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Rest stop: The winners and losers of the 2019 Detroit Auto Show [Op-Ed]

by MG Staff

We've had a week to absorb this year's North American International Auto Show. Here are our thoughts.

As you might imagine, auto journalists spend a lot of time just chatting about cars. We're no different from any group of car nerds, really. We argue. We pontificate. We disagree, sometimes loudly.

Then we go back to sending each other craigslist links.

Now that we've had time to let this year's NAIAS reveals sink in, we decided we'd share our thoughts with you. Agree? Disagree? Feel free to chime in below.

Happy Friday!

Participants: Drew Johnson, Managing Editor; Byron Hurd, Buyer's Guide Editor; Justin King, News Editor; Ronan Glon, European Editor; Ben Hsu, Weekend Editor

Byron: OK, folks. NAIAS was a bit, shall we say, abbreviated this year. But there were definitely some high-impact unveilings. Let's start with the obvious topic: Supra.

Byron: Everybody is probably sick of hearing me talk trash about the new Toyota, so I'll throw it out to you guys. Who wants a piece? I know Ben has strong feelings.

Ben: It's not the first time a storied nameplate has been placed on a rebadged car. Dodge once sold a Mitsubishi Galant as a Challenger. In the 80s, Ford was considering turning the Mustang into a front-drive coupe based on a Mazda. Wiser heads prevailed and renamed it the Probe. Here's hoping that Toyota will see the error of its ways for the next generation Supra, if there is one.

Justin: I'd love to drive one, looks like it will be quite a machine and the styling is much sexier than anything Lexus makes.

Ronan: Meh. I barely looked at it at the show. I saw too much of it in the weeks leading up to Detroit, and I've heard too much about it in the past few years. I was already thinking "just build the damn thing!" when Toyota revealed the GR Supra Racing concept in 2018.

Byron: Ronan and I are on the same page here, pretty much. It seems like an underwhelming car at an overwhelming price. The nameplate might be enough to get the Radwood crowd horned up, but I'm not sure there's a large consumer base for this car.

Ronan: I'm not a die-hard Supra fan, to be clear, but it sounds like those guys were sorely disappointed by what is essentially a pretty body with curves and huge air intakes on a BMW platform, with a BMW engine.

Drew: I think it looks OK, not great, and its interior is just straight BMW.

Ben: Rebadging is fine. It works for the BRZ/86. But you don't do that to your flagship model.

Byron: OK, speaking of Toyota coupes, where are we on the Lexus RC F?

Ben: Oddly, though I felt nothing but contempt at the Supra, my favorite cars came from the Lexus stand. The LC Convertible was gorgeous, elegant, and futuristic at the same time. It's no wonder it won the Eyes on Design prize. And while the regular RC/RC F does nothing for me, the Track Edition improves on the RC's styling and addresses its biggest pitfall, weight.

Drew: The RC F Track Edition was one of my favorites of the show.

Byron: I dig it, on paper at least. Not sure I love the look, but I do love a pony car and I think RC F does the formula justice better than Supra does.

Ben: Normally I hate ridiculously huge wings and accessory packages, but the RC F Track Edition looks to have a rawness that is missing from the rest of the Toyota/Lexus lineup. I think we'd all be much happier if this had been the Supra instead.

Ronan: Stop me if you've heard this one before: the coupe segment is declining. Americans don't buy them as much as they used to, and the ever-important Chinese market has no appetite for them, either.

Byron: Americans do love V8s, though, and non-turbo V8s are a dying breed in the luxury coupe segment.

Ronan: Still, squeezing only five extra horsepower and six additional pound-feet of torque from the RC F's naturally-aspirated, 5.0-liter V8 is a missed opportunity for Lexus. My opinion might change after driving it, but the updates made to the RC F for the 2020 model year sound frivolous at best.

Byron: OK, let's stick with the V8s. GT500. I think this thing is pornography, but I'm a former S550 'stang owner so I'm biased.

Justin: I liked the GT500 but have more to say about the Nissan IMs.

Byron: OK, we'll come back to you. Anybody else?

Ronan: Ford proved that a new car doesn't necessarily need to be electric or autonomous to draw a crowd; performance still makes headlines. GT500 is old-school without being outdated. Carroll Shelby would be proud.

Byron: I'm eager to try out that DCT, both in the GT500 and when it trickles down to the GT350R. The R is already a hell of a trackday weapon. The dual-clutch makes it even tastier for the lapping crowd.

Byron: Justin wanted to talk IMs, so let's hit that real quick.

Justin: The IMs exterior is difficult to appreciate, seems like lots of automakers have a similar excessively futuristic electric crossover concept on the table right now.

Byron: Just about every EV concept seems like a placeholder for the moment. At least Nissan's was a sedan? Oh, and unlike Infiniti's concept, it didn't break.

Ronan: I wonder if Nissan lost it before CES and figured, "Screw it, Detroit is next week."

Byron: As I recall, there was a snowstorm out in Kentucky that week. Theory confirmed.

Byron: What's on-theme with EVs? Oh, torque. Let's talk Ram HD and its 1,000 lb-ft. I know Drew was impressed by it. Anyone else feel strongly one way or the other?

Ronan: I liked the changes made to the 1500, and I like how they are implemented in the HD.

Byron: Alrighty, any more thoughts before we wrap?

Justin: Regarding the Passat, I think it is good that a lot of companies are spicing up their sedans as the segment continues to wane. But, naturally, VW is not among them.

Byron: What do the kids say these days? "Savage"? I get where you're coming from, though. And honestly, the one thing about the Passat that stood out was the choice of wheels, and they really don't suit the rest of the car.

Byron: I guess that's it for sedans, right? One-and-done? Guess that leaves the SUVs. Who wants to start?

Ronan: I like that the Explorer line-up is so vast. You've got the cop-spec model, a standard family SUV, the hybrid version, and a 400-horsepower ST. It kind of shows the other side of Ford's SUV-only strategy. There's something for everyone.

Byron: I think it's very attractive in a somewhat understated way, too. Even the ST isn't too gaudy. It's also not too generic, unlike another SUV debut I might mention.

Ronan: XT6; wow, viewed from the side, that could be literally anything.

Byron: Lincoln's designers certainly aren't losing any sleep over that. How about the Kia-Not-Borrego? Will the Telluride resonate with SUV buyers?

Ronan: I guess "Kia Telluride" has more of a ring to it than "Kia Steamboat Springs." It wasn't a space issue with the emblem; the thing is big enough that Kia could have spelled out "Steamboat Springs, Colorado, 80488, USA" on the hood.

Byron: OK, time for closing thoughts. Anybody want to declare some winners? I'm all about that GT500.

Drew: I'd probably go Ram or RC F Track Edition.

Justin: I'd say the GT500.

Ronan: GT500.

Ben: Lexus LC Convertible and RC F.

Byron: Looks like we have a near-consensus winner. Of course we do, because I led this piece off saying how much we like to disagree.

Ronan: Really, the best car at Cobo was the 22B-STi Subaru displayed on the first press day.

Byron: OK, you're cut off. How about losers? What disappointed? My vote is XT6, followed closely by Supra.

Ronan: Lexus. The RC F.

Justin: Passat was the lamest debut.

Drew: Elantra GT N-Line.

Byron: That's more like it. Alright, folks. That's a wrap. Enjoy your weekends!

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