The North American International Auto Show (NAIAS), otherwise known as the Detroit Auto Show, is still the biggest and the best car show in America.
Every year, the automotive cognoscenti descend on Motown, USA to see the latest car manufacturers have to offer in the way of technology, production cars and insane one-off concept cars that will likely never see the inside of a dealership showroom.
As always, we came away from the show (which ended Sunday) with some trends, a few winners and a couple of clunkers.
Here’s what we learned:
1. Japan Leads The Way in Design
Germany didn’t provide anything more eye-catching than the new BMW M2 powerhouse coupe at Cobo Hall. And though the Bimmer is handsome enough, it’s the cars that push design envelopes that pave the way to the future. Honda’s luxury arm, Acura showed up ready to make its mark with the rakish and daring Precision Concept (main image above) — communicating to the world that it’s ready to get past boring and showing us what Bruce Wayne might buy if he was into red. Lexus took the fight to Mercedes-Benz with the production version of the LC 500 luxury performance coupe that wowed the crowd with its edgy presence. They’re going after the S-Class Coupe with guns blazing. And then there’s Infiniti, who brought their new Q50 sports coupe that’s arguably more visually arresting than anything from the Germans and packed with 400 hp to make things interesting. All three cars show the world that the Far East is getting back into the fight.
2. The Minivan Isn’t Dead … Yet
Chrysler didn’t show up with a new Hellcat iteration (just wait for the 707 hp Grand Cherokee Trackhawk) but instead decided to re-introduce us to the minivan in the form of the new Pacifica. Taking an old name and slapping it on a traditionally styled minivan was their big move. But it’s not all milquetoast here, folks. The new Pacifica drops 300 pounds from the outgoing Town & Country and also offers a plug-in hybrid option, making it the world’s first minivan that seems to care about the environment.
3. The Best Concept Car Came from America
As stellar as the Japanese offerings were this year, it’s the scintillating Buick Avista Concept car that stole the show. First, it’s beautiful from tip to toe, with elegant lines befitting a British grand tourer. Second, it houses a 400 hp twin-turbo V6 good for 400 horsepower to the rear wheels. And third, it’s rear wheel drive, the way a proper sports car should be configured. But most importantly, this beautiful beast of a car is actually from Buick, usually viewed as the automotive equivalent of a tranquilizer dart.
4. Lincoln Will Go Down Swinging
Lincoln Motor Company is doing better thanks to the MKC and newly redesigned MKX. They brought their polarizing Lincoln Continental flagship to Detroit, hoping it would generate positive buzz. Though it’s unequivocally attractive, the derivative styling of the Jaguar-like grille and echoes of Acura in the headlights and Bentley in the rear three quarters don’t help its case. Its saving grace might be the handsomely outfitted cabin, but overall it needed more American-ness and presence befitting a new generation of homegrown flagships.
5. VW Responded to Dieselgate Very Indirectly
Everyone’s holding their breath for VW to apologize for the massive diesel cheating scandal, but the moment for them to do so has passed. Their response was to bring hydrogen powered Audi H-tron Quattro concept in blazing yellow and a flaming red VW Tiguan GTE Active Concept gas-electric hybrid — both as if to say, “See, we’re way past diesels.”
— Amos Kwon
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