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The North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) has come and gone once more, and the 2016 auto show in Detroit had plenty of new vehicles and show cars that turned spectators’ heads – either towards, or away from the stages.

Here are some of our picks of the show, and a couple of the ‘ergh’ moments.


Matt Campbell: in Detroit. 

Hits of the show:

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Nissan Titan Warrior concept: There’s no better way to tug at the heartstrings of US automotive consumers than with a big pick-up truck, and the Nissan Titan Warrior is exactly that.

Massive. It has all the right styling cues, including big all-terrain tyres, lifted suspension and a grille that bugs would pre-emptively die in fear of before impact. My top pick of the show, and a great way to flip the bird at the big three (GM, Ford, Ram) that dominate the segment.

acura_precision_front_02

Acura Precision concept: Wow. Acura made a statement at the Detroit show with the stunning, sharply styled Precision concept. The swoopy four-door coupe model from Honda’s luxury arm is said to give an impression of what’s to come, with that signature grille likely to flow on to production models soon.

If Acura can mimic the increase in sales at Lexus following the rollout  of the polarising spindle grille, Acura – and its fans – may finally have a reason to smile.

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Lexus LC500: It looks like a concept car. There’s probably no bigger compliment you can give to a car designer, and that was exactly the point of the new LC500 coupe that showed more than a hint of its precursor, the LF-LC.

With the 5.0-litre V8 from the RC F and a new 10-speed automatic gearbox, it should be a good thing to drive, and the interior of the car looks more cohesive as well. It looks a lot better in the metal than these photos suggest, too.

Surprise of the show:

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Honda Ridgeline: Typically Honda – this is a clever truck with strong storage highlights such as the handy tray trunk, which uses the space rear of the diff as a kind of lockable boot. There’s also a dual-opening tailgate, which can drop down or open sideways, a la the old Holdens of the 1970s.

If only it were built in right-hand drive, this thing – with its semi-macho looks and passenger car-like cabin could sell very well for the Honda brand down under.

Miss of the show:

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Kia Telluride concept: This thing is yuck. Square headlights are hideous, though the boxy exterior body styling is actually quite attractive.

The rear is appalling, and looks like the penman ran out of time.


Mike Costello: in Detroit

Hits of the show:

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Two surprising concepts from Buick and Acura: Who the hell would have predicted that GM’s Buick division (better known for re-badging Opels and doing well in China) and Honda’s luxury arm Acura (known principally for sponsoring Seinfeld’s cars and coffee web series) would produce the two sexiest bits of metal this side of Maranello?

Ok, Buick has a history of nice concepts. Namely the Avenir and Riviera… but still. The Avista coupe is even more stunning. Gorgeous. Beyond parallel at what was a strong show. I ran into GM’s global design boss Ed Welburn, and he looked beyond excited and proud of the team. As he should be.

Meanwhile the Acura Precision Concept has sedan proportions to die for. Not to all tastes, but very much to mine. If elements of these two trickle into future road cars, the world will be a better place.

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Chrysler Pacifica: OK, I actually wanted to put in the Lexus coupe, but Matt beat me to it. Chrysler invented the ‘minivan’ and it’s sold 14 million of them since the mid-80s. Despite the SUV boom, it has stuck to its guns. As a FCA exec said to me, the minivan is its calling card, just like Ford’s is the F-150.

The Pacifica replaces the Town and Country, which was called Grand Voyager in Australia. I’m in favour of killing off triple-barrel car names. I’m also in favour of this car’s daring design – it’s the best-looking car of its type since the old-gen Honda Odyssey. And the PHEV is genuinely high-tech, which isn’t what you expect from Chrysler, is it? Shame it won’t come to Australia. #RHDproblems.

Surprise of the show:

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VLF Force 1: So many options… Infiniti actually nailed the Q60. Audi made hydrogen sexy. VW revealed a Tiguan concept with freakin’ mud-plugging tyres. But the winner is the weirdo, all-American supercar called Force 1, from new brand VLF. Not because it’s inarguably amazing. But more because it doesn’t suck. At all. At least on first impressions.

I interviewed the ‘F’ in ‘VLF’, famous ex-Aston and BMW designer and entrepreneur Henrik Fisker (he of Fisker Karma fame), who was even more ebullient than usual. The Force 1 is basically a V10 Dodge Viper with a new carbonfibre body and other go-fast bits. It’s badass personified. It’s on sale soon. And no, it looks nothing like an Aston Martin

Miss of the show:

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Lincoln Continental: I’m glad the famous Conti is back. I hope Lincoln stages a renaissance a la Cadillac and steals some people away from the Germans. And moreover, I appreciate the retro design.

But to me, the whole thing came across as gaudy and cheap, and a little less schmick than the press pictures purveyed. Not my cup of Joe.


Mike Stevens

Hit of the show:

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Lexus LC 500: This is a hit if only because of how incredibly well Lexus has maintained the spirit – and most of the styling – of its hugely popular LF-LC concept. It’s heavier than I’d expected, and not as quick either, but boy does it look good.

The real kicker here is that – and I choose to believe he was being honest – Toyota boss Akio Toyoda told press in Detroit that they weren’t going to build it at all, but the overwhelmingly positive feedback for the LF-LC inspired him to make it happen.

Miss of the show:

acura_precision_front_01

Acura Precision concept: Never have I been so thankful that we don’t get the Acura brand in Australia. It’s been a dull and uninspired go at luxury for much of its life, but this attempt at shock-and-awe has delivered little of either.

That grille is an awful piece of dopey overkill, the profile is derivative (although I accept the power of design trends and market forces) and the character lines will have Lexus lawyers on the phone. I suspect the interior may also have been lifted from the set of an old Star Trek DS9 episode, when the ’90s thought it knew what the future looked like. Try again.


James Ward

Hits of the show:

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The return of the coupe: Coupes are back in a big way. Beautiful designs that shun the ‘practicality first’ position of SUVs.

The Lexus and Buick, in particular, look ready to hit the showroom.

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E-Class technology: Benz putting their leading tech into the E-Class. For so long, the ground breaking goodies have been launched in the S-Class and then filtered down.

To use the more affordable E-Class platform to showcase some amazing technology is fantastic for buyers.

Miss of the show:

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Kia Telluride: Looks like a Volvo XC90 that didn’t make it past the draft stage.

Cool doors and interior, but the green/bronze paint didn’t do it any favours.


Anthony Crawford

Hit of the show:

lexus_lc500_detroit_06

Lexus LC 500: the star of the show has simply got to be the Lexus LC 500 – because its near identical to its concept sibling – the LF-LC. If this car represents the next design phase of Lexus vehicles, then I say, bring it on.

I also like Honda’s Acura Precision Concept for the very same reason – if this car is a glimpse into the future design direction of Honda vehicles, which over the last 10 years have lost all sense of style and innovation, then all the better.

Misses of the show: 

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Kia Telluride: Thankfully, this is a concept that looks to have taken styling cues from the handsome Volvo XC90, but somehow distorted them into a rather unattractive end product.

Lincoln Continental: There’s a bit of Jaguar XE here, but not the good stuff.

For a brand that’s looking to deliver prestige and genuine luxury cachet, this car falls way short of the mark, particularly at the front end, in my opinion.


Derek Fung 

Hits of the show:

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Hooray for beautiful cars: The Lexus LC is only slightly changed from its concept forebears, so we can all forgive its drawn out gestation. The Buick Avista seems to be platform engineering at its best, if it does indeed share its basic framework with the Camaro.

Even the Acura Precision Concept looks okay. The one caveat for both the Buick and the Acura is that both promise so much, but may end up delivering quite a lot less.

Buick certainly hasn’t been averse to churning pretty rear-wheel drive coupe and sedan concepts, including at least two Riviera models and last year’s Holden-penned Avenir. It remains to be seen if the Avista stays as a lovely fantasy, or something that gets to roll down a production line.

Meanwhile, it feels like every few years Acura pushes the reset button, and has done so again here. The Precision Concept certainly isn’t wanting for creases and bulges, but it will be interesting to see how these forms translate from the rear-wheel drive proportions of the concept to the company’s mainstream front- and all-wheel drive vehicles.

Miss of the show: 

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Kia Telluride: Like Pixar, Kia has been on a hot streak in recent years.

While the K900/K9/Quoris is visually a snoozefest, the Telluride might well be the first Kia concept or production vehicle in recent memory that well and truly misses the mark.




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