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Los Angeles Auto Show builds reputation for high-performance luxury debuts

The Associated Press
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The 2016 ATS-V coupe is unveiled at the Los Angeles Auto Show Wednesday, Nov. 19, 2014, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
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Dr. Ian Robertson, Member of Board of Management at BMW introduces the X5 M, left, and the X6 M during the Los Angeles Auto Show on Wednesday, Nov. 19, 2014, in Los Angeles. The annual event is open to the public beginning Nov. 21. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)
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A photographer takes a picture of the 2015 Porsche 911 GTS at the Los Angeles Auto Show Thursday, Nov. 20, 2014, in Los Angeles. The annual event is open to the public beginning Nov. 21. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

DETROIT — Few people need an SUV with 567 horsepower that can scream around a racetrack and go from zero to 60 in four seconds.

A small but growing number want one.

These drivers no longer are satisfied with an ordinary luxury car. They crave speed and handling, and they’re willing to pay for it. That’s why BMW, Mercedes, Cadillac and Porsche are introducing six high-performance versions of existing vehicles at the Los Angeles Auto Show, which opens to the public on Friday.

Although these super-fast models make up only about 3 percent of luxury automakers’ sales, the vehicles bring big profits and give brands an aura of race-car performance that boosts their image with many buyers.

Buyers of these cars want all the accoutrements that luxury brands have to offer, but a cushy ride is a secondary concern. Dealers and industry analysts say two kinds of people desire ultra-high-performance cars. One seeks the speed and handling, and the other just wants to be different from others who can afford luxury brands.

“It’s the ‘when they don’t make very many of them, everybody wants one’ concept,” says Steve Late, president of BMW of Austin, who says he can’t keep the German automaker’s limited-production, high-performance “M” models in stock.

BMW will introduce two updated high-performance SUVs at the Los Angeles show, the X5 M and the X6 M, both with a twin-turbo V8 that puts out the 567 horsepower — 267 more than a standard X5. Suspensions are beefed up on the M SUVs, with technology borrowed from the racetrack. But the speed and handling come with a price. The X5 M starts around $100,000, more than $46,000 above the current base X5. Both SUV models hit showrooms in the spring.

The higher prices mean big gains for automakers, even with the relatively small sales numbers, said Stephanie Brinley, senior analyst for the Americas for IHS Automotive. “Porsche and Mercedes and Cadillac can add those in with comparatively low investment to all new cars and get a good, healthy profit out of it,” she said.

The automakers picked Los Angeles for the introductions because residents have money to buy such cars, and because the metro area often sets automotive trends, Brinley said.

Other high-performance luxury cars slated for introduction this week:

• Two Mercedes AMG high-performance cars, the C63 sedan and GT sports car. There are two versions of each, the regular and the higher-performing S. All have a hand-built 4-liter V8 engine that makes 469 horsepower for the AMG and 503 for the S version. All go from zero to 60 in 4 seconds or less. Mercedes has 19 AMG models, and the AMG line has recorded 58 percent growth so far this year, the company said.

• Sedan and coupe “V” high-performance versions of the Cadillac ATS compact car. Both have a twin-turbo 3.6-liter V6 that puts out 455 horsepower. The cars will go from zero to 60 in 3.9 seconds with a top speed of 189 mph.

• Porsche’s 2016 Cayenne GTS with a 440-horsepower turbocharged 3.6-liter V6 that can go from zero to 60 in about 4.8 seconds. And it’s not even the fastest version. The GTS Turbo is.

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