If Californians want to drive cleaner and more economical cars you'd have been hard pressed to tell it at this year's 2011 Los Angeles Auto Show. Eco was far from a dominating theme; clean and green got lost amid a show with a distinct lack of electric and hybrid vehicles. If anything, it was the go-faster, high-powered muscle cars and exotics that attracted the most attention, representing a definite shift away from the innovative and eco-friendly vehicle introductions the LA Auto Show has become known for.
In an old-fashioned horsepower fight General Motors' introduced its 580hp supercharged 6.2-litre V8 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1, its most powerful convertible; Ford showed the most powerful Mustang ever, the 650hp 5.8-litre V8 Ford Shelby GT500; and Jaguar showed the droptop version of its 550hp XKR-S sports coupe, the most powerful convertible it's ever made. Unsubtle it may be, but at least some manufacturers had made the effort to make such powerful beasts more fuel-efficient. The Mercedes-Benz ML63 AMG the big, most brutish ML-Class SUV available comes fitted with efficiency improvements including stop/start technology (as does the new Porsche 911 and Porsche Panamera GTS).
Elsewhere, the lightweight trend was not completely abandoned, at least. Porsche and Subaru showed a more intelligent use of power by producing more efficient cars - the new 911 and the BRZ STI concept - thanks to a focus on weight reduction rather than just increasing horsepower.
All in all, one couldn't help thinking that this year's LA Auto Show lacked a theme. But - if we are forced to find one - we could say this: while America's Big Three retreated into a traditional automotive comfort zone firmly rooted in the old horsepower battles of the past, Europe and Asia showed cars that were not only fast and furious but more responsible too. Or maybe - just maybe - Detroit is simply returning to what it does best?