By Michael Holzman, Guest Writer
Saturday, January 18, marks the opening of the 2014 North American International Auto Show to the public and of course the days leading up to it were filled with glitz and glamour. Over 50 new production and concepts cars were unveiled to the press along with hundreds of cars from automakers big and small across the world. The days leading up to it featured many important faces touring the press and industry only previews such as General Motors’ new CEO Mary Barra, the first female to lead a major global automaker, and Vice President Joe Biden who touted the line “Bin Laden is Dead and General Motors is Alive” during the reelection campaign last year. Of course when you get past all the celebs and theatrics put on by the automakers, this show boils down to one thing, and that is our love for the automobile. Let’s take a look at the main attractions from the Detroit 3 and their top competitors.
Ford: Let’s start off with the automaker just down the street from the University of Michigan-Dearborn, beginning with the sixth generation 2015 Ford Mustang. The new Mustang offers a redesigned look, based off the Ford Evos concept from a couple years ago that is bound to polarize some Mustang purists, but there is no denying that this is the most advanced Mustang ever built. In order to make it appealing to both American and European buyers, the new Mustang features the same two types of engines in the last generation, the 5.0 liter V8 and the 3.7 liter V6, as well as a four cylinder EcoBoost engine that will drastically increase fuel economy, and is more appealing to buyers overseas than the V8. Only one other time in the car’s history has there been a four cylinder option, which was on the Mustang SVO produced from 1984-1986. Another new feature that is a first for the Mustang is the independent rear suspension, which should dramatically improve the car’s ride and handling. Horsepower, pricing, and fuel economy numbers have not been officially released, but expect to see the new Mustang in showrooms late this year.
Another Ford icon that has a new look is the Ford F-150 pickup truck, the best-selling vehicle in the United States for over a decade, is being taken in a bold new direction. The new F-150, in an effort to increase fuel efficiency, is ditching the traditional steel body and truck bed for one made of a military-grade aluminum alloy. Ford says this cuts the new trucks weight by about 700 pounds compared to the last model and gains the advantage of aluminum taking much longer to rust than steel. This is a bit of a gamble because there is still some debate out there as to whether or not aluminum cars are as safe as steel, but Ford definitely seems confident that customers will believe them when they say it is just as durable, and it makes the truck much more efficient. This new generation also features a new 2.7 liter Ecoboost engine, which is insanely small for a pickup, especially when the last generation Ecoboost was 3.5 liters. Even though fuel economy numbers have yet to be officially announced, the new Ecoboost combined with the lighter truck should be putting out historically high fuel economy numbers for any pickup truck. Like the Mustang, the new F-150 will be out near the end of this year.
The last Ford mention is the Lincoln MKC crossover SUV. Ford is in the middle of trying to turn the Lincoln brand around, and already started it off last year with the new MKZ sedan. They now are extending that to a production version of the MKC concept they had at the Detroit Auto Show last year. The MKC is based on the popular Ford Escape, but Ford is really trying to not make the MKC a clone of the Escape, as Lincoln has done in the past with some models. Features for it include an exclusive 2.3 liter EcoBoost engine, which Lincoln claims will offer more horsepower and torque per cylinder than any other engine in the MKC’s class. Another innovative feature for the MKC is that it senses a driver approaching with a Lincoln themed light shining on the ground. Look for the MKC in showrooms in the next few months.
General Motors: Just like their competitors in Dearborn, GM has three new exciting models to show off at this year’s auto show, one from Chevrolet, GMC, and Cadillac, along with a Cadillac concept car making its debut in Detroit.
First off is the model from Chevrolet, the Corvette Z06. Last year, Chevrolet unveiled the base model Corvette, which revived the Stingray name from the 70s and 80s, and now it gets its first performance model. The Z06 model was featured in the last two generations of the Corvette but while they both offered significantly more performance than the base models, their styling was not much different from the base, especially to someone who is not a Corvette enthusiast. That is about to change, this new Z06 has a dramatically different look to it with the addition of a carbon fiber splitter at the front and a large carbon fiber spoiler in the back, along with a differently sculpted hood and blacked out taillights and wheels. Under the hood features the all-new LT4 supercharged V8 that puts out a whopping 625 horsepower, 13 less than the last generation ZR1 model that holds the record for most horsepower in a Corvette, and 635 foot pounds of torque, which if you cannot remember those numbers, GM has a badge right in front of the shifter to remind you. Compare that to the 460 horses and 465 ft/lbs of torque featured in the Stingray, and you have one heck of a track machine. This Z06 is also the first to offer an automatic transmission, an 8-speed dual clutch specifically, which is similar to the automatics brands like Lamborghini and Ferrari have phased out the old stick shift for to better enhance the cars performance, though the Z06 still has the 7-speed stick shift you can find in the Stingray, which will surely keep the purists happy. The Stingray is already out, and the new Z06 model will be out early next year.
GMC, General Motors’ truck and SUV brand, shows off the revived compact pickup, the GMC Canyon. Its twin, the Chevrolet Colorado was unveiled back in November at the auto show in Los Angeles, and the two have been out of GM’s lineup since bankruptcy. In fact, the compact pickup segment has only featured models from Toyota and Nissan over the past few years with the loss of the Colorado and Canyon along with the Dodge Dakota and the Ford Ranger, which is now sold in every country but the United States and GM, is committed to reviving that segment. Some of the features on the new Canyon include a rear bumper with what GM calls a “CornerStep,” which helps somebody climbing into the pickup bed, a feature GM once notoriously mocked Ford for having on the F-150. It also includes GMC’s lane departure and forward collision warning systems already offered on other models. GMC says the Canyon will hit showrooms in the fall.
Like last year, Cadillac’s exhibit is completely separate from the rest of General Motors in order to shore up its independence from the rest of the GM brands, which may leave some people confused as to where they are at Cobo, but once you find Cadillac’s exhibit, you will see some interesting new vehicles. Two years ago, Cadillac debuted its first compact model since the infamous Cimarron, that flopped back in the 80s, in the ATS. So far, the ATS has been a great success for Cadillac, and this year they debuted a two-door coupe version of the ATS. Unlike the last generation CTS coupe, the ATS’s big sister, the ATS coupe’s design is not very different from the sedan, it sports a slightly different front fascia, which includes the new wreath-less Cadillac badge and could be the first production vehicle to use the new badge as well. The coupe should be the first of a wave of new variants to the ATS, expect to see a V-series performance model of both the sedan and coupe and maybe even a convertible, sometime in the near future.
Also featured at Cadillac’s exhibit is the Elmiraj concept, making its Detroit debut. The Elmiraj, just like the Ciel concept from almost 3 years ago and the Sixteen concept which was at the Detroit Auto Show ELEVEN years ago, scream at you that it is a Cadillac competitor to not only the Mercedes S-Class and BMW 7-series, but also vehicles from Rolls-Royce and Bentley, yet the production version that all three of these concepts seem to point to could be considered the great white whale of the Cadillac brand as everything about the production car, which has been an on and off vehicle in the pipeline for over ten years now, seems to be nothing more than pure rumors. So much so that nobody is certain what the car’s name will be. Hopefully the Elmiraj will be the last of these concepts, and maybe at next year’s auto show Cadillac will finally have its production flagship car that has been constantly teased at us over the last 11 years. The Elmiraj also debuted the new badge that the ATS coupe has when it was revealed back in August.
Chrysler: Unfortunately Chrysler does not have as many new unveilings as GM and Ford, but the one new vehicle they do have at the auto show is a highly important one, and it is the new 2015 Chrysler 200. The original 200 was the first major vehicle built by the new Chrysler-Fiat, replacing the over styled and much loathed Chrysler Sebring from the Daimler-Chrysler era. The Sebring was actually the butt for many jokes as to why Chrysler got into bankruptcy in the first place, comparing it to such failures like the Ford Pinto and Pontiac Aztek. The 200 became the Sebring’s replacement, and was first advertised nationally during the Super Bowl in the iconic “Imported From Detroit” ad featuring rapper Eminem. Though the new 200 was a much better car than the last Sebring, it was still an afterthought for most people looking to buy in the highly competitive mid-size sedan class, featuring the likes of the Toyota Camry, Ford Fusion, and Chevrolet Malibu. The second generation 200 is aimed at changing that and the success or the failure of this car could determine the future of Chrysler. The reason why is because the only other midsized sedan Chrysler has is the Dodge Avenger, which has also done poorly against the rest of its class, and its future is currently uncertain. When it comes to the Chrysler brand itself, there is only the 300 sedan and the Town and Country minivan besides the 200, and Chrysler has to have the 200 become the best seller in the brand to be a success. One of the ways Chrysler is trying to do this with the new 200 is completely scrapping the old 200/Sebring platform and building the new one on the same chassis as the Fiat designed Dodge Dart compact. The styling is also much improved both inside and out. The body ditches the plain look the first generation 200 had and replaces it with a very curvy and sculpted look that is similar, but not identical, to the Dodge Dart. The interior is also highly improved and should be competitive towards the Camry, Malibu, and Fusion. One neat feature in the new interior is the phrase “Imported From Detroit” being stitched into the leather seatbacks.
Now that we have looked at the highlights of the Detroit automakers, let us take a look at some of the big vehicles from Europe and Asia.
Jaguar: It may seem strange to start this segment off with Jaguar, but it is only because of how blown away I was by their latest addition to their lineup, the Jaguar F-Type. Let’s put it this way, this is not your grandfather’s Jaguar. The convertible was unveiled at last year’s Detroit auto show, and now they have the hardtop coupe to go along with it. The car is gorgeous, it looks just as good as its competitors from Italy and the Chevrolet Corvette. Personally, I never thought a Jaguar could look so good to somebody as young as me but Jaguar certainly has pulled it off. The F-Type features a 340 horsepower V6 or you can get it with a 550 horsepower V8, almost 100 more horses than the Corvette Stingray. It only comes in an automatic right now, but I was told at the show that a manual option could be coming soon. Both the coupe and convertible are available now starting at $99,000 and $69,000 respectively, a bit more than the Corvette and Mustang.
Porsche: Porsche, the German performance car brand, has a couple of cars that are worth taking a look at. First is the 911 Targa. The Targa differs from the convertible because targa cars have removable roof panels that can be stored in the trunk, giving the car somewhat the best of both a coupe and convertible. This Targa, the first 911 Targa in over 20 years, is different because the car removes the hardtop panel itself very similar to a convertible, but has a glass bubble dome like the back of a coupe. Also is the production version of Porsche’s new 918 Spyder, which went on sale last month. The 918 is also available in a coupe called the 918 RSR, but Porsche only has a model of it at the show. The 918 is the first supercar Porsche since the Carrera GT that debuted 10 years ago and was produced until 2007. The 918 works very similar to the latest hypercars out of Ferrari and McLaren in that in order to give the gas engine a performance boost by using an electric motor as well. The 918 itself, is not very new because Porsche has had concepts for it dating back to 2010, but at this year’s Detroit auto show they finally have the one you can buy today. It is not cheap however as it starts at $845,000.
Audi: Audi features a couple new models at their exhibit this year but also have a concept that made its debut at this year’s Detroit auto show. It is the Quattro Allroad. The Allroad, which is part of Audi’s E-Tron hybrid line and is a two door hatchback. Audi says it puts out an impressive 408 horses, and claims it can get a combined mileage of 123 miles per gallon, though these are not from the EPA, and the final numbers may be different. It also features a more refined version of Audi’s signature style that they have had over the last decade.
Toyota: Detroit’s biggest rival from Japan has two very different, yet equally interesting, concepts at this year’s auto show. The first is the FCV concept, which is a hydrogen fuel-cell vehicle that runs on hydrogen and only emits water vapor as exhaust. This is Toyota’s first hydrogen powered sedan. It has had compact SUVs that have ran on hydrogen in the past, and even if the car never gets produced, it certainly has a much more aggressive version of the current Prius hybrid’s styling and cues from the FCV concept that could be used on the next generation Prius. The other is the FT-1 concept, which if you have a copy of the videogame Gran Tursimo 6 and cannot make it to the show, you can drive it in the game, the second of many concept cars that will make video game debuts the same day they are unveiled, and could serve as the basis as the revived Toyota Supra, a popular sports car from the 80s and 90s. It features two massive exhaust pipes, which you could fit your fist in, along with a retractable rear wing which is found on many high end European supercars, that adjusts the car’s downforce, or suction to the road, depending on the car’s speed. It has already been called the most talked about concept at the Detroit auto show this year despite it not being from a Detroit company.
Honda: Like Toyota, Honda also has a hydrogen powered concept called the FCEV. What is different about Honda’s concept is that not too long ago, Honda offered a hydrogen powered sedan, the FCX Clarity, for lease in select markets, so they already have experience in building such cars. Also similar to the Toyota FCV, is that it has a much more futuristic version of the styling on its Prius fighter, the Honda Insight, and like the Toyota, the next generation Insight could be based of this car.
Hyundai: The biggest vehicle at Hyundai this year is the new generation Hyundai Genesis. The Genesis debuted in the middle of the auto crisis as Hyundai’s first step in becoming a global luxury brand and achieved great success. The new Genesis looks to build on that with a much more updated look and interior to better take on its competitors at BMW, Audi, and Mercedes. Like the previous generation, the Genesis has its own badge and does not have a Hyundai badge on the front of the car, which Hyundai does in order to get people to view the car without thinking about how they already perceive a Hyundai.
Kia: Kia, which is part of the same company as Hyundai, has two interesting vehicles this year. The first is the luxury sedan called the K900. It is a North American version of the K9 sedan that has been on sale for a year now in South Korea, the Middle East, South America, and Russia. The K900 is planned to be a cheaper version of the Hyundai Equus luxury sedan that has been around for a couple years now. Kia also has plans to sell it in China as well. The other is a 2+2, meaning two front and two rear seats, sports car concept called the GT4 Stinger. The Stinger definitely has an interesting design as the headlights are at the same height from the bottom of the car as the grille, along with a massive hood and futuristic coupe look in the back. Currently it is unknown if the GT4 Stinger will be produced or what future vehicle could be based off of it.
Nissan: One of Nissan’s new concept cars is the IDx concept, featuring a street version call Freeflow and a racetrack version called NISMO, after Nissan’s performance parts division. Both are radical recreations of the Datsun 510 coupe from the 60s and 70s, and could be a preview of a future Nissan that competes with compact sports cars such as the Mazda MX-5 Miata, and the twins, the Subaru BRZ and Scion FR-S, also called a Toyota FT-86 outside the U.S. This segment could also grow with rumored competitors coming from Chevrolet and Dodge/SRT in the near future.
Lastly, here is a little preview for next year’s Detroit auto show in January 2015. It has already been announced that Tesla Motors, the new juggernaut electric luxury vehicle brand, will unveil an all-electric mid-sized sedan called the Model C that will be a lot more affordable than the larger Model S, which is currently on sale. Also, it seemed like that Chrysler was going to unveil a model that is much more competitive with the Mustang and Chevrolet Camaro, which would be called the SRT Barracuda, reviving the old Plymouth muscle car name, but since it was delayed a year it could be the car everyone is talking about at the 2015 show instead.
Believe it or not, this was only a small sample of all the brands and cars featured at this year’s Detroit auto show including even more new production and concept vehicles along custom car brands that are also featured in the basement level of Cobo Hall. The show is open to the public from January 18 and runs through the 26.