F1B live at the LA Auto Show. It’s easy being green

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Porsche hybridLadies and gentlemen, prepare yourself. I’ve seen your automotive future, and it is green.

The theme and the excitement from the LA Auto Show was all around green, hybrid and other innovative engine concepts. Both the ones already here — the Chevy Volt, the Honda CR-Z — and those that aren’t — the Caddy Urban Luxury Vehicle.

California’s governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, even made an appearance earlier in the week to tout this “greenest auto show in America,” if not the world.

But that wasn’t all. There also was a noticeable increase in the enthusiasm for the American car makers compared to last year. Heck, overall there was just a lot more enthusiasm, and a lot more people, than in 2009.

But I promised highlights, the best and worst. Here’s the quick take. Photos, by the way, are at my Facebook page here.

Best

The Audi R8 V10 is a pretty stunning-looking vehicle, though my traveling companion thought the carbon fiber side panels were stupid. The boys seemed to disagree. The rest of the Audi line-up, though? See the Mercedes below.

As part of our green theme, the Lexus CT 200H, which kind of looked like a Subaru WRX, was interesting. And apparently no wood or leather — really taking the environmentally friendly effort to another level.

The Caddy Urban Luxury Vehicle might have been the most “concepty” car we saw. (Last year it was the CR-Z concept, which has been toned down for real life.) For big city living, it’s promising. And a super cool door design.

Speaking of the CR-Z, it’s intriguing, especially the concept version with the turbo engine pushing out 175 HP instead of 122. Visibility though may not be this car’s great calling.

Takuma Sato’s IndyCar helmet. I have the photo somewhere, and I’ll get it to Negative Camber.

My partner in crime was pretty rock solid, too, I should note.

And, finally, you knew it would come: The MINI Countryman. I didn’t think I’d like it at all. But I was intrigued. It didn’t feel like an unnatural misbegotten creation along the lines of Frankenstein’s creature. (The creator is Frankenstein, by the way. That’s been lost in most of the movies.) The back seat of the Countryman fit a 6-1 man with a reasonably sized driver in front of him. Not bad. (Side message to Kimi Raikkonen. Get in that MINI WRC car now!!)

Worst

By far and away, the kids sitting in the driver’s seats of cars. Hey, %^%^%, your kid won’t be driving for a dozen years. Get out of my %^%$$% way.

Try as I might, Mercedes bores the pants off me. If I thought they’d bore the pants off women, I might be interested. And, yes, the SLS was there as were a handful of AMG cars. They are solid, well-built and to me as exciting as an HRT spec series would be.

Lexus. Except for that CT, see Mercedes above. Oh, and Toyota? Even worse. What ever happened to the days of the Celica and MR2?

The Saleen stand, down near Lotus, Rolls and Morgan (!!!), was getting zero traffic. Its day may have come and gone.

No Ferrari or Lambo showcases. What the heck? There were after-market ones, though.

Lotus was letting everyone in this year, but there was a line. So no sitting in an Elise again to suss out the situation.

Porsche. Although I liked the Cayman R, and honestly the GTs are just kickin’, I walked away feeling like Mark H. That is, nonplussed. I would love to see Porsche produce a new 356 as a “low end” car that’s more about style than performance. I think there’s a market for that among a crowd that won’t pull the trigger on a Boxster.

Last year, I left the LA Auto Show really impressed by the BMW M3. This year it didn’t seem to have the same pizzaz, although I do love their use of mirrors to show off the exhaust. There was a fun discussion with some guys about installing something similar in our garages.

And my biggest complaint every year: Too many cars in white or gray. U.G.L.Y., people!!

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