Automakers showed off a handful of new vehicles at Detroit’s auto show, but they spent a lot more time talking about mobility solutions, autonomous vehicles, connected cars, and goals of zero emissions and zero automotive fatalities in the not-too-distant future. Computer-controlled safety systems have been growing for decades, but talk of them seemed to peak in January between the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) in Detroit, Michigan, and the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA US LLC), for example, showed off a self-driving minivan concept targeted at Millenials at CES and had nothing new to show at NAIAS. If you took a drink in Detroit every time you heard the phrase, “As you might have seen at our presentation at CES…” you wouldn’t have left the show sober.
Despite the focus being more on mobility and less on cars and trucks, several manufacturers did show off shiny new metal at NAIAS. As with the 2016 show, those launches focused on important, high-volume cars and SUVs rather than cool-yet-impractical supercars and concept vehicles.
North American International Auto Show www.naias.com Kia Stinger
Easily the most exciting new car shown in Detroit, Kia’s Stinger (pictured above) is an attempt by the budget-oriented Korean manufacturer to compete with sporty sedans such as thegj Nissan Maxima or low-end luxury sedans. It’s a niche market within the declining mid-sized car class, but if done right, a powerful daily driver can draw an audience. The car will feature either a 2L, turbocharged, 4-cylinder engine that produces 255hp and 260 lb-ft of torque; or a 3.3L, twin-turbocharged V-6 capable of 365hp and 376 lb-ft of torque. The 2018 Stinger goes on sale in late 2017. The rear-wheel drive car features an 8-speed automatic transmission.
www.kia.com Chevrolet Traverse/GMC Terrain
The second generation of General Motors’ (GM) large crossovers, the Chevrolet Traverse and GMC Terrain focused on offering more space to passengers, especially those stuck in rear seats. Second row passengers get 39" of leg space in the 2018 model – 1.2" more than the 2017. The third row is still cramped at 33.7", but that is a 0.5" improvement. The base engine is still a 3.6L V-6, but power increases to 305hp on the 2018 from 281hp on the 2017. GM estimates highway fuel economy will climb to 25mpg from 22mpg. An available 2L, turbocharged, 4-cylinder engine will produces 255hp. The automaker did not release fuel-economy estimates for the new engine option.
www.gm.com Honda Odyssey
It’s easy to criticize minivans as uncool and boring, but they’re still the most efficient and capable vehicles the industry has for moving families and their gear. Honda is embracing that practicality with its 2018 Odyssey, offering features that focus on comfort and parental concerns. If kids thought their parents had eyes in the backs of their heads before, ceiling-mounted, night-vision cameras offer those in front seats views of rows two and three, making it nearly impossible to get away with anything. Honda designers added more sound-deadening materials to the vehicle to make it easier to talk to people in multiple rows, and an intercom system will be available so people in the front seats can get clear answers from those in the third row. Engineers redesigned the minivan’s middle row to allow easier access to the third row of seats.
www.honda.com Toyota Camry
When Toyota launched the sixth-generation Camry for the 2007 model year, executives called the design athletic and modern. With the seventh generation in 2012, the company talked about expanding the car’s appeal with responsive performance. Toyota describes the 2018, eighth-generation Camry due later this year, as more exciting and emotional, thanks to sporty performance and style. Toyota didn’t get to be No. 1 in sedans by offering excitement and power. The Camry has excelled in being dependable and comfortable. The upcoming model is more stylish, but it won’t be mistaken for a muscle car. Engineers say the 3.5L V-6 and 2.5L 4-cylinder engines for the car have been updated and will be more powerful and efficient than outgoing models, but detailed specs were not yet available.
www.toyota.com Nissan Vmotion 2.0
A concept vehicle meant to convey where Nissan hopes to go with styling in the future, the Vmotion 2.0 presents what the next-generation small sedan might look like. A few inches longer and taller than the Sentra, the Vmotion’s design centers on the car’s front grille and follows those design lines across the hood, through the doors, and wraps around the rear to the brake lights. With the Vmotion, designers show how autonomous cars could integrate into environments in which some cars will be human driven and others will be machine controlled – LED lights behind the grille will change colors when the car is in autonomous mode, indicating that a person is not in control.
Easily the most extreme example of futuristic mobility talk, Ford executives discussed the importance of autonomous technology, their plans to dominate that market, and the potential that self-driving cars have to reduce congestion and pollution. Oh, and by the way, the company plans to release two vehicles in the next few years.
Following contract talks with the United Auto Workers last year, rumors had been spreading that Ford will return to the light pickup market with a new version of the Ranger, which ended production in 2011. Executives confirmed those rumors, and a new Ranger would enter production in 2019 at the Michigan Assembly Plant that currently makes the Focus compact car, which is being moved to Mexico. In 2020, the iconic Bronco small SUV – absent since 1996 – will join the Ranger at the plant.
Instead of showing concept versions of the new vehicles, Ford executives unveiled logos with promises of more to come later.