When the 2017 Pacifica was unveiled at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit last year, Chrysler restarted its minivan team’s engine and started down the road toward family-moving domination. The advanced dual-monitor rear-seat entertainment system. The built-in Ridgid vacuum cleaner. The hybrid drivetrain. With the Dodge Caravan crumbling, the Pacifica managed to surge past the competition, and this morning was awarded the North American Utility Vehicle of the Year.
But the auto industry is anything but static, and when one automaker surges forward, you can be sure its peers are close behind. It’s this dynamic that ensures every auto show includes a little bit of excitement; the next best thing is always lurking beneath a nondescript sheet.
This year, the Honda Odyssey was one of those great surprises. We expected Honda to deliver a compelling rebuttal to the Pacifica, and outside of a pure electric or hybrid powertrain, it did just that. The 2018 Odyssey features a 32-horsepower bump from its 3.5-liter V6, resulting in 280—just 7 shy of Chrysler’s Pacifica. More impressive, however, is Honda’s innovative second row. Called Magic Slide, owners will be able to easily reconfigure the middle chairs by pulling a lever and pushing or pulling the seats into the desired position. This means no more squeezing and contorting behind a tilted chair just to pack into the back seat. Just pull a lever, push the seat to the middle position, and walk right in. Once your kids have settled into the third row, you’ll be able to use Honda’s CabinWatch and CabinTalk features to keep an eye on things, and pipe your reprimands through the rear speakers, or your kids’ headphones. In case you ever felt you needed a little more “Big Brother” presence on the school run, Honda just gave it to you.
Opening its conference by thanking jurors and the team behind its Bolt for the 2017 North American Car of the Year award the electric vehicle received that morning, Chevrolet debuted its 2018 Traverse. Much more squared off and tougher looking than the previous version, particularly in the rear, the new Traverse also offers lots more room inside, with seating for 8 adults, best-in-class second-row legroom, and more interior passenger space than the Ford Explorer, Jeep Grand Cherokee, and Nissan Pathfinder. The new Traverse will offer an around-view monitor system, hands-free liftgate, 4G Wi-Fi capability, 5,000 pounds of towing capacity, and a Traction Mode Select feature, and it will get a new standard 3.6-liter V6 with a 9-speed automatic offering 305 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque. A new Flagship trim named the High Country will feature premium leather with suede accents, polished wheels, and standard twin-clutch all-wheel drive, and a new RS version with blacked-out trim and a 2.0-liter turbocharged engine with 255 hp and 295 lb-ft join the lineup to broaden the Traverse’s appeal. It should arrive at dealerships this fall.
Not everyone needs a third row, but few people complain about extra legroom, so Lexus is banking on a resurgence in the full-size executive sedan segment. Considering the recent debuts of the Cadillac CT6, Lincoln Continental, and Genesis G90, it’s not alone. Designed from the ground up for the first time since the original LS 400 arrived in 1990, the all-new 2018 Lexus LS 500 operates on the same global architecture as the exciting LC 500, and despite its coupe-like silhouette, promises to offer great rear-seat head- and legroom. We had expected to see Lexus’s tried and true, naturally aspirated 5.0-liter V8 under the hood of the new LS, but instead, Lexus has developed a new 3.5-liter twin-turbo V6 which, when paired with its 10-speed automatic transmission, can propel the LS from 0 to 60 miles per hour in 4.5 seconds. Featuring 415 horsepower and 442 lb-ft of torque, the new engine is most likely a move toward a quiet, refined ride (which was not the 5.0-liter V8’s calling card).
Also employing a twin turbo V6 is the 2018 Kia Stinger. We first saw the Stinger as a concept back in 2011 at the Frankfurt Motor Show, and while this one doesn’t feature hood-mounted side-view mirrors or suicide doors, it is slated to go on sale late in 2017. The twin-turbo 3.3-liter V6 has been co-opted from the Genesis G90, and its 365 horsepower and 376 lb-ft of torque are managed by an 8-speed automatic transmission—enthusiasts hoping to find a comfortable, sporty alternative to a German sports sedan may be disappointed by the lack of a manual transmission option. Nonetheless, a stiff chassis, Nurburgring testing sessions, and standard rear-wheel drive (all-wheel drive is optional) should make the Stinger a compelling choice.
Last week, we wrote about the upcoming 2018 Toyota Camry and how, despite the ubiquity of the model, we still had high hopes for 2018. Toyota debuted its latest midsize sedan yesterday, showing off a design distinctly removed from the staid, boring attitude so often associated with the outgoing Camry. The sharp new look relies heavily on a two-piece grille and a lower outline. Under the hood, Toyota is offering a new 3.5-liter V6 and a 2.5-liter inline 4-cylinder, both paired to an 8-speed automatic transmission, and a hybrid powertrain that works with a CVT. Regardless of your choice, all are designed to improve fuel economy. Even with the V6, the built-in-America Camry isn’t exactly a sports sedan, but thanks to its new style, some onlookers may confuse it for one.
Until now, loyal Nissan fans hoping for a compact crossover have always had to accept the off-beat, polarizing face of the Nissan Juke. As the segment explodes with popularity, Nissan has brought the Qashqai crossover across the Atlantic to sate the desires of countless Americans eager for moderate ride height and cargo space, but who also don’t want to struggle with parallel parking in tight city spots. Suspecting American shoppers wouldn’t flock en masse to a vehicle named “Qashqai,” the marketing pros at Nissan rebadged their little crossover the Rogue Sport—probably a good idea, considering the regular-size Rogue and Rogue Hybrid just took Nissan’s #1 sales slot from the Altima. Like most Nissans, the Rogue Sport utilizes a CVT to deliver the best possible fuel economy from its 141-horsepower, 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine. Pricing hasn’t been announced, but considering the market, you can expect figures in the low $20,000-range.
Volkswagen presented multiple vehicles, starting with the new long-wheelbase 2018 Tiguan. Longer by 10.7 inches, the new Tiguan offers 57% more cargo room than the 2017 version, as well as a third row of seats standard in some trims and optional across the lineup. Volkswagen wants to compete more aggressively with American crossovers price-wise, and the long-wheelbase Tiguan should get a starting price very near $30,000. Next was the new Atlas R-Line, featuring an appearance package with distinct bumpers, wheels, and side skirts, as well as a rear diffuser and badging. Finally the I.D. Buzz minibus concept arrived, a thorough update of VW’s classic hippie hauler featuring an electric powertrain with a 270-mile range, a fully autonomous “I.D. Pilot” driving mode, all-wheel drive, wireless charging, and seating for 8. Volkswagen says advanced augmented reality and “intuitive” voice control will offer a completely new user experience. We look forward to learning more.
Infiniti presented its QX50 midsize premium concept, a refinement of the QX Sport concept that debuted at last year’s Beijing Auto Show, as a “driver-centric, passenger-minded” vehicle. The QX50 looks great, with a muscular, aggressive stance that hints at its performance and a new look for the taillights that will show up across the Infiniti lineup over time, all part of Infiniti’s “Powerful Elegance” design language. The QX50’s interior features a three-tone color scheme, open-pore ash, and leather that has been “dot-quilted” using a new process Infiniti hopes to patent, as well as a customizable touchscreen display on the dashboard. And the QX50 may end up using Infiniti’s Variable Compression Turbo engine, a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder expected to debut in 2018. This new engine can adjust its compression ratio in response to changing demands and is expected to return 27% better fuel efficiency than V6 engines with comparable power.
A live jazz band and the EQ concept van from CES we mentioned Friday opened Mercedes-Benz’s multi-part press conference. Then the chairman of Daimler AG and head of Mercedes-Benz Cars joined them on stage and noted the recent revival of Motor City and electric vehicles. MB wants to play a team game with EVs, having partnered with BMW, Ford, and Volkswagen on a high-performance charging network for Europe. Next on the platform was the debuting Mercedes-AMG GLA 45, a 381-hp compact premium crossover that gets from 0 to 60 in less than 4.5 seconds. A quick AMG film then introduced the new AMG GT S and AMG GT C Edition 50. The GT C Coupe will use AMG’s 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8, delivering 550 hp and 502 lb-ft, and will get launched as a special edition of 50 coupes and 50 roadsters in a matte gray finish. Last to the stage was the new E-Class Coupe, which will use a 3.0-liter twin-turbo V6 putting out 329 hp and 354 lb-ft of torque.
BMW gave the most varied press conference, presenting a new motorcycle, a steering wheel it designed for the Oracle America’s Cup boat, a 12-cylinder M Performance 7 Series, and the new X2 crossover due next year as well as its debuting new 5 Series. That new 5 Series will be larger but lighter than the current version, having lost about 200 pounds, and the lineup will get more varied. The 530i will get a 248-hp turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder, and the 540i will use a 335-hp 3.0-liter inline six. The M550i xDrive will be the hottest version, featuring a 456-hp 4.4-liter twin-turbo V8 that can get the car to 60 mph in less than 4 seconds. That hot version won’t hit dealerships until Spring, but will arrive alongside a new 530e iPerformance plug-in hybrid that will take 6.1 seconds to reach 60. Prices should range from about $51 to $73K. We’re confident the new versions will boost 5 Series sales and look forward to getting behind the wheel.
Which of the cars above would you be most likely to test-drive?
-Matt Smith and Steve Halloran
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