At this week's Shanghai auto show, upscale German and Japanese automakers unveiled several new models designed to appeal to China's booming upper middle class—whose tastes nearly mirror those of American consumers.
Chinese buyers like luxury at a reasonable price point and they prefer sedans and crossovers to the hatchbacks favored in Europe. Over the last few years, China's major auto show has had an increasingly large relevancy for Americans.
Though we're thousands of miles apart, much of what debuted in Shanghai will eventually head to dealers in the United States. Here's a look at what gleamed on the show floor in Shanghai and why they might matter to you:
2018 Mercedes-AMG S65
2018 Mercedes-Benz S-Class
Mercedes treated its flagship sedan range to a gentle update for 2018. While you'll have to squint to see what's new, there's plenty hidden from sight that should make an already excellent luxury four-door even better. New headlights and taillights are standard mid-cycle fare (the current S-Class has been around since 2014), but the sport-oriented AMG model has its own more deeply cut bumper design. Inside, the innovative dual screens that comprise the S-Class' instrument panel remain, but there's a single pane of glass over them for a cleaner look. Last year's quirky two-spoke steering wheel, which many likened to the face of a clown (which you now can't unsee—sorry!) has been replaced with a sporty three-spoke unit with touch-sensitive controls.
There's also a "wellness" mode that connects the climate control system with the in-car fragrance system (yes, that's a thing), lighting, and the many heating, cooling, and massaging functions of the seats to make an already cosseting driving experience that much more pleasant.
Mercedes is a self-driving pioneer and the S-Class typically shows off the brand's latest tech. Now, it's a feature that automatically adjusts the vehicle's speed as it approaches diversions like curves, highway exits, roundabouts, and toll plazas. Additionally, a new feature lets drivers simply tap the turn signal stalk and, if it senses an opening, the S-Class can automatically move into the lane selected.
For those who prefer to motor themselves, the base S450 now boasts a twin-turbo 3.0-liter V-6 rated at 362 horsepower and 369 pound-feet of torque. From there, the lineup climbs to the S560 with its 4.0-liter twin-turbo V-8 making 463 hp and 516 pound-feet. The Mercedes-AMG S63, meanwhile, has a smaller—but more powerful—V-8: a 4.0-liter twin-turbo unit rated at 603 hp and 664 lb-ft.
2018 Lexus NX
2018 Lexus NX
Lexus says that it has reworked the NX compact crossover's suspension and steering to provide it with ride and handling characteristics more in line with luxury buyer expectations. New springs, revised stabilizer bars, and different bushings are all part of the nitty gritty beneath the surface that may turn the 2018 NX into a different animal.
It won't be any quicker since its engines—a turbo-4 and a hybrid system—are unchanged. But buyers may not immediately realize that, since the NX 200t (the gas-only model) has been rebadged NX 300. The hybrid remains the NX 300h.
The NX also looks a little different inside and out; the most noteworthy differences might be new toggle switches that simplify the climate control's previously button-heavy panel and a 10.3-inch infotainment screen to replace last year's 7.0-inch unit.
2018 BMW M4 CS
2018 BMW M4 CS
BMW fills the gap between its mainstream M4 sports coupe and its downright bonkers, track-day M4 GTS with the new limited-edition M4 CS. With 454 horsepower underhood, the M4 CS a little peppier than the M4 with its optional Competition package and that helps slice its 0-62 mph sprint to 3.9 seconds. To make the most of that power, the M4 CS has forged aluminum suspension components and its numerous electronic do-dads have been tweaked to improve handling and power delivery.
The M4 CS stands apart with its own lightweight alloy wheels and carbon fiber-reinforced plastic body panels outside and Alcantara synthetic suede peppered across its interior.
Look for more CS-badged models to make their way into the BMW M lineup in the future as BMW looks to expand the appeal of its M brand in the face of stiff competition from Mercedes-AMG.
Jeep Yuntu concept car, 2017 Shanghai auto show
Jeep Yuntu concept
Previewing Jeep's first model designed specifically for Chinese consumers, the Yuntu is boxy and airy—but its retro looks hide a hybrid powertrain not all that different from what's in the Chrysler Pacifica Plug-In.
But don't write off the Yuntu as a foreign market-only offering; it shows what's likely to come for Jeep's upcoming three-row models. Rumors suggest that Jeep will revive its storied Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer nameplates in the next couple of years with models that could rival everything from the Chevrolet Tahoe to the Honda Pilot. The Yuntu has enough room for seven, including a pair of screens for each outboard seat in the second and third rows. Yes, really: each passenger has two screens to stare at.
Mercedes-Benz A Sedan concept, 2017 Shanghai auto show
Mercedes-Benz A-Class Sedan concept
Mercedes is itching for a more conventional sibling to its popular CLA-Class entry-level sedan. While the CLA is shapely, its interior is compromised by a low roofline. By contrast, the A-Class Concept looks almost too tall at first glance, but that may not be a bad thing.
Like the CLA, the A-Class four-door will be front-wheel drive and, assuming it goes on sale here in the next year or two, it'll probably be Mercedes' cheapest model. It's a much-needed companion to the CLA that will square off more directly with Audi's hit A3 and Acura's ILX.
Volkswagen ID Crozz concept, 2017 Shanghai auto show
Volkswagen I.D. Crozz concept
VW is planning an electric vehicle onslaught and the ID Crozz provides the first glimpse into plans for what may be the highest-volume model in that future lineup: a crossover SUV. All of the electric models planned, including sedans, hatchbacks, various crossovers, and even possibly a rebirth of the classic VW van, will share the same basic underpinnings. What will differentiate them is their battery capacity and their bodystyles.
With the I.D. Crozz, VW is also showing off the possibility of all-wheel drive. One electric motor powers the front wheels and a larger unit delivers grunt to the rear wheels. For the most part, the vehicle is rear-wheel drive, but in slippery conditions the system will send power to all four corners.
The I.D. Crozz is a little smaller than the Volkswagen Tiguan outside, but the automaker says that its electric powertrain allows for considerably more interior space.
Audi e-tron Sportback concept, 2017 Shanghai auto show
Audi e-tron Sportback concept
Like its sister brand VW, Audi plans to jump head-first into the electric car game. Its first dedicated model will be an SUV, but the Sportback concept shown in Shanghai has a much more evocative, sloping roofline. With 430 horsepower on tap from its dual electric motor setup, it'll certainly be a more premium offering than anything in VW's stable.
Audi plans to offer a trio of electric cars by the close of 2020 and we're likely to see one more in concept form in the next year before its production model debut.