aside post2016 NAIAS: missed it, again

2016 NAIAS banner

This is the second year in a row that I didn’t make it to Michigan for the NAIAS or exclusive Designer Night after-party (they actually invited me back!). That also meant no visiting with my friend at GM’s Heritage Center or ogling their astonishing collection. But still, even from afar, the auto show was thrilling and I wanted to discuss some of my favorites.

AOI Awards

Making no distinction between concepts and production models, I’ve awarded gold, silver and bronze standings with respect to personal significance; the rest of the notables follow in alphabetical order. This is an opinion article so your views may differ. Please feel free to share those views in the comments section.

2016 Buick Avista concept

Even though Buick has recently dusted off their performance credentials, the Avista concept was about the last thing I suspected. Indeed, I figured Lincoln was more likely to pull a surprise like this, with Mustang. Regardless, Avista’s passive-aggressive posture is elegantly menacing and remarkably unique from Camaro and ATS. (And it handily took the spotlight off a simultaneous debut of their Chinese-sourced Envision.)

2016 Buick Avista Concept

The Avista received the gold not just for its breathtaking yet whisper-quiet styling but also for the possibilities it implicates. In the wake of Firebird’s demise, the Avista, even conceptually, stirs many emotions. The case for viability would seem to be there—to willing management—as there’s a void for consumers desiring more sophistication than Camaro or Mustang, but more humility than found in a Corvette or Cadillac.

2017 Lexus LC 500

I’ve not cared for Lexus’ recent design language, in particular their titanic grilles. Even though this LC 500 has been spied for quite some time, I was not prepared for this sort of drama in the final product. Is it overly dramatic? Absolutely but, with concept car proportions, it is simply jaw dropping and likely a love-it-or-hate-it proposition. I’m actually in the former category but even love isn’t without problems.

2017 Lexus LC 500

I don’t consider it a perfect design as the busyness is less successful from some angles. The taillights have an interesting form but, combined with the haystack of shiny accents, the front’s svelte cohesiveness is lost at the rear. Regardless, the LC 500 is sure to turn heads and Lexus is due recognition for their effort.

2017 Lexus LC 500 interior

This is possibly the least Lexus-looking interior put out by the brand. I even see a little Italian inspiration to go with a whole lot of modern technology and pampering. Apart from an aged engine design, the LC 500 is a cutting edge vehicle. It is exactly the type of shock vehicle Lexus needs.

2017 Lincoln Continental

The 2017 Lincoln Continental is another production model that is rather significant. For one thing, resurrected after 15 years, its name defies the company’s nomenclature rules. Second, it represents Lincoln’s most substantial effort to date in their attempt at relevance in the near-luxury and, aspirationally, luxury markets.

2017 Lincoln Continental

I’m possibly less enamored than some because I see it as a stepping stone; not a blank-sheet effort by Lincoln. Similar to Cadillac’s XTS, however, the Continental is a testament to how far a shared platform can be stretched, in terms of upgrades.

2017 Lincoln Continental

Audi is often cited as credibility for luxury when Lincoln’s FWD handicap is mentioned. However, Audi uses unique platforms with longitudinally oriented motors for all but their tiniest models (A3/Q3/TT). Nevertheless, there is an audience that genuinely doesn’t care how the car is made or motivated, so long as they are comfortable and isolated in transit. This is where I think the Continental will deliver in abundance.

Runners Up

Following, in alphabetical order, are some of the other models that stood out to me for various reasons.

2016 Acura Precision concept

A pie-in-the-sky concept is not what Acura needed. When I look at the Precision concept, I see a silver lining: Acura’s infamous beak is gone. The associated black cloud, however, is its overwrought styling. Its silhouette is remarkable but entirely unrealistic for any Honda-based Acura product. And, aside from hyper fractal surfacing, it looks a bit derivative. In any event, it signifies a turning point for Acura’s styling. According to Acura, the first model to get Precision-influenced styling will be an upcoming compact crossover launching exclusively for China, sometime in 2016.

2017 Chrysler Pacifica

Just when I thought there couldn’t be a unique approach to minivan design remaining, the 2017 Chrysler Pacifica demonstrates otherwise. Chrysler has somehow managed to stay at the forefront of the minivan movement long after Ford and GM gave up trying. The one possible miscalculation I think may have been made is its name change. Discarding decades of Town & Country’s enviable equity seems a might risky.

2017 Genesis G90

The 2017 Genesis G90 is significant, if for no other reason, because it represents the birth of a new brand: Genesis. Here, like Chrysler, I wonder if dropping the Equus name was the right move, as Genesis carries a lower rent connotation. Regardless, Hyundai made the right decision branching out. This first model, the G90, might be horribly named but it is RWD and grand in scale (though, arguably starved of style).

2017 GMC Acadia

For the most part, I think the GMC Acadia is exceedingly handsome—especially the All Terrain model. However (you knew it was coming), there are styling quirks. The most offensive is the disjointed C-pillar; it’s out of place and a disruption to the fastidious geometry. Some have complained about the front, whereas I find it gorgeous. It is the Terrain-influenced rear that is marginal to me. Also, its substantial size reduction is a questionable tactic, unless something new is in the works.

2017 Honda Ridgeline

Disclaimer: this is not the type of vehicle for me. However, despite appearing little more than a Pilot with a bed, I think it is a very, very well-designed little pickup. I actually think its Achilles heel will be its size, as in too large so as to have actual truck rivals. What they need to do is make one of these using the CR-V and offer a true compact pickup. Regardless, I’m surmising this Ridgeline sells far better than its predecessor.

2016 Kia Telluride concept

Following catastrophic sales of Kia’s 2009-only mid-size Borrego, they’re alluding at another go at it with this Telluride concept. What grabbed my attention was its styling, particularly up front. Unlike Borrego, this large “SUV” is FWD, based on the Sorento, but you wouldn’t know it with its broad and muscular proportions that look truck based. Kia hasn’t committed but used language that left the door wide open.

2017 Mercedes E-Class

This isn’t a Mercedes S-Class or even a C-Class but rather the all-new E-Class. After generations of visual distinctions besides size, this 10th generation E-Class went the route of most of the Mercedes lineup. With that said, it is a good looking (if not bland) car. Its strongest points, however, are under the skin. It’s touted as the most advanced vehicle in the Mercedes portfolio and its interior truly is a masterpiece.

I’ve shared a lot of my opinions, feel free to share yours below.