As auto shows go, none is more important than the annual gathering in Detroit.
The city famous as home to the American auto industry is where the world looks first for trends in auto design and innovation — and next week’s gathering will be no exception.
While the auto industry is awash in SUVs, reflecting a shift to the boxy vehicles by drivers, the North American International Auto Show in Detroit is shaping up as fairly balanced between crossovers, cars and pickups.
The show is set against a backdrop of a continuing boom in auto sales. The tally dropped slightly in 2017 compared with 2016, but still surpassed the 17-million mark, according to Autodata.
Automakers are flush with profits, and they can reinvest the money to enhance cars’ looks, gadgets, engines and fuel economy. Plus, with a flood of models in the market, automakers are anxious to stand out.
While many have announced what models they will unveil in Detroit, most have yet to reveal them. In some cases, they’ve released tantalizing “teaser” photos.
So from it all, here are some of the major introductions expected next week in the three categories — cars, pickups and SUVs.
Cars get more daring
Infiniti Q Inspiration. Nissan’s luxury brand says it is ditching traditional car design with this one. It will be yet another four-door sedan that has the arched roof of a coupe, but Infiniti says it will put a premium interior space with a long, stretched-out cabin.
BMW i8 convertible. BMW’s i8 is a sports car for luxury buyers who also want to be viewed as environmentally conscious. Now the plug-in hybrid is going to have a droptop version.
Volkswagen Jetta. Volkswagen sold more than 115,000 Jettas last year, Autodata says, and VW is sure to want to get this compact car right. VW’s clean Euro styling could once again hold the upper hand for Jetta, which in the past has excelled with a youthful following.
Toyota Avalon. Cars, in general, haven’t been as hot as SUVs, and the full-size segment has been especially tepid, so Toyota can afford to take some risks with the looks of the new Avalon. For the moment, it’s only showing a headlight design, but it’s enough to tantalize.
Honda Insight Prototype. Honda’s original Insight was one of the first hybrid cars to go on sale in the U.S. almost decades ago at a time when car buyers, and Detroit, didn’t care. Now, a new Insight will “offer premium style and high fuel efficiency in a sophisticated and spacious five-passenger sedan,” the Japanese automaker says. It could mark another attempt by Honda to make inroads against Toyota’s Prius, which has dominated the hybrid category.
SUVs that aim to stand out
BMW X2. Another attempt to make SUVs look sexy. The X2 has a “distinctive exterior design that combines the fast-moving body language and low-slung proportions of a coupe.” It will be powered by a peppy, turbocharged four-cylinder engine that can go from zero to 60 miles per hour in 6.3 seconds.
Acura RDX. Honda’s luxury brand is promising that the next version of the RDX will be “low, wide and sleek.” It will incorporate the latest exterior and cabin design in the model for its third generation.
Toyota FT-4X. So far, this is the most eye-catching SUV concept yet. Toyota showed it last spring at the New York Auto Show. It’s aimed at Millennials with rugged looks akin to the discontinued FJ Cruiser.
Jeep Cherokee. The Cherokee, with its edgy looks, turned into a surprise hit for Fiat Chrysler. Now that it has made its impact on the market, Jeep softens the appearance of the front end with wider headlights that could broaden Cherokee’s appeal.
Lexus LF-1. On the heels of BMW’s new, giant X7 SUV, Lexus is going to move up a size grade as well — with the luxury LF-1. It was designed at Toyota’s Calty design studio in Newport Beach, California. The model will have curtain side airbags that cover all three rows of seats on both sides. It will be powered by a 3.5-liter V-6 engine, pounding out 290 horsepower, with an eight-speed electronically controlled transmission.
Pickup trucks that will turn heads
Chevrolet Silverado. Chevrolet has already shown a couple photos of the pickup it will reveal in Detroit, but has left a lot of questions unanswered. Key among them is what role will materials other than steel play in the new truck. Ford reduced the weight of the rival F-150 with an aluminum body. If Chevy doesn’t use aluminum, will it count entirely on steel, or could carbon fiber or another material play a role in the drive for better fuel economy?
Ram 1500. Fiat Chrysler has the third-best selling pickup in the country, and it’s always been formidable. For its redo, Ram will need to try to keep all the brawn while improving fuel economy, power and tech. It’s not easy considering the deeper pockets of its prime competitors, Ford and GM.