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Informed speculation: Toyota, Subaru and Mazda at the 2016 Los Angeles Auto Show

Although the Fall 2016/2017 auto show season kicked off in Miami with world debuts of a Nissan mid-life facelift and new model/trim level variants from Nissan and Ford, it rolls into high gear at Los Angeles Auto Show in mid-November with “more than 50 vehicle debuts and 25 press conferences”, according to an e-mailed PR blast. Carmakers have run the gamut from tipping their hand in advance (Honda Civic Si and the public unveiling of their 5th-gen CR-V; North American debuts of the 5th-gen Land Rover Discovery and Mercedes’ G550 4×4 Squared, AMG GT Roadster and GT R) to partially doing so (the Nissan Rogue: Rogue One Star Wars Limited Edition will be joined by two other undisclosed unveilings) to simply scheduling press conferences but otherwise keeping mum. Among the latter group is Toyota, minority affiliate Subaru and newly-minted alliance partner Mazda. There are enough clues and hints, however, that we will hazard a few guesses as to what they will be debuting in L.A. a month from now.

As we noted last June, the 2017 model year is a quiet one for the Toyota brand. Nonetheless, they have scheduled a Los Angeles Auto Show press conference for Thursday 17 November at 12:45 PM Pacific time. The likely focus is the C-HR lower-C segment crossover. Although most of its secrets were revealed at its 2016 Geneva Motor Show world premiere, a number of questions remain about its U.S.-market iteration. Its expected powerplant is the 2-liter (1986cc) Valvematic-endowed 3ZR-FAE 4-cylinder engine offered as a top-of-the-line option in Japan. But will it be front-wheel-drive and CVT (continuously variable transmission)-only, as it is in its native country? Or will there be an all-wheel-drive option? And what about a 6-speed manual transaxle option? If one is offered, will it be FWD-only, as on its archrival Nissan Juke? Will an AWD/manual combo be available? Or would that be too much of an automotive unicorn in this day and age for Toyota to bother?

2017-Toyota-C-HR-45Then there’s the hybrid question. Although a hybrid C-HR will be available from launch in Japan and Europe, will that be the case in North America as well? We’d guess not, given the original plan – scuttled at the 11th-hour – to sell the C-HR under the now-defunct, never-hybrid Scion brand. We’d expect a more RAV4-like plan, where the hybrid came in about halfway into the model’s life cycle. Also pending is whether C-HRs for North America will be sourced from Japan (most likely the Miyagi Ohira Plant that currently builds Sienta mini-minivans and Corolla Axio sedans) or Turkey (the Adapazari plant in Sakarya where Corolla sedans and Verso minivans are made).

Toyota might have more under its belt in L.A. than C-HR, however. The carmaker’s newest U.S. trademark, filed on 10 October 2016 (Serial Number 87198167) is for the FT-4X badge. FT (for Future Toyota) is a common prefix the company uses on its concept cars. The 4X implies something four-wheel-drive, probably truck, SUV or crossover-oriented.

FT-4X brings to mind another recent Toyota trademark filing: 4Active (filed on 18 August 2016 under Serial Number 87142631), although this one sounds more like a designator for a 4-wheel drive system or maybe a trim level as opposed to a new model line. Adding to recent Toyota trademark activity is Eactive (filed on 7 October 2016 under Serial Number 87195926), Adventure (filed on 18 May 2016 under Serial Number 87041206), Inspiration (filed on 8 June 2016 under Serial Number 87065410) and i-Veek (filed on 12 July 2016 under Serial Number 87100467). The latter sounds like some sort of alternate electrified personal urban transportation concept – a natural for a Los Angeles Auto Show debut as well.

A recent e-mail from the Los Angeles Auto Show noted that

Subaru’s global concept reveal will uncover a new line of vehicles for the brand.

The dreamers among us would hope for the return of the WRX hatchback, a trans-Pacific trek for current lower-riding station wagons such as the Levorg and Exiga, or even a production version of the old B9 Scrambler roadster concept. Current reality in a crossover-mad world, however, suggests that what will be unveiled in Los Angeles on Thursday 17 November at 10 AM Pacific time is a concept predictor for the long-rumored 2018 large 3-row son-of-Tribeca.

In late May 2015, Jalopnik asked

Centauri. Cypress. Ascent. Meridian. Sojourn. Columbia. Any of those majestic-sounding words landing for you as a name for a new seven-passenger Subaru? A reader found himself asked that question in a Subaru owner survey…

Of that sextet, Subaru currently holds live trademarks for half of them (Cypress, Ascent and Sojourn) as well as for the quizzical Venterra. It seems that Subaru has already chosen, however, based on a “smoking gun” trademark filing from 18 November 2015 (Serial Number 86824796) for “concept cars and motor vehicle prototypes” badged Ascent 7.

It seems that Subaru can’t catch a naming break in Australia, though. Its mid-sized (D-segment) Legacy sedan has long borne the Liberty badge in Australia, in deference to the Legacy organization dedicated to caring for the families of military service veterans. And now, an Ascent badge would conflict with minority stakeholder Toyota, which has used the name to designate base trim level Corollas there for roughly 20 years. It’ll be interesting to see how that plays out…

As to the upcoming Ascent 7 concept itself, keep in mind that Subaru is notorious for coming up with beautiful concepts that become significantly uglier and ill-proportioned once they go into production. Spy shots of camouflaged pre-production prototypes suggest a boxy look reminiscent of the aforementioned Exiga or a jumbo Forester.

With official announcements already made for the 2017 CX-3, Mazda6, Mazda3 and MX-5 Miata RF, and no changes of note expected for the latter’s soft-top counterpart nor for the CX-9 medium 3-row crossover, that leaves the mid-range CX-5 as the likeliest focus of a Los Angeles Auto Show press conference scheduled for Wednesday 16 November at 12:50 PM Pacific time. The open question there is whether we will see the production version of the CX-5’s second generation (already captured in camoed spy shots) or a close-to-production concept predictor bearing a fanciful Japanese-language name.

Published inAuto ShowsC-HRForesterHybridInformed SpeculationLA Auto ShowMazdaNewsSubaruThe Toyota AlliancesToyotaToyota ConceptsTrademark filingsWRX

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