California has initiated the 2001 automotive odyssey with the Greater Los Angeles Auto Show. Over-flowing the LA Convention Center with more than 1000 show vehicles, this international event jump starts the show season with a generous roster of exciting new production vehicles and concept debuts.

Read on to discover upcoming production models and intriguing concept cars. Additional coverage can be found on MT TV, MT Radio, and in Motor Trend magazine.

Acura has updated its flagship sedan with a round of refinements to combat ever-improving competition. Exterior styling has been made a bit more aggressive, with a more prominent grille, new wheels, and body-colored trim. Mechanical updates deliver better acceleration, handling, and stopping. Power has increased from 210 to 225 horses, and the suspension has been tuned to be more responsive. The roster of features now includes OnStar with Virtual Advisor. The 2002 goes on sale mid-March 2001.

The Acura TL sedan has been treated to over 500 improvements for the 2002 model year, including an edgier front-end appearance. Less obvious are the myriad refinements, such as aerodynamic side mirrors, improved brake feel, reduced road noise, and enhanced radio reception. Standard creature comforts have expanded to include six-disc in-dash CD changer, seat memory, auto-up driver*s window, tilt headrests, and 0.8-g-capable cupholder. Best news is the addition of a Type-S model with 260-horsepower, sporty suspension, and minor styling differentiation.

The benefit of an older sibling is hand-me downs. Case in point, the M Coupe and M Roadster stand to benefit from the high-output 3.2-liter M3 engine. In the 3 Series coupe, the 333-horsepower inline six can achieve a BMW-claimed sub-5-second 0-60 mph time. While the M Coupe and Roadster will be down slightly in power to 315 horses at 7400, the 300-pound weight savings should translate into extreme performance. Pricing has not been announced on these freshened models.

Cadillac enters the full-size pickup market with a luxurious four-door variant of the 2002 Escalade sport/utility vehicle. The five-passenger EXT features a reconfigurable midgate, which allows the cargo space to expand into the passenger cabin. When folded down, the clever midgate permits the EXT to tote a 4x8-foot plywood sheet. Otherwise, the bed measures 5' 3". The EXT features a potent 345-horsepower V-8 engine, all-wheel drive, road-sensing suspension, ultrasonic parking assist, OnStar, Bose sound system, and numerous other premium elements.

A rugged and fun "sports adventure vehicle," the Borrego was designed to serve as a weekday commuter and weekend exploration machine. Its key feature is an Avalanche-inspired midgate that converts the Borrego from a two-person runabout to four-passenger commuter. The cargo compartment likewise changes from a six-foot bed to three-feet. The Borrego borrows an all-wheel drive, H-4 drivetrain and turbocharged four-cylinder engine from alliance partner Subaru.

Chevrolet proudly displays the larger-than-life golden caliper trophy representing its claim to Motor Trend's 2001 Truck of the Year award with the mighty Silverado Heavy-Duty pickup. As we wrote in the February 2001 issue, "the Chevrolet Silverado HD won us over with its do-it-all portfolio of power, passenger room, cargo capacity, feature levels, and towing prowess." The massive, full-size, commercial-grade truck proved extremely capable in our exhaustive testing. On the show floor, the truck dwarfs the car-based crossover vehicles and stands tall as a pure, American truck.

Daewoo took the wraps off its 2002 Leganza sedan boasting a variety of improvements over the current model. Continuing the "affordable luxury" theme, the 2002 model features side curtain airbags, anti-lock disc brakes, and available navigation system. Power increases with a 2.5-liter/180-horsepower inline six-cylinder supplanting the 2.2-liter four. The sedan goes on sale in the summer with pricing to remain similar to the current $14K-$19K range.

Daewoo reassured the gathered journalists that the company is not only in the auto business for the long haul, but that it had two new products to show off. Referred as the U100, though badged as CDX Rezzo, this five-passenger multipurpose vehicle is expected to go on sale Stateside in the spring. Like with current Daewoo models, outside development was sought from leading firms; The interesting shape was penned by Pininfarina and the suspension was tuned by Porsche. Underhood is a 129-horsepower 2.0-liter DOHC four-cylinder.

Penned by Mark Allen, designer of the memorable 1999 Dodge Power Wagon concept, the PowerBox showcases a hybrid drivetrain. The vehicle is powered by a combination of a supercharged 2.7-liter V-6 engine that runs on clean compressed natural gas (CNG) and an electric motor that provides added oomph for acceleration and passing. Combined output is 320 horsepower, enough for a seven-second 0-60 mph time. For cargo access, the PowerBox features a "lift-tail-combogate" that can either lift or drop down to support cargo.

The green light has been given to produce a special Bullitt-edition Mustang, paying homage to the classic Steve McQueen film. To be offered in coupe form only, the Bullitt package will include 17-inch American Racing Torq Thrust D-style wheels, covered side scoops, restyled rocker panels and C-pillar, and competition-style gas filler door. The interior will likewise be treated to '60s styling cues, such as special gauge faces, trim, and pedal covers. Performance will be elevated with a tuned suspension and more than 270 horsepower.

First shown in Las Vegas, the Ford Urban Explorer concept gives the all-new 2002 SUV the GT treatment. Performance enhancements include cowl induction for improved airflow and vented brake rotors for improved heat dissipation. Power comes from a 240-horse version of the 4.6-liter SOHC V-8 and is put to the ground via an aggressive 20-inch wheel/tire combination. A monochrome lime green exterior is dressed with a unique fascia and side cladding. Inside, the Urban Explorer features quad bucket seats dressed in lime trim.

Making its world debut, the 2002 Isuzu Axiom packages a 3.5-liter/230-horsepower DOHC V-6 and torque-on-demand traction system in an edgy sport/utility. The independent front, five-link live axle rear suspension employs Intelligent Suspension Control that continually adjusts shock valving, plus offers comfort and sport modes. Other trick features include a Multi-Information Display (MID) that allows occupants to control the premium sound system, automatic climate control, and trip computer, as well as keep the on-board clock calibrated to the U.S. atomic clock.

Jaguar announced that it will produce the F-Type roadster, first shown at the 2000 Detroit show. Due to the unprecendented rollout of new Jaguar models, the sleek two-seater won't appear before 2004. Positioned beneath the XK Series, the small Jaguar is designed to accept a range of powertrain options, including the 240-horsepower AJ-V6 engine and even a supercharged 300-horse powerplant. A rear-drive configuration with automatic or manual transmissions is likely, though an all-wheel drive is reportedly a production-feasible possibility.

Termed an "urban adventure concept," the Varsity is the latest SUV hybrid to wear the unmistakable seven-slotted Jeep grille. First introduced in Detroit last year, the Varsity is another sign the dirt-loving DCX divisions seeking a more carlike addition to the limited Jeep lineup. The Varsity touts a "sports sedan" ride combined with the brand's legendary off-road abilities. The Jeep Varsity is powered by a fiery 3.5-liter/300-horsepower V-6 engine matched with a four-speed automatic transmission and full-time four-wheel drive.

Based on its successful Rio sedan, Kia's new compact Station Wagon offers real affordability, safety, and reliability in one value-conscious package. Standard niceties include power steering and tilt wheel, sound system, front MacPherson struts, and an efficient 1.5-liter/96-horsepower engine. Like all Kias, the new wagon includes comprehensive customer warranties, and a variety of options that allow the customer to equip the vehicle as their heart, and budget, desire.

Taking its name from the MP3-compatible, 280-watt Kenwood sound system, the Mazda Protege MP3 targets tech-savvy youth with this street-prepped sedan. A big jump up from the 1.8-liter/122-horse ES model, the MP3 boasts a 2.0-liter/150-horse twin-cam engine backed by a five-speed manual transmission. A performance-tuned suspension provides a lowered stance and nimble handling. A limited run of 1500 Protege MP3s will be offered beginning March 2001, priced less than $20,000.

Visually distinctive and noticeably smaller than both the C-Class sedan and Mercedes-Benz CLK coupe line, the two-door coupe version of the highly successful C-Class will go on sale in the U.S. this summer. Expected to be priced under $30,000, the sporty hatchback will be powered by a 2.3-liter supercharged engine. One fancy feature is the sliding glass sunroof: Just press a button, and the front half of the roof glides over the rear, leaving an opening that is about a third larger than a conventional sunroof.

Combining the driving characteristics and passenger comforts of a sport sedan with the packaging versatility of an SUV, the "Geo-Mechanical" SSS strikes at the burgeoning crossover market. The concept is built on a new front-drive platform powered by Mitsubishi's 3.5-liter SOHC V-6. However, the design is flexible enough to accommodate a full-time all-wheel-drive system with viscous coupling. The SSS offers a glimpse at the new products the company is planning to build at its Normal, Illinois, facility starting in 2003.

The handcrafted 2001 Panoz Esperante is an unique alternative to high-end, mass-produced cars. Aimed at discerning enthusiasts, only 300-500 of the luxury sport convertibles will be built each year, with an MSRP of $79,950. The modular extruded aluminum chassis holds a Ford-sourced 4.6-liter/320-horsepower aluminum V-8, promising 0-60 mph in 5.1 seconds and a top speed near 160 mph.

More attractive than the last crossover Pontiac introduced (Aztek), the Vibe offers multipurpose abilities in a compact package. Fold the 60/40-split rear seats to open up 57.2 cubic feet of cargo space with tie-downs for recreation gear. Interior notables include chrome-trimmed gauges and 110-volt household-style electrical outlet. Behind the twin-port grille is a 1.8-liter/130-horsepower four-cylinder engine. Destined for production, the Vibe will be offered in two-wheel and all-wheel drive.

The rear-drive, mid-engine Porsche supercar that stole the Paris Motor Show made its North American debut in at the Los Angeles show. The "open cockpit" Carrera GT concept features a 558-hp, 444 lb-ft. 6.0-liter V-10 and weighs a mere 2756 pounds. Porsche promises a 0-100 km/h (0-62.1 mph) time of less than four seconds and a redline above 8000 rpm. Porsche will offer the Carrera GT in 2003 in low-volumes with prices expected to be in the $350,000 range. A Le Mans race-variant is almost certain to follow.

Based on a stretched Grand Vitara platform, the Suzuki XL-7 targets the crowded mid-sized SUV market. The XL-7 is powered by a 2.7-liter/170-horsepower DOHC V-6, and it is available in either rear- or four-wheel drive. Off-roaders will appreciate the true 4x4 system, complete with a low-range transfer case. As the name implies, the new Suzuki is a seven passenger vehicle thanks to a tight third row. Prices range from base rear-drive version at $20,299 to well-equipped 4WD Touring model at $24,999.

The WiLL Concept Car was a joint effort between WiLL, a popular brand name for several products in the Japan marketplace, and the Virtual Venture Company (VVC), an organization within Toyota tasked with identifying youth trends. This sporty vehicle makes having five doors both fun and stylish. Power comes from the 180-horse Celica GTS engine and is controlled via steering-wheel mounted buttons. A production version of the WiLL Concept Car is slated to go on sale in the Japan market in the future.

As the market swings back to wagons, Volkswagen plans to offer its Bora Variant in the U.S. The Jetta wagon combines sport sedan manners, compact SUV cargo abilities, and spirited performance with uplevel powertrains. Initially, we're told the front-drive Jetta will be offered in 2.0-liter form, with VR6 and eventually 1.8-liter turbo versions to follow. Unfortunately, the 4Motion model is not planned for sale Stateside, but a look around the crossover-peppered show floor may have VW reconsidering.

Volvo is testing the performance sedan waters to see if there call for a Swedish sedan that is even more potent than the sporty T5. Pushing the S60 to the autobahn extreme, the Performance Concept Car (PCC) elevates output from the turbocharged 2.4-liter, five-cylinder engine to 300 horses. The potent output is commanded with a six-speed shifter and routed to all four wheels. A dashing exterior, high-tech suspension, and interior trim all point to a potential BMW M and Mercedes AMG competitor.