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Auto review: Hits, misses and questions from the Detroit auto show

Mark Phelan, Detroit Free Press on

Published in Automotive News

New from ground up, and built in a freshly remodeled factory that used to make midsize sedans, the Ram 1500 breaks new ground by using a high-powered 48-volt electric system to power a starter alternator that uses tricks perfected in hybrids to boost fuel economy and torque. Yeah, that's right: Your Hemi's got a hybrid.

Ram also abandons the crosshair grille that had been its visual signature for decades.

Dramatic changes continue inside, including a 12-inch touch screen, Harman Kardon audio, adaptive cruise control and autonomous emergency braking.

Tossup: Lexus LF-1

Lexus calls the gorgeous LF-1 Limitless concept vehicle its vision for a future brand flagship SUV, a claim that's best considered with an asterisk. It's stunning to look at, but not big enough to set the tone for a whole luxury brand, like the upcoming X7 and Q8 will for BMW and Audi, respectively. Better to consider it a brilliant styling evolution for an SUV a bit bigger and more expensive than Lexus's current RX.

The interior promises – or threatens, depending on your point of view – to replace "distracting analog knobs and dials with motion-activated controls."

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Miss: Cars

The few mainstream production cars unveiled at the show seem almost quaint. It's not their fault, but the mood of the market has shifted so radically in favor of all shapes and sizes of SUV that the 2019 Kia Forte, Toyota Avalon and Volkswagen Jetta struggle for relevance, despite perfectly acceptable looks and plenty of features.

On the bright side, if you do want a new car in 2018, there should be plenty of good deals available.

Hit: Infiniti Q Inspiration

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