Armchair Guide to the 2017 Detroit Auto Show

The Detroit Auto show is over for another year. What caught our eye? What hurt our eye?

2018 Audi Q8 concept: source
2018 Audi Q8 concept: source

Audi showed the 3.0 TFSI SQ5: a CUV. They also showed the Q8 concept, some kind of crossover but sized extra-large. It’ll be ideal for bringing 17 kg children to kindergarten in Chelmsford. Notably the grille has burst out of its frame and now the silhouette of the lamps is involved in the party, as if the engine and lights are expanding out from under the bonnet like a weird blossoming mechanical monster. At the back the lamps stretch the full width across the car.

Note the A-pillar to wing which is a decisively retrograde step. It’s not flush as on Audis of old. There’s a hint of a stump of a boot at the back and the wheel arches feature another little articulation in case you didn’t notice the massive wheels.

Things are bit more normal with the A5 cabriolet – it’s an opportunistic sort of car, upper middle class and expensive and very much the kind of thing Buick might have done if they were not a pseudo-replacement for Saturn instead of solid American luxury.

The BMW 5 has gone PHEV for 2018. And another version now labours under the unwieldy name of the M550i xDrive. It has a 4.4 litre V8 and four-wheel drive meaning it might very well do well in Switzerland as well as upstate New York.

GM continue to push supersize to new extremes with the 2018 Chevrolet Traverse. It has three rows of seats. Why not five? They didn’t know what do with the chrome sideglass trim. It runs in a frame around the doors and has a sort of Hofmeister kink; there’s none around the rear side windows, aft of the C-pillar. It seems undressed. The rear lamps have been borrowed from the Ford Galaxy.

2018 GAC GE3: source
2018 GAC GE3: source

China sent an emissary, the GAC Trumpchi GE3 SUV. It has the lower door swages of an Opel Astra, a simple-nice headlamp and grille arrangement; the C-pillar that ends about two thirds of the way up, with glazing and a black roof to complete the deal. The A-pillar is a problem: a small mirror sale panel fills in the odd gap between the sideglass and the leading corner of the DLO and behind it a fixed glass panel the size of a coaster. It’s messy and is within a few centimetres of being properly finished. They could easily have avoided this if they wanted to .

Nobody knows what distinguishes GMC from Chevrolet. Nobody.

2018 GMC Terain: source
2018 GMC Terain: source

GMC are fielding a “premium” compact called the Terrain. It has a quite massive front overhang and another of those C-pillars with glazing somewhere in between the base and top. In some views and in the right colour it’d almost pass for something fit for Opel dealers. Car and Driver described the front end as “dignified and powerful”. The photo show a quite decent SUV. Why isn’t it a Chevrolet? How is the Chevrolet Equinox different in any sensible way? A combination of Plato, Georg Kacher and Patrick Bedard would not be able to solve that.

A special place is reserved for the Honda Odyssey which is Ssang Yong Rodius bad. Honda now might be ready to take to the throne as the car manufacturer with the least intelligent industrial design. I might find the time to give it a big photo of its own so we can stand and scratch our heads.

2018 Kia Stinger: source
2018 Kia Stinger: source

For some the Kia Stinger is going to be a threat. It looks very good, has rear wheel drive and has been fettled by an ex-BMW engineer. Alfa Romeo and Jaguar might have the most to lose. It is not unlikely that anyone with an open mind and opening wallet might consider it in place of the Alfa and Jaguar entrants in this class. Alfa have emerged from their own rubble waving the Giulia flag only to find the Stinger sitting on top the heap with their quite effortlessly produced Stinger.

Jaguar will point at the quality of their interior and the lovely highlights – will people want to pay for these when Kias are a known quantity in the quality and reliability stakes. Who would have though a Kia would challenge Jaguar? The 2001 Kia Rio, remember that?

Eóin has written about the Lexus LS. I think it needs a US and EU-market grille and a lot more dignity.

Using the 2018 AMG GT C as an excuse, Mercedes broke open a tin of yellow paint. It is big but it is also sporty thus conforming to the contemporary use of yellow on cars. Yellow is not for a mid-range saloon with a standard engine.

Some time back we ran a series on special editions and asked why some brands don’t do them. It seems Mercedes has joined the ranks of special editions with the “Night Edition” S-class coupé. Is something so expensive in the first place in need of a special edition name? It has AMG bumpers and – amazing – a special edition badge just like Ford, Citroen and Renault special editions once did in the glory days of the 90s. They even engrave “Night Edition” on the steering wheel boss.

Redeeming things somewhat, the E-class coupé passes muster, just about. The side-glass is still messy and the bonnet to grille panel gap is deeply beneath MB and the lamps are indecisive. It has a far better appearance at the rear with very attractive broad lamps eating deep into the bootlid. Don’t look at it in side view: pedestrian impact regs have raised the bonnet height to Bentley Mulsanne altitudes and the big wheels don’t look it. I may like this car in a decade when they are getting a bit worn. At the moment Audi make the best looking mid-size coupés.

The Nissan Qashqai has landed in the US under the name of Rogue. The orange metallic show car colour is superb.

An important car, the Camry gets a new look and, in my view, achieves what the Lexus doesn’t: a reworking of the grille and lamps and air intake without looking distorted. As with the rest of Toyota’s odd-faced cars the rest of the car is not at all strange.

VW periodically show a Microbus concept they never build. This one is called the ID Buzz concept and was the work of a lot of people who will be filing constructive dismissal cases against the Wolfsburg concern in due course. The judge will look at the project and the history of such cars and find for the plaintiffs. No, VAG had no intention of building this and this project was a dead-end.

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I have left the best to last, the Nissan Vmotion 2.0 concept. This one balances on the cusp of too much sculpture yet manages to restrain the forms inside a recognizable framework. In some of these highly-sculptural cars the “natural forms” of elements like wings and bumpers get lost in creases a bulges that cross over and confuse the functional nature of the panels they adorn. The C-pillar is now not really a distinct part, consumed by a black roof and a huge triangular hip over the rear wheel (it flows around gracefully to the boot).

That’s that idea, the glazed C-pillar, now pushed to its logical conclusion: no C-pillar, just more roof and more waistline. This concept will be the inspiration for the Altima, a car which historically has been something a white-goods vehicle but one perpetually fighting for driver’s car credibility. It works at the rear too. Quite some achievement.

[Slide show source]

Note: Jan 19, 2017 -“Chevrolet Acadian” changed to “Chevrolet Equinox”.

Author: richard herriott

I like anchovies. I dislike post-war town planning.

5 thoughts on “Armchair Guide to the 2017 Detroit Auto Show”

  1. Enjoy reading your site. A couple of observations:

    GMC and Chevrolet have historically been twins but over the past 15 years or so GM’s been pitching GMC as the upscale brand with some success. There are plenty of people over here who wouldn’t be seen dead in a Cadillac Escalade but want something with a bit more status than a Chevrolet Tahoe, and they buy GMC Yukons and Denalis by the shedload.

    And, yes, it is a case of the emperor’s new clothes, but you’ve got to at least admire GM for getting away with it.

    The Chevrolet Traverse isn’t setting any new supersized ground – it’s actually a hair smaller than the previous version that’s been around since 2009.

    There exists no Chevrolet Acadian, but there is a GMC Acadia which is a platform twin to the Traverse. It’s a segment above the Terrain.

    1. Hi: Thanks for your commnt and information.
      I’ll amend it a little later.
      From here GMC and Chevy look similar but I’ll scan their homepages and look closer.

  2. I thought everyone knew the difference between Chev and GMC trucks, he said tongue-in-cheek. GMC is Professional Grade, so there. You can be a serious punter and eschew the drab Chev workaday aura by going Professional. Yes the TV ads appeal to mouth-breathers. And the uglier grille cements it.

    The Qashqai, made in Japan and exported to the US, is NOT the Rogue, but the Rogue “Sport”. The newish Rogue has been around, built in Tennessee, since at least the time of the latest Qashqai’s intro to the UK market. They are out of capacity to make more, so it’s import time. Both are the same basic car, the Rogue with a longer wheelbase and 10 inches of added length. You need pictures of the Rogue and Qashqai side-by-side to spot the differences. Even the dashboard is the same, reversed. What is not the same is the rotten 2.5l petrol engines Nissan instals in the Rogue, and now an even wimpier 2.0l is to be in the Rogue Sport, both attached to CVTs of dubious merit. Avoid.

    Of course, Nissan trusts Canadians to attempt pronunciation of silly machine-construct names, so the Rogue Sport will be re-re-named Qashqai for us cosmoplitan lot for a spot of one-upmanship over the trumpian Yanks. Still, avoid. Nissans are by no means top of the reliability stakes, but are a major player in the market here due, some say, to their willingness to extend credit to uncreditworthy customers. Bottom of the market stuff. If they make that V-motion 2.0 concept as the Altima, it might look OK, but underneath will still lurk that raspy 2.5l and likely willowy body structure. Nissan is not about advanced tech, but flogging product. The way out ideas they leave to Infiniti, like drive-by-wire, and the new variable compression ratio engine.

    The Kia Stinger? Very derivative of the 2011 Optima in looks, probably has the usual so-so Kia suspension, and is likely to sell as well here as the Cadenza and K900 big cars, i.e. virtually not at all. People want CUVs or pickup trucks, not big cars – their market share is miniscule these days. Speaking of which, I find the new E-Class coupe very blobbishly strange, with Honda Crosstour hips. Arghh! When Honda discontinued that turkey, I thought society was safe, but no.

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