2013 Detroit Auto Show Winners and Losers: Concept Cars


We'd like to institute a new rule: Only cars that are truly conceptual in nature should be labeled as "concept" cars. Of this list, only the Hyundai or Nissan could be considered a true concept car; all the others are simply early versions of upcoming production cars due in the next year or two. That said, there was a good variety on display at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, in terms of style and segment. Here are our editors' picks for winners and losers of the latest crop of concepts. You can check out our grades for this year's crop of production cars here.

Acura MDX Concept

Aaron Bragman: Winner

Acura styling has wavered between boring and scary in recent years, but of the entire lineup, the MDX has always worn the Acura face the best. The brand apparently isn't going to mess with that success, and wisely so. I like the look of the MDX, despite its retention of the metal beak, and its new increased length seems to give it better proportions.

Joe Wiesenfelder: Winner

It's nice to see an Acura introduction that isn't in some way puzzling. This one looks good — probably better than ever. The beak looks less beaky here than in the past — at least against the show car's paint color. The bumper treatments are especially interesting. Will they appear in the real product? Probably. When Acura calls something a prototype, it usually doesn't mess with sheet metal. Technically, the bumpers aren't sheet metal, but still ...

Mike Hanley: Loser

I agree with Aaron that the MDX has had the best implementation of Acura's shield grille, but I thought the overall design of the MDX Prototype was a little boring — kind of like the brand's upcoming RLX flagship sedan. It seems that Acura, after being so heavily criticized for its front-end look the past few years, is now playing it safe — too safe.

David Thomas: Loser

Am I the only one who looks at this and sees no real difference from the current MDX that has been around for years? This is less an evolution and more of a Xerox. Besides the odd headlights and yes, a better-looking backside, the MDX Prototype looks prototypical to me.

By David Thomas | January 18, 2013 | Comments (8)

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.
By David Thomas | January 17, 2013 | Comments (10)

2012 L.A. Auto Show: Winners and Losers


The 2012 L.A. Auto Show is now open to the public and thousands of people will begin their shopping process by checking out the just-released models we evaluated the past few days. There weren't many show-stopping cars unveiled, but there were big updates for some of the best-selling cars in the country. Here's how they stacked up.

2014 Acura RLX

Kelsey Mays: Loser
Acura's flagship is a big, comfortable car, with substantially more room than cars like the BMW 5 Series and Infiniti M. This seems more like a Mercedes S-Class or Lexus LS wannabe, and I think Hyundai did a better imitation with the Equus. The auto-show car boasted handsome interior materials but few backseat amenities and noticeable silver plastic where there should have been real metal. Those headlights, meanwhile, scare me more than an episode of "Here Comes Honey Boo Boo."

Joe Bruzek: Loser
I keep waiting for something different and striking from Acura to get the automaker out of the current styling funk where all its cars look very similar — just different sizes. The RLX isn't that car. With the exception of a few interesting features like all-wheel steering and the crazy LED headlights, it's business as usual for the RLX: a little bigger, a little nicer but not different enough to make a splash at the auto show.

Joe Wiesenfelder: Loser
Tempted as I was to call it a winner for its use of conventional buttons and screens rather than the dreaded capacitive panels that plague a growing percentage of cars, I have to agree on some points above. The all-wheel steer and coming hybrid all-wheel drive might change my mind, but at an auto show, the car's uninspiring. I really wanted something larger than the old RL, which was too close to the TL. Didn't get it.

David Thomas: Winner
The styling isn't in your face, but I don't think that's what an RLX buyer might want. Instead they'll gravitate to the plush interior and ultra-comfortable, ultra-large seats. The simple control panel may be another selling point for buyers who don't want to go through a training session on their car's multimedia system.

By David Thomas | November 30, 2012 | Comments (8)

2012 New York Auto Show: Winners and Losers


Many of the press conferences at this year's New York auto show were packed with multiple debuts, as if the automakers knew this was their last opportunity to make a splash before the summer lull between international showcases. The jam-packed schedule brought a number of significant debuts, and Cars.com's editors Mike Hanley, Kelsey Mays, Joe Wiesenfelder and Joe Bruzek trekked the show floor in search of the show's winners and losers.

2013 Nissan Altima

Mike Hanley: Winner
The redesigned Altima's all-new sheet metal keeps the sedan's appearance current in the quickly evolving family-car segment, but its efficient four-cylinder engine — with a projected gas mileage of 38 mpg on the highway — will strongly resonate with buyers focused on gas prices. The competition isn't letting up, but the new Altima looks like it has what it takes to maintain its impressive sales momentum.

Kelsey Mays: Winner
Nissan is the latest to expose the absurdity of automakers building an optimized fuel-economy version that's hard to find on dealer lots but marketed ad nauseam. The Altima should get a game-changing 27/38 mpg city/highway with no optional equipment, leading some other four-cylinder family cars by double-digit percentages. Interesting styling and comfortable seats help its case, too. Cabin materials don't leapfrog the class, but they're competitive with the Camry, Accord and Fusion.

By David Thomas | April 12, 2012 | Comments (6)

2012 Chicago Auto Show: Winners and Losers


Not many drapes were ripped off all-new cars under bright lights in Chicago over the past few days. The debuts we saw were limited in number, but the size of the show itself is seemingly endless and filled with more commonplace models. At least that's what our feet are saying.

More 2012 Chicago Auto Show Coverage

That doesn't mean we're short on opinions of the few debuts we did see. We've enlisted more editors to make up for the short list of cars. David Thomas, Kelsey Mays, Joe Bruzek, Colin Bird and Mike Hanley grade the debuts. Who doesn't want to hear more opinions from automotive journalists?

2013 Acura ILX

David Thomas: Winner
I was expecting to be impressed with a spacious interior in a compact car, like I was with the new Honda Civic. I wasn't expecting the ILX to be the best-looking Acura sedan at the booth. The brand's design could be better, but if it keeps moving in this direction I see hope.

Kelsey Mays: Loser
Acura (and Buick, for that matter) paid heed to the pitfall potential in the elusive near-luxury segment. Cabin materials feel a lot richer than the Civic's dowdy surfaces, but I disagree with David: The ILX still looks bland, and the odd blank space below the grille recalls Keanu Reeve's Neo having his mouth fused shut in "The Matrix." Gas mileage is well below the Civic, even with the base four-cylinder. For entry-luxury cars to catch on, models like the Buick Verano and ILX can't fall 7 or 8 mpg on the highway below their non-luxury counterparts.

By David Thomas | February 16, 2012 | Comments (43)

2012 Detroit Auto Show Winners and Losers: Concept Cars


The Detroit auto show has traditionally had a strong concept-car presence, and the 2012 edition is no different. More than a few concepts strongly hint at upcoming production models, and Cars.com editors Joe Wiesenfelder, David Thomas, Kelsey Mays and Mike Hanley trekked the show floor to see them all.

Acura NSX Concept

Mike Hanley: Winner
The original NSX is revered in sports car circles, and the NSX Concept has the swagger to be a worthy successor. It's smaller than you think, and the design reminds me a lot of McLaren's MP4-12C, which is a looker in its own right.

David Thomas: Winner
It reminds me of a lot of other cars, especially the Audi R8. Perhaps Acura will tweak its corporate design some more before the NSX is finally on sale, but the design as-is is still a success. I like all the news about an all-new V-6 engine for the brand and it being built in the U.S. more than the actual concept. Maybe I just want to drive it right now.

By David Thomas | January 18, 2012 | Comments (12)

2011 L.A. Auto Show Winners and Losers: Concept Cars

The art of the concept car has been stymied for the past few years with economic turmoil facing the industry. But these future visions on four wheels are back in a big way this auto show season with some stunners making their mark in Los Angeles. Editors Joe Wiesenfelder, David Thomas, Kelsey Mays and Mike Hanley judge these visions and render swift verdicts of what makes them stand apart or stand out like a sore thumb. Also read our thoughts on the production vehicles that debuted.

Jaguar C-X16 (above)

Joe Wiesenfelder: Winner
Two reasons this is a winner: It looks fantastic, as any good sport concept does. Also, it's a hybrid. That alone doesn't make it a winner, but the fact that it comes from a brand that never forgets the driving experience is promising. If hybrid tech is to proliferate, it must become more satisfying to drive.

Mike Hanley: Winner
When your sports car looks better than an Aston Martin V8 Vantage, you know you've done well. The C-X16's proportions are just right, and it's infused with aggressive design cues befitting a cutting-edge coupe. Jaguar makes some great-looking sports cars, and this concept continues that trend.

By David Thomas | November 18, 2011 | Comments (3)

2011 L.A. Auto Show Winners and Losers: Production Cars

This year's L.A. Auto Show will make attendees' heads spin in terms of all the new production cars on display. Automakers are rolling out important cars from full-size luxury sedans to the smallest of compact cars. Actually, one company did both. How did the automakers execute these ideas in their final form, which will hit car dealerships within the next year? Cars.com editors Joe Wiesenfelder, David Thomas, Kelsey Mays and Mike Hanley weigh in. You can also read our thoughts on L.A.'s Concept Cars.

2013 Cadillac XTS (above)

Joe Wiesenfelder: Winner
There's much to like here: lots of space, a high-quality interior and what appears to be a smart new interface — though I insist that physical buttons and knobs needn't be banished for touch-sensitive panels. True, the front-drive platform deviates from Cadillac's rear-wheel-drive push, but frankly, few of the full-size rear-wheel-drive competitors are engaging to drive either.

Mike Hanley: Loser
Despite the XTS' compelling technology, I'm underwhelmed by the design. Cadillac's rear-wheel-drive CTS sedan has great proportions, but the brand's creased styling looks wrong on the XTS, especially around its tall rear end. It makes me wonder what kind of design a rear-wheel-drive platform would have yielded.

By David Thomas | November 18, 2011 | Comments (9)

2011 New York Auto Show Winners and Losers: Production Cars

The New York International Auto Show was squarely focused on fuel-efficient small cars and rightly so, with gas prices steadily on the rise. Automakers didn't completely forget about horsepower, though, as the show saw a few new high-powered models. Here Cars.com editors Mike Hanley, Kelsey Mays, David Thomas and Joe Wiesenfelder pick their favorites from the show — and the flops.

Also check out our picks for concept cars.

2012 Subaru Impreza
Mike Hanley: Winner
The all-wheel-drive Impreza's significantly improved gas mileage is a compelling storyline — it's now rated at 27/36 mpg city/highway — but I was just as impressed with the completely revised interior, which brings some needed refinement. Subaru's already on a roll in the U.S., and the Impreza looks like another hit.

Kelsey Mays: Winner
The Impreza’s face looks better than the larger Legacy’s overblown one. As Mike alluded, cabin materials are good and this sort of mileage for an all-wheel-drive car is impressive. Although Subaru hasn’t announced pricing yet, the list of standard features is generous given the Impreza’s class.

By David Thomas | April 25, 2011 | Comments (10)

2011 Chicago Auto Show: Winners & Losers

As auto shows in Chicago go, 2011 brought a decent crop of announcements. Fast cars have been a pariah in recent years, so the gearheads in us like that they’re back — especially among mainstream nameplates. Editors Kelsey Mays, Mike Hanley, David Thomas and Joe Wiesenfelder weigh in on this week’s Windy City debuts.
2012 Acura TL
Kelsey Mays: Winner
The TL’s toned-down grille suits the car better, and I can abide (barely) by the lower-bumper openings, which mirror those on the ZDX crossover-thing. With a rear bumper that doesn’t protrude to quite such a hard point in the middle, the rear is a certain improvement. Last year’s TL “really sagged down” in back, an Acura spokesman said. I agree. Add to that the car’s gas mileage improvements — which are considerable with its base V-6 — and the TL rides high.

Mike Hanley: Winner
Give Acura credit for recognizing a problem with the design of the TL and doing something about it. The sedan's new face has removed the controversial elements of the car but in the process created one without much of a design identity. It's a clean look, but not particularly memorable. Still, I'm betting TL sales will increase.

By David Thomas | February 11, 2011 | Comments (22)

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