The 16 Best Cars of the 2017 Detroit Auto Show
By Ben Stewart, Popular Mechanics, 10 January 2017.
By Ben Stewart, Popular Mechanics, 10 January 2017.
The North American International Auto Show, otherwise known as the Detroit Show, is traditionally the big stage where automakers debut some of the most important cars and trucks. Things changed a bit this year as a long list of car makers - including Chrysler, Ram, Jeep, Lincoln, Mazda, Hyundai, Buick, Porsche, Jaguar, Land Rover and Acura - took a pass on debuting all-new models at Detroit. Even so, we saw some heavy hitters, including an all-new Toyota Camry, Honda Odyssey, and a revised F-150. Ford even dropped the news that an all-new Ford Bronco and Ranger will be arriving in 2020. These are the cars, trucks and concepts that made headlines.
1. 2018 Ford F-150
The F-150 is a single most important product Ford makes. It's been the best-selling vehicle in America since 1977, so even a mild facelift is a big deal. Every version of the 2018 F-150 has a new grill, headlamp cluster and bumper. The new design borrows a bit from the Super Duty's, and that's no bad thing.
Beyond the nip and tuck, the biggest news is the addition of a Ford-designed 3.0-liter turbo-diesel V-6. Ford isn't ready to unleash the specs on this motor quite yet, but it will be mated to Ford's 10-speed automatic (co-developed by GM) and should deliver more than the 240 hp and 420 lb-ft of torque in Ram's Ecodiesel. Ford finally ditched the old naturally aspirated 3.5-liter V-6 that lived at the bottom of the lineup; a smaller 3.3-liter unit with direct fuel injection takes its place. The popular 2.7-liter Ecoboost has been upgraded with a port and direct fuel-injection system and Ford says it will churn out better numbers across the board.
A fuel-saving automatic stop/start system will accompany every powertrain. On the safety front, the new F-150 will have pre-collision assist with pedestrian detection available. Like its rivals, Ford now offers a 4G LTE connectivity and a Wi-Fi hotspot. Look for the 2018 model in Ford stores this fall.
2. 2017 Nissan Rogue Sport
Automakers cannot churn out new crossovers quickly enough to satisfy the rabid demand for them, and the smallest ones seem to be the ones gaining popularity. So, Nissan decided to add a Rogue Sport (named Qashqai elsewhere in the world) slotted just below the Rogue - the best-selling vehicle in Nissan's lineup.
Under the hood is a 2.0-liter four-cylinder with 141 hp and 146 lb-ft of torque paired to a CVT. The motor drives either the front wheels or all-four. The Rogue Sport has room for five passengers (compared to 7 for the Rogue), and this new model has much slimmer proportions. The Sport rides on a 2.3-inch shorter wheelbase, and is more than a foot shorter than the Rogue overall. That cuts down on rear seat legroom by more than 4 inches and maximum cargo space with all the seats folded shrinks by about 9 cu-ft.
The upside? Those tidy dimensions should make this ride far more athletic. The Rogue Sport uses a four-wheel independent suspension to deliver a few more smiles on twisty roads, too. The top SL model is the one to pick.
3. 2018 Toyota Camry
The Camry has long been Toyota's most popular sedan. It's also been the most boring vehicle in Toyota's lineup. That should change with the 2018 Camry, which is more exciting to look at than any that has come before, with a wide stance and more sculpted sheet metal.
The passengers sit lower in the cockpit and that helped engineers lower the roofline to make it look far sleeker and more athletic than the last Camry. The last Camry was one of the roomiest cars in its class, and that should continue because this one is even longer and wider than before, riding on a 111.2-inch wheelbase. Toyota has moved the Camry to its most modern vehicle architecture – TNGA - so it should be much more rewarding to drive, too. A new 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine and a revised 3.5-liter V-6 will provide the motivation. Both engines pair to an 8-speed automated manual gearbox. The next-generation of Toyota's hybrid system on also the options list. And those hybrids retain the use of the CVT.
On the inside, the new Camry is sporty and even a little futuristic with three interlinked displays - a 7-inch within the instrument cluster, an 8-inch display for navigation and infotainment and a huge 10-inch heads-up display. Expect to see these new Camrys on dealer lots at the end of summer.
4. 2018 Honda Odyssey
Sure, many families have moved on to 7- and 8-passenger crossovers and SUVs. But there is no more space-efficient way to move people and their stuff than a minivan, and Honda has been the bestseller in the class for the last 7 years.
The all-new Odyssey certainly doesn't shatter the minivan mold, but it's a handsome evolution of the current van. This new Odyssey should move out with some gusto thanks to a 280-hp 3.5-liter V-6 (up 32 horsepower over the old one) linked to a 9-speed automatic. Vans wearing a higher trim level are treated to a new 10-speed automatic.
It's the interior innovations that really matter on a minivan. Honda's new Magic Slide seats allow the second row to slide fore and back (with child seats in place) in many innovative positions, including removing the center seat. And Honda has some cool new tech on board to help keep families happy. The CabinWatch feature is like a nanny camera system for the vehicle where front seat occupants can watch the kids in back on the 8-inch dash display. The CabinTalk lets parents talk to the kids when there are wearing Honda's rear entertainment headphones. Smart. Speaking of rear seat entertainment, the Odyssey's system includes a 10.2-inch monitor and 4G LTE Wi-Fi. And like before, there's an available in-vehicle vacuum cleaner.
5. 2018 Lexus LS 500
When Toyota launched the Lexus luxury brand way back in 1989, the LS 400 sedan was the very first vehicle. It delivered smoothness, craftsmanship and reliability at a price far below the flagship German sedans. The LS hasn't been redesigned since 2007, but this new fifth-generation LS is perhaps the most radical redesign in the model's history.
The new car is based on the concept LF-FC that made its North American debut here in Detroit last year, and the production LS stays true to that model's look. Beneath that swoopy exterior is a new 3.5-liter twin-turbo V-6 that delivers 415 hp and 442 lb-ft of torque joined to a 10-speed automatic. The LS body and chassis is about 200 pounds lighter than the old model. That, along with this new powertrain, helps the LS reach 60 mph in a sportscar-like 4.5-seconds.
The new LS has, for the first time, an optional air suspension that should make this one of the best-riding sedans in the class. The LS rolls on a long 123-inch wheelbase (1.3 greater than the old model) and is fitted with simply gorgeous materials. The 28-way optional front seats heat, cool and massage, and the optional power rear seats have a power ottoman and Shiatsu massaging.
6. Audi Q8 Concept
Audi plans to produce a production-version of this Q8 Concept in 2018. The rakish coupe-like design is the one slice of the crossover segment that's been missing from Audi's lineup, preventing it from competing with BMW and Mercedes-Benz.
The Audi Q8 is based on Audi's large Q7 model and shares its 117.6-inch wheelbase. The concept is said to use a plug-in hybrid powertrain with a heady 516.3 lb-ft of torque. And a hybrid Q8 will likely share the top powertrain spot along with perhaps an SQ8 high-performance model. But we expect the Q7's 252-hp 2.0-liter four-cylinder and 333-hp 3.0-liter V-6 to make up the majority of Q8 sales.
This concept certainly has a slick silhouette thanks to that steeply sloped rear window. Yes, that cuts down on the cargo volume (the concept has 22.2 cu-ft of space behind the rear seat) and it means there isn't room for a third row of seats either. But no matter. In this kind of sports crossover, performance is way more important than practicality. Thanks to Quattro all-wheel drive and the wide track (likely optional) adaptive air suspension, the Q8 should be loads of fun.
7. 2018 Kia Stinger
Kia is putting some excitement into the Detroit show this year with its new Stinger sedan. The Stinger started out as the GT concept car unveiled back in 2011. Kia isn't known for building high-performance vehicles, so few thought a production car would ever materialize, yet here is a high-performance rear drive (!) sedan built to take on much more expensive (and established) European models.
The Stinger is low-slung, aggressive, and rides on a 114.4-inch wheelbase, so it's longer than cars like the Audi A4 and BMW 3-Series. A 255-hp 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder comes standard, but a 3.3-liter twin-turbo V-6 is optional with 365 hp. Both are paired to an 8-speed automatic. Kia says the more powerful versions should hit 60 mph in 5.1 seconds and top out at 167 mph. The Stinger is available all-wheel drive, but even rear-drive models get a standard limited-slip differential. And that name is just plain cool.
8. 2018 GMC Terrain
The original Terrain offered a block design and limited powertrain options. This new second-generation model is not only way more stylish (with a hint of Nissan Murano in its side panels) but offers some interesting engine choices - all turbocharged and four-cylinder. The standard engine is a 170-hp 1.5-liter turbo with a 255-hp 2.0-liter on the options list. Both are paired to a 9-speed automatic. We'd spend our money on the new 137-hp 1.6-liter turbo diesel with 240 lb-ft of torque, which should deliver exceptional fuel economy and performance. At the top of the range sits the Denali, which adds 19-inch wheels, LED headlamps and lots of chrome. The Terrain goes on sale this summer.
9. 2018 Chevrolet Traverse
Large families loved the Chevy Traverse, which provided near minivan-levels of spaciousness in all three rows. But after nine successful years as Chevy's prime people-mover, it was time for an upgrade. The 2018 Traverse looks trim and stylish to be sure. It shares a platform with the GMC Acadia which made its debut here last year. But the Traverse rides on an extended 120.9-inch wheelbase - longer even than the outgoing model. And that means there's plenty of room inside. The split-folding second row allows the curbside section to flip forward even when a car seat is installed.
Most Traverse models will use a new 305-hp 3.6-liter V-6 mated to a 9-speed automatic. Properly equipped, these can tow a 5,000-pound trailer. A sport RS trim will offer a 255-hp 2.0-liter turbo. This engine is down on power to the V-6 but, more importantly, it generates 295 lb-ft of torque - 36 more. The top High Country trim maxes out the safety and luxury with leather seating, polished 20-inch wheels, a power folding third row seat and a unique twin-clutch all-wheel drive system.
10. Infiniti QX50 Concept
Infiniti's radical 2003 FX charted a course for other sporty crossovers to follow. This QX50 Concept looks to bring that excitement back to Infiniti. It looks good, and it points closely to the direction of the next production QX. That model should incorporate Infiniti's VC-Turbo (variable compression) four-cylinder engine that can infinitely vary its compression (from, say, 8:1 to 14:1) to suit power and fuel economy needs. Infiniti says this engine can improve fuel economy up to 27 percent over a V-6 and can prove to be a viable alternative to more expensive hybrid and diesel technology.
11. 2018 Audi SQ5
The new Audi Q5 comes to the U.S. only one way: with a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder and a steel spring suspension. That's fine for most Americans. But for those looking to have a bit more fun on a windy backroad, here's the new SQ5. It packs 354 hp and 369 lb-ft of torque from a 3.0-liter turbocharged V-6.
Every SQ5 rides on Audi's sophisticated air suspension that can both lower the vehicle as speed increases and alter the firmness of the dampers. Those who want serious handling will opt for the S sport package that comes with Audi's torque vectoring rear differential that can electronically distribute torque on demand across the axle. Audi says he SQ5 will hit 60 mph in just 5.1 seconds. The really good news? All this performance is coming very soon. The SQ5 should hit dealerships this spring.
12. 2018 VW Tiguan Long-Wheelbase
Today's Tiguan is quite a bit smaller than most of the crossovers with which it competes. VW aims to fix that with the 2018 version. Though this model is called the "long-wheelbase" it's the only version of the Tiguan that's coming to the U.S. The big Tig is 10.7 inches longer than the old one, and that means cargo capacity is up by 57 percent.
The new Tiguan is based on VW's MQB architecture that underpins the company's larger Atlas SUV. Like the Atlas, this is a vehicle with three rows of seating. That could make it really stand out amongst its two-row competitors. The only engine choice here is a 184-hp 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder linked to an 8-speed automatic. VW's 4Motion all-wheel drive is optional, as is a full suite of safety options including adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning, autonomous emergency braking and more. On the inside, VW's optional Digital Cockpit Display lets the driver personalize and reconfigure the display information and show full navigation right in front of the driver.
13. 2018 Mercedes-Benz E400 Coupe
The last Mercedes-Benz E-Class Coupe was more like a C-Class Coupe in disguise. That's because the majority of its underpinnings were derived from the less expensive C-Class model. This new one, however, doesn't cheap out on its chassis.
The '18 model is truly a 2-door Coupe version of the tech-heavy E-Class sedan - and it's much larger than before. The wheelbase along is more than 4-inches longer and that should translate into a coupe that's much better for backseat passengers. The new coupe will come exclusively as an E400. And that means a twin-turbo 3.0-liter V-6 lives under the hood pouring out a smooth 329 hp and 354-lb-ft of torque. Those in snowy climes will appreciate that the E400 will be available with 4Matic all-wheel drive, too. On the inside, the E400 has the same stunningly gorgeous and techy interior as the E-Class sedan. Expect to see this sleek two-door on the road this summer.
14. Nissan Vmotion 2.0 Concept
Concept cars rarely move seamlessly from show floor to dealership lot. More often, these one-off vehicles are built to show a future design direction. That's the case here. Nissan says the Vmotion 2.0 points to where Nissan might take its sedan line. Expect to see elements of this car on, say, the next-generation Altima and Maxima.
The 2.0 uses an evolution of Nissan's "V-motion" grill design. On this concept, the lighting around the Nissan emblem glows, which hints at the need for future autonomous vehicles to "communicate" with pedestrians. On the floor that copper paint is gorgeous - as are the massive planks of Zebra Wood on the floor and doors of in the interior. It may just be a concept but it's our favorite design at the show this year.
15. 2017 BMW 5-Series
This is a fairly conservative redesign of the 5-Series, but there's an all-new chassis beneath that handsome bodywork. Most 5-Series models in the U.S. will wear a 530i badge and use a 248-hp four-cylinder engine. A 540i M Sport with a 335-hp 3.0-liter inline-six offers a performance bump, but both models will use an 8-speed automatic.
On the inside, the new 5-Series has an iDrive 6.0 infotainment system with a sweet 10.3-inch display that also works as a touchscreen. Yhe system also responds with hand gestures, steering wheel controls as well as vice command. Like its archrival the Mercedes-Benz E-Class, BMW provides several ways to accomplish the same task. The all-new 5-Series hits BMW stores in February.
16. VW I.D Buzz Concept
Volkswagen has teased us for more than a decade with concept revivals of its classic microbus. The I.D. Buzz (I.D. sounds like "idea" and Buzz sort of sounds like "Bus") is the latest. The Buzz concept is fully electric and fully autonomous concept with a reported range of 270 miles. The bus has seating for eight passengers and all their stuff. Those seats can swivel and reconfigure to make the interior a true lounge for autonomous travel. Beneath the floor sits battery packs, to keep the center of gravity low.
The Buzz uses twin electric motors to provide all-wheel drive and the equivalent of 369 hp. That's just a wee bit more than the 24 hp in the original Microbus. The design of the Buzz is perhaps the coolest interpretation of the classic VW. We particularly like that lemon yellow paint as well as the "floating" hula girl on the dash. The Buzz is based on VWs MEB architecture, so there's a chance, maybe, VW might someday green-light it for production.
All images credit (except top image): Ben Stewart.
Top image: 2018 Lexus LS 500. Credit: Lexus.
[Source: Popular Mechanics. Edited. Top image and links added.]