David Motton

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A Teutonic trio sparkles at the Detroit Motor Show 2016 and our expert David Motton is on hand to assess what tow car potential these showstoppers have

It's motor show time in Detroit, with several new models with potential as tow cars making their debut. You might expect the big US brands to hog the spotlight at their home motor show, but many of the most interesting new models this year are from German manufacturers.

The new Mercedes-Benz E-Class is one. It's a car which has always done well at the Tow Car Awards, without ever winning a trophy. Perhaps the new E-Class could change that. It's due on sale in the UK this spring, and I'm hopeful we'll have a car for testing at the Tow Car Awards in April.

The current E-Class is a handsome enough car, albeit a little staid. The new E-Class looks much sharper, with a close family resemblance to the smaller C-Class.

As well as more youthful styling, Mercedes' rival for the Audi A6 and BMW 5 Series promises more space inside. It's longer than before, and the distance between the front and rear axles has also been extended, promising greater legroom.

What's most striking to my eyes, though, is the interior design. The dashboard is dominated by two 12.3-inch screens, which are mounted next to each other and almost look like one. How easy these screens are to control in reality remains to be seen, but they certainly make an impact.

It's no surprise to discover that the E-Class is lighter than its predecessor by up to 100kg. That won't do matching ratios any favours, but it does help the Mercedes deliver very impressive economy and emissions figures. The E220d can achieve 72.4mpg and emit just 102g/km of carbon dioxide, according to the official data. Look out for more technical information and pricing closer to the car's on sale date.

Another German newcomer being shown for the first time in Detroit is the Audi A4 Allroad. It's a kind of car I really like: a 4x4 estate with a raised ride height. You get more off-road ability than a conventional estate car, but with a sharper drive and more boot space than you'd get from an SUV. The Allroad is based on the new A4 Avant, which if it's as good as the saloon I drove in September, is a pretty good place to start.

The 190PS (187bhp) diesel looks like a good bet for towing. It has plenty of power and, more importantly, 295lb ft of torque. With the seven-speed S tronic gearbox it returns 57.7mpg on the combined cycle and emits 128g/km of CO2.

Other petrol and diesel engines in the A4 range produce between 150PS and 272PS, with kerbweights starting from 1655kg (including the driver). That's up to 90kg lighter than the previous model, but still high enough to make a good match for many mid-sized family caravans.

Expect pricing and more technical details closer to the UK on sale date in the summer. That may be too late for the car to feature in the 2016 Tow Car Awards, but if it misses April's tests, we'll get hold of a car for a full review a little later in the year.

The third German car on show in Detroit to catch my eye is the Volkswagen Tiguan GTE Active. The production version of the new Tiguan was shown in Frankfurt last autumn. The GTE Active is a concept car pointing the way to a future petrol-electric hybrid version. With electric motors powering both the front and rear wheels, the GTE Active has the potential to be driven as a pure-electric 4x4 for short distances. The concept also shows a tougher, more off-road focused look for the Tiguan. The chunkier looks could be available as an option on the production car.

I'm looking forward to driving the non-hybrid Tiguan in the spring, although it remains to be seen if a car with a tow ball will be available in time for the Tow Car Awards testing. If not, it will be high on the list of cars to get the full tow test treatment this summer.

As I've said before, there's a lot to look forward to in 2016!

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