Our Top Picks of NAIAS 2017

The North American International Auto Show is officially underway in Detroit and it's a big show if you're into hot family sedans, EVs and futurism. After a whirlwind press day these are our favourite highlights from the show floor:

Best in Show

Kia Stinger

Benjamin Hunting: The Kia Stinger proves that resting on your laurels is never safe in the sport sedan world – and that Kia still cares about actual drivers when so many others are focusing on robots behind the wheel.

Stephanie Wallcraft
Apart from a few tantalizing logo teases, the Kia Stinger was the only true show-stopper at this year’s NAIAS. It may not be a complete jaw-dropper in itself, but the new direction it marks for a brand best known for its cheap and cheerful cars certainly is. Watch out, Germany: Korea is on the march.

Stephanie Wallcraft: Apart from a few tantalizing logo teases, the Kia Stinger was the only true show-stopper at this year’s NAIAS. It may not be a complete jaw-dropper in itself, but the new direction it marks for a brand best known for its cheap and cheerful cars certainly is. Watch out, Germany: Korea is on the march.

Benjamin Hunting
The Kia Stinger proves that resting on your laurels is never safe in the sport sedan world – and that Kia still cares about actual drivers when so many others are focusing on robots behind the wheel.

Lexus LS

Michael Bettencourt: The idea of a sexy Lexus LS seems almost absurd, but times are definitely changing with Lexus’ new generation of products, especially compared to its relatively conservative competitors (outside of Tesla). Not sure it’s quite hot enough to qualify for four-door coupe status, but then, that shouldn’t be a thing regardless.

Michael Bettencourt
The idea of a sexy Lexus LS seems almost absurd, but times are definitely changing with Lexus’ new generation of products, especially compared to its relatively conservative competitors (outside of Tesla). Not sure it’s quite hot enough to qualify for four-door coupe status, but then, that shouldn’t be a thing regardless.

Cadillac Escala Concept

Peter Bleakney: I’m giving this honour to the Cadillac Escala concept because it seems to perfectly represent what Detroit (the city) is currently all about – a resurrection and (hopeful) return to past glories. What parallels this better than a big, bold and beautiful Cadillac?

Peter Bleakney
I’m giving this honour to the Cadillac Escala concept because it seems to perfectly represent what Detroit (the city) is currently all about – a resurrection and (hopeful) return to past glories. What parallels this better than a big, bold and beautiful Cadillac?

Toyota Camry

Sabrina Giacomini: The bestselling car in North America finally got a worthy design. Reliability doesn’t have to look boring and I’m happy to see that Toyota found a balance between boldness and refinement.

Sabrina Giacomini
The bestselling car in North America finally got a worthy design. Reliability doesn’t have to look boring and I’m happy to see that Toyota found a balance between boldness and refinement.

Best Concept

Volkswagen I.D. Buzz Concept

SW: If electrification is what it takes to give the world the return of the VW Microbus, I’m all for it. The bopping hula girl on the dash of the concept says it all: the party wagon is back in a big (and modern) way!

SW If electrification is what it takes to give the world the return of the VW Microbus, I’m all for it. The bopping hula girl on the dash of the concept says it all: the party wagon is back in a big (and modern) way!

PB: This too-cute fully electric take on the original VW Microbus claims a 430 km range. It’s built on Volkswagen’s MEB electric platform that will come online in 2020. The battery pack spreads out under the flat floor, so interior space is cavernous. The interior is as clean and charming as its skin, and VW brass say this is no flight-of-fancy concept. It’s enough to distract everyone from Dieselgate.

PB This too-cute fully electric take on the original VW Microbus claims a 430 km range. It’s built on Volkswagen’s MEB electric platform that will come online in 2020. The battery pack spreads out under the flat floor, so interior space is cavernous. The interior is as clean and charming as its skin, and VW brass say this is no flight-of-fancy concept. It’s enough to distract everyone from Dieselgate.

Infiniti QX50 Concept

SW: Returning models shown in Detroit this year largely featured minor to moderate tweaks, but Infiniti tore up the blueprints that had gone largely unchanged since the EX days and gave the QX50 the true overhaul it needed to slot perfectly into the Infiniti CUV line-up.

BH The QX50 has long been one of my favorite stealth wagons, and if this concept is any indication, the compact crossover is about to become one of the most beautiful as well.

SG: I love the design on the QX50 concept. It takes the Infiniti design to a whole new level and the “spread wings” look to the headlights and taillights is gorgeous.

SG I love the design on the QX50 concept. It takes the Infiniti design to a whole new level and the “spread wings” look to the headlights and taillights is gorgeous.

Nissan Vmotion 2.0 Concept

MB: This show has been the year of the SUV/truck, not in product announcements, but in talk about how sales are going heavy towards trucks and crossover/SUVs and away from cars, with about two-thirds of consumer vehicles sold in Canada a non-car in 2016. And yet here comes Nissan, an enthusiastic crossover company, showing how good-looking a future sedan can be.

MB This show has been the year of the SUV/truck, not in product announcements, but in talk about how sales are going heavy towards trucks and crossover/SUVs and away from cars, with about two-thirds of consumer vehicles sold in Canada a non-car in 2016. And yet here comes Nissan, an enthusiastic crossover company, showing how good-looking a future sedan can be.

Best Production Car

Nissan Qashqai

MB: So glad they didn’t change the name to the generic Rogue Sport moniker used in the US. The compact Qashqai crossover manages to wedge itself under the Rogue and above the Juke in Canada, likely endangering not only the Juke but also likely taking a potential bite out of Rogue and Sentra sales as well.

MB So glad they didn’t change the name to the generic Rogue Sport moniker used in the US. The compact Qashqai crossover manages to wedge itself under the Rogue and above the Juke in Canada, likely endangering not only the Juke but also likely taking a potential bite out of Rogue and Sentra sales as well.

SW: Finally! This is a car that’s been an awfully long time coming: a true subcompact crossover that’s attractive and will be affordable for the masses. Canada is going to love it.

SW Finally! This is a car that’s been an awfully long time coming: a true subcompact crossover that’s attractive and will be affordable for the masses. Canada is going to love it.

VLF Force 1 V10

PB: Does fifty examples count as production? If so, this drop-dead-sexy $260,000-ish coupe penned by Fiskar that rides on a Viper chassis takes it. This could be my own personal backlash to all the hype and promise of an autonomous, zero-emissions utopia that just about every automaker is ramming down our throats. Guilty as charged.

PB Does fifty examples count as production? If so, this drop-dead-sexy $260,000-ish coupe penned by Fiskar that rides on a Viper chassis takes it. This could be my own personal backlash to all the hype and promise of an autonomous, zero-emissions utopia that just about every automaker is ramming down our throats. Guilty as charged.

Mercedes-AMG GT C

SG The coupe version of the existing GT C Roadster looks and sounds fantastic. The GT is not only a head-turner but a real powerhouse – the biturbo V8 delivers a whopping 557 hp and I love me some biturbo.

Kia Stinger

BH: See: Kia Stinger. It’s here, it’s real, and it’s about to start taking names.

BH See: Kia Stinger. It’s here, it’s real, and it’s about to start taking names.

Real Star of the Show

Lightning McQueen

SW: Lightning McQueen was at NAIAS doing the media circuit ahead of the upcoming Disney film Cars 3, and not one person I saw managed to walk past him without stopping for a social media pic or a selfie. Ka-chow!

SW Lightning McQueen was at NAIAS doing the media circuit ahead of the upcoming Disney film Cars 3, and not one person I saw managed to walk past him without stopping for a social media pic or a selfie. Ka-chow!

Honourable Mention

Volkswagen I.D. Buzz Concept

MB: This retro-groovy concept deserves at least a shout-out for its audacious concept that combines a flexible eight-seater all-electric platform with 369 silent horsepower and a potential 432 km worth of range. If only they hadn’t come out with so many other VW Minibus-inspired concepts that went nowhere....

MB This retro-groovy concept deserves at least a shout-out for its audacious concept that combines a flexible eight-seater all-electric platform with 369 silent horsepower and a potential 432 km worth of range. If only they hadn’t come out with so many other VW Minibus-inspired concepts that went nowhere....

Best “Mobility Solution”

Singer Porsche

PB: Oh boy, another backlash car. If I hear “mobility solutions” one more time... Here’s a mobility solution. A Porsche 911 (964) reimagined by Singer. I don’t care about the $400,000 price tag. It’s rolling art and I’d order one, like yesterday – if I had the money.

PB Oh boy, another backlash car. If I hear “mobility solutions” one more time... Here’s a mobility solution. A Porsche 911 (964) reimagined by Singer. I don’t care about the $400,000 price tag. It’s rolling art and I’d order one, like yesterday – if I had the money.

Biggest Leap Forward in Design

Infiniti QX50 Concept

BH: The QX50 has long been one of my favorite stealth wagons, and if this concept is any indication, the compact crossover is about to become one of the most beautiful as well.

SW Returning models shown in Detroit this year largely featured minor to moderate tweaks, but Infiniti tore up the blueprints that had gone largely unchanged since the EX days and gave the QX50 the true overhaul it needed to slot perfectly into the Infiniti CUV line-up.

Biggest Surprise

Kia Stinger

SG Did you say 255 hp in a sport Kia?

Heartstring Puller

Mercedes-AMG GLA 45

MB: This revised 2018 Mercedes-AMG GLA 45 looks so much like a hot hatch instead of a small SUV that it may very well be the best competitor to the Subaru WRX STi on the market, and easily the one I’d choose. Not that far off in price either, considering all the extra luxury content inside, not even counting the hood badge.

MB This revised 2018 Mercedes-AMG GLA 45 looks so much like a hot hatch instead of a small SUV that it may very well be the best competitor to the Subaru WRX STi on the market, and easily the one I’d choose. Not that far off in price either, considering all the extra luxury content inside, not even counting the hood badge.

Best Eye Candy

Special Edition Dodge Challengers

BH: FCA might have saved what’s new for CES, but you can still head over to their booth and ogle all the special edition Challengers. I know that I did.

BH FCA might have saved what’s new for CES, but you can still head over to their booth and ogle all the special edition Challengers. I know that I did.

Best Hope For The Future

Student-Built Hybrid Formula Race Cars

BH: Go down into the basement and check out the students building their own hybrid formula race cars. What’s cooler than that?

BH Go down into the basement and check out the students building their own hybrid formula race cars. What’s cooler than that?

Biggest Pipe Dream

Nissan Vmotion 2.0 Concept

SG: Now here’s a Nissan that has the potential to dazzle. It is only a concept, however, and whatever it gets turned into would most likely end up with a watered-down version of this design. But the suicide doors and aggressive, chiselled aesthetic are a great foundation.

SG Now here’s a Nissan that has the potential to dazzle. It is only a concept, however, and whatever it gets turned into would most likely end up with a watered-down version of this design. But the suicide doors and aggressive, chiselled aesthetic are a great foundation.

 

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