The annual four-day Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas that begins this week will feature a lot of newfangled in-vehicle tech designed to capture the futurist imaginations of the gadget obsessed. But when it comes to what’s actually going to roll out of car factories over the next year, all roads lead to Detroit the following week.
The 2016 North American International Auto Show kicks off in downtown Motor City on Jan. 11 for the press and on Jan. 16 for the public. About 750 cars will be on display from every major automaker during the annual event that generates (arguably) nearly $400 million every year into the economically depressed former car capital of the world, according to investment management firm Loomis Sayles & Co., which authored a study in 2013 on the show's effect on the regional economy.
As in recent years, showgoers will likely focus on the many compelling and talked-about new driving technologies that are making their way into cars people can buy, from adaptive cruise control to collision-avoidance radars. The show is as much about car shopping as it is about ogling concept cars that will never make it to mass production, or high-end luxury cars few of us can afford.
As usual, the two-week event kicks off with the North American Car and Truck/Utility of the Year Awards on Jan 11. The nominations for the 2016 model year are, for cars, the Honda Civic, Mazda's MX-5 Miata and Chevy's Malibu, and, for trucks/utility vehicles, the Nissan Titan XD, Volvo's XC90 and Honda's Pilot.
Looking ahead, several automakers are unveiling cars at this year's show that will go on sale in 2016. Here are nine and why they matter:
Volvo was the first to bring some of its Chinese-manufactured cars to the U.S., but General Motors will be the first American brand to do so. Betting that the U.S. consumer is used to the globalization of the automotive industry, GM is bringing the all-new small SUV to the U.S. because dealers have said Buick needs a vehicle of this size to fill a gap in its product line. The new vehicle features sculpted headlights and modern design features. It's likely to garner a lot of attention as visitors look for distinctive features in a car first introduced in China last year. The vehicle's price has yet to be announced. It should hit showrooms this summer.
What We Know
* Built on GM’s new German-designed D2XX platform.
* Turbo-charged four-cylinder engine.
* Six-speed automatic, 252 horsepower, all-wheel drive.
First off, the picture above is the concept version of Ford Motor’s widely anticipated attempt to revive the Lincoln brand. The 2017 production version will be unveiled in Detroit, although Automotive News recently caught some spy shots of the final version. Ford is keeping mum on the vehicle’s specs, but expect the company to pull out all the stops on luxury and in-car technology. The recent photos suggest a very similar front end to the concept version.
What We Know
* Ford is building this car with Chinese luxury vehicle buyers in mind.
* To lure those buyers, the car will have the ample rear seating that wealthy Chinese drivers favor.
* The Lincoln Continental was last produced in 2002.
BMW X4 M40i
The BMW X4 M40i crossover will have its world debut in Detroit along with the 2017 M2 Coupé, the new high-performing flagship of the 2-Series. BMW describes the X4 M40i as a “crossover coupe,” to suggest a sportier-looking small SUV that’s been given a boost from the automaker’s performance team. The vehicle gets an upgraded version of the engine powering the X4 35i (hence the “M” badge) as well as better suspension and modified steering.
The car will arrive in U.S. showrooms in February, and that's when we’ll know how much it costs. Current South Carolina-manufactured BMW X4s start at around $42,000, so expect to pay considerably more for the upcoming, sportier version.
What We Know
* 3.0 liter, six-cylinder engine.
* 355 horsepower, 343 pound-feet of torque.
* 0-60 mph in 4.7 seconds.
* 20-inch wheels optional.
Porsche 911 Turbo
Porsche has been meticulously rolling out updated 911s in recent years. Most of them now come with turbocharged engines, which increases both efficiency and power by injecting more air into the engine’s combustion chamber. This makes the traditional “Porsche Turbo” relatively obsolete. So to address this trend, the Volkswagen Group-owned automaker is adding extra muscle to the 911 Turbo, sending it close to the territory owned by million-dollar supercars for less than 20 percent of the price.
Most of what makes this Porsche distinct is under the hood and more noticeable on the road, but the interior does get the latest navigation and infotainment system, including a 7-inch touchscreen. The steering wheel comes right out of the $900,000 Porsche 918 Spyder supercar. The car gets a few design tweaks on the outside, including side air blades and new daytime running lights. The car goes on sale in the U.S. later in 2016 as a 2017 model.
What We Know
* Starting price is about $160,000, with the Cabriolet touching $200,000.
* 0-60 mph in 2.8 seconds for the Turbo S variant.
* Lane-change assist and front axle lift for those steep mega-mansion driveways.
* 360-degree images that feed to the touchscreen.
Infiniti’s best-selling small SUV will debut at Detroit with a new exterior and interior look, albeit without the luxury carmaker’s new VR twin-turbo engine that’s powering the also-redesigned Q50 sedan. But if a new engine isn’t important, Infiniti SUV fans will see an updated chassis and an improved suspension for smoother driving and a new power steering system for better control, according to the company. The vehicle will now include driver-selected driving modes that electronically adjust vehicle dynamics, such as driving on snow or reducing fuel consumption. On the outside, the new QX60 gets more advanced headlights, a new front grille and some extra chrome details. Infiniti sold nearly 25 percent more of these crossover SUVs this year, and the 2016 model debuting in Detroit will likely help keep that momentum going. Both the QX60 and Q50 will be available in the U.S. in the spring.
What We Know
* Starting price will likely be around the current $42,000.
* 3.5-liter V-6, 265 horsepower, 248 pound-feet of torque.
* Optional hybrid 2.5-liter four-cylinder, 250 horsepower, 243 pound-feet of torque.
* Q50 sedan gets a more powerful 400 horsepower engine option.
Honda has revamped its Alabama-made attempt to make a meaningful mark on the U.S. full-size pickup truck market. The first Ridgeline, though well received by reviewers, suffered from the unibody stigma when it debuted in 2004. At the time, truck owners weren’t used to Honda’s unconventional drift away from conventional body-on-frame truck construction, in which the body and chassis are separate units, perceived to be more rugged for workhorse vehicles. Now that consumers are used to big SUVs built with a body that’s structurally integral to the chassis, Honda hopes the newly designed second-generation 2017 Ridgeline showing up in Detroit will help jump-start sales. The truck is expected in dealer showrooms in the fall of 2016 with a starting price of about $30,000.
What We Know
* The truck shares its platform with the Acura MDX and the new Honda Pilot.
* Will share the Honda Pilot minivan’s 3.5 liter V-6, six-speed automatic.
* Four-wheel drive, nearly 300 horsepower.
* Could suffer the stigma of having a minivan engine and car-based platform.
Chrysler Town & Country
We’ve seen almost no images of Chrysler’s all-new sixth-generation luxury family hauler, but expect a significant design upgrade from the company that introduced the minivan to U.S. consumers in the early 1980s. If spy shots are any indication, the vehicle is longer and sleeker than its predecessor pictured above. The front end inherits the look of the 2015 Chrysler 200 and the van will come with motion detection, foot-activated sliding doors and rear liftgate. After a series of delays, the 2017 Town & Country minivan is likely to be well received by loyalists who haven’t gravitated to SUVs, and it could offer a serious challenge to the Toyota Sienna and Honda Odyssey. The price is yet unknown, but the current version is about $38,000. The all new Town & Country should begin showing up in dealerships by late spring.
What We Know
* 3.6 liter Pentastar V-6 engine.
* Nine speed automatic transmission.
* All-wheel drive and plug-in hybrid variants available later next year.
The luxury midsize sedan will replace the long-in-the-tooth S80 in more ways than one. Volvo Cars is emerging from a lost decade under Ford and this is the second vehicle — after last year’s XC90 SUV — to use the Swedish automakers’ new vehicle architecture. It’s all part of an $11 billion reinvention funded largely by Volvo's Chinese owner, Geely. The S90 will go on sale in the U.S. sometime next year as a 2017 model aimed at buyers of the Audi A6 and BMW 5 Series. A small number of longer Chinese-made S90s will trickle into the market for those who want more rear legroom.
What We Know
* Three engine choices, all turbocharged, 2.0-liters up to 400 horsepower.
* Optional electric motor assisted hybrid.
* Possible all-wheel drive option.
* Interior similar to the XC90.
This is the latest in Mercedes-Benz's yearslong revamp of its product line: the performance-tuned Mercedes-AMG SLC43 roadster, which replaces its SLK variant. It puts Merc’s smallest roadster in the company’s new model nomenclature announced last year. The “K” replaced the “C” to indicate it’s in the C-Class of compact executive cars. It has a smaller but more efficient engine than the 5.5-liter V-8 of its predecessor, which means slightly less power and acceleration. But Merc is betting consumers won’t mind in an era of smaller, more fuel-efficient engines. Nevertheless, the AMG SLC43 is the revved-up version of the new SLC300, the more affordable version.
What We Know
* 3.0 twin turbo V-6, 362 horsepower, 384 pound-feet of torque.
* Rear-collision avoidance autobrake system is standard.
* Adjustable suspension is optional.
* Larger 7-inch touchscreen than the SLK it replaces.