The media days of the first major motor show of the year are a wrap. Time for us to recap the highlights of the NAIAS Detroit Auto Show 2018! In 2016 and 2017 we already saw a clear decline in the number of exhibitors and the significance of their premieres. 2018 sadly reached a new low with only a handful of concept cars and mainly SUV and pick-up truck premieres. Some manufacturers including Audi downgraded their presence in Detroit’s Cobo Center to a merely North American affair. It feels like it is only a matter of time until the North American International Auto Show drops a rank on the global motor show calendar.

Along with the decline itself the manufacturers that did chose to be present took a more visitor oriented approach and present vehicles most popular on the North American market like light trucks and SUVs in all shapes and sizes. Highlights included the new Mercedes-Benz G500, Jeep Cherokee, Ford Ranger, Ford Edge ST, Acura RDX, RAM 1500, Chevy Silverardo, BMW X2 Lamborghini Urus (shown off-site) and the first ever Ford F-150 Diesel.

Electric cars were largely absent in Detroit. This year’s NAIAS it is not about the future but what the American customer wants now. Besides trucks and SUVs that still includes limousines like the new Kia Forte, Toyota Avalon, Volkswagen Passat GT and Volkswagen Jetta.

Performance wise the Mercedes-AMG E 53 Coupe & Convertible and the Mercedes-AMG CLS 53 stand in the spotlight. The new ’53’ designation stands for a 48V hybrid version of the six-inline engine delivering a proud 457hp in the CLS 53. The more aggressive front and rear work very well on the four door coupe. BMW showed the facelift i8 coupe with slightly more power, slightly more range and some new design details.

As already mentioned concept car wise it was rather disappointing in Detroit this year. However a few Asian companies still took the effort of showing something new including the luxury Lexus LF-1 SUV concept, the Infiniti Q Inspiration design concept and the GAC Enverge.

The last is a full electric concept car from the Chinese company Trumpchi. For obvious reasons they chose to enter the US market in 2019 under the name GAC. The enverge is a full electric cross-over SUV with butterfly doors and space for 4 people. Although I doubt this will ever make series production GAC is serious about bringing a range of 4-cylinder petrol-, hybrid- and full electric models including a minivan and several SUVs to the US following their tremendous growth in China.

Top 5 highlights at the NAIAS Detroit Auto Show 2018

Mercedes-Benz G-Class

New but not new at the same time. Barely three components are carried over from the old G yet one will unmistakingly recognize it as a G-wagon instantly. In Detroit Mercedes-Benz only unveiled the 4.0 liter V8 powered G500 model. More models including the G63, diesel and a plug-in hybrid version will follow.

Ford Mustang Bullitt

Another performance highlight in Detroit is the new Ford Mustang ‘Bullitt’. Inspired by the green Ford Mustang that featured as car-chase star in the 1968 movie ‘Bullitt’ with Steve McQueen behind the wheel. The 50th anniversary Bullitt is available as limited edition in green or black with a manual gearbox paired to the 481hp 5.0 liter V8.

Audi A7

The all-new A7 carries over the advanced interior and technology from the A8 flagship that made waves last year. It maintains an exterior design unique to the Audi line-up and comes with as A7 Sportback 55 TFSI with a 3.0 liter six cylinder with 48V mild hybrid technology. The new naming structure still seems to confuse everybody.

Mercedes-AMG CLS 53

Adding some sharp edges to the new CLS did wonders and I have to admit I like the looks of this CLS 53 AMG a lot more than the regular CLS. Definitely a car to take a closer look at!

Rolls-Royce Phantom VIII

Hidden away in a corner of Cobo Center we found this Rolls-Royce Phantom Series VIII. The Phantom is still one of the most iconic new cars money can buy. Like the G-Wagon the optical changes compared to the predecessor have been very subtle but under the skin the car has been improved in pretty much every regard.

NAIAS Detroit Motor Show 2018 Highlights Photo Gallery

For more about the Detroit Motor Show and photos and coverage of individual models and premieres please visit our Detroit Motor Show news channel!


  1. I was at the show today. I agree, a lot of auto makers were conspicously absent. Mazda, Volvo, Porsche, Jaguar, even Mini Cooper were all missing. I met a gentleman who made the trip from Toronto. He was probably in his late 50s and said he’d always wanted to come, but this was his first year to make it. And it will be his last. And I’m sure he’ll tell his friends how disappointed he was. With the record profits that the auto makers are making these days you would think they would have put a little more effort into this show. It was still a good show, just not up to the standard that I’ve seen in the past.


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