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The 5 most important models in Detroit this week

Posted by Michael Thomas at

DETROIT -- With performance, quality and good fuel economy being the ticket to admission in the cutthroat North American market, the emphasis on eye-catching design and advanced electronics as a differentiator is one major theme of the 2016 Detroit auto show.

Though the number of concept and future production vehicles getting their world debuts at the show are far fewer this year than in years past, there are some stars. In no particular order, here are the five most important vehicles at this year’s show and how they grade.

Acura Precision Concept It’s amazing that after all these years Honda’s upscale division is still searching for a design language that resonates with consumers. Most brands lost in the wilderness for 20+ years don’t survive. Acura’s latest attempt to re-establish a viable identity involves something called the “Diamond Pentagon” grille.

At first glance, the grille, with its large Acura logo in the center, reminds you of Mercedes-Benz, and that’s probably not an accident. The rest of the car sports numerous sharp angles leading to gentle curves, not unlike Cadillac’s current design language. Dave Marek, Acura’s global creative director, says the car is going to shape the direction of all future Acuras and that the design language will transfer to smaller cars such as the ILX. The styling may be busy but the Precision Concept does have a presence. Bland it isn’t. Grade: B

Buick Avista

One of the most striking cars at the show, this concept coupe from Buick signals a possible new design direction for the brand. The grille is unlike any seen before on a Buick. The sleek, broad-shouldered exterior is both muscular and elegant from certain angles. The Avista’s interior, with its light-colored perforated leather interior, brushed aluminum trim and advanced electronics, looks like it was lifted straight out of a Star Trek movie. Except for the paddle shifters behind the steering wheel, there are no buttons, switches or knobs on the dash. All the vehicle’s major functions are controlled via touch screen. General Motors design chief Ed Welburn says there is no technical reason why the car could not be built, though it might need a B-pillar for roof strength. It’s a rear-wheel-drive car, something not seen in Buick’s lineup since the late 1980s Grand National and GNX. Pressure is already mounting for GM to build the Avista, which rides on a version of the company’s Alpha platform that underpins the Cadillac ATS and Chevrolet Camaro. Grade: A   more...

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