2007 Detroit Auto Show: Production Car Winners and Losers

Winnercts

Concept cars are fun to look at, but it’s the production vehicles at the Detroit auto show that will actually be at dealerships this year. Seeing these vehicles in person greatly influences our opinions, and a few really surprised us under the show lights. Again, Joe Wiesenfelder, Mike Hanley and David Thomas run through the big winners and losers fighting for your hard-earned dollars.

2008 Cadillac CTS

DT: Winner
Like the Volt concept, the Cadillac CTS was a winner for GM; I don’t think anything else at the show came close to competing. The exterior is a challenging design and the interior is vastly improved. This will sell better than the original.

JW: Winner
Ironically, the original CTS was the model that showed GM had a clue — a willingness to take chances with styling and an understanding that performance matters. The car's main weakness was its interior. The 2008 is far better in this and every other aspect I didn't like about Gen. 1. Dave's right that it will sell better. If it drives well, it has car of the year written all over it.

MH: Winner
Cadillac raised its game with the CTS' new interior, which equals or bests those of its competitors. From many angles it reminds me of a 7/8-scale STS, and that's not a bad thing in my book.

Winnerfocus

Ford Focus Sedan and Coupe

DT: Loser
I thought the Focus sedan was actually pretty radically changed considering so much of the underpinnings remain from the outgoing model. The interior is also stylish, and besides being pre-production it seemed high-quality for the class. The coupe, on the other hand, just looked awful.

JW: Winner
By no means is this an enthusiastic endorsement, but if my choices are thumbs up or down, the coupe (a downer) isn't enough to offset the sedan — which isn't a big winner but is incrementally better in several ways than the current model, which boasts unworldly handling, and is more reliable and crashworthy than ever.

MH: Winner
I'm not a fan of the Focus' new look, and there are some ergonomic issues with the cabin controls, but it should do just fine if the price is right.

Winnerrogue

2008 Nissan Rogue

DT: Winner
It didn’t get much attention, but this CR-V and RAV4 competitor will do well depending on pricing. It’s a lot more stylish and sleek in person. I didn’t get a chance to get inside, though.

JW: Winner
I didn't get access to the interior either, but I think Nissan hit the mark on this one. It looks like a Nissan but not a Murano — at least not in the ways that make a Murano polarizing. It's a winner on its own merit, but this vehicle class is suddenly very, very crowded.

MH: Winner
The Rogue gets Nissan into a game — the small crossover SUV slugfest — where it didn’t even had a presence. Inoffensive looks and a sporty interior should work in its favor, but it remains to be seen if its four-cylinder — the only engine offered — has the guts to keep pace with the V-6-powered competition.

Veracruz1_1

2007 Hyundai Veracruz

DT: Winner
It’s shapely, the fit and finish is on par with the competition and it’s loaded with safety features. It will do as well as any of the other three-row crossovers now flooding the market.

JW: Winner
I stood at the Hyundai display with a TV reporter who said, in front of a Hyundai rep, "Well, I have a Santa Fe that I bought in 2001..." and I thought to myself, "Uh oh, here it comes."  She continued, "...and I haven't had a single problem with it. Not one problem!" There are a lot of these people out there who want a larger vehicle. They're sure to conclude that the Veracruz is it. It seems like Hyundai can't lose.

MH: Winner
The Veracruz appears to have the goods — a standard V-6, room for up to seven and many safety features — to expand Hyundai's presence in the popular crossover segment.

Winneravenger

2008 Dodge Avenger

DT: Winner
Despite looking exactly like the previous concept, the Avenger offered some interesting lines on its rear and a surprisingly well-finished interior for a Dodge, minus the air vents. I think the $18K starting price is still a tad too high, though.

JW: Winner
I'm on the fence about the interior, mainly because only the most decked-out version appears at an auto show, but the exterior is sure to attract Dodge buyers. Equipped with the base four-cylinder, it's likely to be as much of a dog as its sister, the Chrysler Sebring. The V-6 options should be OK.

MH: Winner
Dodge gets a modern midsize offering in the new Avenger, which has the brand's characteristic tough-guy appearance that's fared rather well on the full-size Charger. It should fare well in this segment, too.

Malibulive

2008 Chevrolet Malibu

DT: Winner
While I thought the new design looked good in the press materials, the Malibu also proved more of a stunner up close. The front end doesn’t protrude nearly as much as the pictures made it appear. I think it’s better-looking than the Saturn Aura it shares so many parts with.

JW: Winner
GM set high expectations by committing to high-quality interiors and then following with the current-generation Malibu. Phooey. The 2008 improves upon it in ways everyone can appreciate. I think it's far from being a "stunner," but it's neither bland nor offensive, and when you consider that the Aura has been lauded for its overall performance, how could this version lose?

MH: Winner
Chevy's done quite a number with the redesign of its midsize Malibu sedan, and I like the results. It's stylish in an understated way that seems ideally suited to the expectations of buyers in this class. The interior is promising, too, though we'll need to see the real thing -- the Malibu unveiled at the show had an early, handmade interior — before giving a final assessment.

Isf1

2008 Lexus IS-F

DT: Loser
Sure, it’ll be fast, but the body-kit treatment was over the top and not nearly as subtle as what BMW does to its M3. This could be Lexus’ last entry into the high-performance game if it doesn’t sell well.

JW: Loser
Lexus gets credit for going all the way, like Cadillac did when it dropped a Corvette drivetrain into the CTS-V. A 400-hp V-8 in this little thing? Lexus engineers know what they're doing, and I'm sure this car will rock, but the bulbous hood is a problem, and the car looks younger than the original IS 300, which itself seemed out of place for the brand. An eight-speed tranny is impressive on an academic level, but no conventional manual? Buzzzz! Thank you for playing!

MH: Loser
The IS-F's additional body work looks more subtle in person, which is a good thing, but I agree with Joe that without a true manual transmission the IS-F isn't going to be taken seriously by the true enthusiasts a car like this needs to embrace.

Winnercaravan

2008 Chrysler Town & Country and Dodge Caravan

DT: Winner
The originators of the minivan have done it again with much-improved versions of the classics. I didn’t get to sit in the driver’s seat, though, to test out that shifter placement.

JW: Winner
I think people will get over the shifter — mainly because you hardly have to touch it — and these are minivan buyers, after all. Chrysler and Dodge clearly know how to dig deep into how families use vans. If you think a DVD player is unnecessary, you don't have a kid. If you think two separate DVD players are overkill, you don't have two kids. And the swiveling seats? These guys do what the domestic pickup developers have failed to do: innovate.

MH: Winner
Almost anything would have been an improvement over the Chrysler Group's prior-generation minivans, and the new interiors look vastly improved. While the swiveling second-row seats one-up the competition, just looking at them brings back childhood memories of feeling nauseous from riding in the rear-facing third row of my parents' Buick LeSabre wagon. 

Winnerlancer

2008 Mitsubishi Lancer

DT: Loser
While the new Lancer is a looker, its poor mileage — 25/31 mpg, city/hwy — could hurt sales compared to the much more efficient Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla and Mazda3. That’s too bad, because it looks great.

JW: Winner
The average Mitsubishi buyer is young, and probably far less concerned about fuel economy than is the average Consumer-Reports-reading Civic buyer. I've learned how important styling is (see Ford Five Hundred below). To have an affordable car that kinda sorta looks like an Evolution is going to look mighty attractive to young folks. We don't know how it will drive, but it's definitely a winner from the perspective of an auto show-goer.

MH: Winner
The advance images of this car looked good, and those impressions held up after seeing it in person. Mitsubishi got the proportions right with this one, and that's likely to pay off with more sales in the compact segment.

Winner500

2008 Ford Five Hundred

DT: Winner
This surprised me, but the redesign makes this large sedan more masculine and definitely more eye-catching. An improved V-6 engine with 260 hp and a six-speed transmission don’t hurt either.

JW: Winner
I think the current version is a winner — one of the best-packaged cars I've ever experienced. Other people's complaints have included the styling, the power and the CVT. Check, check and check. Now others will think it's a winner too.

MH: Loser
In terms of buzz, there's not much here with the Five Hundred. The exterior gets more chrome and some new headlights and taillights. More significant is the Five Hundred's new, more-powerful V-6 engine, but the car was lost among more-significant debuts at the show.

Winner335

2007 BMW 335i Convertible

DT: Loser
The convertible 3 Series is always a big seller, and there’s no doubt this one — complete with retractable hardtop — will sell too. I’m getting a little tired of the new styling, though. From a show standpoint, this was barely a blip.

JW: Loser
Agreed, 100 percent. Retractable hardtops are getting so common and so affordable that the thrill is dulled. Beyond that, it's a 335i, which is great to drive but not exceptional to behold.

MH: Winner
Though it didn't have a lot of buzz, this is BMW's first retractable-hardtop convertible, which the faithful should go crazy over.

Smartlimo

Smart ForTwo

DT: Loser
Two years ago, Chrysler introduced the previous-generation Smart in Detroit. A month later it canceled plans to bring it to the U.S. I wouldn’t be surprised if it happens again. As a city runabout, the ForTwo is fine, but most U.S. drivers need more than that. You can’t even fit a week’s worth of groceries in this thing — and 40 mpg? That’s not enough to convert people to this micro-car.

JW: Winner
From an auto-show perspective, the Smart cars are and always will be winners. They inspire more curiosity than almost anything at the show. They will be winners in the market, too, unless they're involved in a single highly publicized fatality on an American road. People's confidence in the brand is likely to be tenuous, with their concerns as great as the cars are small.

MH: Loser
The ForTwo is a cartoon car of the first order, and while it's likely to develop a cult following here in the U.S., for most people it'll be a curiosity rather than a viable means of transportation. Considering its small size, a 40-mpg gas-mileage estimate for combined city and highway driving isn't that spectacular, either.

By David Thomas | January 11, 2007 | Comments (19)

Comments 

John

Meh!
Lexus buyers don't care.
They know very little about cars and buy what they're told to buy.
They'll snap it up in droves.
They have questionable styling tastes anyways.

Jack

Pan the Lexus and BMW yet praise the Focus and 500. You guys are clueless.

Jack,
We're not panning the cars themselves on performance or driving characteristics because you can't drive anything at a car show. We're panning them on what impact they had at the show and specifically during the media days.

Strongly agree on the CTS and Malibu. Good to see I'm not the only one who thought the new Focus has a shot--it looks better in person.

Also agree that the IS-F body kit is awful, but disagree that it will hurt sales or that Toyota would just give up if it did fail. Maybe you haven't noticed, but Toyota never really gives up on anything; at most they skip a few years before returning to the market.

My initial impression of the Chrysler vans was very positive at first. I did sit in the driver's seat--the shifter is a touch further away than I'd like, but it won't be a significant issue.

More of an issue will be the lack of class-leading interior materials, styling, controls, and room in back. Both the Honda and the Toyota have far more rear legroom. I cannot fathom why Chrysler didn't give the van a roomier interior, they knew the specs of the competition.

I'm not nearly as positive as you guys about the styling of the Rogue and Veracruz. What's with all of these overlong, droopy, 1996 Taurus-like overhangs? People talk about how the old Chrysler vans are too round, then think these are okay? I don't get it. I do think the Veracruz will sell--nice interior and probably a good price. The Rogue faces a tougher segment.

Finally, the Mitsu Concept Evo or whatever they called it had a fantastic interior, which is much different than the current production car. Shame little if any of that alacantara trim will make it to production.

More of my rambling about the show:

http://www.truedelta.com/pieces/naias1.php

Wish I'd run into you guys there. Maybe next year.

Cody

I agree with Michael regarding the overhangs, but I would include the Mitsubishi in that group. It's front end is entirely too long, although it looks good overall.

The Hyundai's front and rear end are NOT attractive. I live in Korea, and have seen these on the road. The interior may be great, but the exterior overhangs and the hood are long (looks like someone heated and stretched a Santa Fe) and the styling is a bit on the strange side.

As for the Nissan, I have been of the impression that the auto journalist world falsely praised Nissan styling because they were in love with the 3.5L V6. Can one engine widely proliferated through a brand really make up for ugly exteriors and crappy interiors? Really, the only good looking Nissans have Infiniti badges on them.

505Accent

I find hard to believe the BMW 3 Series convertible would be a "loser" in any sense, auto show attention getter or otherwise. A hardtop all weather 3 series with near the performance of the (current) M3?? I'm not even a huge fan of the roundel, but this sounds like a great car for anyone who can't decide between a sporty coupe or convertible, why not have both?

Pete

IT APPEARS ALL AMERICAN MADE CARS ARE "WINNER" AND FOREIGN CARS ARE "LOSER". GET REAL PLEASE.

thomas sandoval

hey go GM they are actually starting to get back into the race of actually making good brand unique cars. The new trucks were a start and now the cars are gonna be the finisher, watch out japs
GO GM !!!!!!!!!

happy lopez

bout time some people take pride in their own country's brand! kudos thomas!

Pete

Thomas Sandoval ...and your racist comment "watch out japs" ...ha haahh ahha...you and your typical racist narrow mind uneducated ...it is time to wake up...dream on about GM catch up....GM is still many light years behind...good luck..my friend.

cody

Pete,

Thomas might have actually fought in WWII, when it was perfectly acceptable to use that term. I'm not condoning it, but it by no means makes him racist or uneducated. Not being able to type a complete sentence, on the other hand, is a sign of lack of education. What part of his comment is narrow-minded? I would argue that not being able to accept that GM is making better cars that are more competitive can make a person seem narrow-minded.

scryer

Well I am not going to make many friends here, because I think you are all wrong!

1. Although many of these cars look good and generated a lot of media praise (Which is what this was about by the way), looking under the hood tells a different story. The new Chevrolet Malibu, for instance, gets 31 mpg on the highway WITH THE INLINE 4! The V6 gets in the high 20s. Now Toyota's V6 gets 31 mpg, thats right, toyotas V6 which is more powerful than GM's gets better gas mileage! Hah, sure, this one American car may look better than the old malibu, but something reminds me of a time when people said that about the last malibu.

And the Toyota Camry (the car I am talking about with the V6) not only gets better mileage and has more power, its also about a year old now, so by the time GM finally gets the new Malibu out, guess who (I predict) will already have a concept version of their new car, which will pick up and deliver better styling? Toyota.

Also, Cody, just because it was ok for in WWII to say "japs" does not mean that it is acceptable nor does it mean that it was not racist.

To Thomas: the new trucks are by no means going to sell well, the numbers are already coming out and the Auto industry is still slow, and even though GM is selling trucks, well, so is just about everyone else. Toyota also has announced the full specs on the new Tundra, which has a 381 hp, 408 torque specs, and is built in Texas. In fact just about everything on that Truck is of a higher caliber than any American equivalent, not even GM's best V8 in the Silverado or Sierra can match Toyota's (in its 2wd version with that beasty V8 gets 20mpg!). In fact, Toyota is on its way to building as many cars in America as American brands with the number of plants they are building. Also, for hte 2007 Nascar Nextell Cup (anyone else still having trouble not calling it the Winston Cup?), the Toyota Camry will be the only car in the race actually built in America, GM, Ford, and Dodge build their cars in that segment in either Mexico or Canada!

To happy lopez: you are most defintely, if not a racist, an arsehole. The Japanese have been with us now in Iraq and Aphganistan, and fought the Cold War with us, as did Germany. So what, we fought them 60 years ago, we also have fought Britian, Mexico, Canada (as it was part of Britian in the War of 1812), France (back when we were still colonies, the French-Indian War), and hell everyone but Africa and some South American nations.

Japan and Germany are good allies, and when my friends across the sea are building me better cars than my friends at home, I really have to wonder who is really my friend?

I take no pride in knowing that my car was built in America, Asia, or Germany (hell all of them use parts made in Taiwan anyway), I take pride in that I got a good car, good price hopefully, and that it does everything it needs to do (or that i want it too, which ever way you look at it). IF Japan, Germany, or America do it better than one or the other, then so be it.

And BTW, just a little knowledge from the finance world: most of the investors for Toyota, Honda, GM, or BMW reside at one time or another in New York anyway..... so what if they were born elsewhere?

Lil'Tom

screyer,
I generally agree with what your statements, but I don't understand how you can possibly say that the GM trucks aren't going to sell well. They've been named the International Truck of the Year, the North American Truck of the Year, Motor Trend's Truck of the Year and received similar honors from many other organizations.

When equipped with the 5.3L V8 (315 hp 388 lb-ft), GM trucks can get an EPA estimated 22 mpg highway; the Tundra can only achieve 20 mpg highway with the 4.0L V6 (256 hp, 266 lb-ft). That big V8 drops the Tundra's highway mileage down to 17 mpg.

I have no doubt that the Tundra will be great, but I don't know how accepting truck buyers will be of a full-size Japanese truck (see Nissan Titan). Considering Toyota's image and the anemic full-size pickups they have produced in the past I'd say they have an uphill battle to change minds no matter how good the Tundra is. However if people really do love and accept the new Tundra it still won't sell anywhere near as well as the Ford or GM trucks simply because Toyota doesn't have the capacity to build enough.

That leads me to your statement; "Toyota is on its way to building as many cars in America as American brands with the number of plants they are building."

I don't know Toyota's American production numbers, but I know they have seven plants in the US (they're looking to build number 8)and I believe GM has 54.

I just wanted to put that in perspective.

sum dude

Scryver has a point, all cars are made of the same parts and the same materials, it all comes down to who puts it togeather better. Almost all "american" cars are built in mexico or canada and almost all "japanese" cars sold in the US are built on american soil, so who is more american the japanese car makers or the domestic makers?

serious lopez

people, its not WHERE it was built, its the matter of the profit money going to which country! American profit money usually ends up somehow benefiting the county, where as when you buy a camry, you are supporting another country...its not the plants in the US, its the MONEY!

May I remind the person that is advertising toyota's mileage...that was tested in 2007...goverment regulations are cracking down on mileage testing, (actually using AC and rapid acceleration and over 55mph!!) the new malibu has gone under the 2008 testing, so when the camry is tested under the new regulations, cry and weap! It will make the new malibu even more attractive! THANKS!

James

First I must say I didnt expect a history lesson when reading the winners and losers of the car show, keep that boring stuff out of this exciting section. Now that I have vented, I must say the CTS looks awesome and I would love to see it in person, the focus coupe looks a bit boring the sedan is better looking, hopefully in person the coupe will look better.
The rogue looks nice and hopefully it will have a V6 so it can compete with the Rav 4, the Veracruz is decent looking but it depends on the engine and of course the price, the avenger is very nice and when I see my neighbors ugly avenger coupe from years ago, I now know that was then and this is now. The new malibu definitely a huge improvement over the current model, before I got my 2004 Impala I was looking at the 2004 malibu, and though the price was nicer the car was hideous, and I would have got a buick century before I would get a malibu, now the malibu is nicer looking than the new impala. The lexus IS-F looks bland to me, hey I am not a old man, at 33yo I consider myself a kid at heart, but this car doesnt get my attention, it doesnt matter to me what powers it if its boring looking then its not worth me working 4 jobs to pay for it. The new dodge and chrysler minivans look a bit better, but I do like the swivel chair idea, I will have to see them in person.
The new lancer is very sharp, and I think mitsubishi will hit a homerun with this car, sure the gas milege isnt as good as toyota or honda, but then again the corolla is really in need of a facelift and while the civic looks better than it did, younger folks arent going to care about the milege they want a sporty car and the lancer delivers.
My friend has the current ford 500 and that car is super slow and boring as hell, the new engine alone will help propel this car into many more driveways, but the new styling should double it, I cant wait to see the montego version, which currently is nicer than the 500 I just may have to look into these cars once my lease is up in 2008.Not going to say nay or yay about the bmw its too small for me, speaking of small, I would rather drive a chevy Aveo then a smart car.

V lopez

I dunno about the 500, I think the last version just kinda killed the large car market with ford...bad PR

Tom

ok so...

The Cadillac CTS is growing on me. Inside. But the exterior belongs in a toolbox. Too many sharp edges makes it a little too ridiculous for most people.

The Focus will never EVER see my garage. POS. Ford needs to take lessons from their European and Australian cars such as the European Focus and Australia's FPV Falcon. This Focus just won't cut it for many youth's today.

The Rogue was also a missed opportunity. Terrible execution on the exterior. A feminine car that will probably MAINLY appeal to feminists. of course there are some guys that will enjoy it. I'm just not one.

Ahh, Veracruz. I don't have a clue what to say. I'm split...

But you, Avenger. Go back to the drawing board. Me and my buddies , Gen Y, are sick or these dull American stylings with no sense of class or shape. It seems they're all just carved from brick.

But the Malibu is seemingly growing on me. From the Front and inside. But after that c-pillar... even the b-pillar. I'm not so sure about. Looks too much like a TL from the A to C-pillars. And that rear is just butt-ugly.

IS-F... terrible execution on a great idea.

And those DC minivans. I'm guessing they'll be the next bunch to go. Just a hunch.

Oh Lancer... you rock my socks off. It's sheer beauty and the people that will buy it, my Gen Y colleagues, definetely agree with me. It's simply stunning. Can't wait for that Evo variant!

Ok so like I said earlier. Burn that 500 and all others. So damn crappy looking it's dee dee dee.

But that 335i. Gorgeous. And all those current BMW owners that are out there are probably working on selling there's rite now just to get at it. BMW has THE HIGHEST CUSTOMER RETURN RATE and despite what these journalists said More and more people will hop on the BMW bandwagon.

Oh and don't forget about the ForTwo... ForNoOne

After seeing the pics of the red CTS, I think the design looks pretty good, and well executed, love the HUGE sunroof and the GM grilles really looks amazing... How I wish I could this in my garage..

For more in fo check out:
http://www.replacementgeneralparts.com/gm-grille

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