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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Whether you want your Mercedes-AMG with 2 doors, a 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.
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. But, then again, ugly 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?