Detroit Auto Show Guide: Luxury cars

Henry Payne
The Detroit News

The thoroughbreds in the luxury class have been the definition of automotive elegance, but not even sedan icons are immune from the sport-utility tsunami. The Mercedes S-class, Lexus LS and Audi A8 all saw big sales declines in 2017, as luxury customers snapped up big SUVs. Even BMW is not immune, with a giant X7 crossover looming over the brand’s 7-series sedan (down 28 percent in sales) as its new flagship. But for style and handling, premium cars are still the standard — think the gorgeous Mercedes CLS Coupe or the hot-rod Cadillac ATS-V.

Audi A7

2019 Audi A7

What it is: The second generation of Audi’s iconic fastback, perhaps the prettiest sedan on the market today. How to improve on perfection? The all-wheel drive A7 gets more-muscular wheel wells and a bigger grille to complement its bigger interior dimensions. The most significant changes are in the tech department, where twin haptic-touchscreens replace the rotary-controlled infotainment system of yore. Augmenting the familiar 340-horse turbo V-6 is a 48-volt lithium-ion battery, which promises better mpg and torque.

Payne’s take: In its short life, the A7 has already become a benchmark for the industry. The mainstream Kia Stinger and Buick Regal unashamedly borrow from their luxurious idol. The new touchscreens are a big change from the Euro-preferred rotary touch-dial, and longtime Audi fans may find the transition uncomfortable. My suggestion? Get the optional, configurable Virtual Cockpit instrument display with its controls on the wheel.

Mercedes AMG CLS53; E53 Coupe/Cabriolet

Mercedes-AMG CLS 53 4MATIC

What it is: The German lux-maker upgrades its E-class models with AMG performance variants — distinguished by twin blades on the grille. To complement their striking, swoopy rooflines, the 53s get 48-volt battery-boosted turbo-6 engines, pumping out 429 horses, mated to a quick 9-speed transmission and all-wheel drive. AMG-embossed thrones and Mercedes’ lovely “Widescreen Cockpit” instruments highlight the interior.

Payne’s take: The mild-hybrid powertrain will soon proliferate the Mercedes lineup, enabling better mpg and acceleration (for less cost than a full-hybrid powertrain). Now, if Mercedes would just simplify its alphabet soup model names ...