Excuse us – we seem to have got a little bit too into the American spirit here at Detroit’s North American International Auto Show. The first press day is over – a day of surprise unveilings, more VW apologies and so much weird candy that it’s probably not healthy. OK, it definitely isn’t healthy.
But there’s a clear shortlist of cars that are unanimously turning heads. We’d like to take these ones home with us. Please.
1: Volvo S90
It’s Volvo’s alternative to the BMW 5 Series. And, just like our hearts panged for the XC90 when we first saw it way back at Paris 2014, we really want an S90.
You see, for years, manufacturers have been coming up with cars that they reckon could give the Germans a hard time. But Volvo got the XC90 so right – and it’s seemingly on track to do the same with the S90.
As well as looking fantastic, with an upmarket yet unique interior to match, the S90 also has a host of new technology to boast about. This includes its semi-autonomous driving system, Pilot Assist. This gives gentle steering inputs to keep the car within the lines on a motorway at speeds of up to 80mph. It works with the adaptive cruise control to practically drive itself (as long as you do the difficult bits).
Like the XC90, the S90 will also be available with the T8 twin-engine plug-in hybrid drivetrain. This combines 410hp with decent fuel economy and a feel-good factor you just wouldn’t get with a German diesel.
2: Infiniti Q60
It’s perhaps unfair to say that Infiniti has an image problem in the UK. It’s more the case that Infiniti doesn’t really have an image.
If Infiniti is new to you, it’s Nissan’s premium brand – like Lexus is to Toyota. It’s much bigger in the US, but sales in the UK have been slow. And the reason for that? Well, it’s cars have been mostly bland and undesirable.
Sure, quirky people have bought them because they’re not a BMW. But they don’t excel in any particular area. And, as in the case of the Q50’s drive-by-wire steering, Infiniti really bombs in certain areas.
The brand tried to fix that with its Q50 Eau Rouge in 2014. That took the powertrain from the Nissan GT-R and put it into the body of the Q50. Its 560hp 3.8-litre twin-turbocharged engine meant it was seriously rapid. But costs just didn’t add up and the Eau Rouge faced the axe after just one prototype was made.
So what now? Well, Infiniti has revealed the Q60 coupe at the Detroit Auto Show and it looks fantastic. Much like the concept version that was unveiled at last year’s show, the Q60 combines a not-unpleasant Q50 front end with a very attractive rear.
And the best news? Downsizing isn’t on the agenda: its engine line-up is all about six-cylinder engines, with a 400hp twin-turbo heading the range. This is an Infiniti that genuinely excites us. Will it tempt BMW 4 Series buyers? Hmm…
3: BMW M2
So, with all this talk of stealing BMW buyers, you could say we had to include a Beemer. But we can 100% say the decision to include the BMW M2 was made with the heart well as the head.
It’s like a mini-M4 – it packs 44hp more power than the M235i, and can hit 62mph in 4.3 seconds if you opt for the dual-clutch auto ’box (that’s the same as the BMW M4).
With its flared arches and extra intakes, the BMW M2 looks frankly awesome under the bright lights of Detroit’s Cobo Centre. But these aren’t just for aesthetics, insists BMW, they help reduce drag by 5% over the model on which it’s based.
But impressive performance figures alone do not qualify a car for this list. Oh no. The BMW M2 makes it for offering potentially the coolest function ever offered on a (fairly) affordable rear-wheel-drive performance car: a ‘smokey burnout’ button. How ace is that?
4: Volkswagen Tiguan GTE Active Concept
Look, dieselgate was so last year. Now Volkswagen is unveiling a rough-and-tough plug-in hybrid SUV, based on its Tiguan.
There are lots of sensible reasons why we’d like to take the Tiguan GTE Active Concept home with us. Yeah it’s green and eco-friendly and all that, but really we want it because it looks really badass.
The good news is, Volkswagen has hinted strongly that you’ll be able to buy accessories for your 2016 Tiguan that make it look like a proper off-roader. OK, you’ll look a bit of an idiot driving around Surrey in a Tiguan adorned with rock sliders, but that doesn’t stop members of the South East Mud Enthusiasts Club.
If you’re interested, the GTE Active Concept features a 225hp hybrid powertrain, made up of a 1.4-litre TSI petrol engine combined with an electric motor. It can cover 20 miles under electric power alone, reaches 60mph in 6.4 seconds and uses its rear-mounted motor to act as an electric propshaft. Proper 21st century off-roading.
5: Lexus LC 500
Lexus. It’s Toyota’s premium brand that produces sensible (if a smidgen dull) cars such as the hybrid CT 200h, and RX SUV. Then occasionally they come up with an absolute corker – such as the V8-engined LC 500, revealed at Detroit.
It’s essentially a production version of the 2012 Detroit Auto Show LF-LC concept, and it looks amazing. Never before has the company’s trademark spindle grille looked so right. And behind it lurks a 467hp 32-valve engine, as found in the RC F and GS F.
It’ll hit 60mph in ‘less than 4.5 seconds’, and look utterly fabulous while doing so. Pleasingly, it’s rear-wheel drive, although power is transmitted to the wheels through a 10-speed auto ’box. It’s not awful, promises Lexus.
Order books are opening later this year, and it’s definitely coming to the UK. Whoop!
6: Kia Telluride
This is a big-ass SUV that we’re unlikely to ever see in the UK. But that’s OK, because I’ll grey-import one – just for the fun of telling people “Oh this thing? It’s a Kia,” as I clog up the roads and intimidate other motorists in their little Audi Q7s.
Unfortunately it’s just a concept, for now, but if it previews where Kia’s design is heading in the future, I’m alright with that.
Despite being a huge SUV, it’ll also make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside. Kia says the Telluride will ‘care’ for its passengers. It uses sensors to ‘capture a passenger’s vital health information’, then a Light Emitted Rejuvenation system to display patterns of therapeutic light.
The powertrain? That’s a 3.5-litre V6 petrol engine combined with an electric motor to produce a total of 400hp. It’s four-wheel-drive, natch, and would be good for ‘more than 30mpg’ if it ever makes production.
7: Ford F-150 Raptor SuperCrew
Let’s end with something that’s totally bonkers: Ford’s new F-150 Raptor SuperCrew. First revealed at last year’s Detroit Show, for 2016 the Raptor has sprouted an extra pair of doors and even more power than its predecessor.
It’s lighter than ever before, weighing around 225kg less thanks to its aluminium construction. And even this big, brash pick-up hasn’t avoided Ford’s Ecoboost programme. Power comes from a 3.5-litre V6, said to pack more punch than the 411hp 6.2-litre V8 it replaces. Performance figures are to be confirmed, but expect it to be just as capable off-road as on it. At speed, too.
Word on the street is that, if the Ford badge on the front of the Raptor was any larger, you’d be able to see it from space.