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2016 Detroit Auto Show Preview

author photo by Colin Ryan December 2015
  • More than 40 new vehicles set to debut
  • The coupe makes a comeback
  • So does the Honda Ridgeline and Henrik Fisker

If there's a good reason to visit Michigan in winter, it's the 2016 Detroit Auto Show. This is when the American auto business has its fanfare moments. It's also the time for announcing the winners of the North American Car and Truck of the Year awards.

Import brands are also set to have a strong presence, with desirable production cars as well as intriguing concepts on show. Here's what we know so far.

Big News From the Big 3

Stand by for the 2016 Buick Envision, a compact crossover with a 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine, which sounds like so many vehicles on sale today, but here's the difference: This one is built in China. It's set to go on sale this summer, when General Motors can get a feel for how a Chinese-made product will be received.

If spy photos are any indication, the 2017 Chevrolet Bolt all-electric vehicle could turn up at Detroit. Or the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, which happens just before. Or perhaps both. It's supposed to be affordable (about $30,000) and have a great range (200 miles was the target).

Shots of camouflaged cars have also created a buzz around the 2017 Chevrolet Cruze hatchback. The Cruze has only been available as a sedan up to now. There are also whisperings of an updated Chevrolet Silverado pickup.

The Blue Oval is expected to rock up to proceedings with the refreshed 2017 Ford Fusion, including the Energi plug-in hybrid variant. And the production version of the new Lincoln Continental flagship sedan will definitely make its first appearance.

It looks like the 2017 Chrysler Town & Country could be bringing minivan moves to Motown. And an all-wheel-drive/plug-in hybrid drivetrain is anticipated, along with hands-free side-door activation.

The Importance of Being an Import

Let's start with the BMW M2. It's small, powerful, nimble, all in rear-drive coupe guise. This could be the star of the show. BMW's M cars rarely disappoint, and 365 horsepower from a twin-turbo 3.0-liter inline-6 looks like reason to celebrate.

The one-two punch from Munich is completed with the BMW X4 M40i, a version of the X4 sloped-roof crossover and powered by an M engine dishing out 355 hp.

Not to be outdone, the redesigned 2017 Porsche 911 Turbo and Turbo S arrive in coupe and cabriolet form, with 20 extra hp in each model. The regular Turbo is boosted to 540 hp, and the S has 580 hp. To help owners feel better about themselves, Porsche claims improvements in fuel consumption over the outgoing model.

Over at the 3-pointed star, a redesigned 2017 Mercedes-Benz SLC compact roadster succeeds the SLK. A 2.0-liter turbo four powers the regular version with 241 hp, but the 2017 Mercedes AMG SLC43 should be even more fun thanks to a twin-turbo 3.0-liter V6 making 362 hp. Expect a lot of technology and 9-speed automatic transmissions.

There'll also be plenty of cutting-edge tech and gear ratios in the 2017 Mercedes-Benz E-Class, an all-new generation of this ever-popular executive sedan.

A brand-new flagship sedan, the 2017 Volvo S90, will compete with the BMW 5 Series and Mercedes-Benz E-Class, doing it without any help from the driver. Autonomous systems take another step forward in this car, with smarter and more active safety systems than ever before.

The 2017 Honda Ridgeline pickup represents a return to the market and the introduction of the second generation. The plan is for it to emerge from its Alabama factory and reach dealers in June 2016.

On a related note, the Acura Precision Concept is a large flagship sedan, but it's not meant to preview an upcoming model. It's more a look at the ideas Acura has been mulling over in its design studio.

Hyundai is finally spinning off its Genesis sub-brand into a separate luxury brand, just as Honda did with Acura and Toyota did with Lexus. The first fruit is the 2017 Genesis G90 full-size sedan, and it appears to be super lavish inside.

Speaking of Lexus, some pundits are predicting a production version of the LF-LC concept that started the range's current design style. The Lexus LC 500, as it might be known, is a large coupe, possibly with a 5.0-liter V8 and a 10-speed transmission.

In the scramble to make crossovers, it seems coupes haven't been completely forgotten. For example, the 2017 Infiniti Q60 is an all-new 2-door along the lines of the Lexus RC and BMW 4 Series. It's based on the same platform as the 2016 Infiniti Q50 sedan, which arrives in Detroit with a set of revisions. But we can't escape crossovers completely -- nor would we want to when there's the refreshed 2016 Infiniti QX60 7-seater to check out.

File under 'F' for fascinating: Henrik Fisker, the man behind the short-lived Karma hybrid, arrives in Detroit with a new idea, the Force 1. It's a 2-seater sports machine built on an existing American car (no info on that yet; Corvette, perhaps) with a new body designed by Fisker and a price of almost $300,000 -- and only 50 will be made. He also has a second idea up his sleeve, but that's staying put until showtime.

As fascinating in its own way is the Audi Q6 H-Tron concept. The 'H' signifies power from a hydrogen fuel cell, and chances are this will be the "concept car with new drive technology" that Audi is planning to unveil in Detroit.

Just to qualify, the 40-plus expected premieres are not all world debuts, but some will be shown in North America for the first time. Either way, Autotrader is covering all the high points of the 2016 Detroit Auto Show, so be sure to visit this site regularly and often. Press days are January 11-12, and it's open to the public from January 16-24.

What it means to you: No one can predict the future, expect for people who pay attention to car shows like this.

This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
2016 Detroit Auto Show Preview - Autotrader