Spurred by dueling government energy and emission requirements and consumer demands for power, automakers are making ever-more amazing vehicles and showing them off now through January 26 at Detroit’s North American International Auto Show.
The obvious message is “We’re doing more and better with less.” More powerful but less polluting; Smaller engines but better performing. And everything has more, more, more technology.
Two notable debuts are pickup trucks, the revamped Ford F-150 and the new GMC Canyon. In the F-150 Ford substituted aluminum for a lot of its steel, shedding 700 lbs. As Ford’s biggest seller, a substantively changed F-150 is a big gamble that could be a segment game-changer. GMC’s Canyon, coming next fall, is a midsized pickup available in two- or four-wheel-drive and with two engine options including a diesel in the future. Both the F-150 and Canyon are packed with technology.
Chevy’s 2014 Silverado was named North American Truck of the Year and the seventh-generation Corvette is the North American Car of the Year. But huge buzz accompanied Chevy’s introduction of the 2015 Z06 Corvette Stingray supercar, a 625 hp, 6.2-liter V8. On sale later this year, it will have an optional Performance Data Recorder (PDR) to record drivers’ performances for playback or upload to social media.
From BMW comes the redesigned M3 Sedan, 175 lbs. lighter due to aluminum and carbon fiber and smaller, faster engine (zero-60 in 3.9 sec.) that boosts efficiency while lowering emissions. BMW also unveiled the M4 coupe with the same engine. Both come loaded with driver assistance technology.
Porsche’s 911 Targa harks back to its storied past with an open top and flat, brushed silver roll bar. The Targa 4 gets 350 hp from its 3.4-liter six-cylinder. The 3.8 liter 4S gets 400 hp, doing zero-60 in 4.2 seconds.
Toyota’s FT-1 concept (FT: “Future Toyota”) takes head-up display to a higher level with a separate screen with important info coming to eye level from the steering column. The click-pad sits on the steering wheel. Nissan’s Sport Sedan Concept, designed with 21-inch wheels, V-shaped grille and sharply angled headlights, is a likely preview of the next Maxima.
Audi’s Allroad Shooting Brake concept plug-in hybrid hits 155 mph with 408 hp and 480 lb-ft of torque from a 2.0-liter turbocharged engine and two electric motors. It joins a trend toward carbon fiber bodies, trimming weight. Infiniti’s Q50 Eau Rouge concept also has carbon fiber bodywork. It’s lower and wider than the Q50 sedan. An Infiniti executive said if produced it likely will get 500+ horses.
Hyundai’s second-generation Genesis is a reality, not a concept, with optional all-wheel drive and either a 3.8-liter V6 or 5.0-liter V8 that gets up to 420 hp. The trunk opens automatically after three seconds just by standing behind it with a key. Chrysler’s all-new 200 also has optional all-wheel drive and both four- and six-cylinder versions. The smaller 295-hp engine will get at least 35 mpg highway.
Kia tantalizes with the GT4 Stinger concept, a 2+2, 315-hp sports car. VW’s Beetle Dune concept features a higher clearance to handle uneven off-road terrain. VW’s Passat BlueMotion concept gets 42 mph on the highway by deactivating two of four cylinders at city speeds, providing a start-stop system and a coasting function.
The tiny-but-mighty 2015 Honda Fit comes with a 1.5-liter, 130 hp engine, adding 13 hp. It boasts 41 mpg highway with an amazing 52.7 cubic feet of cargo space.
Add to these the Mercedes S-Class Coupe, Volvo XC Coupe and Mini John Cooper Works concepts, premium versions of the Scion FR-S and tC Coupes, VW Volkswagen Golf R all-wheel-drive, Lexus RC F Coupe and Subaru WRX STI. And that’s just scratching the surface.
This year marks the NAIAS’s 25th anniversary, successor to a regional show beginning in 1907. The Detroit Automobile Dealers Association, Executive Director Rod Alberts, and NAIAS Chairman Bob Shuman of Shuman Chrysler-Dodge-Jeep-Ram and their committee have provided a glimpse at what could be the beginning of a new automotive Golden Age.