Fast cars and tough trucks took center stage during model debuts at the Detroit Auto Show.
Luxury vehicles also made their presence known, most notably the larger Mercedes C-Class and the Hyundai Genesis, which held the line on a base price below $40,000, despite substantial upgrades.
The biggest news came from Ford Motor Co., which pulled the tarp off a new F-series truck. The pickup has been the nation’s bestselling vehicle for more than three decades. Ford aims to keep it that way with an all-new aluminum frame, which loses 700 pounds in the interest of fuel economy. General Motors, never one to allow Ford to hog the truck spotlight, released its latest mid-size truck offering, the GMC Canyon.
Efficiency may be all the rage these days, but automakers and consumers haven’t lost their lust for power, as was underscored by half a dozen debuts of performance cars this week. The Corvette Z06 – an extreme take on the redesigned 2014 Stingray – weighed in with “at least” 625 horsepower, according to General Motors. (That’s enough to power nearly five Toyota Corollas.)
Other notable performance cars came from Subaru, with its WRX STI; Lexus, with the RC F Coupe; BMW’s M3 sedan and M4 coupe; and Toyota’s FT-1 concept car, a Supra-like design study the automaker said signals the styling direction across its lineup.
Here’s a rundown of highlights from the show.
TOYOTA FT-1 CONCEPT: Calling it a “spiritual pace car” for Toyota’s future, the automaker released the FT-1 Concept sports car, drawing on a rich history of performance.
Designed by Toyota’s California-based Calty Design Research arm, the FT-1 (“Future Toyota”) hints at a production sports car. But it also teases design cues that may land on a wide range of Toyotas.
The brand’s performance history includes notable efforts such as the 2000GT, the MR2 and the Supra. But there’s been a conspicuous sports-car-shaped hole in Toyota’s lineup since it discontinued the Supra in the U.S. in 1998.
Enter the FT-1. Despite being a concept, the car looks nearly ready for production. Its proportions are classic sports car: long hood, short overhangs, a deeply scalloped side vent ahead of the rear wheels. No engine specifics were announced, but Toyota made it clear that the car will honor the traditional sports-car layout of front engine, rear-wheel drive with “a high-technology, high-performance internal combustion engine.”
LEXUS RC F COUPE: Lexus, Toyota’s luxury division, released the RC F Coupe – with “more than” 450 horses and 383 pound-feet of torque.
Yet driving the F is child’s play, assures Yukihiko Yaguchi, chief engineer. “There’s a misconception that racing cars are hard to drive,” he said. “In fact, they’re easy in the right hands, because they’ve been purpose-built for the skill level of their drivers.”
The RC F will come with a torque-vectoring rear differential, which allows the car to vary the amount of torque at each rear wheel at the same time. This aids in cornering and grip when driving the car as intended. An independent rear suspension helps the cause, as does an active rear spoiler that deploys above 50 mph.
The RC F’s 5.0-liter V-8 directs its power to those rear wheels via an eight-speed automatic transmission with the requisite paddle shifters. The base RC coupes and the new F variant will hit the market later in 2014. No pricing has been announced.
GMC CANYON: Continuing to diversify its truck portfolio, General Motors showed off the second of its smaller trucks, the GMC Canyon. GM is convinced that America’s love affair with pickup trucks is enduring. But consumers also want smaller vehicles that provide the same utility with less fuel.
GM is targeting the truck directly at the Toyota Tacoma and Nissan Frontier. Together, those trucks sell about 225,000 units a year. But they are aging vehicles, needing redesigns and lacking the refinement GM boasts the Canyon will feature.
The Canyon offers two engine choices: a 2.5-liter four-cylinder that will produce 193 horsepower; and a larger, 3.6-liter six-cylinder that will provide 302 horsepower. The towing capacity on the truck with the larger engine will reach 6,700 pounds. It will be able to carry a payload of 1,450 pounds. Four-wheel drive is available. GM plans to offer a 2.8-liter turbo-diesel engine two years from now.
GM has yet to release price information or fuel-economy numbers, but the automaker did say it believes that the Canyon will get better mileage than the Toyota and Nissan trucks.
SUBARU WRX STI: An econobox sedan isn’t the traditional platform for an automaker’s white-knuckle car. That’s just fine with Subaru, which tends to do things its own way.
The Japanese brand unveiled a redesigned WRX STI for 2015, a barely recognizable version of the Impreza. Power on the STI remains unchanged from the previous STI, with a tidy 2.5-liter four-cylinder turbocharged making 305 horsepower and 290 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed manual transmission remains the only way to change gears.
But expect big changes to the STI’s handling, thanks to a stiffer chassis and a new torque-vectoring system. All-wheel drive, a Subaru hallmark, is standard.
Aesthetically, the STI sets itself apart from lesser models with a more aggressive front and rear bumper, a new hood with a microwave-sized air scoop, quad exhaust pipes, LED taillights and, of course, the large boy-racer rear spoiler.
HYUNDAI GENESIS: Looking to take a bigger bite out of the luxury market, Hyundai introduced the second generation of its upscale Genesis sedan.
Hyundai is pitching the car as a value play, with a bigger interior and more amenities at a lower price than competitors such as the BMW 5-Series, Cadillac CTS and Mercedes-Benz E-Class.
The car will be built on an entirely new platform that won’t share components with the previous model. Hyundai will offer two engine choices. For the power-hungry, there will be a 5.0-liter V-8 engine that produces 420 horsepower and 383 pound-feet of torque. The base model will come with a 3.8-liter six-cylinder that produces 311 horsepower and 293 pound-feet of torque at 5,000 rpm. It also will run on regular-grade fuel. Both engines will be mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission.
CADILLAC ATS COUPE: Cadillac has quietly become America’s fastest-growing luxury brand, with a range of new sports sedans to compete with the usual German suspects. General Motors added to that lineup Tuesday with the debut of the 2015 ATS coupe.
The compact coupe is a first for General Motors’ luxury division. It will compete with the likes of BMW’s 4-Series, along with the Mercedes-Benz C-Class coupe, the Audi A5, the all-new Lexus RC Coupe and the Infiniti Q60.
Mechanically, the ATS Coupe is nearly identical to the sedan. The base engine will be a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder that matches the sedan’s 272 horsepower but bumps torque up to 295 pound-feet from 260 pound-feet. Cadillac will also have a 3.6-liter six-cylinder that produces 321 horsepower and 275 pound-feet of torque.
Like all good sport compacts, the Coupe will have a 50-50 weight distribution, ensuring that the strong driving dynamics from the sedan carry over into this model.