GAC with the fish tank in the console). This year’s show affirms the ascendance of “crossovers” — SUV shapes on lower car platforms — as the new minivan, and the continued innovation of electric motors as performance tools in addition to emissions cutters. But that’s car geek jargon; here are the 7 cars that generated buzz, and why you might consider buying them.
THE BEST VALUE
The show’s 2015 Car Of The Year has always been a great option for families who live in cities or don’t otherwise need SUV or Minivan-level space, but its latest redesign got the automotive press panting over 2 things: First, the already roomier-than-it-looks interior is even bigger thanks to VW’s new global MQB platform, making it arguably the smallest car on the market to effectively limit backseat screams of “He crossed the line!” Second, thanks again to that innovative new platform, the $18,000 Golf rings in $2,000 cheaper than 2014 models. Farfegnugen, bitches.
THE YOU-SIZED MATCHBOX CAR
If you were into Matchbox cars as a kid, there’s a good chance you had one of the old Ford GT40s — an endurance racing legend that won Le Mans 4 times in a row in the late 60s. This is the second time Ford has rebooted the car, and the first time it’s managed to squeeze more than 600 horsepower out of an all-new twin-turbo V6 EcoBoost engine. Not that you buy a car like this for the green-tinted technical wizardry; you buy a car like this because you want to go really, really fast. Also, at an expected MSRP around $200,000, you buy a car like this because you’re really, really rich.
Four years ago, Volvo announced its “Vision 2020” safety program, which humbly seeks to eliminate fatalities or serious injuries in any Volvo, under any crash scenario, by… well, 2020. The new XC90 features some of the tech they hope will get it there, including seat belts that know when the car is leaving the road and adjust to protect your spinal cord from the threats specific to those crashes. There’s also a collapsing brake pedal, which mitigates the thrashing that right knee joints often take in front-end collisions. One of the safest cars ever made, a totally redesigned exterior means it’s trustworthy and good looking — like that Swedish nanny you’ll never be allowed to hire.
THE INTERIOR YOU WANT TO HANG OUT IN
Now that automotive infotainment systems are in a standoff with cheaper, easier-to-operate (though also easier to fight over) tablets, road-trip-friendly in-car innovations are rolling out out at a far slower pace. So, what’s old is new again, and the new Q7 features an optional Bang & Olufsen sound system that has to be seen … er, heard to be believed. It boasts 23 speakers spread throughout the cabin, each with its own amplifier, and an internal microphone that identifies cabin noise and adjusts the speakers to compensate. That’s a long way of saying the new Q7 is the perfect place to introduce your kids to punk rock.
Chevy’s surprise announcement in Detroit was a new electric vehicle that will sell for around $30,000 after federal incentives and get 200 miles per charge — nearly twice what the manufacturer’s Volt EV currently achieves. The Bolt is no looker; it’s a chunky, clunky looking box that maximizes interior space and will comfortably haul a family of 5 with room for soccer balls in back. If you want sex appeal with your environmentally responsible family truckster, you can wait for the rumored Tesla 3, but there’s one mildly important advantage Chevy has over that Musk-mobile: They just rolled one onto an auto show floor with a possible on-sale date in 2016; Tesla has yet to release even a sketch.
THE CAR FOR THE RECENTLY DIVORCED
There’s one major innovation in the latest 4C, but it’s the only one that matters to a guy diving back into the dating pool: a removable carbon fiber hard top. Convertibles are a single man’s best friend, but bear in mind that the 4C is only a 2-seater, so you’re going to need something else to cart the kids back and forth to school. Fortunately, it starts at a (sort of) reasonable $55,000, so you might have enough cash kicking around to pick up a VW Golf while you’re at it.
THE STARSHIP ENTERPRISE THAT FITS IN YOUR GARAGE
The self-driving car race has been the domain of tech upstarts like Google, but, this year, Mercedes-Benz threw down the gauntlet (how German of them). The F015 “Luxury In Motion” is a self-driver hiding all its technology under a gleaming silver case that one auto journalist rightly said looks like a suppository. Unlike Google’s car, which wears all the whiz bang on its fenders, you’d actually want to sit in the Benz. It features wood floors and 4 captain’s chairs that all swivel 360 degrees, so you and the kids could theoretically do puzzles together (or whatever) while sitting in traffic. Expect this car to go on sale never.