Products: Toyota's big debut; Evo, WRX STI ready to race

USA TODAY auto team members James R. Healey, Chris Woodyard and Judith Barra Austin are in Los Angeles for the Los Angeles Auto Show press preview days. Here, you'll find reports from them and from our wire services on the cars and trucks being unveiled at the show, which opens to the public Friday and runs through Nov. 25.

2008 Toyota Sequoia: So here's an issue.

The Los Angeles Auto Show is known as a haven for sexy convertibles that celebrate its cruise-by-the-beach image, or eco-friendly fuel sippers that trace the path of the future. Not giant SUVs.

But that's what Toyota TM chose to introduce here: the new version of its biggest eight-seat SUV, Sequoia.

Toyota division chief Bob Carter did his best to dress up the introduction. He opened the presentation by recounting the Alaskan adventure of a Toyota fuel-cell vehicle that made a long, ecological trek through the great white north. But the Sequoia was the star of the show, bigger and huskier than ever.

It did have one strong environmental card: the available 5.7-litre V-8 gets 12% better fuel economy despite a big horsepower increase. At 381 horsepower total and 401-foot pounds of torque, plus a six-speed transmission, it can tow a 10,000-pound trailer. Plus, it's available in an E85 ethanol configuration.

Maybe because of the good press it's gotten on its Priuses, Toyota says the Sequoia attracts some of the youngest buyers in the segment, with an average age of 40.

Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution: As street-friendly race cars go, it's hard to beat the new version of the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution.

The new Evo, due at dealers at the end of January at a price yet to be determined, has a brisk new engine, a 295-horsepower turbocharged and intercooled beast. The other new feature is the Super-All Wheel Control, a fancy name for the handling system that allows drivers to set the responsiveness of the car to different conditions to a degree never possible before.

The car's racing roots are evident from its stance, equipped with 18-inch tires and flared fenders.

It comes with a five-speed transmission or, for the first time, paddle shifters as part of the new 6-speed Twin-Clutch Sportronic Shift Transmission.

2008 Subaru Impreza WRX STI: For another weekend racing option, Subaru introduces its latest version of the Impreza WRX STI.

And it looks the part, with styling features from stem to stern like flared fenders, rear-quarter panels, front fascia brake cooling scoops and rear spoiler.

The five-door STI has a 305-horsepower boxer-style engine and lets the driver adjust the car's handling. The car starts at $34,995 when it becomes available in January.

Nissan GT-R: Just what the world is crying for, "an affordable, everyday supercar," says Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn.

That's the GT-R, the car you can race to the track, to work or the supermarket depending on your tolerance for speed and speeding tickets.

The car made its official production-version debut at the Tokyo Motor Show recently. But the Los Angeles show gets perhaps the most critical information of all: when you can buy one and how much it will cost.

The answer: On sale next June for $69,850.

Yeah, it's sure to make a dent in bank accounts, but it is less than other near-racing machines dubbed supercars, which typically cost in excess of $100,000.

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