autofieldblog NAIAS Best in Show

On Saturday, the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) will open to the public.

On Saturday, the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) will open to the public.

Let’s face it: On the one hand, the show is pretty much like one of those suburban auto malls where there is a multiplicity of dealers carrying numerous brands. Anyone interested in getting a new crossover or sedan can readily shop by going from one store to another.

NAIAS makes that all the more convenient by having most all of the major brands (there were a few no-shows, ranging from Jaguar Land Rover to Mini) under one room in a comfortable environment.

On the other hand, because this is a “show,” there needs to be something that special, out of the ordinary, and not before or otherwise seen.

One of these is pragmatic.

The other is provocative.

So with that, we’d like to name the autofieldblog Best of Show: Production and autofieldblog Best of Show: Concept.

Said another way: For those going to the show, these are two vehicles that can’t be missed.

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The autofieldblog Best in Show: Production goes to the 2017 Chrysler Pacifica.

Yes, the new Chrysler minivan.

While this is a remarkable vehicle because it offers all manner of tech features that are certainly beneficial to drivers of minivans—adaptive cruise control with stop and hold, forward collision warning with brake assistance, lane keeping assist, parking (parallel and perpendicular) assist—the design of this minivan makes it far more appealing than minivans have been of late.

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Irina Zavatski, who led the exterior design for the Pacifica, told me that her whole objective was to make the vehicle “look cool.” Yes, she emphasized the stance and proportions, as is obligatory for all designers, but her understanding of how minivans are perceived (she bought one when she got the assignment) drove her with a zeal that is not ordinarily associated with minivans.

And she and her team delivered.

As for autofieldblog Best in Show: Concept, that goes to the Buick Avista. Buick design has been on a roll of late. Last year it brought the Avenir concept to Detroit, a large, premium sedan. At the LA Show this past fall, it debuted the LaCrosse production model, which is, well, a large, premium sedan that takes some cues from the Avenir.

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But the Avista is a large, broad-shouldered, powerful-looking (and apparently performing, giving that the concept is a rear-drive car with a 400-hp turbocharged V6 under its long hood) coupe.

Bryan Nesbitt, Buick executive director, Global Design, spent the past few years in China before returning to the U.S. and getting this new position. He told me that the perception of Buick is entirely different in China than it is in the U.S. It is a brand that even appeals to young people, which at least for the past couple decades in the U.S. is something that’s unthinkable.

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Yet should the Avista come to market in a form that resembles what Buick has on its stand at NAIAS, then the unthinkable will be well thought.