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Trucks, muscle, and futurism: 7 Detroit Auto Show rides we can’t wait to drive

Ford Mustang Bullitt
Ronan Glon/Digital Trends
Fuel-sipping hybrids and EVs are hotter than ever today, but if the 2018 Detroit Auto Show was any indication, trucks and SUVs will continue to reign atop the sales charts for the foreseeable future. Yes, the Motor City was jam-packed with 4x4s and family haulers this year, but there were also plenty of surprises to keep things interesting. Here are our favorites:

Mercedes-Benz G-Class

The Mercedes-Benz G-Class has long been an icon in terms of style and off-road ability, but calling it modern would be a bold-faced lie. The “G-Wagen” was built atop the same platform from 1979 to 2017, and even though Mercedes stuffed it with a modern infotainment system and a range of powerful engines, the vehicle’s true age showed in its cramped cabin and primitive driving dynamics. For the 2019 model year, though, the icon is reborn.

While the emblematic styling has changed very little, almost everything under the skin is new. The vehicle is wider and roomier than before, with revised suspension and an updated steering system that should bring the G-Wagen’s on-road feel into the 21st century. The interior is significantly more upmarket as well, with new tech features that include a trick dual-screen setup and touch-sensitive buttons on the steering wheel. With most of the issues with the G-Class seemingly sorted, we can’t wait to get behind the wheel ourselves.

Ford Mustang Bullitt

Built to commemorate the 50th anniversary of its eponymous film, the legendary Bullitt Mustang is back for the 2019 model year. Lathered in legendary dark highland green, the Bullitt differentiates itself from other ‘Stangs in a variety of ways, including the subtle exterior, upgraded 500-ish-horsepower V8, and mandatory six-speed manual transmission. “It has to be unique in some way from a Mustang GT, and more than anything, it has to be badass,” explained Ford Mustang chief engineer Carl Widmann. Mission accomplished.

If you love Mustangs, the Detroit Auto Show put a smile on your face more than once. Ford announced the Shelby GT500 Mustang would return for the 2019 model year, with a total output exceeding 700 hp. It won’t be the most powerful muscle car on the road, but it should worry more than a few Dodge Hellcat owners.

Infiniti Q Inspiration concept

While the new G-Class and Bullitt Mustang piqued our interest for their performance, Infiniti’s Q Inspiration concept excites us for very different reasons. Built as a design exercise, the concept previews the next generation of the luxury marque’s sedans, with a design based on fuel-efficient powertrains, connectivity, and autonomous driving. If you were playing buzzword bingo in Detroit, this car made for a pretty quick game.

Jokes aside, the Q Inspiration is a downright gorgeous machine, with lines that could easily be transplanted onto the Q60 Coupe with a few tweaks. The interior is pretty progressive as well, with touchscreens for each passenger that feature a “meditation-regeneration mode” that reduces the amount of information displayed and offers guided meditation. Passengers can even check up on their fellow riders’ biometrics on the road, which, if nothing else, will give occupants something to do while their car drives them to work.

Ford Ranger

Yes, the high-performance Ford Edge ST is sure to be a lot of fun, but pumped-up crossovers are a dime a dozen these days. Instead, we’re turning our attention to one of the event’s most anticipated debuts — the 2019 Ford Ranger.

Much like the G-Class, a new Ford Ranger has been a long time coming. Axed from the U.S. market in 2011, the Ranger will make its triumphant return this year with a dose of tech to make up for its absence. Many details are still forthcoming, but the midsize truck will equip a terrain management system with four driving modes that can be switched on the fly — normal, mud/ruts, grass/gravel/snow, and sand. The FTX off-road package will be a new-to-Ford trail control system that will essentially act like low-speed cruise control on non-asphalt surfaces. Driver-assist features like autonomous emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, lane-keep assist, lane departure warning, and blind-spot monitoring will come along for the ride as well, as will available Amazon Alexa connectivity, a built-in Wi-Fi hot spot, and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility. Welcome back, Ranger.

Hyundai Veloster N

Amid the slew of trucks and high-tech concepts was an asymmetrical hot hatch with more than a few surprises up its sleeves. We still don’t love the Veloster’s quirky styling (although its odd looks add to its appeal), but if you peel away the boy-racer exterior, you’ll find a Nürburgring-tuned performance machine helmed by the former head of BMW’s M division. Clearly, the Veloster N puts fun first.

The Veloster N is more than just a car — it introduces Hyundai’s performance-oriented N sub-brand to America. Like the i30 N sold abroad, the manual-only Veloster N gets an evolution of the Veloster Turbo’s 2.0-liter tweaked to pump out 275 hp and 260 pound-feet of torque between 1,450 and 4,700 rpm. Hyundai hasn’t released performance specifications yet, but we know the Veloster N benefits from bigger brakes and a model-specific suspension system. It’s the hot-rodded handling champ of the Veloster family, and we can’t wait to put it through its paces.

Nissan Xmotion concept

It seems like there’s a new SUV on the market every day, which makes it easy for new models to get lost in the crowd. Nissan wants its future sport-utility vehicles to stand out, which is why it’s going back to its roots with an emphasis on Japanese design elements. Enter the Xmotion concept.

The Xmotion (pronounced “cross motion”) was designed to have a less “Western” look than other SUVs, with styling  that’s chock-full of references to Japanese culture. The taillights are inspired by kumiko woodwork and puzzles, for example, as are the seat headrests. The dashboard and center console are made using kigumi wood joinery, and even the tech has a Japanese theme — the Xmotion’s infotainment system includes a digital assistant that takes the form of a koi fish.

As you may have guessed, the Xmotion concept isn’t intended for production, but some of its design elements could end up on future Nissan SUVs. Here’s hoping.

Ram 1500

Chevrolet debuted a new Silverado in Detroit, but for our money, the Ram 1500 was the truck of the show. Lighter and more high-tech than before, the full-size pickup weighs 225 pounds less than its predecessor due to the use of aluminum and steel composites, and it’s offered with a huge 12-inch touchscreen display inside the cabin.

A new mild-hybrid powertrain adds to the truck’s improvements. Called eTorque, the system combines the carryover 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 with a 48-volt electrical system and a battery pack the size of a suitcase. Rather than propelling the truck solely with electricity, eTorque provides a small power boost, powers electrical accessories, and enables a more aggressive engine start-stop system. Other brands have toyed with mild-hybrid systems in their pickups, but Ram is currently the only brand ready to sell a truck with electric assist on a large scale.

Don’t think the pickup has gone soft, though. Along with the eTorque powertrain, the 1500 will be offered with a 5.7-liter Hemi V8 producing 395 hp and 410 lb-ft at launch.

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