2018 Detroit Auto Show: Top Cars

© Rod HatfieldTop Cars in Detroit
Held at the beginning of each new year in the heart of Motown, the North American International Auto Show is one of the most important annual automotive showcases in the country. Although press days for the 2018 Detroit show seemed quieter than years past, numerous new models graced automaker displays including world debuts from Audi to Volkswagen, with a fair share of sheet metal from the likes of BMW, Ford, Hyundai and Honda in between. Click for a quick look at the top cars of the 2018 North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

© Rod HatfieldAudi A7
The all-new Audi A7 made its North American debut at the 2018 Detroit show. The A7 incorporates many of the new styling cues introduced on the flagship A8 last year, including the larger Singleframe grille and integrated headlights. One of the most captivating luxury sportback models on the market, the A7 retains its signature sleek silhouette; however, it now provides a more comfortable environment for rear-seat occupants via increased headroom and legroom.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceAudi A7
Inside the A7 are two integrated displays that work in conjunction or separately, depending on the function in use. These large touchscreens replace familiar rotary dials and buttons in the current Audi lineup. Although touchscreens can be difficult to use while driving, the large icons on the main screen of the A7 require pressure to activate, with haptic feedback making them feel like physical buttons. And in a rare moment of Teutonic compromise, engineers left an independent volume control knob.

© Rod HatfieldBMW i8
An all-new i8 roadster debuted a few months ago at the 2017 Los Angeles Auto Show, and in Detroit this year the roadster was accompanied by an updated hardtop. The roadster is equipped with an all-season fabric soft-top that can open in 16 seconds while the car travels at speeds up to 31 mph. As the roof opens, a rear window automatically rises to reduce wind turbulence in the cabin; however, the window can be lowered if more airflow is desired.

© Rod HatfieldBMW i8
The i8 is still powered by an electric motor teamed with a TwinPower turbocharged 1.5-liter 3-cylinder engine. Both units receive power increases for the 2019 model year for a total of 369 horsepower. The gasoline engine gets a new sportier sound, underscoring the fact that the i8 can reach 60 mph in a mere 4.2 seconds. Electric-only range has also been improved to 18 miles. The new i8 coupe and roadster will arrive in BMW showrooms this spring.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceFord Mustang Bullitt
To car and movie buffs alike, Steve McQueen at the wheel of a 1968 Ford Mustang GT pursuing a Dodge Charger through the streets of San Francisco remains one of the best chase scenes ever put to film. The iconic sequence from “Bullitt” was shot 50 years ago, and to commemorate that anniversary Ford introduced an all-new 2019 Mustang Bullitt in Detroit. And to the delight of attending journalists, the new Mustang Bullitt was unveiled during Ford’s press conference by Molly McQueen — Steve McQueen’s granddaughter. But that wasn’t the end of the surprises — the original 1968 Mustang driven by McQueen in the movie roared onstage to join the 2019 Mustang Bullitt.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceFord Mustang Bullitt
The 2019 Mustang Bullitt is a proper tribute to the original, swathed in classic Dark Highland Green paint and subtle chrome accents. The interior has a balanced mix of classic and modern touches with an all-digital LCD instrument cluster and available Recaro black leather seats with green accent stitching. “This new Bullitt is, as Steve McQueen was, effortlessly cool,” said Darrell Behmer, Mustang chief designer. “As a designer, it’s my favorite Mustang — devoid of stripes, spoilers and badges. It doesn’t need to scream about anything — it’s just cool.” The nostalgic Mustang boasts an upgraded 5.0-liter V8 engine producing at least 475 horsepower, giving this Bullitt the capability to exceed 160 mph.

© Rod HatfieldHonda Insight Prototype
The original Honda Insight was a tiny 2-seat coupe introduced in 1999 as the first hybrid available in America, boasting a 70-mpg EPA rating. Honda introduced a second-generation Insight in 2009 as a more mainstream model, and now Insight gets redone again. Introduced as a prototype this year in Detroit, the new Insight will be positioned as a compact sedan that resides above the Civic in the Honda lineup. Expected to launch later this year, the Insight will offer room for five in premium surroundings.

© Rod HatfieldHonda Insight Prototype
The new Insight will be powered by a 1.5-liter Atkinson-cycle engine teamed with a powerful electric motor that gets power from a lithium-ion battery pack. The batteries will ride under the rear seat so trunk space isn’t affected. Honda claims Insight will deliver class-leading power while achieving an expected 50 mpg rating. The new Insight will be the fifth electrified vehicle in the Honda lineup, joining the three models in the Clarity series as well as the upcoming redesigned Accord Hybrid.

© Rod HatfieldHyundai Veloster
An all-new Veloster premiered during Hyundai’s press conference at the 2018 Detroit Auto Show. The sporty little car gets a refreshed design as well as other improvements, and Veloster retains its unique 3-door configuration: one on the driver’s side, two on the passenger side. Veloster now sports a larger grille flanked by swept-back headlights, as well as bodywork that assists airflow around the wheels for better aerodynamics. Veloster’s silhouette is sleeker than the previous model, further emphasized by optional 18-inch alloy wheels.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceHyundai Veloster N
In Motown Hyundai also took the wraps off a high-performance Veloster N. This is the first of what could be several models in a new N lineup. The Veloster N differs from the standard version with a unique front fascia and grille, dedicated air ducts for enhanced brake cooling, side rocker sills, a rear spoiler, a dual exhaust and 19-inch lightweight alloy wheels. More than merely an appearance package, the Veloster N gets a larger 2.0-liter turbocharged engine generating an estimated 275 horsepower and 260 ft-lb of torque, teamed with a close-ratio 6-speed manual transmission. Veloster N will be available toward the end of 2018; the standard Veloster is expected to arrive this summer.

© Rod HatfieldInfiniti Q Inspiration Concept
Nissan’s premium brand selected the Detroit show to provide a peek at what the next generation of Infiniti vehicles might look like. Easily one of the most beautiful cars at the show, the Q Inspiration echoes the basic shapes of current Infiniti designs but with much more interesting details. At the front, the grille opening resembles a Q50; however, the concept has a grille within the grille. Bladelike headlights sweep back and comingle with sharp louvers in the hood. Lines trail back to broad shoulders over the rear wheels, meeting at a single-strip brake light that wraps around the back of the car.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceInfiniti Q Inspiration Concept
Inside the concept, Infiniti took a minimalist approach with seats that appear to free float as does the center console that runs the length of the cabin. All displays and controls are digital, with a touchscreen for each passenger. The powertrain for this concept also looks to the future, utilizing the world’s first production-ready variable compression ratio engine, which combines turbocharged gasoline power with the torque and efficiency of a hybrid or diesel engine.

© Rod HatfieldKia Forte
Completely redesigned for the 2019 model year, this entry-level Kia gets updated features and a fresh new look. Forte takes on many styling cues that originated with the new sporty Stinger, including the signature Kia grille, long hood and fastback-like shape. Unique headlights and a sculpted hood add to the strong presence, as do a rear lip spoiler and available LED taillights. Inside, the Forte has a standard 8-inch touchscreen display as well as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Forte also is available with the latest high-tech safety features, including automatic emergency braking.

© Rod HatfieldKia Forte
Forte rides on a new, stronger chassis with 54 percent Advanced High-Strength Steel. The body is more rigid, which should result in a quieter cabin as well as better handling and a smoother ride. Under the hood resides a new 2.0-liter engine that delivers 147 horsepower — basically unchanged from the previous generation. Drivers have a choice of either a 6-speed manual gearbox or Kia’s all-new Intelligent Variable Transmission. In the past Kia intentionally avoided variable transmissions due to their poor driving experience; however, this new unit features adaptive style shift logic with a chainlike belt expected to result in smoother acceleration as well as a more engaging driving experience. Kia predicts the ITV will improve fuel economy as well.

© Rod HatfieldMercedes-AMG E 53 / CLS 53
The AMG arm of Mercedes continues to add models for consumers who desire a heavy dose of performance and luxury. Currently the AMG 43 Series of the E-Class makes about 400 horsepower, while the E-Class and CLS-Class can be had as AMG 63s that boast upwards of 600 horsepower. At this year’s Detroit show, Mercedes-AMG introduced a new variant: the 53 Series. Initially available with the CLS as well as the E-Class coupe and cabriolet, the 53 Series vehicles stand out via a twin-blade grille, AMG-specific side sills and rear bumper diffuser with high-gloss chrome tailpipes.

© Rod HatfieldMercedes-AMG E 53 / CLS 53
A new turbocharged 3.0-liter inline 6-cylinder engine using an electric auxiliary compressor powers the E53 and CLS 53. The unit generates 429 horsepower and 384 lb-ft of torque. The engine’s EQ Boost starter / alternator can momentarily deliver an additional 21 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque, providing power before the turbocharger kicks in, which virtually eliminates any turbo lag. Mercedes-AMG expects the CLS 53 to sprint to 60 mph in 4.4 seconds. The new E 53 and CLS 53 should arrive in showrooms toward the end of this year.

© Rod HatfieldToyota Avalon
The flagship of the Toyota model lineup gets a complete makeover for the 2019 model year. Moving into its fifth generation, Avalon is now built on Toyota’s New Global Architecture, which allows the premium model to be longer, wider and lower for a more aggressive stance. Up front narrow headlights flank a very large grille, further emphasizing the big sedan’s width. Like the new Camry that debuted at last year’s show in the Motor City, Avalon uses distinct grilles to differentiate trim levels.

© Rod HatfieldToyota Avalon
The centerpiece of Avalon’s new interior is a 9-inch display that integrates into the climate control system. Avalon also comes with a total of five USB ports as well as a standard wireless phone charger. Apple CarPlay has also been made standard — a first for Toyota. In terms of motive power, Avalon is available with either a 3.5-liter V6 engine or a fuel-efficient hybrid system. This new Avalon also comes standard with Toyota Safety Sense P — a full suite of the latest high-tech safety features.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceVolkswagen Jetta
The Jetta is Volkswagen’s best-selling model, so introducing a new version of this small sedan is a big deal. Built on a completely new platform, the Jetta features a sleek coupelike design that gives it a sporty look. The new Jetta seems much more upscale than the outgoing model. Redesigned headlights with signature LED running lights are nicely integrated into the wide grille, creating a seamless line across the front. A sculpted hood adds to the sportier appearance. Larger than the outgoing version in nearly every dimension, the Jetta is built on a new platform with a lengthened wheelbase. The car is longer, wider and taller, which not only gives the Jetta a new look, it translates into a more spacious cabin.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceVolkswagen Jetta
The Jetta’s interior has been completely redone with a nicely integrated touchscreen display as well as available heated and cooled leather seats. A center storage console is large enough to handle a tablet computer. Depending on trim level, the Jetta’s interior can be customized with a choice of ambient lighting color as well as Volkswagen’s Digital Cockpit display, which gives the driver freedom to configure the information placed front and center. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard, and Jetta also is available with a 400-watt BeatsAudio sound system.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceVolkswagen Passat GT
Even though the new Jetta stole the limelight at the Volkswagen stand in Detroit, the German automaker also introduced a new Passat variant: the GT. Designed at VW’s North American engineering hub in Nashville, the GT was created specifically for the U.S. market. This limited-edition Passat is based on the R-Line although it gets additional enhancements. Some standout features include LED headlights and running lights, a honeycomb grille, a red accent line, a black roof, red brake calipers, blackened LED taillights and two-tone 19-inch wheels.

© Rod HatfieldVolkswagen Passat GT
The Passat GT has power to backstop its sporty styling, employing Volkswagen’s 3.6-liter VR6 engine producing 280 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque. Steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters let drivers work over the standard 6-speed dual-clutch gearbox. The Passat GT also gets piano black trim inside, as well as a leather-wrapped steering wheel, heated front seats, an 8-way power driver’s seat and dual-zone climate control. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard, as is a 6.3-inch touchscreen display with Bluetooth connectivity. Passat GT will start at $29,090 when it arrives in showrooms this spring.


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