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2016 Detroit Auto Show Winners and Losers

2017 Lexus LC 500

CARS.COM — At the 2016 North American International Auto Show in Detroit nearly two dozen production cars made their debuts, including luxury models, hot sport coupes and even a potentially game-changing electric car from an American automaker.

More 2016 Detroit Auto Show Coverage

Cars.com editors Aaron Bragman, Joe Bruzek, Mike Hanley and Brian Wong took it all in during two press previews days. Here are their takes on what works and what doesn't from this year's Detroit Auto Show.

2017 Audi A4

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2017 Audi A4;

Cars.com photo by Evan Sears

Aaron Bragman: Winner
It basically looks like a play straight out of the "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" school of thought. The A4 looks like the previous A4; only dedicated fans likely will be able to tell the difference. This kind of continuity — constant, slow refinement and changes to the parts you can't see — is what works well for the Honda Accord. And it still offers a wagon version, the 2017 A4 Allroad, which pleases me.

Mike Hanley: Loser
The A4 still offers good interior space for a compact luxury car, especially in terms of backseat room, and the all-new interior has a sleek, upscale appearance that impresses with high-grade materials. However, there's just not enough that's new with the exterior to wow at an auto show. Audi cars already look like different-sized versions of each other, and now, with the new A4, a full redesign looks like the one that came before. Not good.

Joe Bruzek: Loser
Mercedes' redesigned C-Class is a stout benchmark for a segment that's well rounded in luxuriousness and roominess, so I question if Audi went far enough with the A4 when I don't see an easy win for it in any particular area. The A4 certainly looks to make a value statement in features for the money, however, with pricing already announced.

Brian Wong: Loser
I agree with Bragman on one thing: Audi didn't really fix much. For a redesign in such a battleground segment where all the luxury marquees are duking it out, the A4 falls flat. Incremental improvements are not the name of the game here, and I don't see a reason to buy one over its more compelling competitors.

2016 BMW M2

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2016 BMW M2;

Cars.com photo by Angela Conners

AB: Winner
I'm a big fan of the BMW M235i, so seeing one with more power, more style and an even slicker interior makes me happy. The only problem with it is likely to be price — the M235i is already one seriously costly coupe when you option it up, and the M2's price, which starts around $52,000, is eye-popping.

MH: Winner
The BMW M3 has been getting bigger with each redesign, and while it's a fine performance car, I'm really excited to see BMW return to its roots with a small high-performance coupe in the M2. I can't wait to drive it, preferably on a track.

JB: Loser
I have no doubt the M2 will be a rip-roaring, track-capable machine. Its $52,000 starting price puts it in a competitive space with an entry-level Porsche Cayman or even the seriously capable Ford Mustang GT350. Considering a rear-wheel-drive M235i is so good right off the bat and already borderline pricey at $44,000, the M2 will have to deliver one heck of an improved experience.

BW: Winner
The M2 is a beneficiary of its association with BMW's M family of cars, which have been exceptional traditionally. We haven't gotten behind the wheel yet, but the M2 has an impressive pedigree: The suspension, aluminum front and rear axles, and gearbox are all lifted straight from the M3. Combine that with a lighter curb weight and shorter wheelbase than the M3, and aggressive styling that differentiates it from the rest of the 2 Series, and it all adds up to a winner in my eyes. One minor annoyance: no standard backup camera? Come on, BMW.

2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV

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2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV;

Cars.com photo by Angela Conners

AB: Winner
The name is still stupid because it's so easily confused with Chevy's own Volt when talking about it in casual conversation, but there's no denying that the Bolt EV is a significant achievement. Plenty of interior room, distinctive styling, a reasonable price and an electric range in excess of 200 miles would be a true game-changer — if gasoline weren't $1.45 a gallon at my corner station.

MH: Loser
With a driving range of 200-plus miles, the range anxiety that's been associated with most electric cars should be a non-issue. However, I wonder how many people will be willing to shell out around $40,000 (before applicable federal tax credits) for what's essentially a four-door subcompact hatchback, especially with the prospect of continued low gas prices.

JB: Loser
Hopefully the Bolt is still in production if/when gas prices increase again, because the Bolt has many strong points as a practical purchase for those who qualify for the full federal tax credit. There's no pizzazz or spark with the Bolt, so few are likely to be attracted to this on an emotional level, which would be the only way to attract buyers with gas prices so low.

BW: Winner
The Bolt wins on numbers alone, hitting two of the most important ones: 200-plus miles of range and right around $30,000 in price (after federal tax credits). I don't think the Bolt looks good, but I also don't think it looks bad, and its height pays dividends for headroom. The upward sloping greenhouse also gives rear passengers a feeling of space in front of them, an underrated feature.

2017 Chrysler Pacifica

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2017 Chrysler Pacifica;

Cars.com photo by Evan Sears

AB: Winner
I wouldn't go so far as to call it a sexy minivan, but the styling improvements alone for the new Pacifica should help it sell more than the Chrysler Town & Country does. It's easily the best-looking minivan on the market, with a space-age smoothness that throws the awkward zigzag lines of the Honda Odyssey under the proverbial bus. Throw in the improvements to Stow 'n Go seating comfort and the availability of a 30-mile electric-only range on the plug-in hybrid model, and the Pacifica is intriguing.

MH: Winner
I don't understand ditching the Town & Country name for Pacifica, a short-lived crossover from Chrysler's past, but I agree with Bragman that it looks like Chrysler now has a strong minivan on its hands. The sleek Chrysler 200-esque front end sets the right tone, and the cabin looks both handsome and functional.

JB: Winner
The Pacifica could have looked like a cross between a Dodge Caliber and a Ram ProMaster — a cringe-worthy mashup — and I would still give the new minivan a win. Minivans are first and foremost about function, which the Pacifica nails with tons of innovative technology in addition to roominess and cargo versatility.

BW: Winner
I almost called the Pacifica a loser simply because I hate the proclamation that the minivan needs saving or reinventing, but it's impossible to deny that the Pacifica is a leap forward from the outgoing Town & Country. The seating is more flexible; the sliding doors and liftgate can be opened by waving a foot underneath them; and there's an available vacuum for spills. It's also got more cargo and passenger room, more flexible seating options and a rear entertainment system that will stream video from your tablet or smartphone. This is a big win for Chrysler.

2017 Ford Fusion Sport

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2017 Ford Fusion Sport;

Manufacturer image

AB: Winner
No, it really doesn't look any different than the outgoing model, and the plug-in hybrid Fusion Energi doesn't get any additional capability either. But the news of a 325-horsepower, twin-turbo 2.7-liter V-6 and all-wheel drive coming to the Sport model is significant; it makes the Fusion the most powerful midsize family sedan on the market. It's doubtful any BMW customers are cross-shopping the Fusion with the 340i, but with standard all-wheel drive, an electronic sport suspension, and more power and interior room than the Bimmer, maybe they should.

MH: Loser
The new drivetrain in the Fusion Sport is compelling, and the subtle exterior styling updates don't take away from what's still a stylish family sedan, but I wish Ford had spent more time on the interior. Not on the trim, which is nice in the new Platinum model, but on the center of the dashboard where there's still a jumble of buttons below the touch-screen.

JB: Winner
I'm looking forward to driving the awesome 2.7-liter EcoBoost engine in something other than a 2-plus-ton SUV or pickup truck. The engine has tons of promise as a performance engine, and if we never get it in the Mustang then the Fusion is a good alternative. Hopefully the all-wheel drive can handle that extra power and alleviate complications that can arise by sending that much torque through a front-wheel-drive-based platform.

BW: Loser
There are few occasions in which a 325-hp, twin-turbocharged V-6 won't bring a smile to my face, but one of them happens to be the Ford Fusion Sport. Bragman rightly points out that the Sport is now the most powerful midsize sedan coming to market, which is a fun piece of trivia, but it won't matter to the vast majority of shoppers. And like Hanley said, the drivetrain is compelling, but if the rest of the car isn't, then … .

 

2017 Genesis G90

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2017 Genesis G90;

Cars.com photo by Evan Sears

AB: Loser
Hyundai didn't so much create a luxury brand as it bought one — the whole thing seems to be run by European executives, and they've built an excellent 10-year-old Mercedes-Benz S-Class. Whereas the new BMW 7 Series is partly carbon fiber, the latest S-Class can practically drive itself and the new Volvo S90 has a highly unique interior, the G90 is simply a big luxury sedan, but not a standout in any way.

MH: Winner
Some aspects of the G90 aren't as luxurious as they probably should be, like some of the silver-colored buttons in the interior and the gauge cluster, but after observing Hyundai's trajectory in the mainstream car segment, I wouldn't underestimate the automaker's ability to rapidly fix what it needs to in the luxury space. After selling premium cars under the Hyundai name for years, it's high time for a luxury brand.

JB: Winner
I was wowed with how the G90's interior completely shut out the auto show. With doors closed, the G90 was quiet enough to silence the bustling auto show and quiet enough to hear the second hand ticking on a cheap watch. I know the watch was cheap because it was mine.

BW: Loser
I agree with Bragman. If the G90 is supposed to carry the flag for a new brand and sit at the peak of its capability, this feels more like a hill than a mountain. Looking at it from the outside and sitting inside it, the G90 is an improvement over the outgoing Equus, but the improvements felt marginal. Launching a new brand is hard work, made harder without making a splash at its inception. The G90 makes ripples.

2017 GMC Acadia

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2017 GMC Acadia;

Cars.com photo by Angela Conners

AB: Winner
Dang, that's a sharp-looking SUV. It's considerably lighter than the model it replaces, which makes sense as it's considerably smaller than the model it replaces. It also makes sense when you consider the Buick-GMC showroom, which will now offer a full lineup of crossovers ranging from the diminutive Buick Encore, moving up to the Buick Envision, then the slightly larger GMC Acadia and topping off with the large Buick Enclave. I'm not sure where the GMC Terrain fits long term, however.

MH: Winner
The resized GMC Acadia feels a lot less huge the minute you sit in the driver's seat, and that's a good thing. It also offers a roomy second row that slides forward and backward. Some people will lament the small third row and the tiny cargo area when that third row is in use, but GMC still has a Yukon and Yukon XL for those buyers.

JB: Loser
The Acadia simply being smaller isn't my only concern with GMC's new approach. A sliding second row only has the quick-entry feature on one side, and there isn't much room in the third row, or behind it, once in use. Other midsizers like the Toyota Highlander and Honda Pilot have more functional ways of doing the same thing, plus more room.

BW: Winner
I climbed into the Acadia's third row and found it to be more comfortable than expected and easier to access as well. There was enough space for my knees and just as importantly, my head. As Hanley noted, for those who want to carry seven or eight folks regularly, the Yukon is a better option, even if the Acadia hadn't been downsized. Add in the new safety technology and I think the Acadia makes sense for more families in this form than its former, larger self.

 

2017 Honda Ridgeline

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2017 Honda Ridgeline;

Cars.com photo by Angela Conners

AB: Loser
Honda's take on the compact pickup doesn't really resonate with me. First of all, it's a false pickup; that bed may look separate, but underneath it's all one piece. The overall look is that of a Pilot SUV with the back chopped off. I think it's going to have a hard time competing against the truly trucky-looking competition from GM, Toyota and eventually maybe Ford and Nissan. But then, maybe offering something a little different is what Honda intends to do. Either way, as a truck it feels lacking.

MH: Winner
I wish Honda had made the Ridgeline's front end more distinctive from the Pilot SUV, but I like the traditional truck look that it's adopted overall. It still has handy features like the dual-action tailgate and in-bed trunk. The bed is notably shallower than competitors like the GMC Canyon, but if it drives as well as the new Pilot, it should appeal to buyers who need a truck for occasional or light work.

JB: Winner
All I needed to see was the six-speed automatic transmission listed instead of the wonky nine-speed used in the Pilot to get behind the new Ridgeline. And, of course, the fun in-bed stereo, 400-watt power inverter and in-bed trunk are perfect for tailgating. Plus, the interior is massive, like full-size truck big, and there's now a real truck bed.

BW: Winner
I want to acknowledge that the Ridgeline is not going to be for everyone, but as someone who lives in a large city and would keep the pickup truck on city streets, it makes perfect sense. The construction gives the Ridgeline a flat cargo area with minimal wheel-well intrusion, making the whole bed usable. And as Bruzek mentioned, the available speakers in the bed along with the in-bed trunk with a drainage plug make the Ridgeline a tailgater's dream.

2017 Infiniti Q60

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2017 Infiniti Q60;

Cars.com photo by Angela Conners

AB: Winner
Finally, Infiniti styling that looks good. Better than good, really, it's distinctive and sexy without being weird like a Lexus RC. Muscular haunches, 400 horsepower, a decently crafted interior. The only thing still in need of help is the multimedia system.

MH: Winner
I really like the new Q60's styling, which gives the coupe a considerably trimmer appearance than its predecessor. It looks fast, and it should be with an available high-power turbocharged V-6.

JB: Winner
The Q60 looks the part and also has the right hardware — on paper, at least — to pair attractive sports coupe looks with a potential high-performance, turbocharged driving experience. Don't screw this up, Infiniti.

BW: Winner
I like every part of the Q60's styling except for the front. That grille doesn't quite match the rest of the muscular styling and Mustang-esque profile, but that feels like a minor quibble because the rest of it is so good. As an added bonus, you can actually fit more than two people in it somewhat comfortably. When I hopped in the back I expected my head to be halfway through the roof thanks to the slope of the greenhouse, but I was pleasantly surprised. If it drives like it looks, Infiniti has a definite winner.

2017 Lexus LC 500

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2017 Lexus LC 500;

Cars.com photo by Angela Conners

AB: Winner
Everyone thought we'd seen the sexiest coupe at the show when Buick unveiled the Avista concept Sunday night, but then Lexus rolled this out Monday and blew everyone away. I can honestly say that this is the first Lexus in a decade that I've found appealing. It's gorgeous, inside and out, but it's going to cost how much? Almost $100,000?! Seriously?

MH: Winner
The new LC 500's styling stays remarkably true to the LF-LC concept that wowed at the Detroit Auto Show a few years back, and it still had that effect in production form at this year's show. Low and aggressive, and with more than a little of Lexus' famed LFA supercar in the design, the LC 500 is a big win.

JB: Winner
The LC 500 looks like it could be one heck of a grand touring coupe with its striking exterior styling and gorgeous interior. Its relatively skinny tire size may indicate it's more of a road king than track hound, but either way, the car is a piece of art.

BW: Winner
This was the show winner for me. It was the only car that made me audibly gasp when I saw it for the first time. The attention to detail shown inside and out is remarkable, the materials are luxurious and the design speaks for itself. The LC 500 will be a head-turner for years to come.

2017 Lincoln Continental

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2017 Lincoln Continental;

Cars.com photo by Evan Sears

AB: Loser
I just can't get excited about this thing. Its looks are derivative; there's nothing distinctively "Lincoln" about any of it. Although it has decades of heritage to draw on, Lincoln decided instead to start fresh with a front-drive platform with some gimmicky door handles. At least the audio system is likely to be phenomenal; the Revel system in the MKZ is extraordinary. But when Hyundai, Lexus and even Buick are talking about expanded rear-wheel-drive platforms, I just don't see how the Continental is going to move the needle at all.

MH: Loser
Compared with the Volvo S90, another all-new large luxury sedan that made its debut in Detroit and will compete with the Continental, the Lincoln is lacking. It doesn't have the distinctiveness, inside or out, of the Volvo. After looking at the Continental with the blue interior that was on the show floor, all I could see was 1980s-era American luxury — not a great place to be.

JB: Loser
Comparisons to the Volvo S90 are spot-on. There isn't once square inch of surface in the Volvo that looks cheap or fake, which cannot be said for the Continental with its center console and door trim that looks crudely printed and textured. And then there's the backseat I can't sit in without my head touching the roof; this is supposed to be a large sedan, right?

BW: Loser
This feels a bit like piling on, but of the three large luxury sedans that debuted at the show, the Continental was the least refined. I echo Bruzek's statement: The materials felt a segment below luxury and as cool as those door handles were (they were not gimmicky to me), they're not enough to elevate the Continental anywhere near the winner's circle.

2017 Mercedes-Benz E-Class

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2017 Mercedes-Benz E-Class;

Cars.com photo by Angela Conners

AB: Winner
Mercedes-Benz is coming dangerously close to the German "one sausage, three sizes" aesthetic that has been employed by luxury automakers for decades, but at least the sausage is really tasty. This looks more like a baby S-Class than even the C-Class did when it was introduced, thanks to the optional digital dash that looks lifted straight from the flagship. The interior is really what sells the E-Class, however, with materials and designs that should embarrass competitors.

MH: Winner
Mercedes' restyled E-Class has a sleek, understated look that it wears well, and its interior quality is really impressive, bringing a lot of elements from the flagship S-Class down to the brand's midsize model. Add in the available technology features that move the E-Class closer to a self-driving car and you have a strong redesign.

JB: Winner
The huge screen stretching across the interior is exactly the kind of "wow" factor I expect to see out of a next-generation luxury car like the E-Class. Materials are equally as impressive and so is comfort in the spacious interior.

BW: Winner
Don't let the austere styling fool you, inside the E-Class is a technological music festival — the names of all of the tech features roll on and on, like the set list at Lollapalooza. From near-autonomous driver aides to new touch-sensitive controls on the steering wheel to an ambient lighting system with 64 color options that makes the cabin feel like a Virgin American airplane, the E-Class is feature packed, and it has excellent materials and fit-and-finish to boot. Business on the outside, party on the inside? Count me in.

2017 Volvo S90

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2017 Volvo S90;

Cars.com photo by Angela Conners

AB: Winner
Finally, a luxury flagship sedan that actually looks different and distinctive, especially from two vantage points: the rear-quarter view and the driver's seat. The back end looks like nothing else on the road, but it's different in good ways, while the interior carries on the XC90 SUV's fantastic materials and surprise-and-delight controls. The clincher for me: It has a rear-wheel-drive car's look and proportions, despite being front-wheel drive. That takes some skill.

MH: Winner
I actually don't care that much for the rear-quarter view — it looks too much like a Volkswagen Passat to me — but the rest of the car is exceptional. The T-shaped headlight signature and wide grille give the S90 a stern, distinctive look, and the richly appointed cabin positions the S90 well against established luxury cars. With the XC90 and now this, Volvo is on a roll.

JB: Winner
Every last bit of the S90's interior is covered in high-quality, visually pleasing materials. The S90 is a legitimate luxury vehicle, which is impressive considering that a year or so ago Volvo cars were in more of a "premium" space than luxury. It's a complete turnaround that started with the XC90 and is in full effect with the S90.

BW: Winner
I'm the fourth to mention this, but it still bears repeating: The S90 is in many ways, just a sedan version of the XC90 — Volvo's reps confirmed it has the same snappy infotainment screen and even the same seats. If you're going to imitate, copy from the best; the XC90 is an excellent place to start. Throw in an ultra-comfortable backseat, world-class safety features, sophisticated styling and an advanced hybrid powertrain, and it's impossible to deny the S90 a place at the winner's table at this auto show.

 
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