Acura to Ford at the Detroit auto show

Acura to Ford at the Detroit auto show

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Acura

Honda’s luxury division will take its biggest step yet in the brand’s transformation built around “Precision Crafted Performance” with the introduction of a redesigned RDX crossover prototype at the Detroit auto show.

The compact crossover will move to the modular architecture used by Honda’s Accord, Civic and CR-V. Turbocharged engines are likely, as is a liberal use of Acura’s evolving design language and even the brand’s first application of its Precision cockpit design.

Also possible this year: a redesign of Acura’s ILX compact sedan — if the nameplate continues. If the ILX is redesigned, expect it to get many of the advancements on the current Civic, because the ILX is based on that car. Those include a refined chassis, new styling and a turbocharged engine.

— David Undercoffler

Alfa Romeo

Alfa Romeo won’t have a press conference at the Detroit auto show this month, but it plans to expand its lineup in 2018.

The resurrected brand will unveil a new midsize coupe — another derivative of the Giorgio platform that underlies the Giulia sedan and Stelvio crossover. The name of the new coupe has not been announced, but it eventually will compete with the BMW 4-series coupe and the Audi A5. It is expected to be in European dealerships by the end of the year and make its way to North America in 2019.

Larry P. Vellequette

Aston Martin

Aston Martin already has revealed its key 2018 model — the replacement for its best-selling Vantage sports car. Deliveries for this turbocharged V-8-powered coupe start in April, but that’s not all for the U.K. brand in 2018. Sometime in spring or early summer, Aston will launch the replacement for its flagship sports car — the Vanquish. Expect turbocharged V-12 power and similarities with the brand’s aggressive Vulcan hypercar in terms of design.

The current Vanquish provides the basis for two Aston Martin specials for 2018: the Vanquish Zagato Shooting Brake and the Vanquish Zagato Speedster. We’ll hear more about Aston’s SUV this year, but it won’t appear until 2019.

Aston is another luxury automaker whose Detroit presence is limited to The Gallery ultraluxury event this week, which features a Vantage model.

Nick Gibbs

Audi

Audi won’t have a press conference at the 2018 Detroit auto show, but the German premium brand plans to boost the top end of its lineup this year.

The Q8 will arrive in late 2018 as a crossover with coupelike proportions and seating for five. The Q8 also will be among the nameplates to get a plug-in hybrid powertrain, with a design based largely on the Q8 fastback crossover concept that debuted a year ago in Detroit.

Also coming to U.S. showrooms in the second half of 2018 will be the redesigned A8 flagship sedan. The A8 will feature Audi’s Traffic Jam Pilot, which Audi claims will be the first-ever Level 3 autonomous driving system. Traffic Jam Pilot allows hands-free driving on separated highways at speeds of up to 37 mph. However, as Automotive News reported, the system will function only in regions of the country where such autonomous driving is legal.

In the first half of 2018, Audi will expand its lineup with the RS 5 Coupe, powered by a 450-hp twin-turbocharged V-6 engine.

Larry P. Vellequette

2018 BMW X2

BMW

After a two-year U.S. sales slide, BMW is looking for growth in 2018 to come largely from new and redesigned crossovers.

BMW will unveil the production version of its X2 crossover at the Detroit auto show. Company leaders are counting on the new entry in the subcompact-crossover segment to help conquest younger buyers.

The X2 is the latest in a flurry of crossover introductions for the brand. BMW also will launch redesigned versions of the X4 and X5. And 2018 will mark the first full year of sales for the redesigned X3 compact crossover, which went on sale in November.

The renewed portfolio will give BMW a chance to turn around its sales after a decline in 2017.

“I think there will be growth next year, assuming nothing happens on the political front,” said Ian Robertson, who at the end of 2017 concluded his run as BMW’s global sales chief.

In addition to the X2, BMW also will show the freshened i8 coupe in Detroit. The brand released images and details of the plug-in hybrid sports car in conjunction with the Los Angeles Auto Show in November. The freshened i8 coupe joins the new i8 roadster.

Though i8 volumes as low, changes on tap for higher-volume BMW vehicles this year also could help. In addition to the crossover boom, BMW will continue to renew its car lineup. A redesigned 3-series sedan is expected to go on sale before the end of 2018. More 5-series variants are coming, such as the M5 early this year. A freshened 7-series sedan and the new 8-series coupe are expected by late 2018.

Amy Wilson

Bentley

Bentley’s big reveals in 2018 revolve around its successful Bentayga SUV, which expands its single W-12 variant in the U.S. to include a twin-turbo V-8 and a plug-in hybrid version.

The Bentayga Hybrid will use battery-electric technology developed for use across Volkswagen Group luxury brands, including Porsche and Lamborghini, likely married to a V-6 gasoline engine. The Hybrid will be revealed at Geneva auto show in March, with sales starting in the second half, Bentley said. The V-8 gasoline will launch next week.

The brand also will begin deliveries of its new Continental GT coupe, which uses the Bentayga’s 6.0-liter turbocharged W-12 engine. The convertible GTC version won’t appear until 2019, a spokesman for the U.K. brand said.

Bentley won’t be at the Detroit show, but the Bentayga and Flying Spur are scheduled to form part of The Gallery ultraluxury event this week.

Nick Gibbs

2018 Buick LaCrosse Avenir

Buick

Buick will focus its short-term attention on continuing the launches and marketing of the redesigned Enclave crossover and Regal family of cars while highlighting its new Avenir subbrand.

The 2018 Enclave, which ushered in Avenir, arrived in dealerships in the fall, followed by the Regal Sportback and Regal TourX wagon at the end of the year. The Regal GS will begin arriving on dealership lots in the coming weeks.

Phil Brook, U.S. vice president of marketing for Buick, has said advertising for the redesigned Enclave will begin this month. A new campaign touting the three-car lineup for the Regal is expected to launch in March — likely for the NCAA men’s basketball tournament, for which Buick has been a major sponsor since 2011.

The Regal will not have the Avenir trim initially, although Buick is expected to continue to expand the subbrand to other nameplates.

In November, Buick announced a 2018 LaCrosse Avenir that features unique styling and additional standard features and premium materials. It also features Avenir badging and exclusive 19-inch Pearl Nickel or available 20-inch Midnight Silver wheels.

Buick is expected to refresh the Envision compact crossover later in the year.

More news for the brand, including an all-electric crossover, could come this year — potentially out of China, an emerging EV market that represents the majority of Buick’s global sales.

Michael Wayland

Cadillac

Cadillac, as it has in recent years, is expected to forgo showing anything new in Detroit to concentrate on the New York auto show in March. That’s where it’s likely to unveil a new compact crossover called the XT4.

The XT4, based on spy photos, shares some design characteristics with the XT5 midsize crossover but features a new taillight design as well as a steeper, more angular rear — in line with comments made by Cadillac President Johan de Nysschen about the vehicle’s design.

The long-awaited crossover is the first of several new crossovers Cadillac is adding over the next four years.

Cadillac’s lineup currently is made up of the Escalade large SUV and four car nameplates, but only one crossover, the XT5. By 2022, Cadillac is expected to have four crossovers and just three cars, plus the next-generation Escalade.

Future models will be unveiled publicly about six or seven months ahead of production, de Nysschen said — two or three months sooner than has been customary for the brand — and will be tested more extensively on public roads without camouflage.

As the brand introduces new models, expect Cadillac’s Super Cruise semi-autonomous highway driving system to expand as well.

More on dealers’ minds than new products is likely the second year of Cadillac’s Project Pinnacle dealership incentive program.

For 2018, Cadillac will weigh customer satisfaction scores and compliance with brand standards more heavily than sales volumes when determining U.S. dealer bonuses. The brand also will not give dealers sales targets for individual nameplates.

The changes come after de Nysschen confirmed that “many” dealers missed their targets for 2017.

Michael Wayland

Chevrolet Corvette ZR1

Chevrolet

The official debut of the redesigned Chevrolet Silverado for the Detroit auto show will begin an important year for the bowtie brand.

Chevy unexpectedly unveiled an LT Trailboss trim of the full-size pickup — one of eight 2019 Silverado models planned — last month in Texas. Executives provided few details on the vehicle, but the fourth-generation Silverado is expected to feature revolutionary changes that General Motors hopes will upend the segment and better position it against the Ford F-150.

It will include a significant mix of lightweight materials, an expected 10-speed automatic transmission and enhanced aerodynamics to improve the pickup’s fuel economy and overall competitiveness.

The 2019 Silverado features a sleeker, more aggressive exterior that’s noticeably different from the more rectilinear outgoing version. The rectangular grille features two large horizontal bars, compared with one on the current-generation pickup, that run into headlamp stacks with prominent, boomerang daytime running lights.

The Silverado and its sibling, the GMC Sierra, are expected to launch in the middle of the year, GM CEO Mary Barra has said.

This year also is expected to mark the resurrection of the Chevy Blazer SUV and freshenings of the Colorado midsize pickup, Malibu midsize sedan and Volt plug-in hybrid.

Among Chevrolet’s performance offerings, the 755-horsepower Corvette ZR1 coupe and convertible are scheduled to go on sale in spring and the brand is looking at expanding its Rally Sport Truck offerings.

Michael Wayland

Chrysler

Chrysler won’t hold a press conference at the Detroit auto show, or likely any of the other major auto shows in 2018, unless plans to build a new midsize crossover, still expected in 2019, are moved forward.

With just two vehicles in its lineup — the aging 300 sedan that was last updated in 2014 and the Pacifica minivan that debuted in 2016 — the Chrysler brand still needs more product than it has to stay relevant.

A Hellcat variant of the 300 planned for later this year won’t be sold in the U.S., but will be exported to the Middle East. The brand may offer a special edition or two to boost interest in the Pacifica in the face of increased competition, especially from Honda and Kia.

Larry P. Vellequette

Dodge

With a very lightly freshened (and resurrected) Dodge Grand Caravan now rolling into dealerships after a months-long production hiatus to allow it to conform to safety regulations, Dodge will spend 2018 working on the products it needs to launch in 2019.

Dodge won’t hold a press conference at the Detroit auto show, but later in the year, it is likely to debut a few limited edition package models to maintain interest, especially in the Challenger and Charger.

The Journey is being redesigned as a rear-wheel-drive to share a platform with the Alfa Romeo Stelvio, and its production will be moved to Italy. It’s possible the redesigned Journey will be shown at the Los Angeles Auto Show in November, but it is not expected to debut until the 2019 Detroit show.

Larry P. Vellequette

2018 Ferrari 488 GTB

Ferrari

Ferrari’s big news of the year is expected to be the reveal of the extreme performance version of the 488, probably at the Geneva auto show in March.

Previous stripped-out editions of its flagship midengine V-8 coupe have reached legendary status — think the 360 Stradale, the 430 Scuderia or, the most recent, the 458 Speciale. Ferrari doesn’t attend North American shows, but the Italian brand’s cars can be seen at The Gallery ultraluxury event this week, specifically the 488 GTB and the 812 Superfast.

Nick Gibbs

Fiat

The Fiat 500 minicar will be refreshed this year as the struggling brand slogs on in the U.S.

Production for North America has been moved from Toluca, Mexico, and consolidated in Poland with Fiat 500 production for Europe. As a result, the brand’s top-selling model will see some small changes, though full details aren’t yet available.

The remainder of Fiat’s small lineup will continue on unchanged in 2018.

Larry P. Vellequette

2019 Ford Ranger spy shot

Ford

The Detroit auto show is expected to be loaded with pickup news, and Ford doesn’t plan to sit idly by as its competitors introduce redesigned models.

The brand is expected to reveal its Ranger midsize pickup at its Sunday night press conference. Ford has been mum on its plans, but showing the Ranger in Detroit makes sense. Production is expected to start at Ford’s converted Michigan Assembly Plant in mid-2018 for the Ranger to go on sale as a 2019 model.

Spy photos have been circulating that show similar styling to the Ranger built overseas for global markets, but Ford executives have said the U.S. Ranger will likely get a grille and front end similar to its F-150 and Super Duty counterparts.

It’s unclear what else Ford might show in Detroit, but it has options. Executives have promised five new utilities by the end of the decade.

The Edge crossover is due for a freshening, as are the Transit and Transit Connect vans.

Beyond Detroit, 2018 will be a busy product year for Ford. It will roll out the EcoSport small crossover to the U.S. in the spring and add a diesel variant of its profitable F-150 pickup around midyear. The brand also will soon wind down production of the Focus in Michigan to make room for the Ranger, then start importing the Focus to the U.S. from China in 2019.

Michael Martinez

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