A swan song in winter with great expectations for a summer rebirth in 2020.


Story by Christopher Merlo
Photos by Mark Dapoz

Say goodbye to a 30-year tradition of braving the cold and inclement weather to ring in the New Year and new models at the North American International Auto Show. And while some may wax nostalgic for the annual Winter Blast, along with the pomp and circumstance of numerous world debuts of cars and concepts, let’s do a reality check: the function and purpose, some might even say the need for auto shows is changing. We saw early signs of this when elaborate press kits gave way to memory sticks or simply OEM business cards with the web address of their media sites.

And then we began to see “no shows” at the show. No Porsches. No Volvos. All the super premiums, bye bye. We could understand that Detroit is not exactly their prime market. But then this year, Audi, BMW, Mercedes-Benz joined the exodus leaving many to wonder what’s next. We’ll just have to wait. There are a lot of expectations for a rebirth of NAIAS when the show opens in the heat of summer in June 2020. We’re counting on it.

In the meantime, here is a recap of significant debuts at this year’s show.

2020 Cadillac XT6 (Mark Dapoz)

2020 Cadillac XT6 Crossover
Cadillac used the occasion of the global debut of its XT6 Crossover to announce the brand’s ascendency to lead actor in GM’s electrification and mobility strategy.

First, the XT6. This three-row crossover is positioned between the full-size Escalade and the midsize XT5. Cadillac revealed Sport and Premium luxury versions each powered by a standard 3.6L V6 and 9-speed powertrain. Given the emphasis on family travel and comfort, XT6 is loaded with a suite of driver assistance and safety features. The Sport model offers optional 21-inch wheels while the Premium features standard 20-inch wheels.

Cadillac also shared a look into the future of GM’s mobility and electrification strategy with a design rendering of an EV-based crossover concept. Underpinning the strategy is a new global, platform architecture that is adaptable to car, crossover and sport utility models in either front-, rear- or all-wheel-drive configurations. With the transition to full electrification as well as an increase in driver assistance with autonomous technologies like Super Cruise, GM is moving forward on its commitment to zero crashes, zero emissions and zero congestion. Executives hinted that the entirely new electric crossover is being readied for the global market in 2021 or thereafter.

The 2020 Ford Explorer (Mark Dapoz)

2020 Ford Explorer Hybrid and ST
Five days after the reveal of the all-new 2020 Ford Explorer, the official Ford press event, Explorer Act 2, brought forth electric and performance versions of the utility vehicle. The hybrid model features a 3.3L, 318 horsepower engine that will travel 500 plus miles between fill-ups. Next up, the racing inspired ST model comes with an all-new 3.0L powertrain that delivers 400 horses and 415 lb.-ft. of torque. Ford, with a dig at what is an aspirational competitor, claims that the ST will outrun the premium Range Rover.

Ford literally drops the 2020 Shelby GT500 from the sky (Mark Dapoz)

2020 Ford Shelby GT500
Ford continues to up the game in the pony and muscle car segment with the Shelby GT 500. With a 5.2L V8 teamed with a dual-clutch transmission, tweaked and tuned by the Ford Performance Team, the GT’s 700 plus horses get it moving from zero to 60 in the mid three seconds and across the quarter-mile mark in under 11.

China’s Guangzhou Automobile Group (GAC) unveiled the seven-passenger En-tranze Concept EV (Mark Dapoz)

GAC ENTRANZE Concept
China’s Guangzhou Automobile Group (GAC) unveiled the seven-passenger ENTRANZE Concept EV. While short on details but big on pomp and circumstance, GAC executives used the occasion to announce its official entry into the U.S. market including a new headquarters in Los Angeles along with R&D centers in Michigan and California. The ENTRANZE was designed at the GAC Design Center in Los Angeles.

Hyundai introduced the Elantra GT N-Line (Mark Dapoz)

Infiniti’s QX Inspiration concept crossover (Mark Dapoz)

Infiniti QX Inspiration
Leaning heavily on its heritage of Japanese design and technology, the QX Inspiration is a look at Infiniti’s direction in electrification for its lineup of crossovers. Design cues include muscular, bulging body panels delineated by sharp creases or folds in the metal. Minus the need for engine cooling, the front presents a blunt, grille-less look. Clamshell doors open to reveal a serene four-passenger minimalist space. A widescreen monitor dominates the dash plus there is an additional display mounted in the steering wheel.

The new Kia Telluride has three row seating (Mark Dapoz)

2020 Kia Telluride
With seating for up to eight, the midsize Telluride is Kia’s newest and largest SUV. The powertrain includes a 3.8L V6 paired with an 8-speed automatic. The engine pumps out 291 HP and 262 lb.-ft. of torque. Designed specifically for the U.S. at Kia’s California design center the Telluride will be built at its plant in Georgia.

2020 Lexus RCF Track Edition (Mark Dapoz)

2020 Lexus RCF Track Edition
Luxury with a heavy dose of performance is coming to Lexus showrooms with the debut of the RCF Track Edition. Incorporating know-how from Lexus IMSA and Super GT Race Teams, the car is both track ready and street legal. Power and acceleration begin with a 5.0L V8 that Lexus claims gives the vehicle the best power to weight ratio in its class. Weight savings, or light weighting, was achieved through the use of carbon fiber body panels and titanium exhaust system. Road grip and traction compliments of custom-designed Michelin Pilot Sport 4 S tires mounted on lightweight 19-inch wheels. Front air dam and carbon-fiber fixed rear wing help keep the tires glued to the road. Lexus claims the Track Edition will do zero to sixty in less than four seconds. Expect the RCF Track Edition to be available this April.

Lexus LC Convertible Concept (Mark Dapoz)

Lexus LC Convertible Concept
F-Performance attributes are integrated into a “possible” new directional interpretation of the flagship LC model. Lexus was light on details at the press conference emphasizing the concept’s craftsmanship, power and the LC’s signature exhaust note.

Nissan’s IMs Concept (Mark Dapoz)

Nissan IMs Concept
The IMs concept is a look into the future direction of Nissan’s autonomous and electrification strategy in the form of a sport sedan. The all-electric, all-wheel-drive IMs is powered by two electric motors front and rear that generate 483 horsepower and 590 lb.-ft. of torque. The 115-kWh battery delivers a 380-mile driving range on a single charge.

FCA introduces the new RAM 3500 Heavy Duty (Mark Dapoz)

2019 Ram 2500 and 3500 HD Pickup Trucks
Ram Truck came out all pumped up and ready to engage in the HD pickup battle for truck supremacy in Detroit. And why not? Trucks are the bread and butter of OEMs and especially the Detroit Three. So, on the same day that the Ram 1500 wins the 2019 North American Truck of they Year award out roll its big brothers, the 2019 2500 and 3500.

RAM’s new Power Wagon (Mark Dapoz)

Big is the operative word here. These are primarily work trucks aimed at commercial use, hauling the heavy stuff and big rig trailering. But the award-winning little Ram brother has certainly made its mark on the biggies with an upgrade to the interiors of the work trucks that brings luxury … or for sure comfort … to the office on wheels. Not that the 2500 and 3500 are just prettied up. The folks at Ram continue to lay down the gauntlet in truck performance going for bigger and better across a number of benchmarks that will get the attention of any serious trucker. Take torque. The 3500 equipped with the 6.7L Cummins turbo diesel engine conquers the 1,0000 ft.-lb. torque barrier giving it the capability to tow up 35,100 pounds and haul 7680 pounds.

A new RAM 2500 Laramie in black (Mark Dapoz)

Additional upgrades include a slew of convenience, safety and comfort features including bed lowering, adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning, smart back-up sensors and bed camera for trailer hookup, 12-inch Uconnect system. The list goes on. Ram also unveiled a new Ram 2500 Laramie with a special black package and the 4×4, off-road capable 2500 Power Wagon.

Subaru S209 (Mark Dapoz)

2019 Subaru S209
Big news for Subaru fans. The much coveted, enthusiasts’, dream-machine S-Series performance brand is coming to the U.S., compliments of Subaru Technica International (STI), the in-house tuner, performance, skunk works division of the marque. Many will agree that Subaru is as much about performance as it is about handling and the exhilaration of road feedback and control. Their mantra of sorts is to build better drivers. To make the car responsive to the driver’s will. The limited-edition S209 is handcrafted tuned and tested by STI. The car’s pedigree rests heavily on Subaru’s rally and racing heritage. The core package includes a new, 341 horsepower, intercooled, turbocharged Boxer engine and symmetrical all-wheel drive. Subaru claims the S209 is capable of 1G of lateral acceleration and is the fastest, best braking and best handling STI model ever made. Adding to the allure and capability is the S209’s aggressive, muscular styling, 19-inch, forged wheels, functional air ducts, carbon fiber roof and rear wing. Available in very limited numbers later this year in two finishes: WR Blue Pearl with Satin Gray Wheels or Crystal White Pearl with Satin Gold Wheels.

The new Toyota Supra (Mark Dapoz)

2020 Toyota Supra
After an absence of 17 years, Toyota president and CEO, Akio Toyoda stepped on the auto show stage to introduce what he called, “One of my closest friends, the new Toyota Supra.” Fans of the long-absent “friend” and much-missed iconic Supra have much to cheer. Based on early concept designs from the CALTY Design Studio along with input on performance and driving dynamics from the Toyota Gazoo Racing Team, the new Supra presents a sleek, aerodynamic, aggressive look. Powered by a 3.0L, turbo inline six mated to an eight-speed automatic, the powertrain produces 335 horses and 365 lb.-ft. of torque that take the Supra from zero to sixty in 4.1 seconds. With a 50:50 weight distribution and low center of gravity the rear-wheel-drive Supra offers race-car-like handling and agility.

The new Volkswagen Passat (Mark Dapoz)

2020 Volkswagen Passat
Emphasizing its commitment to the dwindling sedan market, VW introduced a restyled Passat sporting a sleek, coupe-like profile. Upgrades include standard LED head and taillights, new driver’s gauge cluster, all-new infotainment screen, front-assist collision integration, blind spot monitoring and 17-inch alloy wheels. On sale this summer.

Under wraps at the North American International Auto Show (Mark Dapoz)