Over 700,000 square feet of automotive exhibition at the Cobo Center in Detroit is now open to the pubic. The free food has been eaten, free coffee and booze has been drunk, and the sweaty vultures that call themselves journalists have moved onto their next free meal. Ok, maybe we’re a bit cynical this year. But sometimes it doesn’t feel far from the truth. Especially when you’re tripping over “journalists” who are very enamored with the dimensions of the door latch on the new BMW 5 Series. So much so that they have a clipboard and calipers to record it all and compare it to other door latches for reasons that none of us can comprehend. Anyway, that hasn’t stopped us from our auto show tradition. Starting with the worst of the Worst and counting down to the best of the Best, here are our 2017 North American International Auto Show 5 Best and 5 Worst picks.
1. Audi SQ5’s exhaust tips
Audi S cars have a few visually distinctive features, like their brushed aluminum mirror caps and unique grilles. But all the S vehicles also share four chrome oval exhaust tips; it’s a hallmark of the S brand. The new Audi SQ5, however, does not. The space in the rear valance that looks like exhaust is capped with a black plastic panel. A close inspection of the Audi’s derriere found two exhausts behind the rear bumper aiming straight at the ground. We don’t like the trend of hidden exhaust tips, even on luxury vehicles. It’s disappointing enough to give this oversight a spot on our 5 Worst list.
2. Volvo V90’s availability
The Volvo V90 is an achingly beautiful car. Leave it to Sweden to show the world that simplicity in design can be visually interesting and entirely appealing. Why then, does the V90 make the Worst list? Unlike the S90, V90 Cross Country, and XC90, US dealers won’t inventory the V90. There are only two ways to get your hands on this beauty; special ordering through Volvo USA or going though the Volvo Overseas Delivery program. If you have even the slightest inkling that you want a V90, you should. Just think of the resale potential! But because it isn’t easy, it made the list.
3. Subaru WRX STi’s facelift
In photos, Subaru’s refreshed WRX and STi fascia looks great! In person, we were disappointed. There’s more plastic everywhere. The center grille’s new gloss plastic looks cheap. The fog lights are gone, too, replaced by bland plastic panels. Those panels look like grilles, but only a minute portion is actually open to airflow. If you ask us, it’s a big step backwards.
4. Chevrolet Traverse
At the time of publishing, the Wikipedia article for the Chevrolet Traverse – the obvious authority on the subject – notes that the second generation Traverse “moves away from its egg-shaped design to one similar to the Tahoe…”. From the side, we can kind-of see it. From the front, however, that bold utilitarian Tahoe face is conspicuously absent. In its place is something that seems more at home on a minivan. Maybe we’re being hard on the Traverse. But we’ll never know. Shortly after reaching this conclusion, Vice President Biden arrived and everyone forgot about the Traverse.
5. Whatever this is
Um…yeah. It’s the worst.
Two years ago, we went to Detroit in a VW Jetta TDI SEL. Unfortunately, we were forced to leave the Jetta behind. In the ultimate tale of automotive redemption, we secured a worthy successor, the VW Beetle Dune Convertible, to make the trip. 1,391 miles later, we were safe at home. The Beetle made it, too.
4. Riviera Blue
Do you think the R8 is sexy? Do you fall in love with unique shades of blue? If you answered yes to only one of these questions, then you won’t be disappointed. If you answered yes to both, sit down! This Audi Individual R8 V10 sports $30,000 in unique options. Chief among them is this drop dead gorgeous Rivera Blue paint. We couldn’t look away. It’s that good.
3. A conversation with Johan
We arrived unfashionably early to a Cadillac event billed as “Cocktails and Conversation”. Seeing as we were only 2 of the 4 guests in attendance so far, we didn’t expect much conversation. So when Cadillac CEO Johan de Nysschen joined us at our table, we were taken aback! For the next hour, Mr. de Nysschen very candidly shared stories about himself and the future of Cadillac. Hearing his passion first hand gave us a new appreciation for Cadillac. Sure, there are the big talking points to discuss; the dealer network, moving headquarters to NYC, and how great the new Escalade will be (really great!). But if you suddenly find that a new ATS or CTS sounds better than ever before, you have one person to thank. It’s that attention to detail that we were enlightened to. It’s an experience we don’t take lightly, and it was certainly special enough to be one of the best things from this year’s show.
Porsche 911 by Singer Vehicle Design
If you’ve never laid eyes on a Porsche 911 by Singer, you can’t really be blamed. They’re few and far between. So when you come across not one, but two very special machines, you just have to stop and admire. The Monaco and London are the latest 911s to be “restored and reimagined” by Singer Vehicle Design. The sultry curves of the 911 are enhanced by hundreds of hours of painstaking attention to detail. Every surface, every structure, and every component has been pondered, enhanced, and accentuated. They are truly things of beauty. Thanks to Michelin for inviting Singer to use their booth to display these striking works automotive art.
1. Kia Stinger
Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition! Well nobody expects Kia to go and make a sport sedan, either. Amongst its weaponry are such elements as a 3.3L twin-turbo V6 making 365 hp, a torque vectoring all-wheel-drive system, Brembo brakes, and 19 inch performance summer tires. We likely have BMW M’s former VP of Engineering, Albert Biermann, to thank for this new sport sedan. A 2.0L turbo will also be available in a rear-drive Stinger with a mechanical limited-slip differential. Like Rebels on Scarif, the Stinger gives enthusiasts hope that our universe won’t become an autonomous automotive Empire. It’s that new hope that gives Kia the #1 spot from the 2017 North American International Auto Show.
2017 NAIAS: Debut Day