3 Weird Debuts from the 2016 Detroit Auto Show

Bubble-car madness was nowhere to be found at the 2016 Detroit auto show. In fact, the weirdest thing of all may have been that the most-talked about offering was a Buick. Wandering the halls in search of the truly oddball, only three candidates present themselves for judgment: the VLF Force 1, the SSUV Concept, and a rather pushy seat.
LINE X SSUV Concept Front Three Quarter

Sitting in the Cobo concourse outside the show halls at this year’s Detroit auto show is a vehicle called, quite simply, Super Sport Utility Vehicle Concept.

Built on a Jeep Wrangler platform in partnership with Unique Fabricating and Advanced Automotive Technologies, the SSUV Concept was designed to show off a range of LINE-X materials and coatings, which are used all over the vehicle, from the exterior rock guard coating to the floor pans and even the seats.

LINE X SSUV Concept Interior

While the LINE-X technology applied throughout the vehicle — especially the sprayed-then-molded foam parts composing most of the interior — is actually really cool from a geek’s standpoint, the draw here is the insane body on that Wrangler frame. Fortunately, it looks like the SSUV isn’t all hat and no cattle: there’s an air suspension under the rig that can raise it up to 6 inches for greater ground clearance when seriously off-road.

Considerably less likely to deliver the goods, however, is the VLF Force 1. Based on another Chrysler product — this time a Dodge Viper — and powered by an 8.4-liter V-10 engine, the Force 1 does much to tug on our well-oiled heartstrings. But even with Bob Lutz standing behind the project, and a Henrik Fisker design, we can’t help but feel the most tangible thing that’s likely to come from its creation is the $100 million lawsuit Fisker filed against Aston Martin last week.
While neither weird nor especially exciting on its own, there is one other notable off-beat item at this year’s show: a not-so-simple seat. A front seat from the all-new Mercedes-Benz E-Class, to be specific, and one equipped with PRE-SAFE Impulse Side. It’s a new system that jostles the passenger with a burst of air in the side bolster to improve the kinematics of a side-impact crash, nudging the occupant into a more favorable position/trajectory. Once it does its magic on the occupant, it replays the surprised expression on the facing screen — in slow motion. Surprisingly forceful, completely non-obvious, but also brilliantly simple, the new system will surely be one of the fan favorites for public day attendees if Mercedes decides to make it available.
Mercedes Benz PRE SAFE Impulse Seat

And that, winter-loving gear heads, is as weird as it gets at Cobo Hall this year. No tiny electric cars circling a basement track, no art-meets-commentary mobile sculptures, not even any wacky foreign-market hybrids or electrics. But man, you should really check out that Buick.

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