The Big Three American brands were overshadowed in their hometown showcase
Here are Drive’s stars of the 2017 Detroit motor show
Volkswagen I.D. Buzz
The German has tapped the design spirit and inherent versatility of one its most iconic and revered models in the original Microbus, or Kombi as it is known to Australian motorists, for its new I.D. Buzz concept – an unapologetically retro inspired but technically advanced four-wheel-drive electrically powered MPV revealed at the show.
Tentatively planned to join the German car maker’s line-up in 2020, the I.D. Buzz forms part of a multi-model electric car initiative masterminded by Volkswagen boss Herbert Diess, who is aiming to thrust the company to the forefront of the electric car ranks within the next decade following the upheaval surrounding the diesel emission scandal.
Offering accommodation for up to eight adults on seats that can either swivel, fold away or be removed completely to provide a highly flexible and roomy interior, the tall one-box MPV concept is described as the second in five dedicated electric powered models being developed by Volkswagen, following on from the original four seat I.D. hatchback revealed at last year’s Paris motor show.
The I.D. Buzz features two electric motors – one mounted up front within the short nose section and another one within the rear axle assembly at the rear. This provides it with four-wheel drive capability, unlike the significantly smaller rear-wheel drive I.D. hatchback which features a single electric motor mounted at the rear.
As well as providing zero emission compatibility, the new I.D. Buzz also features the latest in autonomous driving technology, allowing the driver to retract the touchpad equipped steering wheel and make use of a seat that swivels 180 degrees to face the rear in what is described as “non critical driving conditions” in a so-called I.D. Pilot mode that is being developed for introduction in 2025.
The upright eight window glasshouse also features a look very reminiscent of the original Kombi with prominent pillars – those at the rear each carrying three ventilation ducts in a visual nod to the vents used on the original.
A further throwback feature is the two-tone paint scheme, which has been enhanced with the inclusion of an LED light band that is used to separate the lower section of the new concept from the top section within a swage line that mimics the look of chrome feature line of the earlier Kombi.
Audi Q8 Concept
Audi previewed a planned future flagship SUV model unveiling the near-to-production-ready Q8 concept in Motor City.
Set to go on sale in Australia in 2018 at a starting price over $110,000, the big new Audi has been conceived to sit above the recently introduced second-generation Q7 as a rival to the likes of the Range Rover Sport, boasting a uniquely styled exterior, luxuriously equipped interior, heady performance potential and, in combination with a new 330kW plug in petrol-electric hybrid drivetrain showcased by the Audi concept, the capability of running exclusively on electricity for a distance of up to 60km.
Drawing on the styling lineage first explored on the smaller all-electric e-tron quattro concept revealed at the 2015 Frankfurt motor show as well as the existing second-generation Q7, the Q8 concept receives a bold appearance credited to Audi design boss, Marc Lichte.
Compared to the existing Q7, the Q8 concept receives a lower and more sloping roofline along with a shallower glasshouse and more heavily angled rear tailgate – all of which helps to provides it with more sporting silhouette than its upright sibling. It also adopts elements from the original Audi quattro from the 1980s, including prominent shoulders above the large wheel houses and a characteristic C-pillar treatment. The wheels are 23-inch in diameter and come shod with generously dimensioned 305/35 profile tyres.
Inside, Audi has used the Q8 concept to preview new high-definition display and touch screen monitor technology that is being developed for inclusion on future models.
Power for the new Audi comes from is a newly developed plug in petrol-electric hybrid drivetrain. It uses a turbocharged 3.0-litre V6 direct injection petrol engine developing 245kW and 500Nm of torque in combination with a brushless electric motor sited within the forward section of the gearbox housing with 100kW and 330Nm.
The hybrid is set to be offered alongside more conventional V6 and V8 petrol and diesel engines on the production version of the Q8.
How Vegas beat Detroit
The quintessential American motor show has a opening act that threatens to steal the limelight from Motor City.
Las Vegas’ Consumer Electronics Show has evolved from a quaint gadget expo to a world-class showcase of technical achievement, much of which is taking place in cars of the future.
Artificial Intelligence was the unofficial theme this year, as breakthroughs in computing power allow major manufacturers to collect, analyse, and act upon more data than before.
Mercedes-Benz and Audi announced strategic partnerships with computer powerhouse NVIDIA, which says next-generation processors will be intelligent enough to learn about their environment and act intuitively, rather than being programmed to respond to stimulus in a set way.
That has powerful implications for autonomous vehicles and the way we interact with cars.
Toyota’s CES presence revolved around Concept-i, a futuristic vehicle that serves as the home of Yui, an electronic assistant sensitive to human needs and emotions – something like the ultimate evolution of Apple’s Siri or Microsoft’s Cortana smartphone systems.
BMW had its own spin on vehicle interaction, showing off “HoloActive” technology that combines hologram-esque imagery with sonic energy to create a floating image you can touch and feel.
BMW, Audi and Hyundai offered practical demonstrations in autonomous vehicle prototypes that could hit the road within five years, while Toyota says drivers should approach the technology with caution, as the road environment is not truly ready to host self-driving cars.
– David McCowen
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