2018 North American International Auto Show Highlights

Man. Look at this mess.
The 2018 auto show circuit kicked off with the North American International Auto Show. From January 13th through to the 28th, the world’s top auto manufacturers gathered at the Cobo Center in Detroit, MI to showcase the new model year cars and trucks, upcoming future production models, and bespoke one-off concept designs that vary from extravagant to just plain weird. It was a venerable ‘Who’s Who’ of journalists, press and media, industry insiders, product reps, brand ambassadors, company spokespeople, and corporate executives before doors were opened to the public on Saturday the 20th. And of course, let’s not forget the all-star cast of the event: the vehicles, themselves.

Here are 5 of our favorite picks from this year’s NAIAS.

 

After a few years abroad, Ford's small/midsize pickup comes back home in 2018.

2019 FORD RANGER

The last time we saw a Ford Ranger on display in American showrooms was back in 2011. Due to Ford’s increased emphasis on full-size pickup trucks and SUVs, Ford abandoned the Ranger in the U.S. but continued production for the international markets; thus forfeiting their market share to the Toyota Tacoma, the Nissan Frontier, and–to a much lesser extent–the General Motors carbon-copy twins, Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon (a third badge-engineered corporate cousin, the Isuzu i-Series, went to the big scrapyard in the sky in 2008). Whisperings among enthusiasts, journalists, insiders, and trolls arguing with each other in the comments section of YouTube have circulated about a possible resurrection of the beloved Ford Ranger since 2012 but now, 6 years later in 2018, the rumours have become fact and an all-new Ford Ranger is set to debut for the 2019 model year. Now classified as a midsize pickup, the new Ranger features larger dimensions and bolder styling cues than its predecessor and will carry Ford’s widely-implemented 2.3 litre EcoBoost turbo 4-cylinder born from the Mazda L family of engines. Ford intends to knock the current reigning segment leader, the 2nd generation Chevrolet Colorado from archrival General Motors, from off the top of the midsize truck hierarchy. Hopefully, for Ford’s sake, they’ve gotten that little door latch issue figured out by now. Also, those airbags.

 

If Chevy can churn out ugly yellow 'Transformers' edition Camaros annually, Ford can re-release the Bullitt Mustang every couple or so years.

2019 FORD MUSTANG BULLITT

Historically, the Ford Mustang has always d̶o̶n̶e̶ ̶a̶ ̶b̶e̶t̶t̶e̶r̶ ̶j̶o̶b̶ ̶a̶t̶ ̶p̶l̶o̶w̶i̶n̶g̶ ̶t̶h̶r̶o̶u̶g̶h̶ ̶b̶y̶s̶t̶a̶n̶d̶e̶r̶s̶ ̶a̶t̶ ̶a̶ ̶c̶a̶r̶ ̶m̶e̶e̶t̶ outsold the Chevrolet Camaro (with the notable exception of a brief period between 2009 and 2014) whereas the Dodge Challenger was hardly a challenger to either (especially, not this one). Now entering its 54th straight year of continuous production, America’s Favorite C̶r̶o̶w̶d̶ ̶K̶i̶l̶l̶e̶r̶ Pony Car has been refreshed for 2018. Among this year’s checklist of numerous updates is a restyled front fascia, revised rear tail lamp design, an available LCD instrument cluster, new wheels, and a boost in horsepower for the V8 GT model from 435 to 460, besting the Chevrolet Camaro SS’s output by 5 ponies. Complementing the amended Mustang GT is the return of the special edition Mustang Bullitt, aptly named and styled after the iconic 1968 G.T. 390 fastback driven by Steve McQueen in the 1968 Action-Thriller, ‘Bullitt’.  This year marks the 4th appearance of the Mustang Bullitt, as well as the 50th anniversary of ‘Bullitt’.  To commemorate the film’s 50th anniversary, Ford pulled out all the stops, including a special presentation featuring the original 1968 movie car that was thought to have been lost for the past 44 years.  The new 2019 Ford Mustang Bullitt improves upon the standard GT’s upgrades with additional enhancements of its own.  Differences between the standard GT and the Mustang Bullitt consist of a 15 horsepower bump to 475, a top speed of 163 MPH (VIA removal of the speed governor), a cold air intake and intake manifold borrowed from the Shelby GT350, recalibrated powertrain computer programming, special black retro wheels, a retro ball-shifter for the 6-speed manual, and a somewhat movie-inaccurate recreation of the famous Dark Highland Green paint color (also available in a 100% movie-inaccurate black).  The Mustang Bullitt stands out from lesser Mustangs with its distinct, badge-and-spoiler-free body save for the rear faux gas cap appliqué.  It acts as a temporary stopgap between the standard GT and the range-topping Shelby GT350.  That is, until the lineup gets jostled around again with inevitable return of the venomous Shelby GT500.

 

Nobody in the history of the world has ever said, 'WOW! That's a nice Hyundai!'

2019 HYUNDAI VELOSTER & VELOSTER N

Hyundai Motors’ surprise hit from 2011 has been thoroughly updated, revised, and refreshed for the 2019 model year.  The 2nd generation Hyundai Veloster compact K-tail coupe appeals to both the young demographic and the “young-at-heart automotive enthusiast”, according to Mike O’Brien, Vice President of Product, Corporate and Digital Planning at Hyundai Motor America. A youthful exterior replete with edgy bodywork that does not cut into real-world practicality, along with an abundance of modern infotainment and technological features, helps add to the broad appeal of the Veloster.

The Veloster N stacks well against the Ford Focus ST and Volkswagen Golf GTI, but comes up short against the Focus ST and Golf R.
Joining the standard Veloster and Veloster Turbo models is the brand-new, performance-based Veloster N, which has its sights set on the Ford Focus ST, Volkswagen Golf GTI, and Honda Civic Si. The Veloster N demonstrates the suspension and tuning magic of former-BMW M-Sport Division Vice President of Engineering/current-Hyundai President of Performance Development and High Performance Vehicle Division, Albert Biermann. Power output is improved over the Veloster Turbo’s base 2.0 litre turbocharged, direct-injection DOHC I4 from 201 horsepower and 132 lb. ft. of torque to 275 horsepower and up to 260 lb. ft. of torque. Specially-designed brakes, an enhanced front suspension setup to quell torque steer and improve steering, and a myriad of driver-selectable driving modes through the N Grin Control System transforms the commuter-friendly standard Veloster models into a capable, competent, and competitive enthusiast’s car. As capable, competent, and competitive as any compact economy car with wrong-wheel drive can be.

 

Aufstehen!

2019 MERCEDES-AMG: E53 & CLS53

Mercedes-Benz had a large showing in Detroit. The 2019 Mercedes-Benz G-Glass (W464) luxury SUV wowed audiences with its tall and sharp angular proportions; a powerful visage that only hints at its all-terrain muscle and off-road capabilities. Only three components just barely carry over from the previous W463 platform but otherwise, the new W464 is an all-new design built from the ground up. Now, for those who prefer carving corners, tearing through superhighways, and commuting with style and sophistication versus traversing through inhospitable territories, Mercedes-AMG presents the next evolution in their high-performance E-Class-based sport luxury saloons, the 53-Series E-Class saloon and coupe, cabriolet, and CLS saloon.

Made for the Autobahn but lives at the dealership service department.
Whether you want your Mercedes-AMG with 2 doorsa convertible top, or as a sleek and low-slung 4-door sedan with coupe-like fastback styling, Mercedes-AMG delivers the world’s finest in performance, luxury accouterments, and state-of-the-art engineering. The 53-Series does away with the previous M156 twin-turbo V8 in exchange for a new hybrid system that joins a 3.0 litre turbocharged inline 6-cylinder with EQ Boost starter-alternator. Also, there’s the standard AMG-specific 4MATIC+ all-wheel drive system, the AMG SPEEDSHIFT TCT 9G multi-clutch automatic transmission with performance refinements, AMG DYNAMIC SELECT configurable drive modes, independent AMG RIDE CONTROL+ suspension, plus other enhancements that reflect AMG’s racetrack pedigree. Everything you need to remind everyone else on the road–as well as all the other cars behind you at the big corporate overpriced coffee franchise drive-thru, as you hold up the line arguing with the clerk because your Doubleshot Caffè Americano Doppio Espresso Caramel Mocha Macchiato Latte™® had SOY MILK when it should’ve had ALMOND–that you’re better than them.

 

The automotive equivalent of euthanasia, but with new sheet metal.

2019 TOYOTA AVALON

Toyota’s Camry and Corolla are bonafide sales winners. Think of just how many of them you see while on your daily drive to and from work or how they dominate your local neighborhood supermarket’s parking lot. However, as these two comatose commuters continue to swallow up market share in their respective midsize and compact segments, their full-size bretheren, the Avalon, hasn’t quite enjoyed the same kind of success as of late. Factors that contribute to the Avalon’s consistent downward spiral include America’s stubborn preference towards crossovers and SUVs and an overall shrinking of the full-size car market. For the past 4 years, the Avalon has continued to lose ground to the Dodge Charger (although the 707 horsepower SRT Hellcat doesn’t make up for the fact that most customers are mass-purchasing the V6 base model for fleet and rental agencies), Chevrolet Impala, and the Nissan Maxima but Toyota looks to change their fortunes with an all-new Avalon for the 2019 model year. The 2019 Toyota Avalon rides on a brand new platform called the Toyota New Global Architecture (TNGA), a production method that employs a single structure to be utilized across all of Toyota’s car and car-based vehicles. The ideology is not too dissimilar to the reviled but necessary (for the times) Chrysler K-car platform from the Lee Iacocca days. Now with the XX50 designation, the 2019 Avalon does away with the previous XX40 Avalon’s anonymous and uninspired styling (or lack thereof) and substitutes it with bold curves, sharp body lines, and that awkwardly-placed giant Corolla-esque front end has been supplanted by an even uglier, even more grotesque grille treatment that resembles meth mouth.  It doesn’t just take the whole design scheme down a few rungs, it knocks it completely off the ladder. Butthen againugly front ends are what’s hot in today’s automotive world. It’s quite apparent that for the top flagship Toyota car model, they’ve decided to borrow elements from their Lexus division. The Avalon proudly advertises a host of technological advancements in regards to driving dynamics, infotainment, and crash mitigation features as well as a contemporary approach to style that, while modern, will not be off-putting to their dedicated clientele (IE: senior citizens). In contrast, the 2GR-FE V6, a Toyota mainstay, reappears under the hood of the new Avalon and is a welcome departure from the slew of overwound, turbocharged 4-bangers that are taking their place. An alternative TNGA 2.5 litre 4-cylinder hybrid is available as an alternative to the no-frills V6. Power is sent to the front wheels through a Toyota/Aisin AW-designed transverse 8-speed DirectShift automatic transmission and features new logic programming in order to get the most out of whichever powertrain is equipped. The XX50 Avalon’s greater attention to build quality and detail encroaches on the territory of Toyota’s own Lexus ES but the Japanese manufacturer hopes that they can woo full-size car shoppers away from the Chevrolet dealership and into a Toyota showroom to look at the new Avalon. Well, at least one visit before they inevitably go back to the Chevy dealer and buy that Impala for stupid cheap.

Have you been following the 2018 North American International Auto Show news? If so, which one is your favorite? Which new vehicle can you picture sitting in your driveway?

The Ultimate Driving Machines: Top 5 BMW Cars From Past & Present

This magic badge lets the world know that you drive like a horse's ass.
One of the world’s top premier automotive marques is Germany’s Bayerische Motoren Werke or, for those ausländer die kein Deutsch sprechenBMW. Whether it’s in terms of innovationstyleluxury, or performance, many automotive journalists and enthusiasts alike consider the BMW brand among the finest automobiles in production today. Even for people who aren’t necessarily into cars or don’t know the slightest thing about them, they tend to associate BMW with poise, refinement, and elegance. It’s a corporate brand identity with over a full century of history and legacy behind it, as well as one of the most imitated.

The Focke-Wulf FW 190 and Messerschmitt Bf 109 were some of the most popular (or unpopular, depending on who's side you were on) fighter planes in World War II.
The Focke-Wulf Fw 190 Würger powered by the BMW 801 aircraft engine.

But before they created ‘ The Ultimate Driving Machine’, the company that started life as Rapp Motorenwerke was an aircraft engine manufacturer that supplied the Luftstreitkräfte (German Air Force) during World War I. After the fall of the Central Powers, the Treaty of Versailles forced Rapp Motorenwerke—now christened as BMW—to cease all aircraft engine production. BMW then took to manufacturing farm equipment, small household appliances, and railway brakes in order to prevent corporate shutdown. As the Treaty of Versailles started to wane, BMW reentered the motor vehicle business with their first motorcycle, the 1923 BMW R32, and 9 years later, the BMW 3/15, their very first production car to be designed entirely in-house. World War II saw BMW join the Nazi war effort by once again building military aircraft engines for the Luftwaffe and Waffen-SS. Ultimately, Germany’s second consecutive defeat and the elimination of the Nazi regime left the automaker completely decimated and in shambles. The resulting fallout of both World Wars, penal sanctions imposed and enforced by the Soviet Government and the United Nations, and a rapidly evolving motor vehicle landscape had BMW on the brink of extinction in December of 1959. Just as it seemed apparent that all hope was lost, BMW miraculously received increased financial support from Germany’s largest investment firm, the Quandt Group. This was the turning point that effectively prevented a corporate buyout by rival manufacturer Daimler-Benz, the parent company of Mercedes-Benz, and the beginning of BMW’s resurgence as a viable and profitable company. Riding the wave of success brought upon by the 1960 Neue Klasse (New Class) product revamp, BMW would spend the next 4 decades establishing themselves as the one of the world’s leading manufacturers of luxury sport sedans and touring saloons with their iconic 35, and 7-series models. The creation of the revolutionary M1 supercar in 1978 coincided with the founding of their own in-house performance shop, the BMW M Division, which has provided the foundations of all BMW models ever since. Today, BMW reigns as one of the world’s foremost names in luxury sport performance. With their illustrious background in international motorsports, their groundbreaking approaches to engineering and cutting-edge design, and their ever-growing influence over the auto industry, BMW looks to continue their tradition of automotive evolution well into the future for eons of generations to come.

Let us now take a look at 5 landmark models from the chronicles of BMW’s long and storied history.

 

Even in 1958, anyone with a BMW parked like a knob.
1955-1962 ISETTA

The car that’s credited with making BMW an internationally-renowned presence isn’t the postwar 501 luxury saloon or its V8-powered variant, the 502. It’s is the quirky, egg-shaped Isetta that lived from 1955 to 1962. 

TRIVIA: Steve Urkel's 1957 BMW Isetta is currently owned by none other than Steve Urkel himself, actor/writer Jaleel White.  He even had it fully restored back in 2013.
A 1957 BMW Isetta featured in the TV show, ‘Family Matters’.

The subcompact Isetta (in essence, a covered motorcycle originally built by Iso Autoveicoli S.p.A. of Italy) gave birth to the microcar craze of the 1960s which then experienced a renaissance in the early 2010s with models including the MINI Hardtop (the MINI marque has been owned by BMW since 2000), Fiat 500, and Daimler-Benz’s smart fortwo. The Isetta was a game-changer for not only BMW, but for the entire industry as a whole. It was the very first car to achieve a fuel consumption rating of 3 L/100 KM or 94 MPG (Imperial), 78 MPG (US). Fast forward to today, over 50 years since the very last Isetta left the factory, manufacturers such as Nissan, Fiat, and Toyota are still trying to figure out how to recapture the success of the BMW Isetta.

 

The BMW M1 body was penned by famous Italian designer Giorgetto Giugiaro.  Giugiaro's designs include the Maserati Ghibli, Lotus Esprit S1, and the DeLorean DMC-12.
1978-1981 M1

Initially conceived as a collaborative joint-effort between BMW and Lamborghini, the M1 was BMW’s first and, arguably, their only exotic supercar (until 2015, but we’ll talk about that later).

BMW's M1 Procar Championship touring series lasted only 2 seasons (1979-80).  In reality, it was less a legitimate racing league than it was a self-indulgent advertising campaign.
A pair of 1978 M1 Procar race cars in the BMW Procar Championship series.

Failure to have a production model approved for motorsports homologation, BMW sold the M1 to the public for a limited time between 1978 and 1981. The M1 was the debut effort by the fledgling M Division and is one of the rarest BMW models ever made. It was an experiment in creating a race car for the street; using a mid-engine layout, low-slung and wide body proportions with track-oriented chassis dynamics, and a motorsports-inspired dual overhead cam inline 6-cylinder that was based off of BMW’s M49 racing engine. The M1’s motorsports accolades prompted the BMW M Division to start creating performance versions of current regular production models and in 1979, BMW’s M Division built the E12 535i, the genealogical ancestor of the M5.

 

It wasn't that European cars like the BMW 3 Series were undeniably superior to American cars during the Malaise Era.  It's that American car companies just simply gave up.
1982-1994 E30 3 SERIES

Coming off the heels of the original E21 3 Series 2-door (1975-1983) was the new-for-82, 2nd generation E30 program comprised of coupes4-door sedansconvertibles, and estate wagons. The previous iteration was a handsome, yet relatively modest compact car but it’s growing popularity helped change the American public’s perception of small European imports in the wake of the notoriously-unreliable and problematic Italian entries from Fiat and Alfa Romeo. The E30 was also a breakthrough for BMW as it that laid down the groundwork for the 3 Series as we know it today. It combined luxury appointments, state-of-the-art engineering and technology, and an emphasis on driving performance into a range of unique models all tailored to suit the preferences of many different types of prospective buyers. For the first time ever, the 3 Series offered an available diesel engine, optional all-wheel drive, and a choice of special edition performance variants including the Alpina B6 and the original M3. The 3 Series went on to become BMW’s most popular model in their entire lineup and it’s a distinction it still holds today in the current 6th generation, the F30.

 

Not even BMW themselves have been able to build a better sedan than the E39 M5.
1998-2003 E39 M5

Considered to be the greatest BMW sedan ever made, the E39 M5 was heralded as the gold standard for which all other sport and touring sedans were to be judged.

A low drag coefficient means that you can quickly and more efficiently wrap the car around a telephone pole.
The E39 M5 had a drag coefficient of .29.

The Bavarian beast was powered by the 400 horsepower S62 DOHC V8 engine that featured dual intakes, double-VANOS variable valve timing for both the intake and exhaust camshafts, electronic throttle bodies for each of the individual 8 cylinders, 2-mode driver-selectable throttle response, hollow camshafts, and a semi-dry sump oiling system. Power was sent to the rear wheels VIA a Getrag Type D 6-speed manual gearbox and an aluminum-intensive chassis with MacPherson strut front/4-link rear suspension and optimal 50/50 weight distribution kept the vehicle planted to the ground during high-speed maneuvering. Classy and sophisticated for a dinner date, raw and uncompromising on the street; the E39 was the ideal blend of modern technology and classic BMW style without being sullied by the artificial electronic driver aids and unnecessary accouterments that detract from the purity of driving enjoyment.

 

The 2014 BMW i8 is one of those rare exceptions where the production version does not differ entirely from the original concept car.
2014-PRESENT i8

As dependency on foreign oil and concerns about the environment continue to shape the direction of the automotive industry, auto manufacturers have taken to hybrid technology as the logical course towards the future. Hybrid technology, once exclusive to subcompact economy cars, is now appearing in anything and everything from mainstream family sedans to full-size pickup trucks and SUVs. Even dedicated performance cars and supercars are applying hybrid technology, just as in the case of Honda’s reimagined NSX; Porsche’s follow-up to the Carrera GT, the 918 Spyder; the British Thoroughbred McLaren P1; and the absolutely insane 217+ MPH Ferrari LaFerrari.

The i8 uses a lightweight chassis, sustainable materials for the interior, and is produced in two factories that operate by wind-turbine (Leipzig, Germany) and hydroelectricity (Moses Lake, Washington).
The i8 represents BMW’s commitment to innovation and sustainable, Earth-friendly manufacturing.

A spiritual successor to the M1 supercar, the i8 is BMW’s first foray into hybrid sports cars and the brand’s first mid-engine vehicle since the M1. It was an effort that paid off greatly for BMW as the i8 ranks as the world’s #1 top-selling plug-in hybrid sports car—and for good reason. The i8 boasts track-worthy performance with real world drivability; a turbocharged 1. 5 litre inline 3-cylinder engine supported by a 7.1 KWH lithium ion battery pack and a pair of electric motors makes for a whopping 357 horsepower and 420 lb. ft. of torque with a combined average travel range of 336 miles. 0-to-60 happens in 4. 4 seconds and top speed is an electronically-limited 155 MPH. That’s quicker than the Mercedes-AMG SLC 43 and its gasoline-only twin-turbo V6. The i8 is the absolute pinnacle of BMW design, innovation, and engineering; a marriage of art, science, and technology and a glimpse into an optimistic future full of unlimited possibilities.

How long do you think it'll be before someone tries to do BMW butterfly doors on a Honda Civic?

The first production car to feature color-selectable interior ambient lighting was the 2005 Ford Mustang, but BMW and Mercedes-Benz will never cop to it.

It might not be as extreme as the McLaren P1 or carry the racing pedigree as the Ford GT, but the BMW i8 specializes in performance that you can use in real world situations.  That is, if you're willing to spend $160,000 to get it.