The North American International Autoshow is a special place. Manufacturers from around the world gather together to see who can produce the concept with the most chrome and wackiest doors. We’ve made it a tradition to visit Detroit and stay at the least sketchy AirBnB we can find, in hopes of getting a glimpse of the changing face of cars.
The sheer size of the show leads to a problem. The first day of NAIAS is loaded with back-to-back press conferences – so much so that you have to prioritize some over others. Our strategy was simple; go over the schedule, decide which manufacturers were most likely to reveal overpowered sports cars, and get seats for them.
That logic led to us being a half hour early to our first stop of the day – Chevrolet. The company has been stroking rumours of a C7 Corvette ZR1 for the past five years, but we knew our chances were slim. Instead, the company reaffirmed the existence of their all-electric Chevy Bolt and introduced their ‘all-new’ Traverse, featuring two new trim packages: the RS and High Country. The former is for buyers who’d like a 255 hp 2.0l turbo engine in their 4700 lb land barge, and the latter for buyers looking for additional chrome and leather. Oh, and the LS3-powered mullet-in-a-suit Chevrolet SS is dead because nobody bought it.
At the risk of getting overly cynical, there was a ton of stuff to get excited about this year. Immediately following Chevrolet, Lexus unveiled the LS; a luxury sedan featuring a twin-turbo V6 good for 415 hp and 442 ft-lbs of torque. Coupled with a 10-speed slushbox, the gigantic sedan will hit 60 mph in 4.5 seconds. That’s useful if you ever feel the need to smoke a Focus RS, while lounging like a king in it’s heated/air conditioned/massaging/will-probably-pack-your-lunch-in-the-morning, 28-way adjustable seats.
As a sort of non-verbal apology for last year’s press conference, Ford had big news for 2017. Notably, the Ford Ranger is coming to North America in 2018 and the Ford Bronco is being resurrected in 2020 as a proper, body-on-frame, off-roading, four door truck. The biggest bombshell? Ford made a commitment to release a fully autonomous vehicle to the public, by 2021. That’s no steering wheel, no brake pedal – nothing. That’s the sort of autonomy that will allow your seven-year-old child to drive himself to school.
The Mercedes-Benz press conference featured a dazzling display of facelifts and 2017 models. Most notable was the new AMG GT C Coupe; a 550 hp middle-child that slots in between the 515 hp GT S and the 577 hp GT R. They also mentioned that they’re developing a 1000 hp hypercar called “Project One”, and it’s aimed straight at the LaFerrari, McLaren P1 and Porsche 918. Eager to not miss out on the fully electric party, Benz brought their Mercedes Concept EQ. Originally unveiled at the Paris Motor Show, it’s an electric SUV that promises a 500 km range and 520ft-lbs of torque, for around $45,000. You can expect to see it on dealer lots in 2019.
Later, somewhere deep within the Toyota section behind closed curtains, we heard a raunchy V8 crackle to life. That, combined with anticipation over the next generation Toyota Supra/BMW Z5, was enough to attract ever journalist to the Toyota press conference a half hour early. We lined up, got seats six rows from the back, and prayed that the word “Supra” would somehow find its way to the lips of Toyota CEO Akio Toyoda. Then, like some sort of cruel joke, two Toyota Camrys rolled onto the stage; the XLE and XSE, described as “sexy” and “sexier” by the bubbly CEO. Surprisingly, the domesticated sedan retains its 2.5l I4 and 3.5l V6 producing a respectable 275 bhp. The Camry hasn’t been a victim of turbos and downsizing – yet. The raunchy V8 we heard? That was the sound of Toyota’s new Camry Nascar which was unveiled later. Needless to say, it made our knees weak.
It’s worth mentioning that there was a tone of, ‘Made in the good ol’ USA’ throughout the presentation. Blame Trump, or whoever else you like, but the company made a major point of mentioning its numerous US plants and pledged to invest another $10 billion in the US over the next five years. Fun fact: the car with the most American parts on the planet isn’t a Mustang, or even a Corvette, but the Toyota Camry.
Somehow missing the ‘USA first!’ memo, Chinese manufacture GAC proudly announced at their first NAIAS press conference, that all of their vehicles are built in China. Some people laughed, most people looked confused and clapped politely. The brand they’ll be bringing to US shores is called “Trumpchi”. Hopefully, that personal reference is enough to keep the president-elect from slapping them with gargantuan border taxes.
Arguably the star of the show was a rear-wheel drive sports sedan from none other than Kia. Available with either a 255 bhp 2.0l turbocharged four-cylinder or a 365 bhp twin-turbo V6, the 2018 Kia Stinger is a feisty middle finger pointed straight at the Germans. No definite pricing yet, but if it starts at around $32,000US like we’ve been told it should, it’ll be proper value for money.