2013 Detroit Auto Show: Winners and Losers

Audi rs7

The 2013 edition of the Detroit auto show kept a steady pace with elegant new production cars and one of the biggest crops of concept cars we've seen in years. We'll grade both groups, starting here with the cars you'll actually be able to buy later this year. Cars.com editors Aaron Bragman, Mike Hanley, David Thomas and Joe Wiesenfelder scrutinized the sheet metal and deliver the results.

2014 Audi RS 7

David Thomas: Winner

The A7 is one of my favorite luxury cars as it is, and that's sans the 560-horsepower, twin-turbo V-8 that Audi has shoehorned into the RS 7. Visual tweaks like the "Quattro" script in the lower grille and beefed-up bumper are nice. The quilted leather treatment also speaks to me. It says, "You can't afford me, but wouldn't it be great to sit here?"

Mike Hanley: Winner

The RS 7 is blindingly quick — Audi claims zero to 60 mph happens in less than 4 seconds — and under the bright auto-show lights, the white one at the Audi stand was blinding, too. It's almost not fair that Audi has two performance lines — S and RS — to woo enthusiasts.

Joe Wiesenfelder: Winner

What's not to like (if you can afford it)? The seats feel as good as they look. Mike's not kidding about being blinded. That was the most light my eyes had seen in four days of Midwestern winter. It literally hurt my eyes.

Aaron Bragman: Winner

Blinding is definitely the word to describe the RS 7. Blindingly quick, blindingly expensive and yes, blindingly white in this showcar example. They say that the measure of a good design is whether it looks good in white or not, and the RS7 unquestionably does. This is going to be a future classic.

2014 Cadillac ELR


DT: Loser

Cadillac sure saved on the design work for the ELR; it looks just like a CTS coupe to me. The rear is so boring that the larger XTS and its jutting tailfins show it up. Putting the so-so package around the part-electric Chevy Volt powertrain makes me think it won't find many buyers.

MH: Winner

I agree with Dave that the design, especially the rear half, is a dead-ringer for the CTS coupe. But the idea of a range-extended electric powertrain wrapped in sporty coupe sheet metal makes the car interesting in a way that more traditional sedan styling never would.

JW: Winner

I'll admit it didn't knock me out — maybe because I'm not a fan of the coupe's styling to begin with. I say it's a winner because I suspect there's more potential for luxury plug-ins than more modest ones. Green statement meets luxury statement in one package.

AB: Winner

Looking like the current CTS coupe is not a bad thing, as it's perhaps one of GM's best designs since the 1950s. Cadillac worked hard to make sure the ELR looked far more like its concept version, the Converj, than the Volt looked like its concept. The resulting "Coupe de Volt" is a showcar for the street, and I predict it will be a head-turner when it hits the roads later this year.

2014 Chevrolet Corvette


DT: Winner

There were two Stingrays on display: one dark gray, one red. I thought the gray model looked stunning and the red one was a bit garish. Sports cars can be garish, though; they're allowed. Everything else about the seventh-generation 'Vette is a winner.

MH: Winner

The new Corvette's front end is surprisingly similar to the SRT Viper's, but the overall design is more athletic. The tail is a huge improvement over the slab on the prior generation. Chevrolet could have gone further with the interior upgrade, but it didn't stop this car from owning the show.

JW: Winner

Agreed. Chevy ought to throw more resources at the interior before it goes on sale. I was sorely disappointed by the red one; maybe I was expecting the 2009 Stingray concept. But the gray one looks much better and will probably continue to grow on me.

AB: Winner

I was prepared to be underwhelmed by the new Corvette, but I came away impressed. The details on this car are exceptional. It's an evolution of the design, but still unmistakably a Corvette. Purists will lament the loss of the round taillights, but I say see it in person with the lights on before passing judgment — the depth and detail of those lamps will change minds.

2014 Infiniti Q50

Infiniti q50

DT: Winner

When Infiniti releases a new model, its interior always seems lush and opulent versus the competition. Then the company rides that interior for a long time before updating it. That's happened again, but that doesn't mean the Q50 isn't a winner. I also firmly believe it looks better in person.

MH: Winner

Infiniti has managed to make the Q50's hood look incredibly low, and the theme carries though to the car's rear. The design is at the same time fresh but familiar while the cabin branches out more with its stacked touch-screens in the middle of the dash.

JW: Winner

I know my colleague Aaron is going to dissent, but I like the styling a lot. Good interior quality and two touch-screens rather than a display teamed with a knob is something I've wanted to see for years. All the buttons are real, too, not touch-insensitive panels. Infiniti is doing it right here.

AB: Loser

Yeah, I'm not feeling this one. I can see the BMW 3 Series in the Q50's proportions, but this looks a bit overstyled for me, especially aft of the front doors. That Infiniti family C-pillar squiggle looks awkward, and the taillights look as if they've been pasted on. The interior doesn't look all that different to me, and in fact looks like something that could easily have a Hyundai badge.

2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee

Jeep grand cherokee

DT: Winner

All Jeep needed to do to make the Grand Cherokee better was update its center display with the new Uconnect system. Jeep did that. I don't like the new headlights, though. They seem unnecessary. Still, there's something to be said for a Jeep that is so good it doesn't need a lot of work.

MH: Winner

I thought the Grand Cherokee's new headlights looked too slim in photos, but the design works better when you see it in person. I welcome the larger Uconnect touch-screen and the configurable instrument panel, too.

JW: Winner

I don't like the black plastic inserts below the headlights, and Jeep should have used the rotary knob gear selector from Ram rather than the T-switch from the Chrysler 300 for the new eight-speed automatic transmission. All the other updates are welcome, including the Summit trim level, which is distinguished enough to justify its addition.

AB: Winner

The exterior updates are subtle, but the really cool updates are inside — several new color combinations are coming for the Grand Cherokee now that Chrysler has let their designers have more creative freedom. Forget aluminum or carbon fiber; how does bronze trim grab you? It should grab you — it looks fantastic.

2014 Kia Cadenza


DT: Winner

I must be missing the huge pool of potential buyers clamoring for large sedans, but automakers sure are building cars for them. Kia's is a masculine answer to the Hyundai Azera, and it looks sharp with all the right finishes and features inside, too. If Kia figures out the driving dynamics, it should do just fine.

MH: Winner

The Cadenza is a sharp-looking sedan that borrows heavily from BMW where its styling is concerned, which isn't a bad thing for a full-size sedan with premium-market aspirations. A spacious, comfortable backseat is a must in this segment, and the Cadenza delivers here, too.

JW: Loser

This was a tough one, but I'm saying loser because the styling isn't what I expect from Kia. I like the diffuse neon look to the taillights, but the headlights have that white-stripe eyebrow I loathe on BMWs. Looks like a film that was supposed to be removed after shipping.

AB: Loser

Kia has introduced something that a non-enthusiast friend of mine would call "car-shaped." And it is, as there are elements of half-a-dozen other sedans in the Cadenza's shape. It's not offensive by any means, but after the brand brought us the eye-popping Optima, has the management grown worried about becoming too radical?

2014 Lexus IS


DT: Loser

Outside, I love the IS. This is what a small sports sedan should look like, and it's a big change from the last generation. Inside, the backseat might be roomier, but the front is just as confining as before. There aren't many sports coupes that are this tight on space. I did like the interior layout, but the finishes seemed too rough to be production-ready.

MH: Winner

The IS' large spindle grille is menacing and distinctive, but I'm more impressed with the interior updates, including the redone dashboard design and the improvement in backseat room — a severe shortcoming of the prior IS. I wish Lexus would offer a true manual transmission for enthusiasts, but the changes should increase the car's consideration in the sport-sedan class.

JW: Loser

Ick. You know the expression about throwing many divergent things at the wall to see which one sticks? Lexus threw a lot at the IS' front end, all of it stuck, and the automaker left it all there. It's also possible I sat in the second of two cars here and Mike in the first, because I found the interior subpar, too.

AB: Loser

Yikes. If I only had to look at the IS from the rear angle view, my opinion might be different. But that front end is just bizarre — the LED Nike swooshes will certainly help you tell the IS apart from the GS or LS, but attractive they're not. And the interior is just boring (aside from the very cool gauge cluster). Lexus is trying hard to redefine itself as its customers' age, but it needs to perhaps try something else.

2014 Nissan Versa Note


DT: Winner

The Versa Note looks perfectly functional with lots of interior and cargo room for the size. I hope it comes with a low price, though, since the seat fabric and climate controls rate at the lower rung of the spectrum.

MH: Loser

The Versa Note's crisp exterior styling impresses, but I was immediately disappointed when I opened the door and saw the same cheap controls from the Versa sedan. Affordable pricing is part of the appeal for a car like this, but after seeing what you get I think value-minded shoppers will look elsewhere.

JW: Winner

I share some reservations: lots of hard materials inside, the steering wheel doesn't telescope, and you can feel and hear louvers opening and closing when you operate the mechanical ventilation control. But I can't call an affordable car with this much interior space a loser.

AB: Loser

Aside from the truly impressive legroom for front and rear passengers, little else about the Versa Note stands out. Styling is derivative; the powertrain is underwhelming, and materials are cheap. Its low price will definitely help it, but from fuel economy to connectivity, its features can be had in competitors' products too.



is this strictly an evaluation of styling? Or is this a prediction of how these models will do on the market. People love the IS styling and think the ELR is boring, I love that. The ELR is supposed to resemble the CTS coupe- they are both Cadillacs. In other shocking news the 3, 5 and 7 series sedans all favor each other! Its outrageous! Other sites have been effusive in their praise of the concept car looks of the ELR.

As for the Q50, it has real knobs for some functions but other functions are controlled only via the screen like the uplevel Accord models and the RLX. It's a combination of touch screen controls and actual knobs/buttons. They are somewhere in between Cadillac/Lincoln and conventional interiors will all knobs.


I completely agree with Dave on the ELR. I saw and thought it just looked like a big CTS coupe.

Michael F

> There aren't many sports coupe that are this tight on space.

As a 6'8" man, I assume Lexus gave up on the tall person market years ago. I can't fit in anything they make now. A friend had an IS. She was 5'1".


ELR is smaller than CTS coupe in every way. Not to mention its FWD so it has different proportions. Family resemblance is sort of expected- or it should be.

Bill H

@ things I do not like in most all the sedans & coupes, from the side view most all look very much alike. The front & rear ends may look a bit different but not the side view, very boring.
Why do they not make dash boards the same color as the rest of the interior? Always black and it does not accentuate the rest of the interior. You can change it somewhat by after market with a dash cover but it would really look good to be the same as seats, side panels etc.

They should at the least make this an option.


Audi - Winner - This is the type of car that is making Audi leader in its category
Cadillac - Winner - I like this so much more than the Volt.
Corvette - Winner - the outgoing Vette was badly in need of a major update.
Infiniti - Loser - Infiniti always looks like they're trying, and failing, to keep up with BMW.
Jeep - Winner - I agree there's not much to update on this excellent SUV
Kia - Loser - Kia has been on a roll but this is a definite misstep.
Lexus - Loser - Lexus is fading into irrelevance against the offerings from Germany.
Nissan - Loser - Borrowed styling throughout and an interior that makes you shut the door and walk away


Audi - Winner - Not that I can afford it anyway.
Cadillac - Winner - Looks almost exactly like the concept from a few years ago. (unfortunately subsequent Caddys have moved the ball on styling) so what was radical a few years ago looks average now. Doesn't matter, your first in your face luxury hybrid has arrived, now if we could only get Prius shoppers into a Cadilliac showroom.
Corvette - Loser - Sorry I'm still (after 30 years) waiting for a Corvette to blow my doors off. To me they all look derivative of an 84. This one is "trying to hard". The Stingray III in the mid 90's would have worked, but they passed, the Concept Stingray from the Transformers movie raised my expectations, this is a poor substitute.
Infiniti - Winner - I just hate the new naming convention. But a good product will have more of an impression than a name on the hood.
Jeep - Winner - And I didn't even realize it needed work.
Kia - Loser - Kinda reminds me of my wife's 99 Sable. Really expected more post-Optima
Lexus - Loser - Another "trying to hard" award winner. This "spindle grill" thing isn't flying. If they wanted to push the limits they should have done it on the hatchet faced LFA. The LF-LC is a knockout, but until they can get that car on the streets they shouldn't water down the looks by grafting it's elements onto existing rides.
Nissan - Winner - Look not only can a lot of us NOT afford the latest Audi & BMW //M, but sometimes we have to buy *gasp* used, also. It's nice to have a sharp looking economy car. Even if it does borrow from others. Remember cheap cars last longer on the 2nd hand market because there's less stuff to fix.

I did not like our cars

I agree with infosaur on this one.

I did not like our cars

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