Payne: 10 must-see vehicles at Cobo
This annual column is usually headlined “10 best new cars in show.” But my 10 must-see vehicles at the Detroit auto show this year aren’t necessarily the best. They are, however, the most significant.
Some of our favorite performance brands — Porsche, Jaguar, Mazda — skipped Detroit-paloooza this year. But there is plenty of metal from around the world — including the first Chinese brand to enter the U.S. market.
Big trucks dominate, with the Detroit Three bringing their latest tools.
But don’t miss the little details. ... Three versions of Hyundai’s three-door Veloster. Make that four — the Veloster that will co-star in the coming “Antman and the Wasp” is also featured. The world’s fastest car is here: the 277-horsepower Koenigsegg Agera. And the seven-passenger Subaru Ascent with 19 cupholders.
GM’s top-selling pickup counters Ford’s aluminum-skinned, turbo-6 F-150 gambit by sticking to basics: steel bed, intimidating grille, small-block V-8. And then it changed everything else. With clever tooling, the box grows 7 inches in width to best-in-segment while offering the first-in-segment automatic tailgate. Other nifty touches include door-mounted mirrors for better visibility, and aluminum doors/hood/tailgate — part of a 450-pound diet. Oh, yes, and there will be a diesel.
Ram continues to innovate, even as it — like Chevy — declined to follow F-150’s aluminum bed lead. Instead, the 1500 tackles federal mpg mandates with a mild-hybrid strategy — mating a 48-volt battery to its V-6 and V-8 mills for better fuel economy and torque, as well as smoother stop-starts at stoplights. The interior also wows with an available, 12-inch vertical touchscreen that looks like something out of luxe-mobile. With a more-streamlined fascia (goodbye cross-hair grille), the Ram is the segment looker.
F-150 Junior is back in the mid-size segment with Ford’s typical high-technology: Raptor-like trail-control, and a 10-speed transmission. There’s no aluminum bed, though. Built Ford-tough, the Ranger boasts a class-exclusive, frame-mounted steel bumper. City-slickers tired of taking out fire hydrants with their ginormous F-150s will look hard at this pickup.
The all-new, second-generation A7 made its North American debut in Detroit. Quietly. There was no press conference, no rock-band intro. But the other cars know it’s here. The Buick Regal and Kia Stinger slavishly mimic its gorgeous sportback shape. The new design is too rounded for my taste — I like the first-generation’s razor-sharp lines — but the interior is a work of art as Audi pushes the envelope with its Virtual Cockpit instrument display.
A mud-caked, mountain-climbing, all-new G-class is hard to miss on the Mercedes stand — and so is its $120,000 sticker. For a third of the price, Wrangler offers even more off-road ability with detachable sway bars and removable top. The Rubicon Trail-conquering icon debuted in LA; Detroit gets its first look this week.
Infiniti Q Inspiration
This gorgeous concept points to the sedan design future for Nissan’s luxury brand (well, maybe not the cabinet-style doors) with its long curves and full-width tail lamp. But while Infiniti used the show to announce an electrified future, the Q harbors a different kind of innovation: a variable-compression gas turbo.
It’s another SUV, yes. But it’s also Acura’s statement that its sporty vibe is back. The manifestation of the Acura NSX and Precision interior and exterior design concepts, the RDX is sculpted, nimble (the return of Acura’s Super Handling All-Wheel-Drive system) and turbocharged. It’s also a bargain with standard features like a panoramic sunroof and adaptive cruise-control.
GAC Trumpchi GS8
The Chinese company’s first entry as a three-row SUV seems more problematic than its Trumpchi name (which will change for the U.S. market to something less politically polarizing). The big SUV is gas-powered with a nicely laid-out interior — but its bland design will be a tough sell against three-row icons like the Honda Pilot and Chevy Traverse.
In my two decades covering the Detroit Show, the supercar maker has never made a Detroit intro — until now. The 650-horse Urus was introduced (but won’t appear in Cobo, alas) during media days at the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit to rib-rattling rock music and video of the “Super Ute” destroying off-road desert trails. No track days for this all-wheel drive monster. No scissor doors either.
From pickups to Chinese ute ... to race car intros. This show had it all. While most production performance cars try to make as much down-force as possible (see the winged Corvette ZR1 brute in Chevy’s display), IndyCar’s 2018 racer actually makes less. Why? Because with a neck-bending 6,000 pounds of down-force, the open-wheel racers were getting hard to pass with their turbulent wakes. With a 20 percent reduction in wing, the wheel-to-wheel racing at the Detroit Grand Prix should be a treat.
Henry Payne is auto critic for The Detroit News. Find him at firstname.lastname@example.org or Twitter @HenryEPayne. Catch “Car Radio with Henry Payne” from noon-1 p.m. Saturdays on 910 AM Superstation.
Detroit auto show
Location: Cobo Center, 1 Washington Blvd., Detroit
Public days: 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday through Jan. 27; 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Jan. 28
Tickets: $14; ages 7-12 and 65 and older, $7. To order tickets online or to learn more, visit naias.com.
Parking: Joe Louis Arena Garage, 900 W. Jefferson; Millennium Garage, 432 W. Congress; Ford Underground Garage, 30 E. Jefferson