PULL QUOTE: “There was a parade of new sport/crossover utes from virtually all manufacturers, all scrambling to get a share of this hot market segment.”

By Wade Ozeroff and Bob McHugh

Detroit, MI – It’s freezing outside the Cobo Convention Centre but it’s tropical inside where the temperature was raised with each hot new car model reveal at the North American International Auto Show media preview.

There was a parade of new sport/crossover utes from virtually all manufacturers, all scrambling to get a share of this hot market segment.

Chevrolet is already rolling into a great year, kicking off the cycle with a North American Car of the Year nod for their electric Bolt compact; so the atmosphere was pretty jovial and optimistic at the Chevy stand.

The company’s big unveiling was the debut of an all-new Traverse, part of the plan to grow their presence in the crossover/SUV segment by yet another four new vehicles in the upcoming year.

The restyled Traverse will bring new engines to the platform, the base being a 3.6L six-cylinder (paired with an also-new 9-speed automatic transmission) that promises a horsepower boost over previous-gen models in addition to a 5000 lb. towing capacity; but the interesting available option will be a 2.0 litre turbocharged Ecotec four cylinder powerplant.

The Ecotec’s 255 horsepower (and potential 295 lb.-ft of torque) is available with a new trim level introduced for 2018, the top-of-the-line High Country model.

Incidentally, both engines will come with stop-start technology, which helps with fuel economy, but more importantly lowers emissions.

Chevy feels confident that the latest Traverse will be best-in-class for cargo space and passenger volume (where it be configured for up to eight occupants), and stress the ease of entrance to the third row seats with the company’s Smart Slide system.

The new ute gets the full technology treatment, adding a number of GM’s smart features: the Teen Driver mode that will monitor your youngster’s driving habits and rat them out; a Rear Seat Reminder system to prevent less attentive parents from leaving babies in the back seats, and hands-free rear gate opening are all available.

Buyers can get up to 14 active safety inclusions with the 2018 Traverse, the highlights of which are pedestrian braking and collision alert, adaptive cruise control and a surround-vision display for the center console.

Designed for family-friendliness, there is ample storage throughout (and 24 compartments that should accommodate everyone’s needs, even at full passenger capacity).

Away from the hustle and bustle of the show floor, Nissan invited Canadian media to an early viewing of a new compact utility vehicle that was later unveiled at the show as the Nissan Rogue Sport, for the US market. In Canada, it will be called the Qashqai (pronounced “Kash-Ki”), a name it already goes by in Europe and the rest of the world. The origin of the Qashqai name is Persian and our Qashqai will be assembled in Kyushu, Japan.

A little lower, smaller and lighter than a Rogue, the Qashqai comes with a more fuel efficient (smaller displacement) 2.0-litre engine that’s rated at 141 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm. This engine is matched with either a 6-speed manual transmission or an Xtronic automatic transmission (with Sport and Eco modes) and either front or all-wheel drive.  Qashqai will be at Canadian Nissan dealers in late spring 2017, no price info at this time.

Toyota staged a splashy intro for its completely redesigned eighth-generation (2018) Camry as the #1 Most American Car! The Japanese manufacturer’s new GA-K platform (allowing a new double wishbone rear suspension) underpins the new sedans lower and more aggressive stance. The main goals were to inject more fun-to-drive performance, lower its centre of gravity and give it a sexier look. More powerful gas and hybrid powertrains include an all-new 2.5-litre that’s paired with a new 8-speed Direct-Shift automatic transmission. Two-tone paint packages are also available with new sport editions. Akio Toyoda (President of Toyota Motor Corporation) described the new Camry trim levels as; “Sexy … and really sexy.”

Infiniti’s big intro was its near-production ready QX50 concept. It previews both the design of the next QX50 and some exciting new technologies. These include ProPilot, a semi-autonomous driver assist feature and a new VC-Turbo engine. As the name suggests, this unique engine offers variable compression, with ratios that can change between 8:1 and 14:1, depending on performance demands.

Honda’s latest edition of its world-beating family hauler, the Odyssey, rounds out a year that saw some rather stunning redesigns (think new Civics, in particular), the benchmark minivan has been polished with a new 3.5 litre engine and – in a first for Odyssey – a 10 speed automatic transmission (for the Touring trim).

Pumped as the quickest, best-handling family wagon on the market, the new Odyssey sports a lighter yet more rigid body, newly tightened-up electronic power steering and a revised (and also all-new) rear suspension rig that has also allowed for more rear cargo space.

Continuing with the focus-on-families mantra, the cabin is quieter than ever, and more connected than ever, with the availability of 4G in-car wifi along with highly configurable seating within, via Honda’s trademark “Magic Slide” second row.

Look for more Detroit coverage online at drivewaybc.ca

wade [dot] ozeroff [at] drivewaybc [dot] ca, bob [dot] mchugh [at] drivewaybc [dot] ca

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