West Coast Editor Mark Rechtin -- our tireless chronicler of such things as "micro-cheese-grater" interiors and front ends that evoke "a dachshund snorting a gopher hole" -- walked the floor of the Detroit auto show gathering first impressions of new cars and concepts. Here's his take on the winners, losers and everything in between.
Sizing up Detroit
One reporter's first impressions on a trip around the auto show floor
People want badly for the new Chevrolet Corvette's styling to be iconic and timeless, but it is not. The double-bubble roofline's arc into the Stingray tail is a work of sculpture, and the four-across exhaust pipes evoke '60s racing. But there is too much borrowed styling, whether it's in the shapes of the vents or the body side sweep from a Testarossa. There are nine character lines across the hood, which make it look like an unfolded paper airplane. And, horribly, the circular gas-filler lid looks stamped from the Malibu line.
Honda's segment buster
Nine inches shorter than a Honda CR-V, the Urban SUV Concept could define the nascent subcompact crossover segment. The collision of the front fender and wheel arch mars its fascia. But the sheet metal arc from the door panels upward to meet the hatch gives the illusion of a much larger cabin space.
New stance on the Corolla
Pushing wheels to the corners does great things for passenger room and dynamic handling, but it kills trunk space. When Toyota's Furia concept becomes a Corolla, expect the rear wheels to be several inches farther forward. The idea of a Corolla notchback is curiously retro '80s. The squinty headlights are a bit too Honda Civic.
Silverado short on style
Head on, the new Chevrolet pickup mimics a Transformer. Unfortunately, it appears the design studio ran out of money, as the body panels and rear tailgate have zero personality. Inside, the gauges are plenty masculine, with buttons and switches that work while you're wearing work gloves.
If the production Ford F-150, due in 2014 as a 2015 model, carries a fraction of the machismo of the Atlas concept, the Silverado is in deep trouble. The fascia is brutish; the side panels are muscular and sculpted. Ford says it wanted the Atlas "to look unstoppable." Mission accomplished.
Acura changes design ... again
With the MDX concept, Acura has replaced its angry robot look with that of a sinewy snake. The blocky look is now aero. It's lower and longer, less like an SUV and more like a tall wagon. It's a big styling risk.
Infiniti's quality quest
The Infiniti Q50's tail is oddly stubby, made more so by the stamper's nightmare of angles, creases and surfaces at the C-pillar. The micro-cheese-grater interior detail is a cool modern treatment. The fascia evokes a grouper fish.
Lexus talking 'bout evolution
The hoodline on the new Lexus IS sedan is blocky, no longer sloping. The shoulder creases are crisper and continue to rise into the rear deck. The headlamps are more a scowl than a squint. The base of the rear-door cut sweeps upward before the rear wheel arch, rather than intersecting with it. Kudos for bringing the digitized instrument cluster from the LFA supercar.
The bank vault Mercedes E class returns. Solid, trustworthy, a chunk of autobahn-conquering confidence. The black-on-white instrument cluster is starkly beautiful. But the protruding snout is like a dachshund snorting a gopher hole.
From the A-pillar forward, the Kia Cadenza may as well be a BMW 7 series. From the back, it's an Audi A6. It's elegant in a wildly derivative way. Too bad the interior typefaces are so unsophisticated.
Fully accessible VW
The Volkswagen CrossBlue concept is longer and lower than a Touareg and carries the VW family resemblance. The third-row seat is so accessible, a woman in a skirt exited with ease and decorum. Sadly, it seems named by Captcha.
Lincoln's escape from boredom
The cool center storage console on Lincoln's MKC Concept, which bisects the second-row seats, likely won't make production. The cluster of Lincoln logos on the door inners is a cool design touch. From 50 feet away, the side scallops look ripped from a BMW or Hyundai. While the rear fascia has great presence, the grille looks wrong on this crossover.
The HCD-14 concept should be the next Hyundai Genesis. It's what the second-generation Mercedes CLS should have looked like -- the constant, unbroken shoulder crease that runs from stem to stern is gorgeous. There are no bad angles in this sharky sedan.
Bimmer's magic touch
Low and muscular, the 4-series coupe looks more like a step-down 6-series coupe than a coupe version of the 3-series sedan. The long hoodline promises gobs of horsepower underneath. Hiding the door handle under the shoulder crease is a nice touch.
Cadillac's Coupe de Volt
Cadillac's ELR electric coupe resurrects cab-forward styling in a two door. The square LED headlights are mimicked in the twin tick-tack-toe grilles. The doorstop silhouette forces a gigantic -- and lovely -- expanse of rear window glass.
Acne on a supermodel
The Maserati Quattroporte stretches on forever and reeks of power, which is why the small, oddly shaped headlights seem so incongruous. The trunk lid is a stubby appendage, with a downward taper that betrays the dreamy sweep of the rest of the car.
A happy Note
The Nissan Versa Note may appear bland compared with the competition. But on second look, there is something bewitchingly elegant here -- a rare accomplishment for an econobox. The grille carries a cheerful smile -- perhaps a sign of the industry's better times?
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