The Best Design Details at the 2019 Detroit Auto Show

At an auto show, the stream of dramatic unveilings can easily distract from other notable yet subtle design exercises.

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Bryan Campbell

This year’s North American International Auto Show features the 2020 Toyota Supra (finally) and the new, frighteningly powerful 700-plus-horsepower Mustang GT500. On the more practical side, Kia and Hyundai joined the three-row SUV party with what look like promising family haulers. At an auto show, the stream of dramatic unveilings with bass-heavy soundtracks, light shows and sizzle reels can easily distract from the myriad notable yet subtle design exercises scattered throughout the convention hall. These are the best details of NAIAS 2019.

Kia Telluride x Brandon Maxwell


Kia introduced this collaboration with fashion designer Brandon Maxwell at last year’s New York Fashion Week. Up close and in the metal, you can see it’s littered with handsome details, from leather hood-staps to wood highlights on the roof rack.

VW Golf GTI Headlights


It’s great to see Volkswagen having fun with its color palette again. On this GTI, the signature red grille outline invades the headlights and really pops against its bright blue body work.

Nissan IMs Dashboard and Headlights


Nissan is showcasing one of the few all-out concept cars at the show. Like any clasic concept car, it’s purely a design exercise but hints at the brand’s possible future state. Hopefully, Nissan will incorporate the single-bar headlight and oddly intricate honey comb dashboard in its production cars sooner rather than later.

1959 Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz Tail Fins


Over at the Cadillac stand, hiding up on the second floor is a beautiful, fire engine red Eldorado Biarritz. It would be wrong to talk about beautiful automotive details and not mention these jet age tail fins.

Cadillac CT6-V Headlight Signature


As much as Cadillac modernizes its design language, evolves its crest logo or changes its mission statement altogether, it warms my heart to see them hide an old school cursive “Cadillac” in the headlights here.

Ford Mustang GT500 Ceramic-Coated Carbon Wheels


This isn’t the first time Ford has put carbon fiber wheels on a Mustang. That honor belongs to the GT350. However, the combination of a tight carbon fiber weave in the spokes and a ceramic heat shield coating (to protect from the temperature of massive steel brakes) is a thing of beauty.

Hyundai Palisade Headlights


Hyundai could have played it safe with its first three-row SUV and gone with a conservative design, but I’m glad it didn’t. The big SUV market is crowded and Hyundai’s bold headlight design and structure deserves praise – and will help it stand out.

Lexus RC-F Headlights and Rear Spoiler


As controversial and polarizing as Lexus design language is, you have to admit these headlights by themselves are uniquely radical exercises in industrial design. And the multi-directional carbon fiber weaves on the rear wing’s end plates in order to form an “F” is pretty clever.

2020 Toyota Supra Rear-3/4


The headlining act of the show this year is the 2020 Toyota Supra. Opinions are split on the overall design of Toyota’s prodigal son, but its rear wheel arches, hips and tail look expertly hand-shaped. There are only a few other cars on the market that feature shapes like this; sadly, most of them cost four times as much as the Supra will.

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