sound of the movie car. NICE.

All in all, a very neat car. We want one!

Dodge Challenger Hellcat Redeye, Scat Pack 1320 and Redeye Express

The 2019 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat Redeye Widebody | Photo by Rob Finkelman

Dodge brought some heavy artillery to the L.A. Auto Show this year: two distinctly new performance Challengers and a particular bit of holiday automotive cheer.

Among the display, the long-awaited Challenger SRT Hellcat Redeye was the main attraction. The Redeye takes the best performance bits from the Demon, a track oriented beast, and incorporates them into a much more street useable Hellcat Challenger.

The Redeye features the Demon’s 6.2-liter supercharged Hemi V8, eight-speed automatic transmission, and driveline extras like line lock, twin dual-stage fuel pumps, SRT Power Chiller and launch control. In total, the Redeye boasts an astonishing 797 bhp and 707 lb-ft of torque, enough to propel this 4,500 pound behemoth to 60 mph in 3.4-seconds and the quarter-mile in 10.8-seconds.

On the outside, the only thing that differentiates the Redeye from the Hellcat is a tiny faux ruby inserted in the eye of the Hellcat logo on the car’s front fenders. All Hellcats, including the Redeye, get an aesthetically improved hood featuring functional dual snorkels – one allows ram air to be fed directly to cars’ intake, and the other to provide engine cooling. Both the Redeye and Hellcat now sport dual added air intakes in the center of both of the inside headlights. A widebody package is available as an option.

Inside, the Redeye has new seating surface options and a custom startup graphic on the LCD cluster display.

Starting at a relatively low $71,995, we’d put our money on the Redeye being a sales success.

The 2019 Dodge Challenger Scat Pack 1320 | Photo by Rob Finkelman

Also on display was the 2019 Challenger Scat Pack 1320, named for the number of feet in a quarter-mile. The Scat Pack 1320 is billed by Dodge as a drag-oriented, street-legal muscle car for the grassroots drag racer. In more grounded terms, the 1320 is essentially the outgoing SRT 392 with some added go-fast bits.

Packing the old SRT’s tried and true 6.4-liter Hemi V8, good for 485 horsepower and 475 lb-ft of torque, the 1320 comes only with the TorqueFlite 8HP70 8-speed automatic transmission with manual paddle shifters.

An SRT-tuned adaptive damping suspension with drag mode, extreme-duty 41-spline half shafts, line lock, cool-down features and the transbrake that was developed for the Demon are just some of the systems that make the 1320 faster than the old SRT 392 ever was. Specially developed Nexen 275/40R20l street-legal drag radial tires are available for better grip.

Dodge claims it will cover the quarter mile in 11.7 seconds at 115 mph, not bad for a naturally aspirated, street-legal muscle car.

Like the Demon, the 1320 comes with a driver’s seat only, but buyers can add a passenger and rear seats as stand-alone options. The outgoing Hellcat’s ram air, ventilated hood is standard on the car.

The vehicle at the show was covered in racing stickers and a healthy amount of burned rubber spattered on the fender behind the rear wheels. This exact car pulled an 11.72-second quarter-mile, as attested to by the grease marker digits applied to the windows.

The Dodge Redeye Express | Photo by Rob Finkelman

Providing some holiday spirit, Dodge also displayed the Redeye Express. A “muscle sleigh” for Santa that replaces his reindeer with 797 horses courtesy of Dodge’s Challenger SRT Hellcat Redeye engine.

Created for Dodge’s recent “Upgrade” commercial, it is actually a real 2019 Challenger SRT Hellcat Redeye that has lost its roof and doors, had its windshield shaved down to speedster size, had its wheels replaced by sleigh tracks and experienced a trunk lid delete to fit more presents in for all the good boys and girls. The Express also features side exhausts, six-piston Brembo brakes, running boards and a Hellcat Redeye fender logo with antlers and premium Laguna leather seating. Ho! Ho! Ho!

Custom Cars and Aftermarket Suppliers

For the custom car crowd, there was plenty to choose from at the Los Angeles Auto Show in the “Garage Display” downstairs.

Slammed muscle cars were everywhere in the “Garage Display” downstairs | Photo by Rob Finkelman

Everything from custom wrapped hypercars to tricked-out Jeeps and slammed muscle cars were on display. Custom companies like DUB, West Coast Customs, TRAXXAS, Icona Design Group, SS Motorsports, Ivan Tampi Customs and more were showing their vehicles.

SS Motorsports had a huge muscle car display | Photo by Rob Finkelman

Aftermarket parts and wheel manufacturers abounded, and for the collector, the Burning Rubber Toy Group had literally hundreds of scale model cars to buy. Other displays included antique license plate vendors, tin automotive sign distributors and much, much more. And what would the Los Angeles Auto Show be without a California Highway Patrol display, where you could meet and greet with several CHP officers and let them give you a walk around one of their brand new Dodge Charger Hemi Pursuit Cars?

This year’s Los Angeles Auto show was a blast, as it is every year. If you live in the Southern California area, go Downtown and check it out for yourself.

Until next year!

About the author

Rob Finkelman

Rob combined his two great passions of writing and cars; and began authoring columns for several Formula 1 racing websites and Street Muscle Magazine. He is an avid automotive enthusiast with a burgeoning collection of classic and muscle cars.
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