Top Utility Vehicles
Every year during the first few weeks of January, when Canadian winds howl across Lake St. Clair bringing a stinging blanket of ice and snow to Detroit, the North American International Auto Show heats things up inside Cobo Hall with the latest production models and wildest concept cars. Thanks to their looks, utility and capability, SUVs and crossovers continue to be the hottest segment of the auto market, and they appeared in abundance at this year’s show along with a couple of cool vans. Here are the best utility vehicles direct from the floor during press days at the 2017 Detroit Auto Show.
Audi Q8 Concept
Audi debuted the Q8 concept in Detroit — a full-size SUV with a coupelike roofline that indicates what to expect in a new production model from the German automaker in 2018. With design elements from the original Ur-quattro from the 1980s — such as wide, flat C-pillars and flared fenders — the Q8 combines the space of an SUV and the roofline of a coupe while still providing plenty of room for four people and cargo. The newest version of Audi’s octagonal Singleframe grille is one of the largest ever, dominating the front of the Q8 and surrounded by contrasting paint which extends through the headlight surrounds and large lower air intakes. Headlights feature X-shaped blue laser light signatures and digital Matrix laser technology.
Audi Q8 Concept
Audi describes the Q8 concept interior as a luxury lounge for four, with seats covered in a combination of Nappa and nubuck leather with aluminum trim separating the top portion of the seatback. Interior trim includes aluminum and three-dimensional engineering grain. The instrument panel incorporates large touchscreens with a black panel that integrates into the design when turned off. The Audi virtual cockpit adds new features and improved high-resolution displays. A plug-in electric hybrid system combines a 3.0-liter TFSI V6 gas engine with an electric motor for total power output of 303 kW and 516 lb-ft of torque, delivered through quattro permanent all-wheel drive. The Q8 concept rides on air suspension and has ceramic brake discs.
Debuting at the Detroit show, the high-performance SQ5 goes straight to the top of the Q5 lineup. The SQ5 derives power from a turbocharged 3.0 TFSI V6 engine producing 354 horsepower and 369 lb-ft of torque, combined with an 8-speed tiptronic transmission and quattro all-wheel drive. The SQ5 accelerates from zero to 100 km/h (62 mph) in 5.4 seconds. The 5-link suspension includes adaptive damper control integrated into the Audi drive select system, and it can be upgraded with optional adaptive air suspension, a sport differential and dynamic steering. Standard wheels are 20-inch cast aluminum with 255/45R20 tires; five different 21-inch wheel styles are optional. The standard 6-piston front brake calipers are black, with red as an option.
The Audi SQ5 receives more aggressive bumpers, S-specific grille, revised air inlets, a honeycomb rear diffuser, LED headlights and dual twin-exhaust outlets. Inside, the S sport seats are covered in Alcantara/leather with contrast stitching on the seats and steering wheel. The optional Nappa leather seats have a quilted diamond pattern and massage function. Standard interior trim is brushed aluminum, with wood and carbon fiber available as options.
BMW Concept X2
BMW currently has two SUVs with coupelike rooflines: the X6 and the smaller X4; truth be told, we have not been big fans of their styling, but we really like the look of the Concept X2. The classic kidney grille has been enlarged so it appears bolder, surrounded by large air intakes and a bulging hood. The headlights are hexagonal rather than traditional round units, and they emit a blue X in the center by employing laser light technology.
BMW Concept X2
The X2’s silhouette is more of a sportback than a coupe, but the sleek lines make it look like it’s moving fast even at a standstill. Large 21-inch wheels fit nicely under the bulging fenders, and the bright orange paint and brushed aluminum accents certainly catch the eye. This concept does not have an interior this time around, but perhaps on the next iteration at a future auto show. The shape and design elements of the Concept X2 look ready for production, so we’re hoping to see a final version of the SUV in the next few years.
During press days prior to the official opening of the Detroit Auto Show, Chevrolet introduced an all-new 2018 Traverse midsize crossover with a bold new look that follows Chevy’s larger full-size SUVs. With the focus on interior volume, the new Traverse has a longer wheelbase and overall length than the outgoing model, and is expected to deliver best-in-class third-row legroom while offering up to 8-passenger capacity. Two new trim levels are added for 2018: RS and High Country.
The sporty RS package includes blacked-out exterior elements, a black chrome grille, a black bowtie and 20-inch wheels, while the luxury High Country includes premium features and technology such as unique interior trim, Loft Brown leather trim with suede accents, 20-inch polished wheels, High Country badging, D-Optic headlights, a standard twin-clutch, AWD and power-folding third-row seats. The standard engine is a new 3.6-liter V6 combined with a 9-speed automatic transmission, with either front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive. The Traverse RS is offered exclusively with a 2.0-liter turbocharged engine that delivers more torque than the V6, also paired with a 9-speed automatic.
Chrysler Portal Concept
A new look at family transportation, the Chrysler Portal Concept was revealed at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in the first week of January before arriving in Detroit for the 2017 North American International Auto Show. An electric vehicle with more than 250 miles of range, the Portal Concept can recharge up to 150 miles of range in 20 minutes using DC Fast Charge. Millennials working in design and engineering at FCA US collaborated on ideas for the fifth generation of family vehicle following station wagons, minivans, sport-utility vehicles and crossovers.
Chrysler Portal Concept
Designed from the inside out, the Portal Concept maximizes interior space with a wide range of flexibility for multiple configurations. The thin seats fold flat, fold up and slide fore/aft on a track system for flexibility; rear seats can be removed. The interior features clean, sculpted lines with neutral and gray colors and jewel accents. The exterior design is highlighted by illuminated portal-shaped side openings, as well as articulated doors that open wide for easy loading. Portal uses lighting to interact and communicate via color-changing LED lighting at the front, on side portals and in the rear, which can be changed for different functions.
General Motors introduced the 2018 GMC Terrain in Detroit with a new design featuring a bold new grille, sculpted headlights and C-shaped rear light graphics. The top-level Terrain Denali includes a signature chrome grille, body-color fascias, body-color lower trim, chrome roof rails, chrome door handles, chrome side mirror caps and bodyside moldings, LED headlights and 19-inch ultra-bright machined aluminum wheels. In addition to the top-line Denali trim, Terrain will offer SL, SLE and SLT levels when it goes on sale in summer 2017.
Powertrain options for the 2018 GMC Terrain include two turbocharged gasoline engines and a turbodiesel. The standard engine is a turbocharged 1.5-liter unit that produces 170 horsepower and 203 lb-ft of torque, combined with a 9-speed automatic transmission. The optional turbocharged 2.0-liter powerplant produces 252 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque, also mated with a 9-speed automatic. The available 1.6-liter turbodiesel produces 137 horsepower and 240 lb-ft of torque. The traditional transmission selector gets replaced by an electronically-controlled system of pushbuttons and pull triggers. All-wheel drive is available with all three engine choices.
One of the most popular minivans on the market, the all-new 2018 Odyssey debuted at the 2017 North American International Auto Show. With an expressive new exterior design, the 2018 Odyssey adds style to a most practical and functional family-vehicle option. The new “Magic Slide” second-row seat system offers multiple seat configurations and third-row access options. The center second-row seat can be removed, and the outboard seats can be moved laterally between five positions for third-row access. The outboard seats can be moved forward for maximum access; they can also be moved to the center for third-row access from either side.
The 2018 Odyssey is powered by a 280-horsepower 3.5-liter V6 engine with a standard 9-speed automatic transmission or a 10-speed automatic for upper trim levels. The new Odyssey features advanced connectivity and entertainment with new Display Audio, CabinWatch, CabinTalk & streaming video with 4G LTE Wi-Fi. The new CabinControl app enables smartphone control of key vehicle systems as well as audio and rear-seat entertainment features. Inside, the new Odyssey features high-grade materials including a soft-touch instrument panel. The instrument panel incorporates a new 7-inch, full-color TFT display; an 8-inch high-resolution Display Audio touchscreen interface is available for EX and above.
Infiniti QX50 Concept
Infiniti showcased its direction for a new midsize premium crossover at the North American International Auto Show with the QX50 Concept, a further development of the 2016 QX Sport Inspiration that debuted at the 2016 Beijing Auto Show. The QX50 Concept is the latest execution of Infiniti’s Powerful Elegance design language, combining taut lines with flowing profiled surfaces for an overall look that is more elegant and less aggressive than the previous FX and QX models. Infiniti has a recent history of production vehicles that remain true to prior concepts, and the QX50 Concept looks like another one that is very close to being production-ready.
Infiniti QX50 Concept
For the interior of the QX50 Concept, Infiniti designers concentrated on reaching new levels of craftsmanship for models in this segment via more modern applications of wood, leather and stitching. Three different types of leather — genuine, semi-aniline and nubuck — are used for different textures and depth, in three different colors. The upper cabin is finished in brown leather with white leather on the lower dash, door trim and seats, with a line of navy blue synthetic nubuck dividing the two and covering the center console. A line of close double stitching runs along the top of the dash, doors and front seats. Infiniti has filed a patent for the dot quilting used on the leather doors and seats.
The entry model in the Mercedes-Benz SUV lineup, the compact GLA crossover is refreshed for 2018 with revised front and rear bumpers, new wheel designs and a new Canyon Beige exterior color. The dash has a new instrument cluster design, a standard 8-inch high-resolution display and a standard rearview camera. The GLA is offered in three versions: the front-drive GLA250, all-wheel drive GLA250 4MATIC and the high-performance Mercedes-AMG GLA45. Both the GLA250 and the GLA250 4MATIC are powered by a turbocharged 2.0-liter engine producing 208 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque, combined with a 7-speed dual-clutch transmission.
The Mercedes-AMG GLA45 receives a revised front fascia with a more aggressive design, new air intakes, a silver chrome front splitter insert and silver chrome grille louver. Optional 20-inch wheels are available in painted matte black with high-sheen rim flanges, or painted titanium grey with a high-sheen finish. The GLA45 is powered by a handcrafted AMG turbocharged 2.0-liter engine producing 375 horsepower and 350 lb-ft of torque, combined with an AMG SPEEDSHIFT DCT 7-speed transmission and AMG Performance 4MATIC all-wheel drive.
Nissan Rogue Sport
The Rogue midsize crossover is Nissan’s best-selling model in the U.S. Building on that success, the Japanese automaker revealed a new compact crossover, Rogue Sport, based on the same Rogue platform. The new compact 5-passenger Rogue Sport rides on a wheelbase that is 2.3 inches shorter; the overall length is 12.1 inches shorter. The styling of Rogue Sport is similar to the Rogue, including a sporty V-motion grille, a detailed headlight design, LED daytime running lights, available fog lights, strong fender lines and side profile character lines. At the rear are LED boomerang-shaped taillights and a rear spoiler. Rogue Sport is powered by a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine producing 141 horsepower and 147 lb-ft of torque, combined with an Xtronic CVT and front- or all-wheel drive. Rogue Sport features 4-wheel independent suspension including an independent rear multi-link with a stabilizer bar for a sporty ride.
Nissan Rogue Sport
Inside, the Rogue Sport follows Nissan’s “gliding wing” interior design with a symmetrical flow from the upper dash into the doors, sweeping around the driver and front passenger. Rogue Sport will be offered in three trim levels when it goes on sale in the U.S. in spring 2017: S, SV and SL. Standard equipment on the Rogue Sport S includes Hill Start Assist, Active Trace Control, Active Engine Braking and Active Ride Control. Available Nissan Intelligent Safety Shield technologies include radar-based Blind Spot Warning, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, Forward Emergency Braking, Lane Departure Warning, Lane Departure Prevention and Forward Emergency Braking with Pedestrian Detection. Although the Rogue Sport is new to the U.S. market, it is also sold in other markets as the Nissan Qashqai. Based on sales in those other markets, Nissan expects the Rogue Sport to do well in the U.S.
Volkswagen I.D. BUZZ
The second I.D. concept from Volkswagen, the I.D. BUZZ debuted in Detroit as a look at an all-electric Microbus that is an homage to the beloved Microbus of years past. The electric drivetrain allows flexibility for up to eight passengers and two luggage compartments. Two electric motors — one driving each axle — provide all-wheel-drive capability and a total output of 369 horsepower. A new take on the original Microbus, design elements of I.D. BUZZ include a new interpretation of the V in contrasting color, the friendly “face” of the Microbus and the short front and rear overhangs.
Volkswagen I.D. BUZZ
A fully autonomous vehicle in I.D. Pilot mode, the BUZZ’s driver and front passenger seats can be rotated 180 degrees to face the rear. With a slight push on the steering wheel it retracts into the instrument panel and switches to I.D. Pilot mode. The floor is made of Silver Birch wood, and in the rear seating area aluminum inlays in the wood match the honeycomb pattern of the dash and steering wheel. The top sections of the doors are covered in a metallic leatherette, and the seats are covered with a knit fabric in a graduated honeycomb pattern. The head-up display projects information via augmented reality, and the center console includes a tablet display and Beats Bluetooth speakers.
Volkswagen debuted the new long-wheelbase 2018 Tiguan at the North American International Auto Show — a vehicle designed for the U.S. market. Based on the Volkswagen’s Modular Transverse Matrix architecture, the new long-wheelbase Tiguan is 10.7 inches longer than the current model. It has a 4.4-inch longer wheelbase and offers more interior space and third-row seating. Adopting Volkswagen’s current design language, the exterior includes sharper, stronger lines and a lower, wider stance.
Powered by a new version of Volkswagen’s turbocharged 2.0-liter TSI engine producing 184 horsepower and 221 lb-ft of torque, the new Tiguan delivers power to the front wheels through an 8-speed automatic transmission. 4Motion all-wheel drive with Active Control is optional and offers four drive modes to maximize traction in different driving conditions. Volkswagen’s Digital Cockpit display is optional, and an available Car-Net system offers connected vehicle services. Driver assistance technologies include a standard rearview camera, available adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning, autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian monitoring, a blind-spot monitor with rear-traffic alert, and lane-departure warning.