The Agony and the Ecstasy: Detroit Auto Show 2016

First, the agony: average temperature during my stay in Detroit was 18 degrees. My face is chapped from the cold, and my legs ache from walking/standing for 4-5 hours straight two days in a row.

Boo hoo.

Now, the ecstasy: Detroit Auto Show, baby! I just spent Monday and Tuesday treating the Detroit Auto Show (or, to use its official title, the North American International Auto Show or NAIAS) as my own personal playground. I formed opinions, took 900 photos, and walked what felt like 900 miles. I have enough material for multiple posts, but let’s keep this one simple and stick to the main takeaways.

Best in Show: Buick Avista concept

Based just on the number of onlookers and the volume of excited murmering at the Buick stand, the Avista sports car concept was the talk of the show. Based on the car itself, those onlookers were right.

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When was the last time you heard the words “beautiful,” “sporty,” and “Buick” in the same sentence? I have certainly never used them together before…but I am now. The Avista is beautiful and sporty, and I wish this car was more than a concept.

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Please, Buick. Make the Avista happen. At the very least, take these design cues and run with them.

Best Concept Car Made Reality – Lexus LC500

We know it can be done. Because Lexus is doing it.

Back at the 2012 show (my first appearance), Lexus showed a wacked-out concept called the LF-LC. Here are some of my photos from the 2012 show:

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Four years later, meet the RC500, a car that is going into production in 2017.

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Notice anything familiar?

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Sexy beast, isn’t it? Cannot WAIT to see this on the road.

Best Concept That Wasn’t a Buick: Acura Precision Concept

It’s a bit of a backhanded compliment to say that the Acura Precision Concept made Acura’s regular lineup look anemic. But I do mean it as a compliment. Acura makes solid, tasteful, well-executed, uninteresting cars. Not since the TL of the early 2000s has an Acura design felt fresh or exciting.

Enter the Precision Concept.

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Well, hello there! Suddenly Acura seems to be getting its design mojo back. Its entire stand, even the forthcoming NSX, was boring (Great Caesar’s ghost, stop showing the NSX and start selling it! It was exciting as a 2012 concept! It is not now!), but the Precision Concept was a breath of fresh air that drew crowds. Acura says it previews design cues to come. Hallelujah.

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Best Use of a Previously Helicoptered Vehicle – Cadillac XT5

You may recall my previous annoyance at Cadillac for doing stupid publicity stunts like helicoptering an XT5 (the SRX replacement) across Manhattan. Well, it eventually made it to Detroit. See, look:

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Whatever.

Oh, and get this. That Cadillac crest? The one that used to have the wreath on it? It looks like a PRINTOUT.

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It’s just…I can’t even…WHAT.

Best Stand for Making You Feel Like You’re in an Appliance Store: Toyota

It never fails. The Mercedes-Benz stand is electric. The Ford stand is dynamic. BMW has kinetic visuals. Then you wander into Toyota’s corner and all the electricity is sucked out of the room. There’s no excitement, nothing visceral about the presentation. It’s rows of cars, but no soul.

Although I did like this mechanical freakshow:

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Three-seater configuration.

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Best Use of Lighting That Didn’t Create Bad Photos: Chevrolet

Seriously, the designers of these auto show displays must hate photographers. Most of the lighting just sucks. Or they have these flashy electronic displays that you have to wait through to get one decent shot (Fiat Chrysler, I’m looking at you). I enjoyed a blessed reprieve at the Chevy stand, where I was able to photograph the good-looking Cruze hatchback and electric Bolt sans frustration.

Or maybe it was that they had vivid colors. Whatever. It worked.

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Very cool little hatch.

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Good job, Chevy.

Best Color: Red

Kudos to the manufacturers for actually bringing color to the show (with boring silver Porsche as a notable, disappointing exception). Lovely shades of red were popping everywhere. As one partial to red cars, this made me happy. Extra kudos to Mazda for using red as its default color. And Audi sparkled with its S models.

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Best Salvage of a Prior Catastrophe: Honda Civic

I’m not the only one who thought Honda ruined everything that was good about the Civic with the last generation car. It was dumpy, lumpy, and all wrong.

It’s okay, though. They fixed it.

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Best Squandering of Monster Revenue on Crappy Materials: Subaru

Dear Subaru, you are breaking sales records and raking in the dough. You can afford to upgrade that crappy, lumpy, ugly carpet. I loved your Impreza Sedan Concept, but I hated surfing the squishy carpet to get to it. Cheap, cheap, cheap.

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But do produce the Impreza sedan as is! Sharp!

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Best Disaster: Kia A1A Optima Concept

This was a joke, right?

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SO fugly. I cried in my mind.

Best Meh Reinterpretation of a Classic – Fiat 124 Spider

I want to like the 2017 Fiat 124 Spider. I really do. The original is a classic and, as a two-time Mini owner, I obviously support the idea that a classic can be reimagined as a great modern car.

I’m not feeling it on this one, though.

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The new 124 Spider is essentially a rebadged Mazda MX-5 Miata, which is no bad thing. In fact, I can’t think of a better foundation. And I like the clean simplicity of the interior.

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But the exterior design looks cheap to me. Something about it feels insubstantial.

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I’m open to changing my mind. I want Fiat to succeed, and I want to like the 124 Spider. I’m just not feeling it yet.

Best Heart Rate Increaser: Mercedes-Benz C-Class coupe with matte paint

THIS. Oh, THIS.

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Just exquisite.

 

Believe it or not, there is so much more to tell you about! But here endeth Dispatch 1. Because it’s 10 p.m. And I’ve been up since 2:45 a.m.

Good night, race fans!

 

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