2011 Los Angeles Auto Show Preview

In a week, auto journalists from around the world will converge at the Los Angeles Convention Center for the opening of the annual Los Angeles Auto Show. What they will expect to find are yet more hybrids, plug-ins and electrics since California, often called “the land of fruits and nuts,” has gained a justified reputation as a place that is more than friendly to alternative types of transportation. Certainly, as was so famously said on “Seinfeld,” there’s nothing wrong with that. Many eco-friendly cars will be introduced, but what the auto writers might not expect is the number of new performance-oriented cars they will see. Here is a look at three of the hottest rides that will be displayed in Los Angeles.

Zenvo ST-1 50S
Talk about “limited-production!” Only 15 of the $1.8 million Zenvo ST-1 50S cars will be manufactured, and only three will be sold in the United States. The supercar is completely hand-built by Danish craftsmen. The research and development for the prototype was started in 2004 by Jesper Jensen and Troels Vollertsen, so no one could say they are rushing the car to market. It is powered by a turbocharged and supercharged 7-liter V-8 engine that will wring out 1,250 horsepower and 1,050 pound-feet of torque. Tests reportedly indicate that its top speed is 233 miles per hour -- just the thing for running out to pick up a loaf of bread. When it comes to comfort and convenience -- something you could justifiably expect in a $1.8 million car -- the Zenvo features keyless entry, satellite navigation, a power telescoping steering wheel and electronically adjustable leather racing seats.

Subaru BRZ Concept STI
OK, the name doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue. BRZ STI? Can’t a few numbers and/or an animal name be worked in there somewhere? Nevertheless, the car that is attached to all those letters is pretty cool. The precursor to the production BRZ, the concept provides very broad hints at the car that will be Subaru’s first-ever rear-drive vehicle. Power will be provided by the all-new FA 2.0-liter naturally aspirated boxer-style four-cylinder engine. The inherently low center of gravity offered by the engine will be enhanced by its placement low in the chassis for better balance. The BRZ Concept STI also features a full-on Subaru Technica International (STI) suspension, substantial Brembo brakes, one-off 18-inch alloy wheels with 215/45 performance tires in front, and 245/45 tires in the rear.

Fiat 500 Abarth
Of course you remember that Carlo Abarth started his association with Italian automaker Fiat in 1952, building a wild-looking, rocket ship–inspired concept car for the Turin Auto Show called the Abarth 1500 Biposto. Fiat absorbed Abarth -- the company, not the man -- in 1970. Since then, Abarth has become the cool cousin of many a Fiat model. The latest to receive the Abarth treatment is the Fiat 500, and a U.S. specification of the Fiat 500 Abarth is expected to be displayed at the Los Angeles show. The Fiatistis are being very cagey about the car, but we bet it will be powered by the Fiat 1.4-liter multiair four-cylinder engine equipped with turbocharging to develop something like 150 horsepower. It will feature special body pieces to distinguish it visually, as well as a sport-tuned suspension with larger wheels and tires to help it go fast through turns.

2010 Los Angeles Auto Show Images: Getty Images

by Tom Ripley for DrivingToday