We waited a very long time for this…the 2018 edition of the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.
Being the most important show in terms of the North American automotive market, you expect the big reveals to happen, the big news to be made, and the big awards to be given out. While all of this true this year, it has been just a fraction of the star power seen this week in the last few years.
You could argue either way, however. But there seems to be a huge level of significance in terms of the debuts at Cobo Center that has made this show more exciting – even from afar.
Perhaps I am waxing too poetic here. Here are my headlines from Detroit – albeit observed from afar.
2019 FORD RANGER: No matter whether you see the re-introduction of Ford's smaller pickup as too late or right on time, it trumpets the return of this pickup into the lineup. The Ranger shares a lot with its global namesake that is very popular elsewhere, the North American version is designed to compete head-on with General Motors (Chevrolet Colorado/GMC Canyon), Toyota (Tacoma), and Nissan (Frontier). Instead of the diesels seen elsewhere, the Ranger comes with a 2.3-liter EcoBoost (read: turbocharged) four-cylinder engine and the ten-speed automatic transmission. Obviously, there will be no lower powered entry-level engine, no V6, and no diesel. Still, it looks interesting enough to create some chaos in the midsized pickup segment.
2019 CHEVROLET SILVERADO: The battle against the F-150 just turned a major corner. GM's answer is simple: sleeker design while maintaining key design points, a weight loss of up to 450 pounds thanks to the use of "mixed materials," and the addition of a half-ton diesel engine. The latter point is the most intriguing, as the new Duramax in-line six-cylinder diesel goes up against the newly announced F-150's V6 Power Stroke and Ram's EcoDiesel. The story continues with an emphasis on "work" capabilities across the lineup – across eight trim levels. The real numbers are yet to come, but one expects a bigger dogfight with Ford, even with the introduction of the other new half-ton pickup…
2019 RAM 1500: Now it gets more interesting. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles also claim a weight loss up to 225 pounds over the previous model, along with the introduction of a mild hybrid system known as eTorque. The weight loss is due to the use of aluminum components – not just on the cab and box, but underneath it. The eTorque appears to replace the EcoDiesel, because of the emissions callout on it. This mild hybrid system will be attached to the Pentastar V6 and the HEMI V8. The design is evolutionary, but it now signifies a brand-focused strategy emphasizing Ram away from its Dodge roots. One step inside reveals a monster 12-inch customizable center stack touchscreen with UConnect 4 and other operations. Things just got more interesting in the truck business across the Big Three for the coming year.
2019 VOLKSWAGEN JETTA: It is all change at Volkswagen. First of all, the Jetta moves onto the MQB platform that underpins the MkVII Golf. Secondly, new design elements appear for more three-dimensional textures that we have been craving for from a compact Volkswagen. The enlarged grille and the deep textures along the side and rear give the Jetta a distinctive, more upmarket look and feel outside – and in. The interior has been overhauled offering better materials – something that was lacking in the now-outgoing model. Initially, the 1.4-liter TSI turbocharged engine will be available on the new Jetta. Alongside the six-speed manual, an eight-speed Tiptronic automatic will be offered. If Volkswagen needed a boost for its current sales leader – this should do the trick.
2019 KIA FORTE: Speaking of new compact-class cars, we thought the Stinger would just be a one-off design amid the mainstream of Kia's offerings. Actually, no. The influence of the Stinger is about to be seen down the lineup – starting with the new Forte compact sedan. The design is sleeker, more firmed up – just like the Stinger. The interior is also focused on a cleaner instrument panel and the new-style tablet-like infotainment screen. One change that may have to be looked at is the switch to a CVT as connected to a revamped four-cylinder engine. One thing to note is that there are no turbos to be found on the new Forte – that we know of. While a redesign was due on Kia's compact, the question is how will customers respond to these changes – right down to the CVT.
2019 TOYOTA AVALON: Following up on the "sexy" Camry, Toyota held nothing back on their big sedan. But, is it as sexy as the Camry? Let's say that Toyota is pushing the envelope in design, especially in a segment that has seen a massive reduction in sales over the past few years. If anything could save this segment – the looks of the 2019 Avalon could possibly do that. Equally, intriguing is the interior. Inside is a massive center stack that has been updated with an Entune 3 core for infotainment and a more modern upmarket feel. Power remains with a choice of a V6 – now improved with an eight-speed automatic transmission – and the Hybrid system. Just as we thought the big car was dead, Toyota moved the bar further to keep it alive.
2019 HYUNDAI VELOSTER: This coupe has been one of the most innovative cars available today – using three side doors and a hatchback to offer additional versatility while providing a combination of engines for either efficiency or performance. The Veloster was due, and an evolutionary design arrived with the latest of the brand's design elements infused in a familiar format. There is a bit of a twist to the story. This will also become the first North American offering of the "N" performance sub-brand. While the Turbo and R-Spec roll with a 201-horsepower 1.6-liter boosted mill, the N swings the fences with a 275-horsepower 2.0-liter turbocharged engine, connected to a six-speed manual transmission. If you ask me, the Veloster N is a tempting proposition for the sports compact crowd.
2019 ACURA RDX PROTOTYPE: The turbocharged four-cylinder engine is just a start of a resurrection of Acura's SUV portfolio. The second-generation RDX raised the brand's profile by executing well. However, the class got really competitive with superior products that outclassed the Acura. With this prototype, Honda's luxury brand is fighting back. It embodied a distinct style – new details that will separate Acura from all comers. The new front end design is integrated perfectly with a message to its rivals – get out of my way. Now, it matches the specifications of those same rivals with a 2.0-liter turbocharged engine, plus a 10-speed automatic transmission and Acura's own SH-AWD system. Lastly, the interior breaks from everyone else, with a unique push-button transmission pod and a single screen on top of the center stack. This should get Acura back into the game – with authority.