Home turf for the Big Three makes for an impressive battleground

The Detroit Auto Show (also called the North American International Auto Show, or NAIAS) is one of the oldest auto shows in the world, first hitting the scene back in the early 1900’s and recurring pretty consistently every January thereafter. These days, Detroit is still getting to grips with the technological revolution hitting the industry, which puts it at odds with another major event that takes place the first month of the year - the Consumer Electronics Show. As such, 2019 will be the last time NAIAS is held in January. What’s more, several major automakers, including Audi, BMW, and Mercedes-Benz are straight up skipping the show this year.

Nevertheless, there are still several big debuts to check out at the Cobo Center in 2019, including the track-day special Subaru WRX STI S209, the supercharged Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 pumping out over 700 horsepower, the more luxurious tech-laden sixth-generation Ford Explorer, and the hotly anticipated fifth-generation Toyota Supra. Read on for all the details you need to know before the big sheet pulls.

The Big Debuts

Ford Mustang Shelby GT500

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Say hello to what could be the most powerful Mustang ever built.

Under the hood, the new GT500 is expected to dole out more than 700 horsepower thanks to a supercharged V-8 powertrain.

Providing all that go could be the same 5.2-liter flat-plane powerplant found in the GT350, but replaced with a cross-plane crank instead. Outside, look for the traditional pumped-up performance styling and carbon fiber aero bits, which help it stick when traveling at 200 mph in the top end. The GT 500 is also believed to offer a pair of transmission options, including a six-speed manual and a super-quick 10-speed automatic. When it drops, the Mustang GT500 will go up against the rest of the muscle-bound sports cars on the market right now, such as the Dodge Challenger Hellcat and Chevrolet Camaro ZL1.

Read our full review on the 2019 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500.

Ford Explorer

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The Ford Explorer is one of the most important nameplates in the SUV segment, and now the Blue Oval will drop a fresh sixth-generation for the 2020 model year.

Updates include a sleek, sportier exterior style, while under the skin, the Explorer is rocking a fresh RWD architecture.

Step into the cabin, and you’ll find more technology, including an optional 10.1-inch touchscreen that dominates the center console. Engine options include a turbo 2.3-liter four-cylinder and a turbo 3.0-liter V-6, with more power on tap this time around as well. As icing on the cake, all this good stuff comes with just a $400 increase over the previous model’s MSRP.

Read our full review on the 2020 Ford Explorer.

Toyota Supra

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The Toyota Supra is one of the most iconic nameplates in the world of Japanese performance, and now, after 17 years on the shelf, Toyota is bringing it back for a new fifth-generation at the Detroit Auto Show.

Built as a collaborative effort with BMW, the new Supra brings compact two-door good looks with front-engine, RWD performance.

The main party piece is likely to be some form of an inline six-cylinder producing well over 300 horsepower, although 400 horsepower is also a possibility for trims higher in the range. This one should be a whopper, no doubt about it.

Read our full review on the 2020 Toyota Supra.

Cadillac XT6

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All-new design but with familiar cues

Note: Cadillac XT5 pictured here.

In addition to the new Ford Explorer, Detroit will play host to yet another important three-row SUV, but this time it’ll carry a Cadillac crest on the nose.

The XT6 is looking like it should suit the needs of those Caddy buyers who need more space than the two-row XT5, but don’t wanna step into the positively gargantuan Escalade.

Under the skin, the XT6 will get the same architecture as the GMC Acadia and Chevy Traverse. Styling will take after the head-turning Escala concept, but tuned down a bit for production purposes. Standard spec will route power to the front wheels, while AWD will be an available option. Providing the motivation will be a 3.6-liter V-6 making over 300 horsepower, while a twin-turbo V-6 might slot in higher in the range with more than 400 horsepower. Look for it to arrive in dealers later this year.

Subaru WRX STI S209

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Subaru’s been pumping out beefier versions of its iconic rally-bred WRX for years now, but unfortunately, U.S. enthusiasts have been left out in the cold.

Now that’s about the change, as Subaru is looking to reveal the new WRX STI S209 in Motor City. The formula is pretty straightforward - take Subaru’s turbocharged performance machine, then add some extra aero pieces, bigger wheels, a few extra ponies, faster steering, and stiffer suspension. Next step is to bring it to the track and have at it, Hoss. Production should be limited to around 450 units, with pricing nearing $50,000.

Read our review preview on the 2019 Subaru WRX STI.

Infiniti QX Inspiration Concept

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Unsurprisingly, the 2019 Detroit Auto Show will debut a number of new concept cars, including this fresh EV crossover SUV from Infiniti.

From the off, it looks like the QX Inspiration could be one of the better-looking concepts in attendance, with futuristic styling that includes details like light-up badging, cameras rather than traditional sideview mirrors, ultra-thin headlight housings fitted with LED lighting elements, and a chopped roofline. The concept will also be built on a new all-electric-centric architecture, while the battery-driven powertrain will provide loads of space inside for a more “lounge-like” cabin experience.

Read our review preview on the 2019 Infiniti QX Inspiration Concept.

Kia Telluride

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It’s not just the domestic automakers that are doing big things in the SUV segment - Kia is right there as well with the new Telluride.

The South Korean automaker first showcased the Telluride in concept form at the 2016 Detroit Auto Show, and now, three years later, it’s due to arrive in full production form.

Outside, the Telluride looks tough and rugged, while inside, the cabin is luxurious and laden with modern tech. There’s also three rows and enough space for up to eight passengers. As for the engine configuration, a 3.3-liter V-6 makes sense, carrying over from the Sorento.

Read our review preview on the 2020 Kia Telluride.

Lexus RC F Track Edition

The 2020 Lexus RC F Track Edition Has an Exhaust Growl You Don't Want to Miss
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If you like your luxury coupe with extra wing and loads of muscle-bound performance cues, then the RC F Track Edition might be the way to go.

Look under the hood, and you’ll find a torque-tastic 5.0-liter V-8, which is likely to send upwards of 470 horsepower to the rear wheels through an eight-speed automatic transmission. We’re also expecting upgraded brakes, new wheels, and super-sticky tires, plus some tasty new carbon fiber bits to boot. And while the “Track Edition” name suggests a spartan interior appointment, we’re thinking this RC F will keep its luxury-laden cabin features.

Read our review preview on the 2019 Lexus RC F Track.

Volkswagen Passat

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As a nice break from the endless number of crossovers and SUVs expected to show in Detroit this year, Volkswagen is bringing an updated Passat to entice the remaining sedan buyers out there.

Outside, expect the Passat to look similar to latest Jetta, while under the skin, the new Passat will be rocking an updated version of the current Passat’s architecture.

Motivation will come from a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder, with output set at the same 174 horsepower as the current model. Torque will get a nice bump to 207 pound-feet. Routing the motivation to the front wheels will be a six-speed automatic transmission. We also expect Volkswagen to drop a performance-oriented Passat R with bigger wheels and other sporty cues to justify the letter on the trunk.

Read our review preview on the 2020 Volkswagen Passat.

New Ram Trucks

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Give the Silverado and F-150 some stout competition

Note: 2019 Ram 1500 pictured here.

Details are a bit sparse on these, but it’s believed Ram will arrive in Detroit with a fresh lineup of trucks to pick over, including a new Ram HD in both 2500 and 3500 trims. Look for it to bring the latest Ram styling seen in the debuts that Ram brought to Los Angeles last November, with big body panels and an a down-to-work kind of attitude.

GAC Entranze Concept

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Last year, Chinese automaker GAC brought the wild Enverge concept to Detroit, and this year, the company looks to once again make an appearance with something fresh. It’s called the Entranze, and it’s framed as a future-looking MPV with a new all-electric powertrain, plus a seven-seater interior. Alongside the Entranze, GAC will also bring over the new GM6 semi-autonomous van and luxurious GS5 SUV, both of which are hitting U.S. shores for the first time following a debut in China.

Wish List

Chevrolet C8 Corvette

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The mid-engine Corvette has been in the works for a while now - about six decades, in fact. Now, finally, after years of rumors and practically endless speculation, it looks like the mid-engine ‘Vette will finally become a reality.

Chevy has yet to confirm anything, but it was looking like the 2019 Detroit Auto Show would be the perfect place to drop it.

Unfortunately, that’s looking less and less likely, as Chevrolet has reportedly run into a few problems with making the mid-engine layout play nice with the new electronics. It sucks, but we guess we can wait a few more months for this thing to drop proper. After all, something this important can’t show to the public for the first time in any form other than the tip top.

Read our full speculative review on the 2020 Chevrolet Corvette Zora ZR1.

The Who, What, Where, And When

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All told, this is an exciting time in the car world, with constant innovation and rapid evolution, and big shows like Detroit are the perfect place to see the bleeding edge of the industry. Of course, if you’re interested in buying a new car in the near future, it’s also a great opportunity to compare the latest models before they hit dealerships. Finally, rest assured that whatever your favorite automotive flavor may be, whether it’s supercars, muscle cars, trucks, hybrids, crossovers, or luxury cars, Detroit has something to pique your interest (not to mention hoards of fellow car lovers to share in the excitement).

But what if you’re looking for something to do outside the show?

Detroit is currently undergoing a major revival, and prides itself on a long cultural history that non-car fanatics can still appreciate.

Just a few examples would include the Detroit Institute of Arts and the Motown Museum, plus there are tons of great restaurants and shopping opportunities located near the convention center.

Speaking of restaurants, the official NAIAS website offers a breakdown of a few local picks here. You’ll also find a few places to hit when the sun sets under the “Nightlife” tab lower in the page.

One warning though – Michigan in January is known for being cold. Really cold. The official auto show website is predicting highs of 33 degrees Fahrenheit, and lows of 19 degrees Fahrenheit. Long story short, bring layers if you plan on doing some exploring.

The Venue And Transportation

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This year, the Detroit Auto Show once again takes place at the recently renovated Cobo Center. Situated downtown and perched above the Detroit River, the Cobo Center is located roughly 30 minutes northeast of the Detroit Metropolitan airport. This massive 2.4 million square foot complex offers one of the largest continuous exhibit floors in North America, with 723,000 square feet of exhibit space to pack in all the shiny machinery.

More information on the show location, as well as detailed directions to it, can be found here.

To help you find your way around the enormous auto show floor, click this link to check out a PDF of all the booths, broken down by make and exhibitor.

If printing out a hard copy of the map seems a bit archaic, then you can carry around a digital copy by downloading the official show app onto your iOS or Android device. The app also includes info on debuts, events, and auto-related products, plus the show schedule, parking, and more. Check it out by clicking here.

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If you’re looking to fly to Detroit for the show, the NAIAS officials are offering discounted tickets through Delta. Check it out here.

Options for ground transportation to the venue include rail (a.k.a. the Detroit People Mover), rental cars from the Detroit Metropolitan Airport, shuttle and limo services, and busses. If you are interested in driving yourself to the show, there is also copious parking available. Additionally, the NAIAS is offering assistance with booking a hotel. Find more information on transportation and hotels by clicking here.

Show Schedule And Tickets

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The 2019 Detroit Auto Show gets underway on January 12th with The Gallery. Billed as an “ultra-luxury automotive event,” The Gallery is essentially a top-shelf party experience where fine food and drinks are served amidst a collection of high-end automobiles.

The metal on display will include millions of dollars worth of Aston Martins, Bentleys, Ferraris, Lamborghinis, Porsches, and Rolls Royces.

The Gallery will also host a silent auction. Proceeds will be donated to the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital. Find more information by clicking here. Tickets are $500 per person, but are already sold out as of this writing.

Following The Gallery will be the Automobili-D expo, which seeks to highlight the latest in automotive and mobility technology through a series of keynote speeches, presentations, and displays. Areas of focus will include autonomous driving, connected car tech, e-mobility, mobility services, and urban mobility. Automobili-D will commence January 8th and will run parallel to the auto show until January 14th. You can find more information by clicking here.

On Monday, January 14th, the journalists will descend for the two-day Press Preview. This is when all the big reveals will take place, and TopSpeed will be on the scene bringing you the latest as it happens. You can check out the full press conference schedule here to get an idea what’ll see a sheet pull and when.

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Once the journalists have done their thing, there’ll be an Industry Preview between January 16th and 17th for all those interested in networking and professional development opportunities. Tickets cost $110 per person.

On Friday, January 18th, there will be a black-tie charity preview event, with live music, gourmet food, and a bar all on tap to complement the fresh metal. Tickets are $400 per person, with $390 of that total being tax deductible.

Finally, on Saturday, January 19th, the gates swing wide for the public.

The show will be open between 9 AM and 10 PM, with early access for handicapped individuals at 8 AM. The gates will close at 7 PM on the last day of the show, January 27th.

Tickets cost $14 per adult, $7 for seniors aged 65 and older, and $7 for children aged between 7 and 12 years old. Children 6 and under are admitted free with a parent or guardian. Group rates and eTickets are available. You can also purchase tickets at the door.

You can find more information and purchase tickets online by clicking here.

Further Reading

2019 Detroit Auto Show - Everything You Need to Know
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The Detroit Auto Show Is Moving To June, But What Does It Mean?

Jonathan Lopez
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