Article and photos by Brendan McAleer and Mark Stevenson

Los Angeles – In the basement below the glitterati of the Los Angeles auto show’s finest, I found an Audi wagon decked out with Duck Dynasty style camouflage. Yeesh. Looks like the city isn’t the only thing that has an unsightly underbelly.

Still, as car shows go, this year’s LA Auto Show was a pretty good one. The wraps came off a rebirth of the Maybach brand. The Shelby GT350’s flat-plane-crank V8 rumbled into life. The Mazda CX-3 proved it’s possible to make a good-looking compact crossover. The ATS-V coupe and sedan promised to take the on-track battle right to the European competition. The Jaguar F-type got a stick-shift, and available all-wheel-drive. Kia handed out free beer.

It was a wonderful, tumultuous show filled with far too many people taking pictures with iPads. Here are our picks of the highlights and dim bulbs from the shining City of Angels.

Brendan’s Picks

Best in Show – Mustang Shelby GT350

I’m sure there’ll be pushback from anyone wearing a bowtie t-shirt on this one, but for me, the Shelby GT350 was the belle of the automotive ball. Apart from the new MX-5, and we’ve seen that out and about all ready, no other car was as temping. I absolutely can’t wait to drive this thing, even though I had to go look up what a flat plane crank does (Cole’s notes version: louder, revvier, faster, better).

The best part about this replacement for the Boss 302 is that it should be relatively affordable. Ford brought along one of the original 1965 Shelbys as tribute, and you’d have to think ol’ Carroll would be proud to see his name on the back of this bellowing beast. Let’s lay some stripes.

2015 Ford Mustang Shelby GT350Chevrolet Chaparral 2X Vision Concept2016 Volvo XC90 powertrain
2015 Ford Mustang Shelby GT350, Chevrolet Chaparral 2X Vision Concept, Volvo T8 Twindrive. Click image to enlarge

Best Concept – Chaparral CX2

The Audi Prologue concept was beautiful. The Toyota i-Road concept was a unique vision of future mobility. The Bentley Grand Convertible was a thinly-disguised hint at a future Mulsanne-based drop-top. And over at Chevy, well, they had a laser-powered racecar. Frickin’. Lasers.

Talk about ill-tempered, the laser-turbine flight of fancy Chaparral CX2 was easily the wildest thing on any display. Bound for the virtual world only, it was nonetheless a knife-edged delight. Why can’t a concept be this fun?

Best Technology – Volvo T8 Twindrive

Combining twin-charging tech with a hybrid drive is a bold move, but the Swedes have always been at the forefront of forced-induction technology. This XC90 is part Stig Blumqvist and part eco-friendly Scandinavia, coming as it does with a 400 hp, 472 lb-ft of torque powertrain that develops all that power out of just four cylinders and two-litres of displacement.

With the ability to run up to 40 km on electric-only power, it’s a clever solution to the luxury crossover. In terms of boosting Volvo’s sales, it can’t get here fast enough.

Biggest miss/mistake – Golf R Sportwagen not for North America

Somedays you almost think VW’s sales decisions aren’t based on market research as much as on irritating North Americans. “Should we send them the Scirocco? Hmm, they really seem to like it. Oh well. Nein.” So too was one of this show’s reveals just a big ol’ tease.

Known as the Golf R Variant in other markets, the bright blue Sportwagon doesn’t need its appeal explained: 290hp, all-wheel-drive, a 0-100km/h time in the five second range, while still hitting fuel economy targets around 7L/100km combined. VW reports that their MQB architecture is flexible enough to allow for multiple applications like this. So why can’t we have one?

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