Press days are over at the North American International Auto Show and thus it is time to present my picks for the most significant introductory vehicles. One was a gutsy call, others were eye openers, and one embraced the future while remembering the air cooled days of old.
With the huge consumer demand for crossovers, trucks and SUV’s it takes courage for a company to turn out a redesigned van. But since the best way to pack stuff into any vehicle, whether it be cargo or people, is a van, the Odyssey, with its sleek exterior style (as well as anyone could do with a box) and new features certainly rates a place on this list. A V6 with a ten-speed transmission is the powertrain lineup, there are new ways for parents to watch the kiddos in the back and talk to them through their headsets, and there is “Magic Slide,” a second row seat that does various contortions to make access to the third row more accessible. This fifth generation Odyssey was designed and developed by Honda R&D in North America. And yes, they brought back the vacuum.
Nissan Vmotion 2.0
Concept cars always turn heads and this one turned enough of them to win a design award as “Best Concept Vehicle” at the show. Nissan said it was created to showcase its sedan design direction and hints at its future autonomous driving tech. In my mind, it is an incredibly eye catching design and one that would have your driveway packed with neighbors within minutes of its arrival. The doors swing outward, the dash continues the “Gliding Wing” design theme, which integrates the instrument panel and the infotainment system for both driver and passenger. A Bose “UltraNearfield” speaker system allows the driver to control the direction and distance of sound to generate a 360-degree field around the operator. The overall interior design is such that I expect Spock to be the driver.
This one should be incredibly good fun to drive with the optional 3.3-liter twin turbo V6 and its 365 horsepower and 376 lb-ft of torque. Yes, keep telling yourself those figures and the 5.1 second estimate to 60 are coming from a Kia. But the company wanted something that would help it stand out from the pact, and performance wise, they did that. I feel they could have gone further with the exterior and interior design, but with the V6, five driving modes, and oodles of torque, one could simply not forget to include the Stinger on this list. “I think for the Kia brand, the Stinger is like a special event,” said the man in charge of ride and handling, Albert Biermann. “Because nobody expects such a car, not just the way it looks but also the way it drives. It’s a whole different animal.” I agree.
Audi Q8 Concept
This plug in hybrid full size SUV won me over with its “tough guy” front end design and spacious interior. There is luxury seating for four, and a new control concept with a very large 12.3 inch TFT display. Virtually all of the monitors are touch displays. The combustion engine is a 3.0 liter, 333-hp turbocharged V-6 matched to an electric motor rated at 134-hp motor and they dine with an eight-speed automatic transmission. Together they produce a 0 to 100 km/h (62.1 mph) in 5.4 seconds on the way to a top speed of 155.3 mph. So there is a heaping helping of performance here as well. And better yet, the concept car is the basis for a production model that Audi will launch in 2018.
Volkswagen I.D. Buzz Concept
They are going to have to reword that song to – “Climb on the Buzz Bus, Gus…” This way out remake of the classic VW bus created quite a buzz at the show. From its far out exterior design to its unique features this all electric vehicle boasts a range of up to 270 miles, nicely eliminating any range anxiety. It can seat up to eight and sports two luggage compartments. There is electric all-wheel drive with two motors and 360 horsepower with “fully autonomous driving capability,” VW said. An excursion with two families over the weekend? A gig with the band in another city? A vacation trip with bikes and boards? Driving to a business meeting with colleagues who need to prepare on the way? (“You will agree with this proposal, or you will get out and walk!) All are possible with the variable seating layout and interactive networking of the I.D. BUZZ. Using an extended MEB-XL platform, this concept vehicle—which is 194.6 inches long, 77.8 inches wide and 77.3 inches tall—offers an extraordinarily spacious interior for its class. One electric motor at the front axle and one at the rear each deliver a power output of 201 hp, distributed between the two axles by an “electric propshaft.” Switching the I.D. BUZZ from manual control to the fully autonomous “I.D. Pilot” mode is a feature that could make it into production by 2025, Volks said. Fully autonomous mode is deactivated by touching the steering wheel or by pressing the brake or accelerator pedal. And VW makes no bones about the inspiration for the new Buzz bus saying it took the logical next step forward in development using “what is in all likelihood the most successful design of its kind in the world.” I love automakers who take such a big jump into the future, while not forgetting the past. Therefore, it was my pick as the top introduction at the Detroit show.