If CES is a car show disguised as a tech show, then where does that leave the Detroit Auto Show that begins next week? That’s a question plenty in the auto and transportation industry would like to know. But if the glimpse into the distant future was the mobility theme this year in rainy Las Vegas, frigid Detroit will be more about the cars and trucks you can buy in the much nearer future.
The Verge transportation team is headed to Detroit to cover new compact sedans, big SUVs, and everything in between. Surprises are inevitable, but here’s what we already know to look out for.
Michigan is the midwest, so it was already natural that there would be plenty of truck launches. But consumers are also overwhelmingly going from typical sedans and hatchbacks to SUVs and trucks, and not just in the US. That’s in part because these larger vehicles now offer similar features to cars with added practicality and less of a penalty on comfort and efficiency. Therefore, automakers are rushing to update their more utilitarian vehicles with new tech and improved comfort levels.
For Americans, there will be a clash between two domestic giants. General Motors will reveal the 2019 Chevrolet Silverado to the public for the first time (we’ve already seen photos of it). Chevy truck aficionados will recognize right away it shares more design cues with the car line than ever before, including a noticeable rounding of the wheel arches and face. But it’s also expected to pack more car-like features inside than ever before, meaning it’ll be a plush hauler.
Fiat Chrysler, meanwhile, hasn’t revealed its 2019 Ram 1500 yet, but it seems like the automaker will wait until the eve of the event to show off their breadwinner. The Ram has already been pushing a lot of the tech features on the typically traditional pickup truck market, with things such as adjustable air suspension, lockable storage boxes, large center touchscreens and a diesel model good for nearly 30 mpg on the highway (that’s good for a big truck). Look for this newest version to build on that, since the outgoing model has been a cash cow for FCA.
Ford is resurrecting an old name in the form of the new Ranger. A rival to the likes of the Toyota Tacoma and Chevrolet Colorado, it’s unlikely to break much ground in terms of tech, and certainly seems like a departure from Ford’s connected city talk at CES. But if the new Ranger can develop the reputation for simplicity and longevity as the old one did, the company will be happy in the near future.
However, if there were a Detroit Auto Show award for a long-lived car, it would have to go to the Mercedes-Benz G-Class. Released in 1979, it was basically already old and arthritic when it officially came to the US in 2002 and kickstarted a new life as a $100,000-plus twin-turbocharged monster that was also capable of going anywhere a military vehicle should. There’s a genuinely new G-Class coming to the show that’s dressed up to look like the old one, but adds up-to-date tech under the boxy exterior. Mercedes’ new voice assistant is likely to show up there, too. We’ll find out if it keeps that indestructible feel, though
There will be touchscreens (and cars)
Cars are not forgotten, though. Audi will show their A7 for the first time in North America. The sweeping profile of the old one remains, but it’s joined a swath of touchscreens and dazzling exterior lights that are reminiscent of the new A8 we drove last fall.
A new Volkswagen Jetta is coming, too. Wow. But really, the Jetta is a popular starter car, and the company’s bread and butter in the US. A new version is promised to be more visually exciting and will likely inherit some of VW’s tech shown on models like the Golf and Tiguan, such as a large center touchscreen and the Digital Cockpit with gauges you can manipulate through steering wheel controls.
Mercedes is also set to unveil its line of AMG vehicles with a 48-volt electrical system to support mild hybrid technology. The new CLS should be the first to get the system that will effectively serve as a way to boost performance with a minimal impact to fuel economy. Cars like the new Bentley Continental GT and the Jeep Wrangler are going to use this technology this year, and expect many more to start before the new decade.
But for real hybrids, the Honda Insight will take center stage again. What was once a quirky, low-slung two-seater is now a much more conventional looking sedan with a rear seat. It’s Civic-sized and more conventional as part of Honda’s ploy to hybridize pretty much everything in their lineup. The current Civic is good (and efficient), but Honda says it will push past the 50 mpg mark with this new Insight. In an era of relatively low gas prices in the US, though, they may have been better off just bringing their cute EV concept from Frankfurt.
The slightly less near future of concept cars
Of course, there will be concepts. We’ve already seen the backside of Infiniti’s Q Inspiration concept and hope to see the front of it, too, as the show draws closer. Vaguely Tesla-looking at the rear, it’s expected to brag about some futuristic powertrain. Infiniti is already experimenting with trick engineering like variable compression in an internal combustion engine you can buy soon, and parent Nissan is big on electrification and driver assistance tech. Expect the Q to be the indication of where Infiniti will fit into that.
Lexus, meanwhile, just wants to be sporty. They’ll show off the LF-1 Limitless concept. All we know so far is that it’s a rakish SUV that boasts some cool lights. Maybe Bradley Cooper will pop out of it or something like that.
Then there’s GAC. Yes, it’s a company you probably haven’t heard of. The Chinese automaker has been slowly inching into the Detroit Auto Show this year, with a full-blown stand there last year. They’re showing some new models next week, including an EV concept that’s designed with “American youth in mind,” according to Car and Driver.
Sure, let’s bring a little CES to Detroit.