Staff Picks: The Best and Worst of the 2013 Detroit Auto Show
So far, 2013 is off to a great start, as automakers rolled into Detroit with a number of impressive new vehicles for this year’s North American International Auto Show. From greatly anticipated new models like the 2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray to surprise reveals like the Ford Atlas Concept, there was no shortage of excitement at the 2013 NAIAS. On the opposite end of the spectrum, there were a few vehicles that failed to impress our editors. Here are our picks for the best and worst cars from Detroit.
Ed Loh, Editor-in-Chief
Best: 2014 Chevrolet Corvette – Obvious? Perhaps, but you can’t overstate how big a noise this will make when it hits the streets in the summer. To give you an idea how big, I ran into Ford’s VP of Global Product Development, Hau Thai Tang, and he described the new Stingray as a “technological tour de force” – which is an apt summary of the performance it should deliver. More interesting is how polarizing the design has been; Tang thought it was “over the top” and that Corvette designers could have shown a bit more restraint. Others I talked to, both on the show floor and via social media, called out the Viper-ish front fascia and redesigned taillights that were either too much or not enough, depending on who you talked to. Me? To use an American cliché for this American supercar, the C7 Corvette is a bench-clearing grand slam home run.
Honorable Mentions: (Tie) Acura NSX and Ford Atlas – I’d tweak the nose of the designer who thought graphite grey would be a good color to showcase Acura’s flagship super car, but then I’d give double high-fives and the cheeziest brObama fist bump for the sexy new design. Love the new nose and “jewel eye” headlights, the angular carbon fiber wheel designs, the sharp rear intakes/cut lines. Really like how the horizontal rear lightbar is an upside-down interpretation of the original NSX’s taillights.
As far as the Atlas goes, it’s a macho, great looking truck that follows in the footsteps of other strong Ford concept trucks, the Super Chief, and Tonka. Love the color, style, and name, especially (Atlas is just so evocative). But really, I like the bold choice by FoMoCo generals to basically poop all over the Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra coming out party. This kind of aggressive one-upsmanship is what makes the auto industry the most exciting business to work in. If you think the industry has gotten kinder and gentler in its advancing years, you’re dead wrong.
Worst: 2014 Acura MDX Prototype – It’s not the worst concept car or prototype here by any means, but it does make me go, “Meh,” from a styling perspective. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve always liked the MDX, but I think the best-looking one was the original design of the second generation, when it still had the split, “shield” style grille. This one has definitely lost the sharpness in style, perhaps due to all of the negative press on the “Acura beak” that went across the full product range. On this concept, you can definitely see a dulling of the edges on the metal trim bits, particularly in the grille. This does make it look softer (perhaps more sophisticated?) but definitely less sharp and less aggressive. I hope they pass the MDX over a whetstone before it hits production…
Kirill Ougarov, Online Production Manager
Best: 2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray – It looks hot and the interior’s sorted — all that’s left to do is find out how it drives. The sports car market should be afraid. Very afraid.
Honorable Mention – Ford Atlas Concept. Totally rained on GM’s parade and looked awesome doing it.
Worst: Hyundai HCD-14 – It looks like a Chinese car. Enough said.
Christian Seabaugh, Associate Online Editor
Best: Chevrolet Corvette Stingray – I was ready to hate this thing — seriously. I saw pictures of it before the embargo and thought it was just trying too hard. Then I saw it in the sheetmetal. Wow. This ‘Vette is gorgeous. It’s got curves in all the right places, and pushes the boundaries just right — and the fact that form follows function is just icing on the cake.
Honorable mention: Ford Atlas Concept – This thing looks mean, and it’s got quite a few innovative features that’ll continue to move the bar upwards in the truck segment.
Worst: Porsche’s entire display – Let’s just clear this up – while I liked just about every Porsche on display in Detroit, I disliked the display as a whole. Why? Because it put my jet-lagged and caffeine-addled mind to sleep. Full of silver and white cars, the display as a whole was just sinfully boring, earning it the distinction of being my personal worst-in-show.
Frank Markus, Technical Director
Best: Corvette Stingray – Duh. Sure, I might have dialed the styling back just a touch and done a bit more of it in clay and less “in the tube” (there’s something about the uniformity of the side section that looks more mathematical and less sculpted to me). But it moves the needle and stirs the soul, and I’ll be AARP-eligible before we see another all-new one.
Runner Up: Cadillac ELR — Your Tech Director’s left brain is engaged by its Voltec architecture, tweaked to provide snappier acceleration despite added heft with almost no loss of EV range (thanks to drawing the battery down a bit deeper than its Chevy cousin. My Right brain loves the Art & Science edgy, swooping styling and sybaritic interior furnishings. Now about that $65K price tag…
Worst: Spindle Grilles –Okay, I get it, there are only so many geometric shapes and the folks who design all of our cars went to the same two or three schools and were all roommates of each other and all, but for the love of individuality can we let the black-widow hourglass idea go already? Lexus and Infiniti are the prime offenders, though the upper and lower grilles of the Mercedes CLA and Mazda6 stray perilously close. And please don’t just trade it for the better-looking but equally replicated Aston/Ford/Toyota Avalon trapezoid!
Mike Floyd, Senior Digital Content Director
Best (other than the Corvette): Lincoln MKC Concept –Given as many lumps as the Lincoln Motor Company has taken lately, it was probably a huge relief for everyone working on the brand to see how well the MKC concept was received at the 2013 Detroit show. The water cooler consensus among the MT crew is the MKC is a looker. There’s a bit of Evoque and some Q5 in there, but that’s not a bad thing, and the Lincoln grille really fits here. We loved the new Escape at our 2013 Sport/Utility of the Year competition, so we know the production MKC’s bones and powertrain will be solid, and the interior is a clear step up from its Ford platform-mate. The compact crossover market is absolutely littered with offerings, but buyers looking for a luxury-themed alternative to the German and Japanese pack would be well advised to give the Lincoln a once-over — especially if it maintains the flair of the concept.
Worst: Volkswagen CrossBlue Concept – I really struggled to come up with a world debut at the 2013 Detroit show that I had a strong negative reaction to, and I don’t particularly dislike the CrossBlue. It has a lot going for it, especially its powertrain, a plug-in hybrid setup with a 2.0-liter diesel from VW’s new engine family as the primary motivation. But there are some issues. Given that this is supposed to be a seven-seater eventually, why on earth would you show the concept with six separate seats? And its exterior style left me sort of flat. It just didn’t resonate with me like Nissan’s bold Resonance. It didn’t catch my eye like the slick Lincoln MKC. It’s just sort of there — an inoffensive, bland box. Which means they’ll probably sell a ton of them…
Jonny Lieberman, Senior Features Editor
Best: Lincoln MKC – This is really second-best since OBVIOUSLY the Corvette is the best. Lincoln MKC. Stunning. The MKC (or Lincoln Evoque, as I’ve taken to calling it as MKC is a stupid name) features the first iteration of Lincoln’s new mustache that looks good. Spectacular front end treatment, and the rear hatch is also well done. Nice interior, too. If Lincoln’s future is rebodied Fords, the MKC gives me hope. No one would ever guess it’s related to the Escape.
Worst: 2014 Lexus IS – Please, stop. The new Lexus nose is poor in general and is freakishly ghastly here. My initial reaction was, “Which ocean did this crawl out of?” The front end is simply gross. Who wants a luxury car that resembles a Predator with its mask off? Thankfully, the new IS is based off the current GS, so odds are good that it will drive very well. However, in twenty years people will look at the current Lexus lineup and ask, “What were they smoking?” The answer: bad design.
Ron Kiino, Executive Editor
Best: Toyota Corolla Furia Concept – Toyota’s not really known for its design, but this thing’s a hot-looking small car. Corolla and dull could actually become mutually exclusive. A big surprise for me.
Worst: 2014 Acura MDX Prototype – This is the next-gen? Not unattractive by any means, but looks way too similar to the current generation. Acura could’ve made a statement, but played it safe. Disappointing.
Alex Nishimoto, Associate Online Editor
Best: 2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray – Like Christian, I too was expecting to be disappointed with the Corvette after spying several leaked images of the new car’s design. But after seeing it from multiple angles and in glorious color, I’ve fallen in love with the new, even more extroverted look. I just can’t get enough of that side profile, the view I think best proves it’s a truly world-class sports car design.
Honorable Mention: BMW 4 Series Concept – While I’m not thrilled about the name change, the 4 Series Coupe concept takes the styling I love from the 2012 3 Series sedan and translates it beautifully into two-door form. As a bonus, the coupe adds interesting exterior details like complex LED headlight accents and flush door handles. Whether any of those features will make it to production, however, remains to be seen.
Worst: Hyundai HCD-14 – Some of the ideas presented in the Hyundai HCD-14 may have been good, but I feel they were sloppily incorporated into the concept’s overall design. If I look at anything other than its interior, my gag reflex is triggered.
Scott Burgess, Detroit Editor
Best: 2014 Chevrolet Corvette and Ford Atlas
Worst: 2014 Acura MDX Prototype
Scott Evans, Associate Editor
Best (Other than Chevrolet Corvette): Lincoln MKC Concept – I’ve been saying for a while that the MKZ would not be the brand’s savior, but that the follow-up would be the real determination. Lincoln delivered with the MKC concept. It’s stylish, it’s upscale, and it’s well-differentiated from its Ford double. There are many great cars here that could be my Best of Show, but to me, the Lincoln will have the largest impact on its brand and deserves the recognition over other top picks like the Atlas, ELR, and CLA.
Worst: Toyota Corolla Furia Concept – It’s a showy concept hiding a mild update. Strip away the over-the-top bits, which on this car aren’t that attractive anyway, and you’re left with a rounder Corolla. It’s all just for show, because the production car won’t even attempt to look like this.
Allyson Harwood, Associate Editor
Best: Ford Atlas Concept
Erick Ayapana, Associate Online Editor
Best: 2014 Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG Sedan and Wagon — It was tough to pick between the E63 AMG and Audi RS7, but the Benz wins because of the wagon. The E63 AMG wagon really has it all – cargo room, tech, and I’ve finally warmed up to the refreshed sheetmetal. Most importantly, there’s the 5.5-liter twin-turbo V-8 that produces 577 hp and 590 lb-ft of torque in S-Model trim, which is up from the pre-refreshed E63 AMG. Better yet, its 4Matic system will not only provide extra grip on the track (estimated 0-60 mph time of 3.6 seconds), but also in the snow (yay for snowboarding trips!). Had Audi decided to bring over the RS6 Avant….
Worst: 2014 Kia Cadenza – The 2014 Kia Cadenza looks decent in photos, but unfortunately that’s not the case in person. Its face is the most offensive view, with a bit too many chrome accents that appear flimsier than tin foil. The interior reminds me of the old Kia with ho-hum styling, a far cry from the Optima’s Audi-esque cabin. That said, the Toyota Avalon and Hyundai Azera are better-looking picks in this segment.
Karla Sanchez, Associate Online Editor
Best: 2014 Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG Sedan and Wagon – I’m a sucker for AMGs, so of course the E63 was my favorite in Detroit. It looks damn sexy, and knowing that I can drive it like hell even when the weather gets nasty makes it that much better. I also have to mention the Corvette. They never tickled my fancy before, but the new C7 is quite impressive.
Worst: Hyundai HCD-14 Concept – Ewww. I can’t believe the Lexus IS got so much flack for its Predator-like gaping grille, because next to the HCD-14 concept, it looks like Miss America. Thank goodness this isn’t the next Genesis. It looks cheap and extremely overdone. Hyundai was on a roll with its fluidic sculpture design language, but it appears the automaker got carried away with this new look. It looks like a badly replicated Bentley Continental GT from the rear, and I can’t agree with designer Christopher Chapman, who said the HCD-14 was “flattering in all the right places.” I found it is – with your eyes closed.
Jason Udy, Associate Online Editor
Best: 2014 Lexus IS — While the styling may be controversial, the addition of GS suspension bits should allow the 2014 Lexus IS to add fun-to-drive to its repertoire. The IS350’s new eight-speed automatic is expected to improve performance and fuel economy as well. Add a much-needed roomier back seat and larger trunk, and the 2014 IS scores in all categories. Besides, the BMW 3 Series needs more fun-to-drive rear-drive competition.
Honorable Mention: 2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray – The 2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray gets an honorable mention for most improved. While the current model’s interior has been criticized from the beginning – especially the sofa-esque seats – the new car looks inviting. Some aren’t fond of the new taillights, but I like the aggressive look more than the soft front end, which could be more menacing. Overall, the 2014 Corvette Stingray is much better than the outgoing model with its looks, quality, and expected performance.
Tell us which 2013 NAIAS vehicle was your favorite in the comments below!
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