NAIAS 2018: Few major launches in Detroit

Features - Auto show

A lackluster start to auto show season still provides a few looks at future designs

March 5, 2018

Typically, early January in Detroit, Michigan, offers a preview of what will be on the road within a year or two, but the 2018 North American International Auto Show posted a rare disappointment. A few automakers skipped the event entirely, and others focused their attention on cool, far-in-the-future autonomous designs that were highlighted the week before at CES (formerly the Consumer Electronics Show) in Las Vegas, Nevada.

At an event that in years past had been called Detroit’s car show, automakers showed off few cars. The market prefers trucks and sport utility vehicles (SUVs) these days, a preference made evident at Cobo Hall (see Infographic, pg. 26). Following are highlights from the show.

American Honda Motor Co.


Ford Motor Co.

General Motors Co.

Mercedes-Benz USA LLC

Toyota Motor Corp.

About the author: Robert Schoenberger is the editor of TMV and can be reached at 216.393.0271 or

2019 Jeep Cherokee

Far from a complete redesign, the 2019 Cherokee is a mid-cycle update of a popular sport utility vehicle (SUV). In addition to some minor styling updates, the 2019 model gets a composite rear liftgate, shaving some weight compared to the metal version. It will also get a 2L, 4-cylinder diesel engine capable of 270hp and 295 lb-ft of torque.

2019 Ram 1500

Unlike Ford’s F-150 which has an all-aluminum body and General Motors Chevy Silverado with a steel bed but aluminum doors, hoods, and liftgates, the Ram 1500 remains primarily steel – with a 98% high-strength steel frame. Still, strategic use of lightweight materials cut 225 lb out of the 2019 model, so it should have better tow, payload, and fuel economy performance.

Acura RDX Prototype

A version of the car that goes on sale in a few months, Honda hopes the RDX Prototype will generate excitement for the new vehicle. Small crossovers are selling extremely well these days, and the second-generation RDX is showing its age. Designers say they did everything they could to highlight the vehicle’s dynamic look, including slightly angling the exterior door handles to match the curves in the body panels.

2019 Ford Ranger

Ford cancelled the last generation of the Ranger seven years ago because it had become a cheap alternative to the more profitable F-150. The new ranger will get the 2.3L EcoBoost 4-cylinder engine that produces 280hp, 310 lb-ft of torque, and up to 3,000 lb in tow capacity in some versions of the Explorer sport utility vehicle (SUV). That’s similar horsepower and torque to the V-6 version of the Chevy Colorado (308hp, 275 lb-ft), a competing truck that can tow up to 7,000 lb. The Ranger will be a steel, ladder-framed truck, so it should have a significantly higher tow rating than the unit-body Explorer.

Hydrotec SURUS

Though automakers shared most of their futuristic vehicles at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, General Motors’ Hydrotec subsidiary brought the minimalistic Silent Utility Rover Universal Superstructure (SURUS) to Detroit. Effectively a giant skateboard, the SURUS can be powered by hydrogen fuel cells, batteries, or anything else that can generate enough electricity to drive its wheels. The company is pitching it as a solution for military applications and use in disaster zones where refueling can be a challenge. It can be run in autonomous mode, or users can drop a cab on the modular frame.

2019 Mercedes G-Class

Clear winner for the dirtiest vehicle at Cobo, Mercedes’ upcoming G-Wagon is nearly identical to the almost-indestructible vehicle it replaces. So rather than focus on showing off new sheet metal, the automaker put cars through off-road torture tests and displayed them with mud caked on like war paint. Improvements include slightly more leg and shoulder room inside, a more powerful engine, and several enhancements to suspension components to boost off-road capabilities.

2019 Toyota Avalon

One of the few new cars on display, Toyota’s large sedan is holding up better than some compacts, but the car market is not in favor. Never a top seller, it’s doubtful that adding minor styling flair will revive interest in the vehicle, as most people in Toyota showrooms are leaving with Rav4 sport utility vehicles (SUVs).