The 2016 North American International Auto Show in Detroit is in the rearview mirror for automotive journalists, who have left with a hard drive full of images and an inbox of packed with press releases. This year’s show was especially rewarding. With the economy strongly recovering, resulting in record automotive sales, manufacturers are taking bigger chances and for lack of a better way to say it, showing off a bit.
2017 Lexus LC 500
No vehicle at the show illustrated the spirit of success – dare I say excess – better than the ready-for-primetime 2017 Lexus LC 500. While there may be a concept or two that are arguably a tad more compelling, like the Acura Precision and Buick Avista, the LC 500 represents a futuristic vehicle that we will definitely be able to drive.
Akio Toyoda, chief branding officer and master driver for Lexus, introduced us to the new sports coupe with a giant grin, knowing full well that the enthusiast-pleasing radical design would stand in stark contrast to the brand’s familiar reputation for playing it safe. Aimed directly at the storied sports coupes from Europe, the 2017 Lexus LC 500 will be priced right around $100,000, equipped with a 10-speed automatic transmission, and share the 467-horsepower V8 engine currently found in the Lexus RC F.
2017 Infiniti Q60
While not quite as dramatic or expensive, Infiniti made sure that their competitor wasn’t the only premium Japanese brand to debut a spell-binding sports coupe at the show.
The all-new 2017 Q60 is a visual stunner, well it is for me anyway, and will be powered by a new twin-turbo 3.0-liter V6 engine that will produce up to 400 horsepower. Long time Nissan fans know that this isn’t the brand’s first attempt at a rear-wheel drive sports coupe with a twin-turbo V6. The legendary 300ZX of the ‘90s dominated the sports car scene with a similarly sized power plant with forced induction.
2017 Chrysler Pacifica
In an interesting bit of automotive marketing, Chrysler announced an all-new minivan to replace the retiring Town & Country but gave it the name of an already once-dead crossover, the Pacifica. While the sliding rear doors make the new minivan’s nature apparent, Chrysler hopes to bury the minivan stigma once and for all by building a vehicle that looks like a crossover SUV from 20 feet away (or when it is driving by at 20 mph).
Somehow Chrysler has stuffed more than 100 standard and available safety and security features into the new minivan, although that doesn’t come as too much of a surprise considering that the Pacifica will have the most interior volume in the segment.
The Pacifica will be offered with Chrysler’s familiar Pentastar V6 and nine-speed automatic transmission. Additionally, Chrysler is rolling out the Pacifica Hybrid, which will represent the industry’s first gas and electric hybrid minivan.
2017 Honda Ridgeline
For many years, the Honda Ridgeline served as the pickup truck for folks who needed the utility of an open bed vehicle but wanted something unique and, dare I say, quirky. For 2017, Honda is apparently done being the zig to everyone else’s zag and has redesigned the all-new four-door Ridgeline to look more like a midsize pickup truck. According to Honda, the 2017 Ridgeline will boast the “largest and most versatile cabin and the only 4-foot-wide flat bed space in the midsize pickup segment, along with payload capacity rivaling top competitors.”
The 2017 Ridgeline will be powered by Honda’s formidable 3.5-liter V6 engine and six-speed automatic transmission. I’ve driven more than a few Honda vehicles with this gloriously smooth combination. With its nice power band and efficiency, it isn’t difficult to see that it will be a nice fit for the medium-duty pickup truck. While the Ridgeline may not be the ideal truck for construction professionals or folks who need to haul more than 1,600 pounds, the first of its kind in-bed audio system, a standard in-bed lockable trunk, and an optional 400-watt power inverter may make the 2017 Ridgeline the best beach vehicle of all time.
Hyundai Introduces Genesis Brand
While other manufacturers appeared to be quite proud of themselves as they launched new models, Hyundai kicked things up a notch by introducing a whole new brand. Leading the charge will be the all-new 2017 Genesis G90 premium luxury sedan.
Built to compete with some of the nicest machines to ever roll around on four wheels, the G90 takes aim at a segment that few imagined the once lowly Hyundai brand would ever aspire to. If Hyundai’s current Genesis sedan is at all representative of what is to come – and it should be because it literally inspired the brand – the G90 is going to be the real deal. If a U.S., European, or Japanese luxury sedan is in your not-too-distant future, you may want to include a visit to your local Genesis dealer before making a final decision.
2017 Lincoln Continental
Balancing out the newness coming from Korea is the return of an American icon, the Lincoln Continental. Sure, Lincoln has teased us with images and concepts, but much to the delight of everyone rooting for the brand, Lincoln introduced us to the production version of the 2017 Continental for the very first time. The company’s flagship sedan will receive a new twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter V6 engine that Lincoln is guessing will deliver about 400 horsepower and 400 pound-feet of torque. There’s also an available all-wheel drive system that should equate to a pretty nice driving dynamics.
The Continental’s interior lacks for nothing, everything that isn’t wrapped in leather is dolled up with genuine wood or exotic metal inlays. While I have had my doubts in the past, Lincoln’s Black Label package actually makes perfect sense with the Continental. The nature of the full-size luxury sedan is suited to personalization and further refinement. While the nostalgic side of me wishes that Lincoln had remembered more of the iconic styling of the mid-1960s with its suicide doors, I can see how the somewhat subdued exterior styling will appeal to a wider audience.
NACTOY Winners: 2016 Honda Civic and Volvo XC90
Hats off to Honda and Volvo for winning their respective North American Car and Truck of the Year (NACTOY) awards for the 2016 Honda Civic and Volvo XC90. I’ve been a fan of both since their debut. As a matter of fact, I talk about the new Civic so much people are starting to wonder if I’m employed by Honda; I’m not, it’s just that good.
Meanwhile, the Volvo XC90 is loaded with technology and ground-breaking powertrains, including a plug-in hybrid powertrain that makes it the world’s first seven-passenger plug-in hybrid electric vehicle. A luxurious interior and semi-autonomous driving technologies also make the all-new SUV a popular choice with NACTOY’s jurors.