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Lexus got the temperatures rising during its NAIAS press conference (Mark Dapoz)



2017 North American International Auto Show

Story by Christopher Merlo
Photos by Mark Dapoz

And the winners are …
The annual right of passage for the Detroit Auto Show is to kick off the Press Preview with the announcement of the North American Car, Truck and Utility of the Year winners – the utility category was added this year. Chevrolet Bolt was named Car of the Year, the Honda Ridgeline won Truck of the Year and the Chrysler Pacifica took the honors as Utility of the Year.

So with business as usual complete, the Detroit Show was anything but usual this year. There was a general opinion during the media preview that it was a low-key show. Some even say quiet. On face value and strictly by the numbers that was hardly the case. In total, there were about two dozen world premiers – though there is always some debate about what qualifies as a world debut. We’ll take the manufacturers at their word, or should we say at their boast and accept their claims. So 24 it is. After all, the press days are when the OEMs do their utmost to stand out, outdo their competitors and gain that precious twenty minutes of fame – the average duration of each press conference.

That said, it was a quiet show. This comes as a surprise given that 2016 was yet another record sales year for the industry. What’s more, a mix of auto executives and analysts remain optimistic that 2017 will be another year with sales in the range of 17 million. So one would think that against this backdrop all would be glitz and glam. That optimism would fuel a bevy of surprise unveilings. Wrong. Excitement and buzz were sorely missing.

The Detroit Three had a weak showing. We so wanted Ford to roll out a Bronco concept, prototype or even a drawing. Anything to whet the appetite. Instead we settled for a simple announcement, “Coming in 2020” and ditto on the reintroduction of the Ranger midsize pickup slated for 2019. The disappointment continued. Fiat Chrysler was absent from Press Days choosing instead to make news at CES. Finally, rumors of a look at the next-gen Chevrolet Corvette ZR1 remained unfulfilled, delivering yet another disappointment in which we settled for the reveal of the new Chevrolet Traverse.

Adding to the low excitement factor was the absence of displays for Porsche, Aston Martin, Jaguar Land Rover, Mini and Tesla. Indeed, exotics and ultra-luxury cars were to be seen by invitation-only at an offsite location dubbed The Gallery.

And so what was a day and half of press events with 18 press conferences at last year’s show was trimmed to just one day and 13 press conferences this year. In contrast, the balance of the week – four and half days – and approximately 50 presentations were devoted to autonomous technology and mobility. One suspects this is in response to the growing popularity of CES among auto manufacturers as well as the Los Angeles Auto Show and its focus on automobility.

So, in the interest of championing the “car” in car show, here is a brief review of what was new and exciting at this year’s Detroit Auto Show.

GLOBAL DEBUTS

Audi Q8 concept (Mark Dapoz)

Audi
Audi keeps setting annual sales record fueled by adding new variants to its growing showroom including the expansion of its crossover/SUV lineup. This is the Q8, a near-production concept built on VW’s newest MLB platform that underpins the Q7 and Bentley Bentayga. Positioned to compete at the top of the SUV segment, the Q8 evokes sportiness and prestige with the styling of a coupe and spaciousness of an SUV. It is powered by a plug-in hybrid powertrain capable of full electric range of up to 37 miles. Expect to see the production version some time in 2018.

Audi SQ5 production car (Mark Dapoz)

Coming to showrooms this spring is the 2017 SQ5, the second generation of the Q5 featuring the performance-tuned S package including a 3.0L V6 rated at 354 hp.

The new BMW 5-Series (Mark Dapoz)

BMW
As a tip of the hat to the importance of its second largest market, BMW chose the Detroit show for the global premier of the all-new 2018 5 Series. The seventh generation of this venerable nameplate has expanded in all dimensions: longer wheelbase and overall length, wider stance and taller. And yet it is lighter and stiffer thanks to lightweight materials and new chassis. While the powertrain options remain the same as those offered on the outgoing model, horsepower has been boosted on all three engines. There are also a number of new driver-assist features including adaptive cruise, departure, lane keep assist and traffic jam assist as well as remote-control parking. BMW claims the autonomous technology is capable of performing evasive maneuvers up 100 mph. The new 5 Series goes on sale this February.

The new Chevrolet Traverse (Mark Dapoz)

Chevrolet
Here’s the all-new 2018 Traverse, its first major redesign since 2008. It’s longer and higher all to boost interior room and segment-leading cargo space along with seating for up to 8. This is Chevy’s first application of a new 9-speed automatic transmission co-developed with Ford Motor Company. Traverse will be available with two engine choices as well as a top-of-the-line High Country trim level. In showrooms this fall.

The new GMC Terrain (Mark Dapoz)

GMC
Long overdue for an overhaul, GMC unveiled the all-new 2018 Terrain along with new powertrains including a diesel engine. The 1.5L and 2.0L gasoline, turbo-powered engines are teamed with a nine-speed automatic and the 1.6 turbo diesel comes with a six-speed auto. This new edition of the Terrain is up to 465 pounds lighter than the previous model. Terrain comes loaded with a full array of safety features including surround vision, forward collision alert, low-speed automatic braking, lane keep assist, lane change alert, rear cross traffic alert and safety alert seat. Look for the new Terrain to appear in dealerships in the third quarter of this year.

GAC GS7 (Mark Dapoz)

Guangzhou Automobile Group Co. (GAC)
Without providing specifics on when it will enter the U.S. market, GAC took to the stage of the Detroit Auto Show to introduce three global debuts. First up is the GS7, a five-passenger all-wheel-drive SUV based on the company’s cross-platform modular architecture. Also slated for this market is the GE3, the company’s first electric vehicle built on the company’s new energy platform. The vehicle’s lithium-ion battery pack powers an electric motor that delivers 116 horses and 214 pound-feet of torque with a range of just under 200 miles. Finally, there’s the EnSpirit Concept, a plug-in hybrid crossover inspired by Zen culture and the Internet. GAC says it first step towards entering this market is to open a technical center in the first half of this year.

The next-generation Honda Odyssey (Mark Dapoz)

Honda
In pursuit of the minivan sales champ title Honda introduced the all-new 2018 Odyssey. Poised to compete against the 2017 North American Utility Vehicle of the Year, the Chrysler Pacifica, the fifth generation Odyssey looks to take family-friendly design, performance and technology to the next level. This is Honda’s first model to offer a 10-speed automatic transmission. An innovative family friendly Cabin Watch feature allows the driver and front passenger to keep an eye on rear seat passengers day or night. The driver can also use Cabin Talk to communicate with passengers through the entertainment system’s speakers or headphones. Second row seats include a Magic Slide feature: the seats slide laterally for easy third row access. Targeting top NCAP and IIHS safety ratings, the minivan comes equipped with Honda Sensing, a suite of safety and driver-assist technologies that includes adaptive cruise control, collision mitigation braking, road departure mitigation and lane keeping assist. The new Odyssey goes on sale in the first half of this this year.

Infiniti QX50 (Mark Dapoz)

Infiniti
The QX50 Concept builds on Infiniti’s design heritage and hints at the production version of the brand’s next-gen, midsize premium crossover as well as the design language for the entire QX line. Design elements include a cabin-forward silhouette, double arch grille, human eye headlights, a unique C pillar and a driver-centric cabin. On the technology front, the QX is powered by a 2.0L turbo four-cylinder variable compression engine pegged to deliver a 27% increase in fuel efficiency over a similar sized V6.

Kia Stinger (Mark Dapoz)

Kia
Unveiled with the goal to “fundamentally change the image of Kia”, the 2018 Stinger sports sedan is positioned to challenge the German OEMs. This grand touring entry, tested at Nürburgring and at Kia’s high-speed test track in Korea, has a top speed of 167 mph. Stinger comes with a 2.0L turbo 4-cylinder rated at 225 hp and a 3.3L twin-turbo V6 rated at 365 hp. Both engines are paired with an 8-speed automatic. Styling focuses on aerodynamics and a simple, cohesive and perfectly balanced shape. Available in rear-wheel and all-wheel drive configurations, Stinger goes on sale in the second half of this year.

The Lexus LS 500 (Mark Dapoz)

Lexus
Lexus unveiled the fifth-generation of its flagship sedan and the vehicle’s first thorough makeover in 10 years, the 2018 LS. The new sedan is longer, wider and lighter than the outgoing model. Befitting its top-level position in the brand’s lineup, the LS comes chock full of the latest technology and segment firsts including the world’s first 24-inch display with a 12-inch navigation screen; air suspension; active noise control; and intuitive pedestrian protection – the vehicle automatically brakes and steers around the pedestrian while staying within the lane. The new LS goes on sale in the fourth quarter of this year.

Mercedes-Benz E-Class Coupe (Mark Dapoz)

Mercedes-Benz
Mercedes-Benz celebrated its victory as the best-selling luxury brand for 2016 in the United States with three world premiers destined for this market.

First up, the 2018 E-Class Coupe featuring a lower suspension than its sedan and wagon stable mates. Available in both RWD and AWD configurations, the coupe is powered by a 3.0L V6 paired with a 9-speed automatic delivering 329 horses. Coming to showrooms in the 3rd quarter.

Mercedes-Benz GLA 45 AMG (Mark Dapoz)

MB also unveiled a freshened 2018 GLA and GLA 45 AMG. 2017 marks the 50th anniversary of the AMG moniker that now includes 7 vehicles. The GLA’s front and rear fascias are updated along with the addition of LED headlights. Both models are powered by a 2.0L 4-cylinder turbo engine with seven-speed automatic. The AMG package boosts horsepower to 375 and is capable of powering the GLA 45 from 0 to 60 in 4.4 seconds. Available in the second half of this year.

Mercedes-Benz AMG GT C Edition 50 (Mark Dapoz)

Finally, there’s the tour-de-force and AMG anniversary edition 2018 GT C Edition 50 powered by a 4.0L twin turbo V8 rated at 557 horses. This special edition is available in two exclusive paint finishes: Designo Graphite Grey Magno (shown) and Designo Cashmere White Mango.

Nissan Rogue Sport (Mark Dapoz)

Nissan
As the popularity of crossovers and SUVs continues to grow, manufacturers continue to meet demand by expanding their offerings. This is the 2017 Nissan Rogue Sport a slightly downsized version of the popular Rogue. Already on sale in Europe as the Qashqai, this small SUV goes on sale in the first half of this year.

Nissan V Motion 2.0 (Mark Dapoz)

Embodying Nissan’s new sedan design language is the Vmotion 2.0 Concept. The futuristic design envelops wide, sporty proportions along with a signature “V motion”grille and boomerang-style tail lamps. Suicide doors open to reveal a floating roof with easy access to the interior thanks the absence of the B pillar. The “Gliding Wing” dashboard seamlessly integrates the instrument panel and infotainment system. Vmotion also hints at the future of Nissan’s Intelligent Mobility technology including ProPilot for autonomous driving mode.

2018 Toyota Camry (Mark Dapoz)

Toyota
On the basis of looks alone, 2018 Camry makes a bold statement about Toyota’s aspirations to be a design leader while also upping the ante in the midsize segment. Based on a new global platform, this all-new edition of the Camry is longer and wider than the outgoing model. Powertrain upgrades include new four- and six-cylinder engines along with an eight-speed automatic and CVT. On the inside, the sporty cockpit-type environment emphasizes craftsmanship, functionality and futuristic styling. Available in multiple trim levels: the luxury-focused LE and XLE and the sport-focused SE and XSE. Toyota says the first new Camry will roll of the production line “very soon.”

Volkswagen Atlas R-Line (Mark Dapoz)

Volkswagen
VW is putting on a full-court press to regain the trust of consumers and recast itself as a “family-friendly” automaker intent on meeting the needs of the American customer. As proof, they rolled out two entries aimed at the heart of the SUV market beginning with the performance-inspired 2018 Atlas R-Line. Expect to see this derivative of the Atlas in showrooms in the second half of this year.

The new Volkswagen Tiguan (Mark Dapoz)

Additional news on the SUV/Crossover front includes the all-new 2018 Tiguan LWB. It is nearly 11 longer than the previous model and increases cargo by over 50%. This new edition of the Tiguan is based on the Modular Transverse Matrix architecture and will offer a number of safety features including automatic post-collision braking system, adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning and autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian monitoring.

The all electric Volkswagen ID Buzz concept microbus (Mark Dapoz)

One of the more interesting reveals at this year’s show and one that embodies the iconic “bug” legacy of VW while also showcasing the brand’s innovation and technology smarts is the I.D. Buzz. Based on VW’s Modular Electric Drive architecture, a platform that is configurable for both rear-wheel and all-wheel drive modes, the Buzz provides seating and “living room” for eight. Buzz also includes the user-centric Volkswagen ID that allows features and settings to follow the driver from vehicle to vehicle plus I.D. Pilot for fully autonomous operation.

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