Less than a year ago, the horizon of the automotive landscape looked bleak. Ford announced it would axe its sedans and hatchbacks in the US and Cadillac and Volkswagen made threats to fill their lineups with more crossovers and SUVs. But, this year’s Detroit Auto Show is a source of hope. New sports cars from unexpected brands and the many adventure-ready overlanders coming down the pipeline are enough to plaster a smile on anyone’s face.

Continuously increasing crossover and SUV sales numbers are a legitimate excuse for manufacturers to hop on board the gravy train. Hell, even brands like Lamborghini and Ferrari can’t ignore the segment’s potential. However, while some of the traditional brands are dialing back on their super sedan and sports car efforts, the likes of Nissan, Hyundai, Subaru and Toyota are taking their crossover-cash and using it to inject energy into other products.

Nissan brought to the show the IMs Concept, which reimagines what a sports sedan can and should be. Hyundai launched the all-new Elantra GT N Line, the first of its mid-level performance cars sporting more than just a sculpted bumper and rear wing; you’ll get a 201-horsepower turbocharged 1.6-liter inline-four engine paired with a six-speed manual and tuned suspension — all for $24,185. Subaru announced the first ever S-model STI coming to the US, which will sport 341 horsepower and a slathering of aerodynamic wings and vents. The 2020 Supra also made its first public debut in Detroit this week alongside a track-focused Lexus RC-F and TRD-tuned versions of the traditionally bland Camry and Avalon sedans. Ford deserves credit for the 700-horsepower-plus Shelby Mustang GT500 it brought along, and Cadillac gets an honorable mention for greenlighting the CT6-V – the big sedan’s possible swansong as its fate hangs in the balance.

New trucks from Kia, Ford, Chevy and Jeep are exploiting the rise in active and adventure lifestyles with overlanding-focused trims decked out with roof racks, skid plates, intake snorkels and suspension lifts. The Kia Telluride concepts, Ford Ranger, Chevy Colorado Bison AEV and Jeep Gladiator prove America’s most popular slice of the market doesn’t have to be dull at all.

While global emissions standards are becoming stricter, and as the impending all-electric and autonomous future breathes down our necks, it’s impossible to ignore the fate of the automotive industry as it descends into soullessness. This sudden burst of entertaining cars – a renewed sense that cars can have a soul and purpose outside of getting us from point A to point B – is wildly refreshing after the seemingly endless string of bad news that poured out of 2018.

The Best of NAIAS 2019

If the 2019 Detroit auto show is any indication of the next year or two, it seems manufacturers are just as sick of monotonous committee-built cars as we are. Read the Story

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