The Best and Worst of the North American International Auto Show

image of an Auto Show

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This year’s North American International Auto Show in Detroit had a number of unexpected developments, from a sudden influx of luxury sports coupes to a minivan that somehow became one of the stars of the show. There were a lot of great cars sharing the spotlight, and a few not-so-great ones fighting for space. Here are a few of the most notable vehicles.

Chrysler Pacifica

In a show typically dominated by sports cars and luxury sedans, it was surprising to see a minivan receive so much attention. The Pacifica’s elegant design certainly turned heads, but what really got people interested was the fact that it’s a plug-in hybrid that can drive 30 miles on battery alone.

A plug-in hybrid design suits the typical use of a minivan perfectly. Short hauls busing kids to school or making trips to the grocery store can be done solely on electric power, while hybrid mode extends the car’s range for long road trips.

Lexus LC 500

Although Lexus is sticking to its guns with the huge grille, this car incorporates it better than any before. The LC 500 looks downright captivating, and proves that not all car manufacturers are trapped in a black hole of boring, safe design choices. The car isn’t all flash and no bang, either. With a 467 horsepower V8 pushing the car to 60 mph in 4.5 seconds, it’s no slouch on the open road.

Buick Avista Concept

Concept cars at auto shows are always a bit of a mixed bag. Many of them feature unique styling to draw attention, which then gets toned down for the production vehicle to the extent that it’s no longer recognizable. However, the Avista may have the opposite problem. So far it looks like the car itself may never go into production, but its design language will be incorporated into future vehicles.

If that’s the case, then Buick may be moving in a great new direction. The Avista’s design is stellar. It was undoubtedly the star of the show, although part of that excitement may be due to the fact that it was a complete surprise. No one knew this concept was coming. With sleek body lines reminiscent of a modern take on Ford’s New Edge initiative, the Avista looks great from every angle.

Smart Fortwo Cabrio

I’m not sure how big the overlap of people who want a smart car and people who want a convertible is, but it can’t possibly be large enough to justify this. Sure, it’s not that hard to chop the top off one of these, but why would you do it? So you can feel the wind in your hair as you cruise down a congested city street? So you can better hear the quiet whir of the three-cylinder engine? Like the original Smart Fortwo, the Cabrio is a vehicle that just sort of showed up despite the fact that no one actually asked for it.

Kia Telluride Concept

Presumably taking its moniker from the city in Colorado rather than the tellurium ion, this oddly named and oddly shaped SUV would normally get a pass as a fine but forgettable concept. However, Kia decided to make this car a lock for the worst of the Detroit Auto Show with its Light Emitted Rejuvenation system. According to Kia, an LED panel in the roof emits special light that gives you more energy.

However, Kia failed to provide any proof that this actually works, or even a suggestion of how it might work in theory. So far it appears to be pure pseudoscience, which turns an otherwise boring concept into a black mark on the record of this great event.

Check out our look at the SEMA Auto Show for more.

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