The snow might be dumping down outside, but the cold couldn't put a freeze on the annual North American International Auto Show in Detroit. Unlike the Paris Show, which focused on modern mobility solutions for an increasingly crowded world, Detroit wound back the clock with plenty of sports cars and four-wheel drives – though that doesn't mean economy and environmental considerations were taken off the table. Here are some of the best launches from the floor of the Cobo Center.
Audi Q8 Concept
Launched first thing on day one, the Audi Q8 Concept is arguably the most impressive debut of the whole show. It's powered by a plug-in hybrid powertrain, linking a 333 hp (245 kW) turbocharged engine with an electric motor for a total system output of 442 hp (332 kW). Audi is claiming 37 miles (60 km) of all-electric range, helping the car return a scarcely believable 102.3 MPGe (2.3 l/100 km).
It wasn't the powertrain that got tongues wagging, though. There's simply no getting past the huge grille grafted onto what is otherwise a slick – if typically understated – soft roader. Theories about what inspired the design team range from reasonable (the grinning face on new Lexus models) to ridiculous (Richard Kiel as Jaws in Moonraker) but we can all agree it gives the car serious presence. Whether it survives the transition to production remains to be seen.
Speaking of bold faces, take a look at the nose on the Lexus LS500. Designed to take on the BMW 7 Series and Mercedes S-Class, it makes up for its forgettable decade-old predecessor with a new look you'll instantly love or hate.
Move past the chintzy nose and you'll find an interior that, although unashamedly Japanese in its design, is able to match the Germans for quality. Tick the right boxes, and front seat passengers are treated to leather seats with 28-way adjustment, while rear passengers can relax in reclining thrones. When it comes time to beat a hasty retreat, the back seats raise by 24 degrees – perfect for avoiding awkward red carpet exits in front of hungry paparazzi.
Although the interior is all about quiet luxury, Lexus says its new GA-L chassis should also make the LS500 a treat for keen drivers. The use of aluminum and ultra high-tensile steel makes the new platform 200 lb (91 kg) lighter than before, and Lexus says more weight is held between the axles. Combined with the lighter, more powerful twin-turbo V6 under the hood, that should make keen drivers and chauffeurs happy.
Kia Stinger GT
Still not convinced Kia has moved past the days of cheap and cheerful hatchbacks? Take a look at the Stinger. Behind that pretty shape (more on that later) is an old-fashioned front engine, rear drive layout designed to deliver the continent-crushing grand touring ability when the driver needs it, and corner-carving sportiness when they don't. That's no mean feat, especially when you're known for economy cars and cheap faux-wheel drives, but the initial signs are good.
For one, it looks fantastic. We've lavished praise on Peter Schreyer – the designer largely responsible for a Hyundai and Kia style revolution – in the past, but the Stinger is arguably his finest work since joining the Korean brands. From the long, low bonnet to the sloping roofline, everything about the car just looks right to our eyes, like a much prettier Dodge Charger.
Power comes from a twin-turbo V6 engine in range topping cars, which will hit 62 mph (100 km/h) in just 5.1 seconds. Buyers will get a choice of all-wheel drive or rear-drive, and all models are hooked up to an eight-speed automatic gearbox with paddle shifters.
That's just a taste of the splendid automotive wares on display in Detroit. Take a flick through our 2017 NAIAS photo gallery to see the rest of the hot new releases.