Car Industry

Best of Detroit Auto Show 2018: Debuts, concepts and more

Detroit was seriously busy this year, so here's a cheat sheet in case you missed anything.

Jon Wong/Roadshow

January is a very hectic month for the auto industry. Now that CES has grown to encompass its own miniature auto show, the back-to-back presence with the Detroit Auto Show means attention is usually split between the two. Well, Detroit came out swinging this year with a whole slew of concepts and production vehicles.

Whether you were after trucks, sedans or something with some sport in it, Detroit's debuts had something for you. Heck, even the pie-in-the-sky concepts delivered something fierce in 2018. In case you missed anything, we're here to recap the whole show, segment by segment.

Truck yeah!

The Year of the Dog? Nope -- 2018 is apparently the Year of the Truck. Detroit was home to several massive truck debuts, both in terms of the vehicles' sizes and their importance in the industry. Pickup trucks sell hundreds of thousands of units per year, so while you might not dig a pickup, the rest of the country sure as spit does.

2019 Ram 1500

The 2019 Ram 1500 arrived on a diet, weighing roughly 225 pounds less than it did before. Not only will that help its fuel economy, there's a new 48-volt mild hybrid system available on both V6 and V8 models that can both improve fuel economy and deliver additional torque when necessary.

The V6 sports 305 horsepower and 269 pound-feet of torque, while a Hemi V8 bumps output up to 395 and 410, respectively. With the latter engine, the new Ram 1500 can haul up to 12,750 pounds and carry about 2,300 pounds in the bed. There isn't a diesel engine on offer quite yet, but one should arrive in 2019.

Aside from the visual changes outside, the interior packs a killer new feature. Buyers can option a 12-inch touchscreen infotainment display that's oriented vertically, like the screen in Tesla's Model S and Model X. It can run multiple applications simultaneously, and given how big truck dashboards are, it doesn't manage to look obscenely large.

2019 Chevrolet Silverado

If you thought the Ram's weight loss was sizable, you ain't seen nothin' yet. The 2019 Chevy Silverado dropped about 450 pounds in its new generation, thanks in part to some new aluminum body panels. The bed is still made of steel, though, because Chevy spent a long time mocking the aluminum-bodied Ford F-150 and it doesn't want to appear hypocritical.

Both Ford and Chevrolet introduced new diesel engines for their light-duty pickups this year. The Chevy gets a 3.0-liter Duramax I6 that's mated to a 10-speed automatic. More traditional V8s are available, both of which come with a new cylinder-deactivation system that can operate on a single cylinder. Sadly, Chevy's been pretty mum on output and towing figures, so we'll have to wait a bit longer for that.

2019 Ford Ranger

Toyota and Nissan have long held ground in the midsize pickup segment. Chevrolet eventually entered the game with its new Colorado. Now, a few years later, it's Ford's turn to dive in with a new Ranger.

The new 2019 Ford Ranger will be available in both SuperCab and SuperCrew configurations, with a wide variety of trims offering all sorts of aesthetic and functional upgrades. There's only a single engine on offer for now -- a 2.3-liter turbo I4 mated to a 10-speed automatic. The Ranger will pack the same four-mode terrain controller found on the Raptor.

Since trucks are lifestyle enhancers as much as they are work vehicles these days, there's all sorts of creature comforts in the new Ranger. Sync 3 is standard in one of three screen sizes. It has Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and Amazon Alexa integration, a 4G Wi-Fi hotspot and standard automatic emergency braking.

2019 Mercedes-Benz G-Class

While you might not consider the Geländewagen to be a truck, it rides on a proper ladder frame, is seriously capable, and has roots in military applications. Sounds close enough to a truck to me.

Mercedes-Benz didn't mess with success with the 2019 G-Class, focusing primarily on upgrades to its capability and interior comfort. A new front independent suspension and rack-and-pinion steering will make it drive better on the road, while adjustments to the chassis have improved all the important parts of off-roading -- approach and departure angles, fording depth, etc.

The interior is where most of Merc's efforts were focused. There's way more rear legroom than before, and while some traditional hallmarks like the passenger-side grab handle still exist, its tech offerings are no longer dated. Buyers can opt for a dual 12.3-inch widescreen setup and massaging seats. Not every G-Class will end up in the dirt, so those who only use it for stunting at the mall will still enjoy this new generation.

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Sedans will not go gently into that good night

Buyers' focus might be on trucks and crossovers, but sedans are still an integral part of the industry, and the 2018 Detroit Auto Show was home to some clever new four-door debuts.

Honda Insight Prototype

It's neither a production debut nor a concept, but somewhere in the middle. The Insight Prototype is a nearly fully baked Insight, minus a few key bits, but it's a firm preview of what to expect from Honda later this year.

When it arrives at dealers, the Insight will act as the official replacement for the Civic Hybrid. Its 1.5-liter gas engine mates to Honda's two-motor hybrid system, and the automaker is hoping for 50 mpg (or more) by EPA measurements. In terms of size, it just about rests between the Accord and Civic.

2019 Kia Forte

Kia's booth at the 2018 Detroit Auto Show was nearly entirely filled with Stinger sport sedans, which shows you where the company's priorities lie currently. Some of that car's good looks trickled down to the company's newest sedan, the 2019 Forte.

In addition to its good looks, the Forte packs an eco-friendly punch with a 147-horsepower I4 mated to a new Kia-developed CVT. The automaker is hoping for about 35 mpg combined when it goes on sale later this year.

In terms of tech, there's plenty to get excited about. An 8.0-inch touchscreen is standard, as is Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. You can option it out with the latest safety systems like adaptive cruise control and lane-keep assist, and there's even a 320-watt premium audio system on offer. Kia's always good at offering near-insane levels of value in its affordable cars, and the Forte seems no different in that regard.

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2019 Toyota Avalon

Every generation of Toyota Avalon to date has been a bit of a snoozefest, appealing to few segments other than pensioners and people who just don't want a Camry. The 2019 Toyota Avalon hopes to fix that with some aggressive new looks and the latest tech.

Buyers will get to choose between a traditional 3.5-liter V6 and a hybrid system, both of which come mated to an eight-speed transmission. A 9.0-inch touchscreen is standard, in addition to a variety of cutting-edge tech like Amazon Alexa integration and a massive 10-inch head-up display. Heck, there's even smartwatch integration if you're into wearables.

2019 Volkswagen Jetta

The last VW Jetta didn't really engage us, but it was smart, sensible transportation for the people. The new one looks to be largely the same, except it should be a fair bit better to drive, now that it lives on the same MQB platform as the VW Golf and Audi TT.

The 2019 Jetta borrows a bit of style from the Audi stable, too, with a steep character line on the trunk and some clever hood creases. Under the hood is the same 1.4-liter turbo I4 as the previous generation, because while some things might not work, others definitely do.

In its top trim, you'll have plenty of screens to contend with. The gauge cluster can be optioned as a large, configurable display, and the infotainment screen can measure up to 8.0 inches. There's also a new stereo tie-in with Beats Audio, replacing the Fender partnership of old.

Crossovers galore

You didn't think I'd forgotten about the crossovers, did you? This is one of the hottest segments in the industry, with buyers flocking from smaller sedans for that extra ride height and cargo capacity. 2018 is going to be a good year for crossovers, as you'll see below.

Acura RDX Prototype

The new Acura RDX will be a force to be reckoned with. Under the body, you'll find the same 2.0-liter turbo I4 and 10-speed automatic from the also-excellent 2018 Honda Accord. It also looks the business, thanks to its liberal use of Acura's latest design language. RIP, Beak Grille.

The interior is also impressive. It borrows much of its layout from the NSX hybrid sports car, with a push-button transmission and a large mode dial front and center. The infotainment system is intriguing, in that it uses a clever type of touchpad that has a one-to-one relation with the screen above it. Need to access the top right tile on the screen? Just tap the top right of the touchpad -- no need to drag a cursor or spin a dial to get there.

Now playing: Watch this: 2019 Acura RDX hits Detroit with a hot new look, make-or-break...
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Ford Edge + Edge ST

The 2019 Ford Edge only received a midcycle refresh, but it's a good 'un. All Edge models get new front and rear fasciae, in addition to standard LED lighting and a new hood. Sync 3 is standard with both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, as well as a 4G Wi-Fi hotspot with support for up to 10 devices. The base engine is a peppy 250-horsepower I4.

If that's not enough for you, there's the Edge ST. Toting a 2.7-liter, twin-turbocharged V6, the Edge ST puts out a delicious 335 horsepower and 380 pound-feet of torque. The traction control will let you hang the rear out a bit, massive brakes will bring it to a stop and you can outfit it with a set of Pirelli high-performance tires. I used to scoff at the idea of a performance crossover, but this sounds like the budget Audi SQ5 I've always wanted.

2019 Jeep Cherokee

Jeep turned the 2019 Cherokee into the Compass for its midcycle refresh. The unique headlight setup is gone, and in its place is a more traditional look that sort of neuters the crossover's edge. A new 2.0-liter I4 is available with 270 hp and 295 pound-feet of torque. There's some more cargo capacity, but just about everything else is the same. They all can't be exciting, folks.

Now playing: Watch this: Jeep gives us a better looking Cherokee in Detroit
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A good show for enthusiasts, too

Enthusiasts represent a small yet vocal subset of the automotive industry. Most cars aimed at enthusiasts are high-dollar vehicles that very few can afford. Luckily, in Detroit, some more affordable fun stuff popped up for us to enjoy.

2019 Ford Mustang Bullitt

Ford surprised the crowds in Detroit when it unveiled the Mustang Bullitt, developed to pay homage to Steve McQueen's movie of the same name, which came out 50 years ago. The car features the same shade of green as the original "Bullitt" Mustang, and there are plenty of "Bullitt"-specific aesthetic touches like the wheels, the cue-ball shifter and the badge on the steering wheel. 

It's not just an aesthetics package, though. Thanks to some pieces borrowed from the GT350, output on this V8 is up to 475 horsepower and 420 pound-feet of torque. So, not only does it look the business, it'll hustle like all get-out, too.

2019 Hyundai Veloster

The Veloster has always been a fun, funky hatch, and the latest generation is no exception. It still sports the weird third door on the passenger side, but its general shape has been tweaked to better align with other new Hyundais. I think it looks better, honestly. Like before, there are turbocharged and non-turbocharged variants available.

If you want to ramp up the fun, though, opt for the new Veloster N. This will be the first from Hyundai's new performance brand in the US, and it seems pretty great on paper. The Veloster N sports a 275-horsepower, 2.0-liter I4 engine. Its six-speed manual can handle its own rev-matching, the exhaust pops and burps, and you can opt for massive 13.6-inch brake rotors. Hell, yes.

Now playing: Watch this: Hyundai N sport models headed to US, starting with 2019...
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Mercedes AMG -53 lineup

Nobody really talked about this at the show, but I think it's a big deal. Mercedes is slowly phasing out its current 3.0-liter V6 (found in the AMG -43 lineup) and replacing it with a 3.0-liter I6, which will live under the AMG -53 badge.

Debuting on the E-Class and CLS-Class, the new I6 sports 429 horsepower, a marked improvement over the V6's power output. You also get a gnarly set of quad, round tailpipes and some proper AMG interior trimmings. Plus, it's a globally recognized truth that inline-six engines sound way better than V6s do.

Finally, the concepts

Oh, you thought that was it? Think again! In addition to all that lovely production sheet metal, automakers rolled out some pretty gnarly concepts.

Lexus LF-1 Limitless

Lexus is no longer the sleep aid it used to be. Its design borders on properly daring these days, and that's very evident in the LF-1 Limitless concept.

Designed to embody the idea of a flagship SUV, the Limitless concept sports some wild sheet metal on the outside, whether it's a crazy amount of hood creases or the strange split spoiler out back. The interior isn't much different, with a "four-dimensional" navigation system, liberal uses of fancy materials and one very cool dashboard screen.

Now playing: Watch this: Lexus LF-1 Limitless concept previews a new flagship...
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Infiniti Q Inspiration

In my opinion, Infiniti's new Q Inspiration concept is the prettiest car at the show. Meant to preview a new generation of Infiniti sedans, this concept is curvaceous and bright, with a rear end that tapers off toward a single taillight.

Inside, there are four individual seats surrounded by leather and matte wood. Of course, it's unlikely that 90 percent of this concept will actually make it to production, but here's to hoping.

Nissan Xmotion

If there's one concept that looks ready to beat you up, it's Nissan's Xmotion. Pronounced "cross motion," this concept points to the future of Nissan's small crossovers like the Rogue and Murano.

The future is apparently thick with beefcake. The Xmotion has some very bulky fenders and tires. Its lights are up high, giving it some visual capability. And then there's the interior, which is basically art. The wooden center console was put together using traditional Japanese wood joinery techniques, and a set of screens on the dashboard spans the entire width of the interior. I wouldn't want to imagine the cost of that center console if it were available in production.

In case pictures are more your speed, check out our mega-gallery of every Detroit debut.

Also, if you want individual breakdowns on these vehicles and more, check out our Detroit Auto Show page.