Everyone in the car business can sense a seismic shift. The daily march toward an autonomous shared-pod future opens questions of car ownership altogether. But don’t fret just yet: Emerging trends at the Dallas Auto Show suggest enthusiasts shouldn’t give up hope before they give up their keys.
The Dallas-Fort Worth Auto Show runs February 14-18, 2018. VIP tickets offer early admission, special photo ops and a swag bag. Details: http://www.dfwautoshow.com
Solid paint steals the shine from conventional metallics
Love at first sight begins with the perfect hue. At the Dallas Auto Show, automakers eschew metallic flake for solid shades as jarring as they are straightforward. Retaining the typical level of clearcoat gloss, solid paint colors entice the eye by bucking the expected shimmer of conventional metallic paint. In darker shades, the effect is subtle and restrained. In brighter hues, solid paints usually mark the loudest color in a given lineup.
Chevrolet Spark: Sorbet
Small car buyers often see their cars as a fashion statement, and tend to be less concerned with picking a safer shade for resale value. Chevy’s smallest city car bursts out of its shell in this shade, which lies somewhere between soft pink and coral.
Porsche 911: Chalk
When you see a Porsche 911, your mind automatically fills in the blanks: you understand the shapes as default, because you know what a 911 looks like. However, when you see a 911 coated in solid non-metallic Chalk, your mind immediately questions what it sees. In Chalk, your eyes are drawn to otherwise less-noticeable elements in the design, such as integrated running lights in the front fascia and aerodynamic wing mirrors. Eyes drift to the metallic paint used in the wheels, a sharp contrast to the body’s solid paint. Seeing a Porsche 911 in Chalk proves that solid paints are not a fad limited to inexpensive disposable cars. Unique hues can easily become iconic, as we’ve seen in historic 911 models.
MINI Cooper: Ice Blue
Perhaps the ever-larger MINI trope is past its expiration, but the brand strives to stay on shoppers’ lists with a new hybrid powertrain and a timely color palette. This MINI wears solid Ice Blue paint with matching wheel center caps. You can almost hear the future collector bragging about having a full set of what is destined to be an impossible-to-find color-keyed rarity.
Subaru Crosstrek: Cool Gray Khaki
When the Crosstrek first debuted, it first debuted in an advertorial color that set it apart from the rest of the slab-sided range. Since then, the Crosstrek has used iconic solid colors as its calling card. This year, the Crosstrek offers Sunshine Orange, as well as Cool Gray Khaki. At the Dallas Auto Show, the tactical solid plays off blackout accessory wheels from STI to amp up the look.
Fresh kicks for every budget
A decade ago, only concept cars wore wheels with high-gloss paint and contrasting machined surfacing. Buyers usually had to look to the aftermarket to find black-painted wheels, and nickel finishes were just creeping onto the scene. Today, technical finishes appear more often than not, elevating the appearance of even budget-minded models.
Blackout wheels are all the rage, spotted on the sporting trims in every stand. The Kicks wears its set with a literal twist: an optional swirled five-spoke accessory wheel features four bright 4×100 lugnuts to break up the visual and catch the eye. Nissan historians may recall a similar design on lower trims of the zenki S14-chassis Silvia.
When a workaday economy car wears a fitting set of wheels, what was once mundane instantly becomes quaint — or, in enthusiast terms, “proper”. The all-new Kia Rio’s impossibly short overhangs and five-door profile sharpen into focus when riding on these straight-spoke alloys. Altogether, the effect recalls Italian and French city cars from the vaporwave era.
Arguably the sedan that changed the design direction of an entire segment, the raky-roofed Sonata grows more and more restrained with every redesign since the groundbreaking 2011 model. Though the newest Sonata can be called more sedate, sporting cues shine through in the form of a flat-bottom steering wheel and these straight-spoke alloy wheels. With a little less flange area, these could be mistaken for an expensive BBS set.
Walking an auto show invariably uncovers an unexpected surprise. This set of alloys on a lower-trim Terrain clearly echoes designs seen on dozens of Pontiac concept cars from the 1990s. The heritage behind this cue is so clear, it stopped me in my tracks. Though Pontiac left GMC to soldier on alone at the Dallas Auto Show, at least one element of its design DNA lives on.
Station wagons were always cool
As crossovers replace sedans to become the modern default family vehicle, station wagons grow into their own as a style statement. Still, enough stigma exists around the “W-word” that you’ll never hear it in manufacturer parlance.
Buick Regal TourX
The last Opel-engineered model to make its way to the United States is quite the swan song after all. The low-slung long-roof sports a brushed metal accent from front to rear that visually stretches the side profile even further. Requisite bodyside cladding along the rockers and wheel arches may comfort mainstream crossover shoppers, but make no mistake: the TourX is a turbocharged, all-wheel-drive wagon, just a clutch pedal away from being a “journalist special”.
Jaguar XF Sportbrake
Jaguar knows its customer: a shopper considering an English station wagon is savvy with sporting intention. The XF Sportbrake launches exclusively in “S” trim, with a 380-horsepower supercharged V6 sending power to all four wheels. Inside, a 380-watt Meridian sound system and a fixed glass roof panel set the mood. Manufacturers know modern wagon buyers are a special enthusiast breed, and Jaguar’s aim in the segment is spot-on.
Wholesome and handsome as the day it debuted, the Ford Flex continues into its ninth model year with minimal changes. Remind yourself: this is a 365-horsepower, twin-turbo, all-wheel-drive three-row station wagon. Life is good.
Legendary names take a victory lap
Channeling the past is risky business: the resurgence of a beloved name on an unworthy or significantly different car always triggers social media fury. However, when tastefully executed, leveraging the equity of a well-known nameplate pays homage to history while validating legions of previous owners.
Fans mourned the beloved Ranger before it even stopped production. At the end of its life cycle, the Ranger sorely needed safety, powertrain and comfort enhancements to fit in with an increasingly sophisticated Ford portfolio. Instead, Ford poured its resources into increasing the F-150’s efficiency and market appeal, and Ranger fans were left without their banner pickup for nearly a decade. Today, the Ranger returns, with sophisticated gas-turbo and turbodiesel powertrains underhood, along with interior appointments to satisfy discerning buyers. Trucks are the new family car, especially in Texas. It’s no surprise, then, that the US-spec Ford Ranger will not be available in single-cab configuration.
Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross
When the Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross broke cover, brand loyalists threw a collective fit on every related social media thread, because a crossover now bears the name of one of the world’s most revered sport compact coupes. Ears to the ground confirm that the outrage filters into the auto show floor — but ask these indignant fans what they drive, and they invariably look toward their kids and drop the name of a mainstream SUV. As much as the heart wants a sport compact resurgence, the Eclipse Cross is exactly the size, price and form factor that Mitsubishi shoppers — and dealers — need.
For the first time in public, the Eclipse Cross prototype displayed at the Dallas Auto Show wears a red accent pinstripe on all lower valances, with echoing red contrast stitching inside. It is not yet known whether the accent package will be a production option, or if Mitsubishi is simply testing showgoers’ reaction to the kit, but booth personnel on-site said they would relay the public’s feedback to the head office before units ship to dealers later this year.
Jaguar E-Pace HSE
If you’ve figured out that “E” is not Jaguar-speak for “Electric”, you’re already ahead of most motoring journalists. However, the newest Jaguar crossover’s oblique alphanumeric isn’t the draw: it’s the HSE trim level, curiously on loan from the Range Rover portfolio. In the 1990s, the HSE badge denoted the fastest, flashiest Range Rovers in the lineup, riding on star-shaped alloys and unfailingly dressed in shades of red. Today, the HSE designation has new life as a trim level in Jaguar’s turbocharged — not electric — crossover.
Chevrolet Colorado ZR2
GM’s modern off-road heritage begins and ends with this three-character option code. Once worn by lifted yellow Blazers and S-10s with knobby tires and chunky five-spoke wheels from the factory, the ZR2 logo came to prominence emblazoned on the bedsides of Chevy’s smallest and most capable off-roader. The Colorado ZR2 is a direct descendant built to recapture that base of passionate owners, with even more off-road credibility and a hefty price tag to match.