As the first big event of the year, the North American International Auto Show offers the chance to spot trends we might see for the rest of the year. It also has the potential to prove if the US market is still obsessed with making the biggest stuff possible.
Pickup trucks are getting more outrageous
If there’s one vehicle that sums up the US automotive market in one fell swoop then it’s the pickup truck. But 2016 seems to be the year that manufacturers have truly gone XXL with their offerings.
Ford’s latest version of the F-150 Raptor was launched at the Detroit show a year ago but, twelve months later, it’s already been tweaked. Now there’s a SuperCrew version of the 3.5-litre EcoBoost powered machine so you can fit even more people or stuff inside. Although persuading people to get in the back as you make use of the new Terrain Management system in mud, rock or even baja mode might be a challenge!
Not to be outdone, Nissan premiered the Warrior concept version of its Titan X.D truck, again just one year after showing off the regular production version. With a 5.0-litre Turbo Diesel V8 engine, race-derived suspension parts, and a smattering of carbon fibre body panels it’s a formidable sounding proposition. Whether it becomes a reality remains to be seen.
Not quite as dramatically-styled as the Ford or Nissan, Honda is concentrating on practicality with the all-new Ridgeline. With a design that focuses on things which really matter to pickup buyers, like hauling sheets of plywood or drywall flat in the loadspace, or a 540 watt sound system mounted in the truck bed to improve your tailgating experience. Could it just be a little too sensible for its own good?
After years of being told that the SUV is top of the the pile when it comes to most manufacturers’ model ranges, 2016 appears to be the year when the (not so) humble sedan makes a fight back.
We’d already seen the Volvo S90 late last year, so Detroit marked the official world debut of the all-new saloon. The previous generations of 900 and S90 models, last sold in 1998, proved popular in the USA so that, along with the fact Volvo is building a factory in the States, makes no surprise that the Detroit show was used for the official unveiling. Although it is hard to escape the lure of the XC90, the choice of the S90 as flagship model proves that not everything is about SUVs.
Hyundai launched its new luxury brand, Genesis, with the G90 four-door. There’s a choice of two engines (3.3-litre twin-turbo V6 or 5.0-litre V8), adaptive suspension, optional AWD, and a cabin that features C02 and air quality sensors to keep things fresh. Starting a new luxury brand is no mean feat, just ask Infiniti, so the handsome G90 really needs to deliver.
If the G90 represents new beginnings in the luxury market, Lincoln has resurrected one of the oldest names in the book; Continental. We’ve come a long way from the iconic fourth generation suicide-door Continental models, and we’ll ignore the disappointing namesakes found in the 1990s. Lincoln is stressing that the new Continental will provide ‘quiet luxury’ with a twin-turbo V6 engine, even if it does include a sport mode, and seats inspired by private jets.
Despite the fact minivan sales have been in decline for the past two decades, manufacturers are still clinging on to that ‘soccer mom’ image it seems. Hence the latest Chrysler Pacifica which apparently reinvents the segment that everyone has abandoned for SUVs and crossovers.
It replaces the Dodge Caravan / Chrysler Town & Country models, better known to Europeans as the Chrysler Voyager. So yes, the Pacifica is so revolutionary it even dispenses with the names of famous predecessors. The reinvention comes with the option of a plug-in hybrid version, an MPV-filling amount of standard safety kit, and a Uconnect touchscreen rear entertainment system. There’ll even be a range of Mopar accessories, though these are more practical than performance minded.
Whilst the above might suggest that SUVs and crossover vehicles have suddenly fallen out of favour, you’d be wrong. Detroit showed that they’re not going anywhere, anytime soon.
Kia’s Telluride concept might have an odd name, but it’s a big, brash, in-your-face, full-size SUV that previews the design language for the brand. The suicide rear doors and the huge chrome grille might dominate the outside, but it’s inside that the Telluride really makes an impact.
Not only are there parts which have been 3D printed, but also smart sensors embedded in the passenger seats to monitor the health of the occupants. Rear-seat passengers can also swipe a touch-sensitive band to change media preferences played through the Harmon Kardon sound system. Whilst not scheduled for production, yet, don’t be surprised if a full-fat Kia SUV materialises in the near future.
To say 2015 was a bad year for Volkswagen in the USA is major understatement. The impact of dieselgate will be long standing, and has forced the company to move quickly to embrace electric and plug-in hybrid models. Enter the Tiguan GTE Active Concept; featuring two electric motors that can power all four wheels, and give the ability to hit 70 mph on clean electrical drive alone. That Volkswagen has shoehorned two electric motors, a TSI petrol engine, and a complex 4Motion system into a concept based on the MQB platform suggests this technology demo is not far from production reality.
However, if the thought of hybrids and crazy technology is too much for the American psyche, GMC has the answer with the new Acadia mid-size SUV. Featuring the choice of 2.5-litre four-cylinder, or 3.6-litre V6 (obviously both petrol) engines, this is a little more traditional in approach. But hey, pick the smaller engine and you could have a whole 28 US mpg on the highway. That’s equivalent to 33 mpg in the UK. GMC has managed to carve 300 kg from the Acadia, meaning it now weighs less than 2 metric tonnes! Hurrah.
You can’t accuse Detroit of not offering up a mixture of body styles. Along with sedans, SUVs and pickups, NAIAS 2016 also featured a breakout of luxury coupe offerings in various guises.
Four years after the concept version debuted at the Detroit show, Lexus rolled out a production LC 500 which – even to the most cynical eyes – looked fairly unadulterated from the show car. It’s very distinctive, and produces probably the most cohesive expression of Lexus design language yet – even with something resembling a cheese grater for a front grille. With a 5.0-litre naturally aspirated V8 engine, an optional carbon fibre roof, and a sport mode, we’re actually quite sold on this flagship coupe.
Also making a debut in Detroit is the Infiniti Q60 sports coupe, which mixes the typically bold styling from Nissan’s luxury brand with engineering clearly aimed at the BMW 4-Series. Engines consist of either a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder, making 208 bhp, or a twin-turbo 3.0-litre V6 with 400 bhp. The latter comes with AWD as standard, whilst the former sends power to the rear wheels only. There’s a multitude of options for the Drive Mode Selector too, including Sport and Sport+ modes! Exciting, eh?
Rounding out this coupe trio is the Buick Avista concept, a 2+2 intended to redefine the look of future Buick models. EngageSportMode’s initial reaction was that it resembled something created for Grand Theft Auto; being attractive but also appearing to be a construct of several different cars. It’s collected the EyesOnDesign award for the best concept car at the show, emulating the Avenir concept which won Buick the same prize last year. Perhaps it was helped by the fact the Avista borrows various elements from the Avenir…
We’ll have a big gallery round up of all the other attractions from the 2016 Detroit Auto Show on Friday.