Family-toting minivans and SUVs will share the limelight with a new luxury sedan and svelte sports car from Germany as the annual North American International Auto Show opens next week in Detroit.
"Mainstream brands are expected to focus on people-moving products, while premium luxury brands will see more sedan introductions with a healthy dose of performance," said senior analyst Stephanie Brinley of IHS Automotive.
The most important premium sedan is the redesigned Mercedes-Benz E-Class. And the dose of performance comes with the Porsche 911 Turbo (above), whose zero-to-60 mph time has been clocked in breathtaking 2.8 seconds.
Chrysler, which invented the minivan, will be showing the latest redesigned version of its Town & Country. Buick will introduce its new Envision SUV, made in China and planned as an import into the U.S. market.
That new Mercedes embodies one of the major automotive trends of our time: It's equipped with a load of self-driving technology. The new E-class is the first standard production model to be licensed in Nevada for autonomous driving tests, Mercedes says.
The all-electric Chevrolet Bolt illustrates another major trend. Pressure from more stringent federal and state rules on pollution and gas mileage are pushing the market toward more electric vehicles. A McKinsey & Co. report released this week projected that under some circumstances, half of new cars sold in 2030 could be electrified.
Read on for a closer look at these five trend-setting vehicles.
2017 Mercedes-Benz E-Class
In addition to its sleek new look, the 2017 version of the Mercedes midsize sedan is loaded with new technology. So-called evasive maneuver assistance spots pedestrians in the streets and helps you steer away from them. Adaptive cruise control not only senses the vehicle in front of your car but adjusts the speed based on speed-limit signs. And active emergency braking stops the car if it senses traffic about to cross your path in front or behind.
Those safety features work together as part of an autonomous driving system that has allowed the 2017 E-class to get a permit in Nevada to do testing in self-driving mode.
The E-class redesign uses more lightweight materials aimed at lowering the overall weight and boosting gas mileage. Among the engine choices expected to be revealed next week will be a powerful twin-turbo V-8.
Porsche 911 Turbo
The 911 Turbo has been redesigned but will essentially keep the same sleek profile in both coupe and convertible versions. Most of the news is under the hood. The Turbo has had a horsepower boost -- to 540 and to 580 for the even-more powerful Turbo S. The engineers at Porsche achieved this increase with some new engine components, including fuel injectors.
The results are clear on the test track. The Turbo S goes from zero to 60 mph in 2.8 seconds and can hit a top speed of 205 mph. In the everyday realm, the Turbo models include parking sensors and a backup camera.
The Envision SUV reflects just how globalized the auto industry has become. In China, where Buick is one of the most popular brands, Envision is already on sale. Now, the Chinese-made vehicle is being imported into the U.S. market.
That has raised protests from the United Auto Workers and will probably rule out some Made in America buyers. But General Motors is betting that most shoppers don't care where a vehicle is made -- just how well it drives.
The Envision is a midsize SUV that will fit into the Buick lineup between the smaller Encore and the larger Enclave. It's powered by a 2-liter, 252-horsepower turbocharged engine. It will come standard with a lane departure warning safety feature. Available as options are parking assist technology and a 360-degree surround camera.
Chrysler's minivan is getting not only a total redesign but a new name. Both the Chrysler Town & Country and the Dodge Grand Caravan will be replaced by just one entry -- the Chrysler Pacifica.
The new model unveiled in Detroit features a more sloping roof line and flashier tail lights than its predecessor. The new minivan will be powered by a V-6 engine mated with a nine-speed automatic transmission, In a first for minivans, the Pacifica will also offer a plug-in hybrid version that can go about 30 miles on the electric engine only before the backup gasoline engine kicks in.,
The 2017 Pacifica will come with the latest safety features, including adaptive cruise control, which keeps a certain distance from the vehicle ahead of it plus forward collision warning that also hits the brakes if a collision seems imminent. A backup camera and park assist will help with getting into and out of parking spaces.
Chrysler invented the minivan 30 years ago and has been the top combined seller with its two versions. Its major competitors now are the Honda Odyssey and Toyota Sienna, since Ford and General Motors have exited the minivan segment.
First there was the Volt, electric-powered with a gasoline engine backup. Now comes the all-electric Bolt.
Chevy's second-generation electric vehicle boasts a range of 200 miles on one full charge -- better than some competitors. GM says the $30,000 Bolt marries long range and affordable price. The Tesla Model S, which has a similar range, costs more than twice as much.
The Bolt seats five. The company says it will take nine hours to charge fully but can achieve an 80 percent charge in one hour.
Karl Brauer, senior analyst with Kelley Blue Book called the Bolt "the first serious electric vehicle available to mainstream consumers."