As much as it is a great car show, the 2018 North American International Auto Show might just be more of a truck and 4x4 show. In a country where pickup trucks rule, it's no small story when each of the Big 3 shows an all-new pickup truck, especially when one of those pickups has been entirely absent from the market for the better part of a decade. Not to be outdone, each of Japan's Big 3 is wowing attendees with a wild concept SUV or two. And before you even get through the front door, you're hit in the eyes by an orange hunk of resin with a classic Mercedes G-Wagen trapped inside. Trucks and SUVs are definitely a big highlight, if not the big highlight.
Detroit's Big Three go all in on new pickups
With all of the US Big 3 based in the Detroit area, the automotive world is forced to trudge up to the icy tundra of Michigan each January to open the auto show season. Those automakers usually reward the hardy folks that make the trek with a wild concept or major production car debut or two - say a Buick Avista concept or a Ford GT.
Fiat-Chrysler, Ford and General Motors have kept rather quiet on the car and concept front this year, though. Instead, all three are putting focus on all-new pickup trucks. Ram has debuted the 2019 1500; Chevy is casting the spotlight on the new Silverado; and Ford celebrates its return to the midsize pickup segment with the Ranger. We already looked at the new 1500, and we'll have an in-depth look at the Ford Ranger next week, so we'll use this space for an overview of the Chevy Silverado, which was previewed at Chevy Trucks' Centennial celebration last month before its big public debut in Detroit this week.
As with other modern pickup trucks, the story of the new Silverado is one of more advanced materials, lighter weight, improved performance and new technologies. Chevy says the truck weighs up to 450 lb (204 kg) less than the outgoing Silverado thanks to the precise use of mixed materials and advanced construction techniques. The weight savings come despite the model's larger size. Chevy has also spent a lot of time optimizing the bed of the new Silverado, offering more cargo space, more tie-downs, and a higher-strength steel floor. Available equipment like the power tailgate and 120-volt power outlet should make the bed even more attractive to buyers.
Chevy has increased interior space for added passenger comfort and improved storage. It also teases new safety and convenience features to be announced closer to launch.
There's no shortage of variety in the new Silverado line-up, which will include eight trims and six engine/transmission combinations, from the all-new Duramax 3.0-liter inline-six turbo-diesel to a big, ol' 6.2-liter V8, each paired with a 10-speed automatic transmission. It's probably just our love of dirty, rock-scaling pickups, or perhaps the bright red paint it's wearing in Detroit, but we find the new LT Trailboss a particular draw. It features a 2-in factory suspension lift and Z71 off-road package with rear differential lock, skid plates, off-road tires and more.
2019 Silverado deliveries will start in US Fall 2018.
Japan's Big 3 focus on SUVs of the future
While the US Big 3 are busy showing the important pickup products of today, Japan's Big 3 are looking into the future with concept and prototype utility vehicles. Nissan is showing the odd but interesting Xmotion, and Acura (Honda) the closer-to-reality RDX Prototype. The concept we find most intriguing, though, is Lexus' LF-1 Limitless, a flagship crossover designed to accept virtually any powertrain the folks at Toyota can come up with (hence the "limitless"). Lexus says it could be motivated by gas, fuel cell, hybrid, plug-in hybrid or all-electric power, foreshadowing a time when the luxury maker will offer electrified powertrains on all its models.
Styling-wise, the LF-1 is driven by a futuristic design concept Lexus calls "molten katana." Unfortunately that includes an even more massive version of the gaping spindle grille currently featured in Lexus' production line, but it also includes smooth surfaces meant to look like poured-on liquid metal contrasted by sharp edges that could have been sliced with a katana. It's a contrast that's sure to catch your attention, whether on an auto show floor or on the highway of the future, especially finished as it is in metallic champagne-tinted paint.
Mercedes-Benz puts some force behind the G
If there's one vehicle that stands as synonymous with the 2018 North American auto show, it's the all-new Mercedes-Benz G-Class. In fact, you don't even have to go inside the show to see the G-Class, as Mercedes has encased an original 1979 model in a 44.4-tonne block of orange synthetic resin and dropped it right outside the show's entrance for all to see. Inside the show, Mercedes has interspersed all-new 2019 G-Classes among notable Gs of the past, including the absolutely filthy one below.
It's not surprising Mercedes is making a big deal of the new G-Class - despite being introduced damn-near 40 years ago in 1979 and being produced some 300,000 times over, the G-Class had but a single generation up until this week's debut of the second-gen model. Not that the new G-Class breaks any molds - it has a touch of extra size, but the boxy, brutish styling remains virtually unchanged, save for a more modern face with LED headlamps. Updates of note include the replacement of the solid front axle with an independent front suspension, increased ground clearance and improved fording capabilities. Mercedes promises the new double-wishbone front suspension provides the same off-road capability with better on-road performance. Power comes from a 416-hp 4.0-liter V8 biturbo.
Inside, owners can count on a roomier, more comfortable interior and a digital experience led by the dual 12.3-in displays of the available Widescreen Cockpit.
We'll have to wait for confirmation of how much the G-Class will cost when it goes on sale in the US in late 2018, but we do know it'll start at €107,040.50 (approx. US$131,000) when it hits the German market this June.
For more trucks and SUVs, jump to our gallery and see all the grumbling, mud-splashing, diesel-guzzling action from the Detroit show.
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