SPARKLE AND GLITZ IN THE MOTOR CITY
The 2016 Detroit Auto Show
Published on Thu, Jan 21, 2016
By: The LACar Editorial Staff
Story by Chris Merlo
Photographs by Mark Dapoz
The Chrome on the Wheels
Nothing beats celebrating a record breaking sales year (auto sales in the U.S. reached the 17.4 million mark topping the last record set in 2000) like a good old coming out party featuring the sparkle and glitz of new metal. And the Detroit Auto Show did not disappoint with over 30 North American and Global debuts including six concepts.
Significant trends and themes noted in this year’s show …
• This was a quiet year for trucks and a surprising strong show for cars of all sizes and price points though premium models dominated.
• Manufacturers continue to add models to the already highly competitive compact and midsize SUV segments.
• Democratization of technology continues as manufacturers cascade driver assist technologies to volume production models while also deploying semi-autonomous features on luxury models.
• The Detroit Show and the Consumer Electronics Show (held the week before NAIAS) have extended automakers’ messaging emphasizing the future at CES and the practical, real-world production at NAIAS.
• Despite the low price of gasoline, which is fueling truck and SUV sales, a majority of OEMs continue to hedge their bets by introducing electrified vehicles (EV, HEV and PHEV) and pursuing fuel cell research.
Now for the chrome on the wheels and the new metal making global debuts.
“Precision-crafted performance” is how Acura characterized the Precision Concept, a return to the brand’s design principles to, “stir the soul.” Establishing the design language for all future Acura models, the aggressive look of the concept incorporates a diamond pentagon five-sided grille, high contrast details and a modern edge. Overall, it is longer, wider and lower than any current Acura sedan. New design cues continue on the inside with heads-up display, next-generation human-machine interface and a wide, curved instrument cluster.
In just over 5 years Audi has doubled its sales in the U.S., crossing the 200,000 mark in 2015. In its ongoing pursuit of growth the brand continues to expand its model line up and powertrain offerings to include diesel, gas, hybrids, a promise to deliver an electric vehicle by 2018 while also developing hydrogen fuel cell technology.
Making an appearance in Detroit and its North American debut, the 2017 A4 is the heart of the brand accounting for one out of five global sales. Improvements include light weighting along with a sleeker more aerodynamic design. There are a slew of technology updates to the interior including a virtual cockpit with a LCD digital panoramic display. The A4 goes on sale this spring.
The Q6 h-tron Quattro Concept (it joins the Q6 e-tron and PHEV variants) builds on the brand’s ten-year investment in fuel cell development. This SUV with its coupe-like roofline and low coefficient of drag also features a virtual cockpit.
Finally, there’s the 2017 A4 Allroad Quattro. Despite a less than robust market for wagons in the U.S., Audi continues to cover all its segment bases in its pursuit of greater sales. Befitting its name, the vehicle’s ground clearance is increased along with the addition of underbody guard plates and larger wheels. New driver assist features include adaptive cruise control with traffic jam assist. The Allroad retains the 2.0L I4, however drivers can choose between a 6-speed manual and a 7-speed or 8-speed automatic.
“M” stands for motorsports performance and the U.S. is the largest market for BMW’s “M badged” cars. Enter the 2017 X4 M40i a performance variant of the X4 SUV equipped with BMW’s new twin turbo 3.0L I6 mated to an 8-speed automatic with sport and manual modes. The engine is rated at 355 hp and propels the X4 from 0 to 60 in 4.7 seconds with a top speed of 130 mph. This M version of the X4 goes on sale in the first half of this year priced at around $57,000.
BMW also unveiled the 2017 M2 Coupe and it too features the new 3.0L paired with a 6-speed manual or 7-speed auto. The engine is rated at 365 hp and 243 lb-ft of torque and delivers a top end speed of 155 mph and goes 0 to 60 in 4.1 seconds. The M2 goes on sale this spring priced at around $51,000.
Without an official press conference scheduled for Press Days, Buick hosted an offsite event Sunday night to unveil the breathtaking Avista Concept. Last year it was the four-door Avenir Concept that caught everyone’s attention and created a huge buzz at the show. Make that a repeat for 2016 but with a two-door. For the second year in a row, the General has chosen to surprise and delight with this sleek, 2+2 design, hardtop (minus the “B” pillar) with 20-inch wheels. The rear-wheel-drive Avista is powered by a new, twin-turbo 3.0L V6 paired with an 8-speed automatic transmission.
Another Buick made a quieter appearance at the Sunday evening event as well, the all-new 2016 Envision.
Chevrolet unveiled two small cars of note. While they took the wraps off the 2017 Bolt EV at CES in Las Vegas, it also occupied a significant portion of their messaging at the Detroit Show. The importance of the Bolt cannot be understated given the expansion in range – up to 200 miles on a single charge – and relatively low cost -- $30,000 after federal tax credits. This puts an electric vehicle within reach of most buyers. Plus, it looks fun and should also deliver on the fun-to-drive factor with 266 lb-ft of torque and acceleration from 0 to 60 in less than 7 seconds.
The bonafide Detroit Auto Show world premier for Chevy and a car that joins the fray in a hot segment is the 2017 Cruz Hatchback. It brings a sporty edge to the lineup. The Cruz comes standard with a 1.4L straight four turbo rated at 153 horses. The hatchback goes on sale this fall.
2017 Chrysler Pacifica
Chrysler is intent on setting a new benchmark in the minivan segment and yet it curiously resurrected the retired Pacifica nameplate to herald its arrival on the world stage. The brand likes to champion the fact that it invented the minivan – a claim some would argue otherwise. That said, the minivan – specifically the now mothballed Town & Country – has become synonymous with the Chrysler brand with over 14.5 million sold since it debuted in 1984. Minivans are family vehicles and Pacifica looks to deliver on all the usual expectations for the segment along with a high level of personal style and connectivity. There are over 37 new innovations including, foot-activated sliding side doors, dual 10-inch screens for second-row passengers plus an integrated vacuum. Available this spring with a 3.6L V6 engine along with a plug-in hybrid later in the year.
Ford carried over its innovation, mobility and technology messaging from the Consumer Electronics Show by announcing a new “customer experience” platform, the Ford Pass mobile app. To reinforce that the company remains focused on its core business it unveiled the F-150 Raptor SuperCrew and a freshened Fusion.
The 2017 Raptor, built on the new, lightweight F-150 frame, replaces the V8 on the outgoing model with the new 3.5L EcoBoost paired with a 10-speed automatic transmission and torque-on-demand transfer case. Ford claims the new engine, exclusive to the Raptor, produces more power than the V8. Additional upgrades include a 6-mode terrain management system and dual exhaust. The Raptor will be in showrooms this fall.
Fusion’s mid-cycle update for the 2017 model year includes new trim and technology updates. AWD is now available on the Sport model along with a new 2.7L EcoBoost V6 engine rated at 325 hp. Hybrid and Plug-in Hybrid versions continued to be offered in the line up. Fusion will also feature the new SYNC 3 infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capability. Fusion goes on sale this summer.
Surprises accompanied the reveal of the reimagined 2017 Acadia. It’s smaller, lighter and more carlike than the popular outgoing model. Upgrades include a new 4-cylinder engine, front pedestrian braking system, surround vision camera and rear seat sensor to remind the driver to check the occupancy of the baby seat before exiting. Acadia goes on sale this spring.
Non-domestic truck makers are always in defensive mode as they go to great lengths to explain that their products are equal to the demands and expectations of full-size pickup owners. That was certainly the tone and messaging with the unveiling of the second-generation 2017 Ridgeline. Describing the new truck as, “Cool, tough and athletic”, it is now positioned in the compact pick up truck segment aiming to compete against the Toyota Tacoma and the Chevrolet Colorado (GMC Canyon). To make the point, Ridgeline claims best-in-class fuel economy, towing/hauling capacity, the biggest pick up bed and the largest, most flexible cabin. Ridgeline goes on sale this spring.
Hyundai is in something of a quandary as it continues its climb into the luxury market. Does it continue to sell Hyundai and Genesis models in the same showroom? Let’s be honest, it’s a good problem to have especially when you can field an entry with the chops of the 2017 Genesis G90 sedan. The odds are that the smart guys at Hyundai already have a solution to their dilemma – or they will just sit back and let the market decide for them. The real worry beads are being rattled by competitors who must see this S-Class contender as yet another proof point of the Korean’s relentless push to dominate all vehicle segments in all price classes. The all-new G90 flagship is built on a front engine, rear drive architecture that will be the basis for all future Genesis sedans to come. Smaller G70 and G80 models are in the works. All-wheel drive is also available. At the heart of the G90 is a new engine line up including a 5.0L V8 and a 3.3L twin turbo V6. You can test drive the new G90 when it arrives in showrooms in the first half of this year.
The new 2017 Q60 sports coupe offers a preview of new engines, technology and dynamic driving features intended for future Infiniti models. First, there’s the new VR engine family that includes three turbo power plants: a 2.0L I4, a 3.0L V6 and 4.0L V6 that tops out at 400 hp. New technology includes active grille shutters that aid in performance while enhancing aerodynamics: the sleeker exterior design results in a .28 drag coefficient. The Q60 also features the next generation of adaptive steering with five modes ranging from eco to sport. There are a number of new dynamic driving upgrades including lane departure prevention, backup collision intervention, blind spot intervention, forward emergency braking with pedestrian detection and intelligent cruise control with distance control assist. The Q60 appears in showrooms in the second half of this year.
Kia has its sights set on sales growth today and tomorrow. For the Kia of today, the brand showed the refreshed 2017 Forte sedan and Forte5 five-door hatchback, each taking styling cues from the new Optima to update the look of the bumpers and grilles. Upgraded safety features include autonomous emergency braking, front collision warning, lane departure warning and lane keep assist and blind spot monitor. The new Forte and Forte5 go on sale in the first half of this year.
As for the Kia of tomorrow, there’s the plug-in hybrid Telluride Concept, a premium appointed large SUV that fills a void left by the discontinued Borrego. Developed by the team at Kia Design Center America, the Telluride emphasizes the harmony between man, machine and nature. For example, the seamless integration of technology is achieved using smart seat fabric to biometrically monitor occupants while also bathing them in simulated sunlight.
Unveiled at the 2015 Tokyo Auto Show, Toyota President and CEO Akio Toyoda brought the LF-FC to Detroit to announce that the concept is now a reality. FC stands for “fuel cell” with the promise there will be a zero emissions vehicle in the lineup by 2020.
Delivering on another promise hinted at with the LF-LC concept unveiled in 2012, Mr. Toyoda introduced a new Lexus flagship, the stunning 2017 LC 500 sports coupe. It certainly delivers on the new design language put forth by the earlier concept. This premium model, with a price tag hovering in the $100,000 range, is built on an all-new, rear-wheel-drive platform that aims to reduce overall weight by incorporating aluminum door skins, carbon fiber door structure and an available carbon fiber roof. The coupe is powered by a 5.0L, 467 hp V8 mated to a 10-speed automatic. Exterior features include an active exhaust system, active rear spoiler and 21-inch wheels. The LC 500 goes on sale in the U.S. in the spring of 2017.
Promoting the concept of “Quiet Luxury”, Lincoln unveiled the new flagship in its line up, the 2017 Continental. The overall emphasis is on interior creature comforts to create a personal sanctuary through the use of active noise control, reclining rear seats that not only adjust but also cool, warm and massage the occupants. The Continental goes on sale this fall.
Mercedes-Benz rolled out a number of world premiers ranging from the compact, smart fortwo cabriolet to the much-anticipated new E-class sedan.
2016 Smart fortwo Cabriolet
Positioned as the, “most affordable convertible in the U.S.”, this stylish, fun city car retails for $14,650. The canvas roof can be raised or lowered in 12 seconds remotely and from inside the car. Powered by 89 horses produced by a rear-mounted .9L 3-cylinder engine available with a 5-speed manual or 6-speed automatic, this urban runabout reaches 60 mph in just over 10 seconds.
2017 E-Class – E300, E350e and E400 4matic
Proclaiming it, “A masterpiece of intelligence”, Mercedes unveiled the 10th generation of the new E-Class. Built on a new, lighter, modular platform and powered by a 2.0L turbocharged engine paired with a 9-speed automatic, the E-Class is packed with S-Class and semi-autonomous technologies including active safety and driver assistance. When driving under 18 mph in traffic the vehicle is fully autonomous and will continue in that mode for up to 60 seconds above that speed before requiring the driver to put their hands on the wheel. In the safety category, E-Class is packed with a number of smart features including 13 ultrasonic sensors, 4 multi-mode radar sensors, 4 cameras and long-range radar. There’s also a speed limit pilot, evasive steering assist, remote parking pilot and car-to-x communications (vehicle to vehicle and vehicle to infrastructure communication technology). In showrooms this summer.
2017 SLC 300 and SLC 43 AMG
Replacing the SLK and reviving the SLC nameplate, Mercedes introduced two variants, the SLC 300 and SLC 43 AMG. Both feature new technologies and enhanced looks with the performance AMG version dropping the V8 power plant. Engines now include a 2.0L turbo rated at 241 hp and a 3.0L twin turbo V6 rated at 326 hp, paired with a 9-speed automatic. The former goes from 0 to 60 in 5.7 seconds with a top speed of 130 mph while the later reaches 60 in 4.6 seconds and tops out at 155 mph. There are five driving modes to choose from: Comfort, Sport, Sport+, Eco and Individuals. Safety features include active brake assist, blind spot assist, lane keeping assist and dynamic LED headlights. On sale in the second quarter of this year.
2017 AMG S63 and AMG S65 Cabriolets
Occupying the top of the Mercedes line – and the fourth variant in the S-Class – the AMG S63 and S65 are the fullest expression of the brand’s design, performance and luxury. The S65 competes in a rarefied segment with the likes of the Bentley Continental GTC and Aston Martin Vanquish. Powered by twin turbo V12 and 621 horses, the S65 moves from 0 to 60 in 4.1 seconds. Fitted with the expected S-Class luxury interior amenities, the cabriolet's fabric top can be raised or lowered up to 30 mph. Both models will be available this summer.
One year into the introduction of the new full-size pickup, Nissan unveiled the off road ready and Ford Raptor competitor, the Titan Warrior Concept. Slightly longer and wider than the current production Titan, the Warrior is powered by the Cummins 5.0L Turbo Diesel currently available on the Titan XC.
Porsche unveiled two updated versions of the iconic 911 sports car: the 2017 911 Turbo and Turbo S. Each comes with a 3.8L twin turbo flat six engine with power output ranging from 540 hp on the Turbo to 580 hp on the Turbo S. Top speeds are 199 mph and 205 mph respectively with a 0 to 60 time of 2.9 seconds. Pricing starts at $159,000 on the Turbo and moves to $200,00 on the S. Both models go on sale in April.
VLF Automotive (named after the surname initials of principals Gilbert Villarreal, Bob Lutz and Henrik Fisker)
VLF’s 200 mph Destino V8, now cleared of all disputes and lawsuits concerning design similarities to its former self as the Fisker Karma, is powered by a supercharged Corvette LS9 6.2L V8 that delivers 638 hp and a 0 - 60 time of 3.9 seconds. The car’s conversion from its original hybrid configuration to conventional gasoline power took out 1,000 pounds and reduced vehicle weight to approximately 4,300 pounds. Priced at $229,000, first-year production is estimated at 100 units, with the first sale to be delivered this month. – Mark Dapoz
Muscle and luxury combine in the VLF Force 1, which features a carbon fiber body riding on a Corvette-inspired suspension built on the Dodge Viper’s frame along with a modified version of the Viper’s 8.4L V10 engine that kicks out 745 hp. The world’s latest supercar rockets from 0 - 60 in 3.0 seconds and claims a top speed of 218 mph. Luxurious cockpit highlights include the leather and Alcantara ultrasuede interior with a dual champagne bottle holder between the two seatbacks. The Force 1 will be sold through Ben Keating’s Viper Exchange with a base price of $268,500. – Mark Dapoz
Volvo got off to a good start at this year’s auto show with the XC90 named as the North American Truck of the Year. The buzz continued with the introduction of its newest flagship sedan, the 2017 Volvo S90. Built on Volvo’s modular scalable product architecture – a new platform based on electrification – the S90 is available in gasoline and plug-in hybrid versions powered by 4-cylinder engines designated T6 and T8. For hybrid mode, either engine can be paired with an 86 hp electric motor. As safety remains a key Volvo selling point, the S90 features emergency auto braking, pedestrian and cyclist avoidance, large animal detection and enhanced pilot assist allowing the car to drive in semi-autonomous mode up to 80 mph as long as the driver’s hands are on the wheel every 30 seconds. The S90 will be in showrooms in the first half of this year.
Volkswagen Tiguan GTE Active Concept
Volkswagen’s goal is to have a SUV entry in every segment by 2020. Enter the Tiguan GTE Active Concept, a hint at a model slated for 2017, with a longer wheelbase than the current model and an expanded interior that seats seven. This is VW’s first SUV based on the Modular Transverse Matrix (MQB) platform. This plug-in hybrid-powered concept can travel 20 miles in all-electric mode and up to 580 miles in gas-electric mode.
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