2017 North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) in Detroit, Michigan
Odometer (ILX): 190,267
Aloha from 35,000 feet. As I generate these thoughts, I’m midway through Delta’s 4-hour flight #2021 with service from Detroit to Phoenix, and luckily a sweet old woman swapped me into her window seat way back here in row 31 so I can at least enjoy the scenery a little.
The North American International Otto Show. Wait – Otto? Yes. Did you know that the Detroit Auto Show was originally named for Otto Shaw, a German Immigrant who opened Detroit’s first used car dealership on Woodward Avenue? The show was named the Detroit Auto Show until 1989 when it finally took on the “international” flavor when organizers decided it was only fair to recognize the fact that more than just the United States produced cars. This factoid comes from “autoblopnik” with tongue in cheek, but one fact holds true with definite certainty: This show is the country’s most extravagant display of automaker fanfare related to new model releases each year.
This year marked the 5th anniversary of my first trip to the show, back in January 2012. At that time, I was attending the Media Days as a guest of Acura along with a group of a half-dozen or so automotive bloggers. The main event of interest for me was the unveil of two cars that year: The ILX Concept and the NSX Concept. Oddly enough it has taken Acura almost these entire last 5 years to fully bring the NSX to market (it sold between 60 and 70 units in December 2016) but the ILX is already in its 5th model year and has had a light refresh as of two years ago. Heck, by the time the fully-redesigned second-gen ILX comes around (maybe for the 2018 model year?) I’ll probably have 200,000 miles on mine.
Redline Reviews, hopefully by now one of your favorite YouTube car review channel subscriptions, invited me to be part of the team. I worked with Editor-in-Chief Sofyan Bey, along with his support staff members Peace and Rob, who together produce some of the most thorough and timely video segments in the industry on automotive reviews, new vehicle reveals, and other industry news. We stayed at a ruggedly industrial repurposed bottling plant from the 1930s on Fort Street, just a mile away from Cobo Center which is the convention hall that becomes the epicenter of all NAIAS activity for the week.
On Monday, January 9th, we staked out our spot in the Media Center by 6:30 a.m. (remember, that’s 4:30 in the morning for this Arizona guy!) and hit the show floor running by the time the first press conference, Chevy’s, kicked off at 7:30. In all, the day involved walking some 14,000 steps totaling out to over 8 miles. Each automaker’s booth more impressive than the last, many of which offering up food and beverages in attempt to woo the journalists. It worked for me. I’ve never met a finger food I didn’t like.
A productive day it was. In all, Sofyan and crew – myself included – captured footage for 10 videos. Noteworthy subject matter included the new Subaru WRX, Chevy Traverse, GMC Terrain, Honda Odyssey, Ford F-150, Kia Stinger, Lexus LS500, and Toyota Camry – all of which are either brand new or very substantially revised models for the 2018 model years and beyond.
The crazy thing is just how far the bar continues to be raised. Almost every press conference transcript includes the words “safer, stronger, more fuel efficient, faster.” Every year we seem to be creeping ever-closer to automotive perfection. Where a few years ago it was revolutionary for an automaker to have a 7 or 8 speed automatic transmission, some (Odyssey, F-150) are now getting 10 speeds.
Going by the wayside are large displacement V8 engines. Even the 2018 Lexus LS series (above), which debuted 28 years ago in 1989 as the company’s flagship sedan, for the first time will now only be offered with a twin-turbo V6 motor. That’s not to say it’s taking a step back in power, since the V6 still pushes out over 400 horsepower. And the “electrification” of the automobile industry expands with each year. Honda announced that half of its new models in the next 3 years will be “electrified” in some way. Gas pumps are inevitably being replaced by power plugs.
A full day of work by me and the rest of the Redline team was followed by an evening at the charming home of Motor Trend Editor, Frank Markus, and his husband Michael in the suburb of Royal Oak about 25 minutes north of downtown. I picked up a friend from the airport and we headed to the festivities. There, I was able to rub shoulders with the automotive elite like auto reviewer Jason Cammisa who hosts Motor Trend’s “Ignition” segment and garners tens of thousands of views, as well as Steve Siler and Brian Gurney, pictured above.
Detroit got its fair share of overnight snow on Monday – so much, in fact, that my rental Chevy Sonic LTZ was nearly stuck a few times while I navigated my way around town. I’m a noob when it comes to snow driving. I’ll remind you, it’s been 11 years since I moved to Phoenix. I made a few visits to local friends and made my way back to the McNamara terminal at Detroit’s international airport. And with that concluded an action-packed 48 hours in Motor City. It was worth every second, and every air-mile. Thanks for reading!
Here’s a 13-minute video of some ramblings Sofyan and I shared after the first day of the show.
Dollar rent-a-car gave me the choice of any compact in this lineup. I just picked the Sonic at the far end.
Press conference lineup for Monday morning, January 9th. Each automaker gets 25 minutes to wow and impress us.
Visiting my friend Waseem who just recently bought a place in Grosse Pointe, about 10 mi north of downtown.
Waseem’s 1990 Legend LS tucked away.
Dinner with other local friends Hass and his lovely wife.
This was an amazing fish taco from a place called Batch Brewery.
Our AirBNB accommodations in downtown Detroit.
The crowd goes wild over the 2018 Chevrolet Traverse.
Still one of my favorite designs ever: The Genesis G80 rear.
Nissan is bringing out a Rogue Sport model that looks pretty snazzy.
A run-in with none other than the famous “HondaPro” Jason Richmond, who has built a career out of being a Honda brand advocate. You go Jason!
Toyota’s new 2018 Camry is trying pretty hard to look sporty. This “XSE” version even includes quad exhaust tips.
Big in the news is Kia’s latest offering, the “Stinger” GT. Complete with Brembo brakes and the whole 9!
Sweet car in Motor Trend Editor Frank’s garage. 1985 Town & Country!
Snowy Tuesday morning in downtown Detroit. I got to use the ice scraper on my Sonic.
BONUS MATERIAL! My friend Scott is storing a 1977 Honda Civic CVCC in my garage for about a week until it gets auctioned off.
And my roommate James is testing a 2017 Honda Ridgeline this week. That means there are a lot of Hondas around this house right now!
Finally, my long-time friend Chris stopped by this evening to show me his latest ride: a 1999 Mitsubishi 3000GT SL 5-speed. It only has 97,000 miles on it. I’ve loved these cars since they first came out.
Those seats were in remarkable shape for being 18 years old. Congrats, Chris!