Detroit has famously been through some tough times, but every January, when the weather is at its very worst, the Motor City is at its very best as Detroit hosts the annual North American International Auto Show. This year was even hotter than usual, as debutants from around the globe, including the all-new Mercedes-Benz E-Class, Audi Allroad wagon, Infiniti G60 Coupe, Volvo S90 sedan, and BMW M2, to name a few, had Cobo Hall brimming with excitement. But at the end of the media day frenzy, the five cars we’ve detailed below stood out as the best of the best. Read on to see what kept us all hot and bothered on the show floor, despite the cold weather outside.
Buick Avista Concept — The Show-Stopper
Besides having pretty much the gayest name on the show floor, the Buick Avista — say it with me: “a-VEE-sta!” — also has the best ass. And the best face. And the best body. In short, it’s my pick for Best In Show. In an age where no one can keep a secret, the Avista was a rare auto show surprise, rolling onstage in front of a slack-jawed crowd, instantly prompting us all to rethink what Buick is, or more to the point, what Buick could be.
The low-slung sports coupe features sultry headlamps, a mesh grille (versus Buick’s usual waterfall style) and a muscular body with pillar-less windows. It is clean and sculptural, looking all but ready for production. The good news is that GM has a platform and powertrains (those of the Chevrolet Camaro/Cadillac ATS) that the Avista could use, should it get the green light. The bad news is that GM has stated no intentions of actually building it.
What do you think? Should Buick go there? I think it should. I say let’s start barraging GM and Buick with letters and tweets post haste.
2017 Lincoln Continental — The Not-Ugly American
After years of producing disappointingly bland, rebadged Fords, Lincoln is stepping up its game, resurrecting the vaunted Continental name for its sleek new flagship. Seen here in full production form, the new Continental shares some of its mechanical bits and powertrains with the Ford Fusion, but manages to look nothing like any Ford in the lineup. Nifty styling bits include a mesh grille that incorporates the Lincoln logo, a wide, low rear end, available LED headlamps and chrome door handles that are cleverly integrated into the lower window trim.
The interior is as nostalgic as it is modern, with puffy seats that look like they came out of a Continental Mark IV but actually feature 30-way adjustability, heating, cooling and in back, massage. Wood and metal and glove-soft leather cover everything you can touch.
Inside and out, the Continental stands in stark contrast to the sleek German sedans that dominate the luxury market; rather, the Connie presents luxury in a proud, old-school American style. Pricing will be announced closer to the car’s market introduction this fall, but we expect it to straddle the $50K mark.
Little cars can be a big deal, especially in this eco-conscious age. And little cars can’t get any bigger deals than this one, the electric Bolt. No, not the Volt—that’s Chevy’s plug-in hybrid—but the Bolt, a little five-door hatchback with futuristic styling and a bespoke platform made especially for electric car purposes. Technically introduced a week before at CES, the production model made its mainstream debut in Detroit, not far from where it will actually be built.
We look forward to seeing how well the Bolt drives in coming months, but what makes the Bolt most significant is how far it drives: 200+ miles on a single charge, making it the furthest traveling electric car this side of the pricey Tesla. indeed, that kind of range could make loathsome “range anxiety” a thing of the past for EV consumers with access to a plug at least once every two or three nights. It’ll be affordable, too, at just $30,000, after the $7,500 federal tax rebate. Residents of some states may even be able to pay even less. No other electric car currently offers so much range for so little money, making the Bolt one very big deal in one small package.
Acura Precision Concept — The Good Omen
While the Acura Precision Concept is strictly a concept car, it’s a sign that Acura’s design department is fully caffeinated and poised to add some real pizzazz to its current line of milquetoast sedans and SUVs. Stem to stern, inside and out, it contains features we’re looking forward to seeing on Acura’s next generation production cars.
“Low and wide” are words I heard over and over when I interviewed its lead exterior designer, Michelle Christensen, who said the car’s dramatic proportions are what she will fight for hardest as Acura takes its future sedans and SUVs in a new styling direction. Also among the car’s niftiest aspects bound to see the light of day are the “diamond pentagon” grille and striking “contrast surfacing” on the body.
Interior features we’re likely to see more of include the trick, center-mounted gauge screen, which motors up near the base of the windshield, complimented by a smaller screen behind the steering wheel. Also being considered are the car’s dual-purpose seating, with front passengers sit on sporty bucket-style seats, while rear seaters kick it on lounge-like chairs, as well as its racecar-like rectangular steering wheel.
2017 Lexus LC500 —Luscious, Luxurious Lexus
If Lexus built an Aston Martin, this is what it would look like. Correction: this is what it will look like. That’s right, the LC500 is a real car, even though it looks as wild as any concept car on the Detroit show floor.
The LC500 is technically a 2+2, meaning it seats two people plus two little dogs, and it features a lot of carbon fiber in the structure to keep weight down. A big, 467-hp V-8 mated to a 10-speed, paddle-shifted automatic transmission resides under its long, flat hood, while turbocharged and hybrid versions possible in the future.
Fast as it will certainly be, the LC500 is absolutely seductive sitting still, with its dramatic proportions, three-dimensional “spindle” grille, and truly incredible headlamp and taillamp assembles. The interior doesn’t break quite as much design ground, but it nonetheless is convincingly posh for a six-figure ride, and the passenger grab handle integrated into the console will surely come in handy should the driver explore the outer reaches the car’s handling envelope. Want one? You’re gonna have to wait, but not too long: the LC500 is headed to a Lexus dealership near you exactly as you see it in 2017 at a price expected to approach $100K.
Follow Steve on Twitter at @silerroad.