A roundup of new reveals from the auto shows in Detroit and Los Angeles
March 29, 2017
by Howard J Elmer
From the February 2017 print edition
The North American International Auto Show, held in Detroit every January, is the most important auto show on this continent. For 2017, just about every manufacturer spoke of EVs and autonomous driving, with the new buzz-phrase “zero-emissions, zero-fatalities” echoing throughout Cobo Hall. Actual hardware pertaining to this utopian vision was thin on the ground, however, as automakers continue to cater to North America’s insatiable appetite for crossovers and SUVs.
Mercedes’ sexy flagship sports car gets a new iteration for 2018 that draws much from the track-ready top-dog GT R, yet is slightly toned down for road duty. Stress “slightly”. The GT C is available in both coupe and roadster form, with its rear wheels powered by a version of AMG’s 4.0L twin-turbo V8 making a fearsome 550 hp and 502lb-ft. It gets the GT R’s rear wheel steering, wide rear haunches and bigger wheels. Up front we see the new toothy grill that adorns all 2018 AMG GTs.
2018 Honda Odyssey
The minivan market might be relatively small, but it is still viable, and Honda counters the ritzy Chrysler Pacifica with an all-new version of its perennial Odyssey. The van’s elemental design cues remain but inside it’s bristling with new domestic-oriented technologies, like an interior infrared
CabinWatch camera that keeps an eye on the cheap seats, showing a wide angle image of the kids in back on the central screen. Pinch functions allows zooming in on little Lucy, and you can talk to her through the second and third row speakers, and wireless headphones via CabinTalk. Big Mother is watching. Other new technologies include a 10-speed transmission and multi-configurable MagicSlide second row seats.
2018 Toyota Camry
Heading for dealerships this summer, the all-new Toyota Camry family sedan kicks frumpy to the curb, showing complex and sharply chiseled bodywork. Built on the Toyota New Global Architecture (TNGA) platform that here features multi-link rear suspension, both the hood and roof are lower, and passengers sit lower in the cabin. Dash design is more sweeping, and new contrasting interior hues should brighten things up. A revised 2.5L four is standard, 3.5L V6 power is optional, and both engines pair with a new eight-speed auto. Toyota promises a quantum leap in driving enjoyment. Could it be that “Camry” is no longer synonymous with “boring”?
2017 Nissan Qashqai
Slotting in between the Nissan Juke and Rogue, the compact Qashqai (cash-kye) crossover made its North American debut here. The Qashqai (to be called Rogue Sport in the US) comes from Europe
with serious credentials—it’s been the runaway segment leader there for years. Built on a slightly shortened Rogue platform, power comes from a 2.0L four-cylinder making 141 horsepower and 147lb-ft of torque at 4400 rpm. Front-wheel drive and a six-speed manual transmission are standard although the majority of Canadian buyers will spec all-wheel-drive and the Xtronic CVT (continuously variable transmission). Look for it in the spring.
Lexus LS 500
The fifth-generation of Lexus’s flagship luxury sedan made its debut here and it checks all the boxes,
starting with some striking bodywork. Power comes from a new 415hp twin-turbo V6 that out-
muscles the old V8, and it is hooked to a ten-speed auto. Inside, the cabin shows an intriguing swoopy design language, awash in the finest woods and leathers. As would be expected, technology abounds.
Kia Stinger GT
Out of left field comes a drop-dead gorgeous rear-drive sedan from Kia that puts the German crop squarely in its sights. Not to mention Jaguar and Alfa Romeo. It
is legit? Sure looks it, and we’d expect nothing less from the hard-charging South Koreans. The juiciest version runs with a 3.3L twin turbo V6 making 365 hp, and all-wheel-drive is optional.
LA Auto Show
Reflecting the changing nature of consumer needs and its impact on the industry, the Los Angeles Auto Show is now known as “Automobility LA”. Although it’s always been a valuable platform for introducing the latest ideas and technology, the recent focus has been on car-sharing programs and autonomous vehicles in response to the increasing numbers of big city dwellers looking for alternatives to ownership. Buyers are shifting from passenger cars to crossover—the fastest growing segment in the automotive market—with high expectations of versatility, connectivity and the latest safety technology. We’ve highlighted just a few of these in the following reviews.
GM Bolt EV
Named “Green Car of the Year” at the LA auto show, GM’s Bolt EV is the first of its kind to deliver on
all three essential EV criteria: a “normal” driving experience, no range anxiety, coming in under $40,000. Although it resembles a taller Chevrolet Cruze Hatchback, GM insists the all-electric Bolt is a crossover. Whichever way you look at it, the Bolt EV is a game changer. Like its unremarkable appearance, driving the Bolt EV is a pretty mainstream experience—there’s nothing overtly “weird” about this comfortable little car. Its 383km range virtually eliminates range anxiety while emitting not a single molecule of noxious gas. Best of all, when you factor in Canadian rebates up to $14,000, the Bolt can be had for just over $30,000.
Ford’s Escape has consistently topped the compact CUV sales charts with nearly 48,000 sold here
last year. But the debut of the EcoSport marks Ford’s first venture into the sub-compact crossover market. Thanks to urban density and empty nesters, tiny crossovers are increasing in popularity and automakers are vying for shares of this lucrative pie. Built on the same B-platform underpinning the Fiesta, the EcoSport will arrive here some time in 2018 to compete with Toyota’s new CH-R, the Honda HR-V and Mazda CX-3.
Despite its nomenclature standing for “Coupe High Rider” the CH-R is a low riding, four-door, five-
passenger SUV. Obviously intended for the urban jungle, rather than off-road track, this contradictory little crossover is available only with front-wheel drive. Powered by Toyota’s 144hp. 2.0L four-cylinder matched to a continuously variable transmission, the CH-R boasts hatchback styling, Nurburgring-tested, sporty handling and a host of safety and connectivity features. The 2018 CH-R is scheduled to arrive in Canada early next year.
Subaru Viziv-7 Concept
At the other end of the crossover spectrum aree the gargantuan, 3-row gas-guzzlers able to
accommodate up to seven passengers. The Viziv 7 isn’t Subaru’s first foray into the full-size SUV segment—that was the ill-fated Tribeca that was discontinued in January 2014 after lacklustre sales. Making its world debut at the LA show, the Viziv 7 gives Subaru the broad market coverage to sway those who appreciate the utility and ruggedness of their wagons but are perhaps looking for a bit more space. That shouldn’t be a problem—the Viziv 7 is bigger than the new VW Atlas, Nissan Pathfinder, or Honda Pilot, and the same size as the Chevy Tahoe.
Kia Soul Turbo
Debuting at the LA auto show, the latest addition to the Kia Soul lineup comes with a turbo-charged
engine. Dubbed the Soul Exclaim, the new edition boasts a 1.6L turbo four cylinder producing 201hp and 195lb feet of torque mated to a 7-speed dual clutch transmission. It’s the same driveline found in the Hyundai Veloster Turbo—which gives it a 40 horsepower advantage over the Soul’s naturally aspirated 2.0 litre four. As a top-spec trim, the Soul Exclaim comes with exclusive sport suspension, larger disc brakes, a flat-bottomed leather wrapped steering wheel and 18-inch wheels.
Nissan Versa Note
Nissan’s subcompact Versa Note hatchback made its 2017 debut in LA with some fresh updates.
Tying it in with the rest of Nissan’s lineup, the Versa Note now gets the familial “V-Motion” grille, a new side character line, redesigned head and tail lamps and a new chin spoiler. Aerodynamics have been improved for a 0.29 coefficient of drag. Power is still produced via the 109 hp, 1.6L four-cylinder engine matched to a continuously variable transmission retuned for more responsiveness. The cabin gets bigger cupholders, another 12 volt outlet, and a host of technology standard on all but the base model, including Navigation, satellite radio, push button start, hands-free texting, Around View Monitor, Bluetooth and heated front seats. Two new paint colours join the Versa Note’s Palette: Deep Blue Pearl and Monarch Orange. Pricing starts at $14,498.