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2017 Detroit Auto Show

14th January 2017

As I sat down to write my usual report for the Detroit Auto Show, I realized that I wouldn’t have a lot to say this year. Nothing really stands out. Sure, there are many nice cars this year, including some world premieres. The overall desirability of cars, trucks, and utilities has never been better. Better fuel economy, better looking, better technology (some of which won’t kill you). The downside of all this excellence is that it’s tougher to stand out. And nothing did.

What really didn’t help this year was the absence of several of the high-end sports and luxury makers. Porsche, Lamborghini, Ferrari, Rolls Royce, Bentley, Tesla, McLaren, Land Rover, and Jaguar were all MIA.

Here a brief rundown of some of the notable cars, in no particular order:

  • Roush P-51 Mustang. Rousch slaps a supercharger onto the Ford 5.0 V8, giving it 727 horsepower! 🙂
  • Ford GT: not new, but if you can walk by the GT on the Ford stand without drooling all over yourself, you need to check your pulse.
  • 2018 GMC Terrain: all-new; smaller, loses 400 pounds, gets a more refined look, maybe too refined. Powertrain lineup is all-new: 1.5L or 2.0L turbo 4 gas or 1.6L turbo Diesel.
  • VW Atlas: new SUV designed especially for the US market. And they did such a great job, the result of their efforts looks amazingly like the quintessential American SUV, the Jeep Grand Cherokee. No kidding – if you squint, you can barely tell the difference.
  • Toyota Prius Prime: this is the 2nd generation plug-in Prius, now with a new name. It’s just as…quirkey…as the “regular” Prius. Lots of people buy the Prius, but I think it is (and always has been) a weird-looking car that drives like a tin can on wheels. Sorry, but it’s true.
  • Kia Stinger: brand new entry 4-door hatchback RWD/AWD optional. 2.0L turbo (255 hp / 260 torque) or 3.3L twin-turbo V6 (365/376).
  • VW ID Buzz: yet another in a long line of micro bus concepts from our Diesel-impaired friends. VW’s electric offensive is clearly partly an attempt to deflect the stare of government regulators and partly a peace offering to environmentalists they’ve offended with Diesel emissions trouble.
  • 2018 Mercedes-Benz GLA: they said it’s new, but who can tell?
  • Mercedes-Benz E-Class Coupe moves to the new platform already adopted by the sedan
  • 2018 F-150 – freshened (very slightly), with new engines, including a Diesel for the first time
  • 2018 Chevy Traverse looks very much like a larger scale model of the recently-introduced new Equinox
  • Audi Q8 Concept – a more emotional, coupe-like version of the Q7. Plug-in hybrid. Was introduced during the preview, but was gone on the first public day of the show.
  • Nissan Rogue Sport – a new entry for Nissan in the small SUV segment. It’s not a new car, though; it’s already sold in other markets as Qashqai
  • 2018 Honda Odyssey: honestly, it’s a minivan. Ho-hum. It’s good-looking as minvans go, and Honda has finally integrated the sliding door track into the gap between the body and the rear window. Chrysler did this a million years ago, and Ford did it more than a decade ago.
  • 2018 Toyota Camry: some will tell you that it’s an exciting new aggressive design. Maybe for a Camry. I’ll tell you it’s mildly more expressive, but stakes no new ground.
  • Nissan Vmotion 2.0 concept: winner of the Eyes on Design best concept car. It’s very good looking.
  • 2018 Lexus LS 500: newest version of the Lexus that started the brand back at the 1989 Detroit Auto Show. Has a twin-turbo V6, 415 horsepower and 442 pound feet of torque, 0-60 time of 4.5 seconds, 10-speed auto tranny.
  • Volvo V90: this is an S90 wagon, and brings to 3 models that have Volvo’s new design language, including and especially the gorgeous interior.
  • Alfa Romeo Stelvio: an all-new utility on the same platform as the recently introduced Giulia (still can’t buy it, though). Like the Giulia, Stelvio will be available with either a 2.0L I4 with 280hp & 306 torque on the base model. Upgrade to the Quadrifoglio and you get a 2.9L twin turbo with 505hp & 443 torque. Score!
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2016 Detroit Auto Show

16th January 2016

2016 Detroit Auto Show

Welcome to Detroit, where we should be proud enough these days to actually call our auto show The Detroit Auto Show again (it’s been called “North American” since 1989). Then again, if he keeps buying properties in the city, we might have to rename the city “Gilbert”, or maybe “Dan” so we can keep calling it “The D”.

General Motors

  • 2017 Chevy Cruze Hatchback It’s the new Cruze with a backpack. On sale this fall, the hatch will not be available in the lower versions, L & LS. Only available on the LT and Premier versions. It’s quite good looking, maybe the sleeper of the show. If it were to be available with a more powerful engine (2.0L Turbo, mayhaps?), Slandy might very well be interested. Not a big fan of the spoiler; I would delete it if it’s an option to do so.

The 2017 Cruze Hatch offers the design, engineering and technolo

  • 2017 Bolt EV As promised, Chevy introduced the production version of the concept shown last year. Details are sparse, but Chevy claims “more than 200 miles of range on a full charge” and that it will go on sale by the end of 2016.

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  • 2017 GMC Acadia the big crossover shrunk in the wash and is now a midsize. It will be more than 7 inches shorter, 3.5 inches narrower and 700 pounds lighter than its predecessor. It’s on a new version of the same Lambda platform. GM is mum on whether Acadia’s siblings (Chevy Traverse and Buick Enclave) will also downsize when they are redesigned. Standard engine is a 2.5L, and a new 3.6L V6 is optional. While this new Acadia is certainly good looking, intentionally moving it to compete directly with some of the biggest sellers in SUV-dom is a mistake. Yes, Acadia is moving to a larger segment, but that larger segment also has many very good competitors already in it. GMC is a fringe brand, and I think this move will ultimately hurt sales.

 

  • Buick Avista Concept quite the stunner – both the car itself and the fact that Buick might very well have the best concept car in the show for the 2nd year in a row (“that’s not a Buick..”). It’s a RWD coupe, vaguely reminds me of the dearly departed Toyota Solara and of the Honda Accord Coupe. The grille/logo look like it was lifted off a Chrysler dealer’s lot. There’s a lot of buzz about it. Will Buick make it? Buick is coy, saying only that “if the customers want it…”. One thing is clear, though. If they DO make it, it damn well better be named Riviera.

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  • Buick Envision Buick needed a midsize crossover to slot in between the large Enclave and the minute Encore. Instead of spending many $ designing a new vehicle, Buick will import the Envision basically off-the-shelf from China. It will be the first vehicle imported from China to be sold in the US market. Will customers care? Will they even know? Likely not, on both questions. Envision is a little bigger than a Ford Escape and comes with a 2.0L Turbo 4 with 252 hp and a 6-speed auto tranny. All-wheel drive is standard. Goes on sale in the 2nd quarter.

2016 Buick Envision

 

  • Cadillac CT6 is Caddy’s new big sedan. Think of it as an XL-size CTS (which is, in turn, a size L ATS).

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  • Cadillac XT5 is essentially a new SRX, but conforming to Cadillac’s new drug-induced naming scheme. It’s really good looking, with some cool features, like the ability to switch the rear-view mirror to camera mode. This shows the rear view based on what the camera sees, and projects it onto the mirror. No blind spots from the car or from passengers’ heads, etc. It seems very intuitive, but you’d have to see it for yourself to fully get it.

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Ford

  • 2017 Ford Fusion Fusion gets a mild freshening on the exterior and some other major improvements elsewhere, including a rotary shift knob for the transmission (like Chrysler has had for a few years) and the addition of the Fusion V6 Sport – a performance sedan unlike anything in the segment with a twin-turbocharged 2.7-liter EcoBoost V6 delivering a projected 325 horsepower and 350 torques. There are also improvements to the 2 hybrid versions and the addition of a new top-of-the-line Platinum model.
  • Ford F-150 is not new, but has a really cool new feature called Pro Trailer Backup Assist. which uses a dial on the dash to steer the truck while backing up with a trailer. There’s a demo if you go to the show. Really worth it to check out this new innovative feature. If you can’t, go to YouTube to see a demo there. The new F-150 Raptor SuperCrew is also launched.
  • 2017 Ford Super Duty will be all-new in 2017, following the lead of F-150 with an aluminum alloy body on top of a steel frame

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  • 2017 Lincoln Continental really nice looking overall, but unlike other Ford/Lincoln products, the design is unoriginal and cobbled together from elements of other cars. To wit: the headlamps from Audi, grille from Jaguar, rear-end is vaguely Hyundai. Cool features: controls on the right rear door move the front passenger seat forward to create even more room for a chauffeured owner to stretch out, button-activated “e-latch” door handles integrated into the chrome beltline, From the inside, the doors open via a button instead of a handle, Lincoln-exclusive 3.0-liter turbo V-6 produces 400 hp and 400 pounds-feet of torque, front-wheel drive is standard, AWD is available.

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Continental Door Handle

  • Ford Escape gets a mild freshening for 2017. New grille, headlamps and taillamps. No big deal, but definitely looks nicer.

Fiat Chrysler

  • 2017 Chrysler Pacifica is a complete makeover of Chrysler’s minivan. Why they changed the name is beyond me. The typical BS answer when asked this question is that the old name had “baggage”. In this case, there is no baggage with Town & Country. Any baggage in with the segment itself. {rant over} It has the 200’s front-end and a rear-end that looks a little like the Kia Soul. It will be available as a plug-in hybrid that can run 30 miles on a charge before the V-6 engine takes over. Gasoline-powered models can be ordered with all-wheel drive. The Stow ‘n Go rear seating system has been re-engineered and now is far simpler to use (according to Chrysler, but a demo was not available). It will also include KeySense, Chrysler’s version of the Ford MyKey and GM’s Teen Driver, in which the key fob can be programmed with speed limits, audio-volume limits and a lock-out that prevents the disabling of safety systems.

2017 Chrysler Pacifica

2017 Chrysler Pacifica

  • Fiat 124 Spider is a Mazda Miata with a different powertrain and styling. Looks awesome, and I want 1 (maybe 2).

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  • Fiat 500 Stormtrooper I’m not sure that’s what they called it, but it’s likely close enough. Just a fun little car just sitting there with all the other cars. No signs or other attempts at attention.

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  • Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio You don’t think the 276 hp in the Giulia is enough? How about 505 from a bi-turbo 2.9L V6?

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Toyota

  • 2017 Lexus LC500 (World Debut) Absolute stunner. Really nice design…

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…until you get to the GRILLE

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Honestly Lexus, Toyota, or whoever is responsible for this, there’s a time to put down your pencil and call it done. The only thing I can say positive about the GRILLE is it’s distinctive.

  • Lexus LF-FC Concept is a really nice concept – appears to be much bigger than any current Lexus. It’s a fuel cell car (hence the “FC” part of the name)

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  • Scion C-HR concept Scion seems to be trying to “out Nissan” Nissan. The only way to describe this that came to mind is a Nissan Juke on an acid trip.

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  • Toyota FCV Plus is just weird

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BMW

  • BMW M2 is the car we’ve all been waiting for! As other BMWs have become bloated monsters that are the antithesis of The Ultimate Driving Machine, the 2 has been a breath of fresh air from Munich. Comes with a 3.0L I6 engine with 362 horsepower and 343 torques. 0-60 flies by in 4.1 seconds. Starts at $51,700. Get in line…behind me!

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Nissan

  • Nissan IDS Concept

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  • TITAN Warrior Concept (apparently, you have to capitalize TITAN) this is an off-road performance version of the new TITAN

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  • Infiniti Q60 is a great-looking sports coupe that comes with either a 2.0L turbo or a 3.0L turbo

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Honda

  • 2017 Honda Ridgeline on sale this spring, it’s a Honda Pilot with a bed, shares platform with Pilot/Odyssey, 6-speed, front or AWD, cargo under rear seat, an audio system in the bed that works, not with speakers that can be easily damaged by the elements or by cargo, but with an advanced system that makes sound by exciting the bedliner material. There’s cargo under the pickup bed, but it’s at the expense of the depth of the cargo area (see photo below). Speaking of the pickup bed, the tailgate opens both ways (“country AND western…”). It opens down, like other pickups, and from the side, to give better access to what’s in the bed (see photos). All that said, this is a WAY better-looking truck than the last Ridgeline.

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  • Acura Precision concept: Acura says the car is going to shape the direction of all future Acuras and that the design language will transfer to smaller cars such as the ILX. It’s quite to looker. Acura will do itself good by using this look on future models.

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Daimler

  • 2017 Mercedes-Benz E-Class goes on sale this summer. It’s been redesigned and now includes a standard 4 cylinder engine for the first time. It has less horsepower, with 241 hp (and 273 torques), but is also lighter. Further model variants will be added after launch.
  • Mercedes-AMG SLC this is the newest sports car from Mercedes. It’s a freshened and renamed SLK. The base version comes with a 2.0L turbo four-cylinder engine with 241 hp. The AMG version comes with a 3.0-liter, V-6 engine with 362 hp.

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  • Mercedes-AMG S63 4MATIC Cabriolet “Edition 130” (World Debut): celebrates the 130 years since Carl Benz and Gottlieb Daimler invented the automobile. Special paint, cabrio top color, special leather, badges, a car cover, and key ring. Only 130 will be made.

Hyundai-Kia

  • Genesis brand Hyundai is taking its 2 most expensive cars, Genesis and Equus, and putting them into a new luxury brand called Genesis. Also giving the 2 cars new names.
  • Genesis G90 is the car formerly known as the Hyundai Equus
  • Genesis G80 is the old Hyundai Genesis
  • Kia Telluride Concept Kia says this is purely a concept, but these things are typically more than that, even if they’re not. It’s almost the same size as a Ford Explorer, which is not likely a coincidence.

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Volkswagen

  • VW Tiguan GTE Active Concept previews the design of the long-wheelbase Tiguan arriving in the US in 2017 (no word on whether a Diesel will be available). Its headlights, grille, hood, front fenders and rear taillights will all appear on the U.S. Tiguan. The concept has bigger wheels and off-road tires, additional ground clearance, tougher body panels and VW’s 4Motion all-wheel-drive system (and a goofy panel on the roof). The new concept is based on the five-passenger Tiguan that recently went on sale in Europe, while U.S. models will get an extra 3.5 inches of wheelbase.

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  • Audi h-tron quattro concept

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Others

  • VLF Automotive Force 1 V10: take a Dodge Viper, give it a carbon fiber body, add dozens of ducts and vents, and a luxurious interior. That’s the Force 1. The combination of Henrik Fisker and Bob Lutz is all you really need to know about this…except the 8.4-liter V10 engine with 745 horsepower. Price starts at $268,500. The Force 1 has 21-inch wheels and super-thin slit-like headlights. The car can reach a top speed of 218 mph and can go from 0-60 mph in 3 seconds. Wow – if that can’t put a smile on your face, check your pulse. You might not have one.

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  • Volvo XC90 and S90 These 2 cars are simply gorgeous inside and out. XC90 won North American Truck of the Year. I group them together because they seem to share the same interior and some exterior elements, including the portrait-oriented touchscreen shown below. Wood is employed very judiciously and it’s beautiful. Not with many layers of polish; it appears to be raw wood. You can feel the grain as you rub your hand across it, which you WILL do. It’s impossible to not do it. The interior has a wow factor that no other car I can think of has.

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  • Mazda CX-9 is the one actually large vehicle from Mazda. They’ve incorporated their SkyActiv system on this large crossover, making it light and responsive (for a big crossover, that is).

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  • Falcon F7 is a sports car made in Holly, Michigan powered by a mid-mounted GM 7.0-liter LS7 V-8 modified to 620 hp and 600 torques. A new Falcon F7 costs approximately $295,000 for the standard 620hp model and $395,000 for the twin-turbo 1100hp (yes, eleven-hundred horsepower) version.

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The 2016 Slandy Awards®

Slandy Best in Show Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio

SBIS Honorable Mention Honda Civic, Acura Precision concept, Chevrolet Cruze Hatch, Chrysler Pacifica, Lexus LC500, VLF Force 1 V10, Volvo  XC90

WATT BMW once again has no manuals on display. As said in this space before, “WATT?” I know that modern dual-clutch transmissions can be faster than a conventional manual, but I guess they don’t want to be “The Ultimate Driving Machine” anymore. Save the Manuals!

Display Most True to Its Home Market Volvo’s display easily is the most distinctive, but for an unexpected reason. In a space in which other brands would cram 8-10 cars, Volvo has…3. The space is open and airy, with an attractive wood floor. It just seems so…Swedish. Perfect.

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Only in Detroit Award Only in Detroit will you find more people examining the underbody display of the new Lexus LC500…

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than you will checking out the actual car!

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Full disclosure: these were taken during “Industry Preview” when all the engineers from the auto companies and their suppliers come in and measure everything.

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2015 Detroit Auto Show

18th January 2015

Welcome to the 2015 Detroit Auto Show, where we once again have a mayor who’s actually in charge (it’s the little things…). Here’s a rundown of the major introductions and other cars & trucks to make sure you don’t miss.

Chevrolet

2016 Volt: 50 miles on a charge, up from 38. New styling inside and out. Looks great, but also like a Honda Civic.

Bolt Concept: pure electric concept car. Said to have range of 200 miles and a price of under $30K. Since when do concepts have a price? That’s just stupid. To imagine what it looks like, imagine the offspring of a Chevy Sonic (for size), any random Honda (for styling) and a Ram ProMaster (for headlight placement). Now that’s a 3-way!

Buick

Cascada: a premium 4-passenger convertible, which Buick obviously stole from Opel (just look at the grille), the Cascada is powered (if you can call it that) by a 1.6L turbo with 200HP. Speaking of 3-ways, this one gets VW’s lamps/front end, the Opel grille and the overall look and backend of a Chrysler Sebring/200.

Avenir: this is a stunner. It borrows a little from the Porsche Panamera in the rear, but mostly it’s a clean-sheet styling exercise that really works. It’s a big 2+2 configuration with beautiful lines. I hope that build it.

Nissan

2016 Titan: all-new pickup. The current Titan has never caught on in the US, at least partly due to the lack of customization options which pickup buyers want. Nissan addresses this with 3 available engines (including its first V6 and a 5.0L V8 Cummins Diesel option), the 3 normal cab configurations (regular, extended, crew) and 3 bed lengths (5.5 feet, 6.5 feet and 8 feet). It will be the largest Diesel in a light-duty truck. Nissan claims the Titan XD bridges a gap between light-duty pickups and heavy-duty pickups. XD means “eXtra Duty” and includes a beefed up frame and suspension. It will be available with the Diesel or V8 gas engine. The base Titan will be available with either gas engine. The new Titan certainly looks the part. Time will tell if US buyers will take the bait. On sale late 2015.

Alfa Romeo

4C Spider: the topless version of the 4C. Stunning good looks, great power. Like a “cheap” Ferrari. If by cheap you mean $70K (Slandy estimate). Has a turbo 1.75L engine with 237HP. Doesn’t sound like much until you realize that those horsies are only pushing around less than 2500 lbs. Sweet!

Ford

GT: the return of the iconic sports car from last decade. This new iteration is dramatically more extroverted. Powered by a V6 EcoBoost engine making more than 600HP. Extensive use of lightweight materials, including carbon fiber, will give the GT “one of the best power-to-weight ratios of any production car.” Goes into production in 2016…we have to wait a year for this? Ford, you’re such a tease. Optional equipment will include drool cups and bibs.

Mustang Shelby GT350R: the most track-ready Mustang ever. A new 5.2L V8 with a flat-plane crankshaft, which allows the engine the breathe better at high speeds, produces “more than 500HP” making it the most powerful naturally-aspirated production engine ever from Ford. To go with the track intentions, it has aggressive aerodynamics and liberal use of carbon fiber. To further reduce weight, Ford removed the air conditioner, stereo, rear seats, among others. This is a serious track package, not a Hertz special.

2017 F-150 SVT Raptor: the off-road special adopts the new aluminum body of the regular F-150, drops the 6.2L V8 for a 3.5L EcoBoost and picks up a 10-speed transmission (you read that right). This is 1 badass truck! Not on sale until Fall, 2016. L

Edge: not yet available, but already introduced. The new Edge borrows some styling from the Fusion and has a new powertrain lineup. It has a new 2.0L EcoBoost (not to be confused with the old 2.0L EcoBoost), a 3.5L V6 which carries over from the current Edge and a new 2.7L V6 EcoBoost, which it shares with the F-150 and Lincoln MKX.

Mercedes-Benz

F 015 Research Vehicle: really pushes the styling envelope. As its name implies, this vehicle is not intended for sale. It is meant to explore autonomous driving, and Mercedes-Benz’s vision of autonomous driving is more than merely transport. It’s a mobile living space, and that’s reflected in the dramatically radical interior. Check it out. It’s not like anything you’ve seen before.

GLE-class: this new model will replace the M-Class in Mercedes’ lineup. It’s the same body type as the BMW X6, Toyota Venza and the Honda Crosstour. In other words, I hate it. This body-style can trace its roots to the much-maligned Pontiac Aztec (may it rest in peace). It’s not quite a car, not quite an SUV. It’s a shape in search of a segment, and it failed.

Volkswagen

Cross Coupe GTE Concept: though a “concept” this is a preview of the new 3-row crossover that is in VW’s near future. It’s quite good looking, in that typical VW way. Looks solid, tight. Not overly expressive, nor bland. It walks the line in the middle. Nobody will be offended or bored by it. The overall shape and the rear (tail lamps in particular) seem to be channeling the Jeep Grand Cherokee a bit. OK, maybe a lot.

BMW

New 2016 6-series (coupe, convertible, Gran Coupe): a mild facelift for the 3 flavors of the BMW 6. It was already a great-looking car, so they got out the comb, Fonzie-style, and decided that they already looked so good – why bother changing anything?

Porsche

911 Targa GTS: the Targa introduced last year, with more power. Because they can, that’s why.

Cayenne Turbo S: ditto

Acura

NSX: it’s finally here (yawn). Acura has teased us so much over the past decade that the actual intro doesn’t seem so exciting (Ed: it’s only been 4 years. Really? Seems longer.). And that’s a shame, because this is a really cool car, with great styling and great power. Also working against it is the unfortunate timing of the intro: 2½ hours AFTER Ford introduced its GT. Oops. Somebody got their thunder stolen.

Audi

2016 Q7: Audi’s flagship SUV gets a total makeover. More wagon-like stance and revised front end, and with an aluminum-intensive structure, Audi claims the Q7 has lost over 700 pounds. This will translate into improved fuel econ and better performance. Powering the Q7 are 2 3.0L engines: a supercharged gas V6 (333HP) and a turbo Diesel V6 (272HP). Later, the Q7 will add a plug-in Diesel hybrid (373HP), which Audi claims will achieve 138MPG and go 38 miles on a charge. The Q7 was also awarded “Best Designed Interior” by EyesOn Design at the show.

Q3: is finally coming to the US market, refreshed and ready to go. In this market, it will only include the 2.0L gas engine. Like all Audis, this is a really good-looking car. Front wheel drive is standard, but Quattro is optional, of course. Prices start at $32,500.

Toyota

2016 Tacoma: all new truck, but you wouldn’t really know it by looking at it. The engines include a 4 cyl and a V6. The 3.5L V6 has both direct and port injection, which is rare. The V6 can also be had with either a 6-speed manual (yeah!) or 6-speed auto. Has a really nice interior. New for 2016 is a TRD off-road version.

Mirai: this is a fuel cell vehicle, coming late this year. If you don’t know what a fuel cell is, you’re not alone. Most people don’t. It’s an electric car, but the electricity is not stored in a battery, like electrics you can buy today. It uses hydrogen gas and air to generate the electricity. The only exhaust is water. Many automakers are working on these. Mirai price is $57,500, but you’ll be able to lease it for $499/month with $3649 down – but only in California to California residents who live near a hydrogen fueling station. So, like 3 people. It has 153 HP/247 torques, gets up to 300 miles on a fill. It only takes 5 minutes to fill with hydrogen (take THAT Nissan Leaf & Tesla). Also qualifies for the HOV lanes in California and is zero emission. So, how does it look? Maybe a little quirky, but pretty nice.

MINI

John Cooper Works: the most extroverted of the MINI family of extroverts is back. I love the idea and the powertrain is hot, but the styling is something only a 15 year old could love.

Superleggera: this concept is striking in its combination of the MINI personality with an Italian roadster. The Union Jack tail lamps are a great touch.

Bentley

The SUV has a name, and it is…Bentayga. “Fastest, most luxurious, most exclusive SUV in the world. In other words, it’s going to be the Bentley of SUVs.” On sale in 2016. Get your home equity line of credit pre-approval now! Oh, and it’s not at the show. The name was all there was.

Hyundai

Santa Cruz Concept truck: an interesting concept, it’s a unibody pickup truck. Think Subaru Brat or (for you old-timers) Chevy El Camino.

Sonata plug-in hybrid: 22 electric miles, combined 93 MPG. Nothing new to look at though.

Volvo

S60 Inscription: the Inscription is an upscale version of the S60 sedan with premium materials and increased rear seat legroom (Volvo claims best-in-class legroom).

S60 Cross Country: Volvo brings its Cross Country capability and stance to the S60 sedan. Volvo says it’s the sole contender in the luxury crossover sedan segment. I guess if you can’t compete in your segment, make up a new one.

Local Motors

3D printed car: you totally have to check out the car being “printed”. It’s really cool.

Infiniti

Q60 Coupe concept: explores where the Q60 coupe could go in the future, giving it a sleeker, more menacing look. Very nice – if they actually make it.

Lexus

GS F: not to be confused with the GS F-Sport, this is a true sport edition of the GS. 5.0L V8 with 467HP (but only 389 torques), this GS certainly looks the part. Its looks, however, are spoiled by an overly dramatic version of Lexus’ spindle grille. On other cars, it’s not quite so bad, but on this (and the RC F as well), it’s fugly. Being bold, dramatic and different is sometimes good, but not always.

Ram

Ram Rebel: this is Ram’s answer to Ford’s Raptor. Bold, expressive styling; big, meaty tires; increased ride height (thanks to the air suspension already optional on the Ram 1500); and unique interior accents (including Rebel stitching on the seats, red accents throughout the interior and a tire-tread pattern on the front seats). Like the Raptor, this is one badass truck!

Cadillac

CTS-V: supercharged 6.2L V8 making 640HP/630 torques, top speed of 200MPH, 0-60 in 3.7 seconds. Really, what else is there to say? MPG? If you have to ask, this car isn’t for you. The negative is that the only tranny is an 8-speed auto. On sale late summer.

ATS-V: already introduced in LA last fall, the ATS-V makes its first appearance in Detroit. Take the already superb ATS chassis and add a 3.6L twin-turbo V6 (455HP/445 torques), you get a 0-60 time in 3.9 seconds and a top speed of 185+ MPH. You can have either the 6-speed manual with Active Rev Match, no-lift shifting and launch control or an 8-speed auto with paddle shift, launch control and Performance Algorithm Shift (whatever that means). Pricing isn’t available yet, but you’ll have to get behind me to buy it anyway.

Lincoln

MKX: this is a gorgeous car, make no mistake. That said, it looks WAY too much like the smaller, recently introduced MKC. Under the hood, things get different. The standard engine is the 3.7L V6. No change there. The optional engine is a 2.7L twin-turbo EcoBoost V6 (330+HP/ 370+torques). It also has 2 new Black Label editions to really dress things up and Ford’s new adaptive steering system, which changes the steering ratio depending on speed. On sale this fall.

Honda

HR-V: already introduced in L.A., the HR-V enters the growing compact SUV market. Like the NSX, the HR-V has been shown several times in various concept forms. This time, it’s for real. Power comes from a 1.8L engine with 138HP and 127 torques. Comes with either a CVT or a 6-speed manual (2WD models only for the stick). Nice-looking and exactly what you might expect from Honda in this segment.

The 2015 Slandy Awards®

Slandy Best in Show: Ford GT (duh)

SBIS Honorable Mention: Jaguar F-Type (not new, but now with 50% more pedals!), Cadillac CTS-V, Toyota Mirai, Mazda Miata, Buick Avenir

WATT*: Acura NSX announcement. They teased us for YEARS, only to lose the spotlight completely to the Ford GT.

Best feature you never heard of: instead of detents to stop the car door at certain spots, the BMW 750 has hydraulic door actuators that replace the normal part with the detents. The hydraulic part allows the door to stop in its tracks at any point along the travel of the door. This is especially useful when you have limited space, and the next detent will cause your door to hit something (a wall or another car). It may sound trivial, but this is a very impressive piece of engineering. I’ve never seen this on another vehicle (though maybe somebody else has it). I’m very impressed.

Brand Identity Crisis: Bentley. It occurred to me as I was sitting in the purple Continental GT Speed that this brand thinks of itself as a mix/combination of Rolls Royce and MINI. It really wants to be taken seriously as a high-end luxury brand, but then it wants to be a “fun” brand. I think they’re making it work, but it’s slightly schizophrenic.

*In case you’ve never read The Slandy Report and you’re not familiar with this award – what the heck is wrong with you? Read The Slandy Report! It’s awesome! Anyway, WATT is the What Are They Thinking award.

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2014 Detroit Auto Show

18th January 2014

{cue the Sanford & Son theme song} Welcome to Detroit, where everything is for sale! Belle Isle…already sold to the state! Priceless art at the Detroit Institute of Arts…make an offer! You want a building downtown? Sorry, they’ve all been sold to Dan Gilbert! Oh, you want a car? Well, we’ve got those too! Thousands of them, just waiting to be adopted by a nice family…or you. Read on for the bios of the best of these lovely children just looking for a good home (or yours).

Ford
2015 F-150: new look with LED lamps, bold new grille. New engine 2.7L EcoBoost with start/stop. HP and torque are TBD officially, but expect about 325 horsepower and 350 torques. New features: 360-degree camera view, Integrated loading ramps, Remote tailgate, 8-inch LCD “productivity screen”, inflatable seatbelts for rear passengers, curve control, adaptive cruise control, lane keeping and blind spot warning. A first in the segment, F-150 will now have an aluminum body. Seeking to cutoff criticism of aluminum at the knees, Ford calls it “High-strength, military-grade, aluminum alloys – already used in aerospace, commercial transportation, energy and many other rugged industries”

2015 Mustang: first in-person look at the new Pony car, revealed late last year. The new ‘stang is instantly recognizable as a Mustang, but it’s all new at the same time. This is exactly what Ford needed to do with an icon like Mustang. The design is no longer retro, except for some of the switches inside. The 3.7L V6 and the 5.0L V8 carry on and are now joined by a 2.3L EcoBoost making over 300HP and 300 torques.

Ford Edge Concept: previewing the next-generation Edge, this crossover is larger than the current model, and really nice looking. It’s full of advanced technology, but who knows how much of it will make it to production?

2015 Lincoln MKC: we saw the concept last year. Now it’s time for the real deal. Maybe not quite as striking as the concept (but then when are any cars?), the MKC is still quite the looker. Available this summer.

Transit Connect: this homely commercial van is homely no longer. It’s actually downright beautiful compared to its predecessor. It’s also more powerful. Also new for 2014 is a passenger version. Ford is back in the minivan segment.

Toyota
FT-1 Concept: this concept’s “audacious” styling is very aggressive and a far cry from Toyota’s usual offerings. It is, however, a concept. While no specs are given, other than “front engine, rear drive”, if you squint, the shape evokes the Scion FR-S. Did the FT-1 start out like as the Scion? Not sure, but it certainly looks like it might have. Either way, it’s very cool and worth a look.

2015 Lexus RC F: high-performance version of the RC Coupe, already shown at the 2013 Tokyo Motor Show late last year. The base RC, a rear-drive 4-passenger coupe, is based on the GS platform, and will come with either a 3.5L V6 (RC 350) or a 2.5L Hybrid powertrain (RC 300h). The “F” ups the ante with a 5.0L 32-valve V8, making “more than 450” hp and “more than 383” torques. Its styling is also amped up, giving it a much more aggressive look than its tamer sibling.

Toyota FCV Concept: really cool looking car, and it runs on hydrogen. Don’t look for it at a dealer anytime soon, as fuel cells are still a ways off from being commercially viable. The research continues though, and it’s nice to look at.

Chrysler-FIAT
Chrysler 200: redesigned inside and out. LED lamps (especially in the back) give the new 200 an Audi-esque look, and that’s a good thing. This is quite an upgrade from the present 200. Better in every way. Looks great inside and out. It has carryover engines, though now matched with a segment-first 9-speed tranny. The dirty parts are derived from the same place as the Dodge Dart. If you know what to look for, the 200 shares some styling / parts with the Dart. AWD is a new addition, and it completely disconnects from the rear wheels when not in use to save gas. Strange that in the unveiling, Chrysler brand CEO Al Gardner called the 200 Chrysler’s flagship. Don’t tell the 300. It might get angry, and you wouldn’t like it when it’s angry.

GM
Corvette Z06: menacing new looks with improved aerodynamics and “unprecedented” downforce, supercharged 6.2L V8, with 625 horsepower and 635 torques. Automatic tranny will be available, meaning that the 3-pedal-challenged among you can attain stupid speeds and risk your lives too. Three cheers for equality!

2015 GMC Canyon: the GMC twin of the Chevy Colorado already seen. Looks like a Sierra that shrunk in the wash. Available in extended cab and crew cab, 2 box lengths and 2 engines (2.5L I4 and 3.6L V6) at launch. A 2.8L Diesel engine will be available for 2016.

2015 ATS Coupe: looks pretty much exactly as you would expect, which is very good. The 2.5L I4 base engine from the sedan is not available with the coupe, making the excellent 2.0L Turbo (272HP / 295 torques) the base engine. The 3.6L V6 (321 / 275) is optional. A true, 3-pedal manual is available, but only with the turbo. The truly big news here is that the 2015 ATS Coupe will be the first appearance of Cadillac’s new…wait for it…badge! Honestly, if you make that big of a deal about a badge, you need more to do. And frankly, we don’t need no stinking badges.

Mercedes-Benz
2015 C-Class: redesigned for 2015, the C moves up in size and price to make sure the CLA (See below) has room to maneuver. The C300 sports a 235 HP, 273-torques 2.0-liter turbo. The C400 has a 329 HP, 354-torques 3.0-liter turbo. AWD will be standard, though RWD is expected later. Much better looking inside and out. Production moves to the U.S. for this new model.

S-Class Coupe: why an S-Class Coupe? Why not? Mercedes, like its friends at BMW and Audi, continues to explore and fill niches that we never knew existed (and neither did they).

CLA: see niche comment above. New smaller sedan, starting at $30,000. Inexpensive is not the problem. The problem is that the CLA looks and feels cheap. That might fly in Europe, where M-B product spans a much wider range. Here in the U.S., they are taking a big risk with this product. The AMG model is way better and nicer.

GLA: see niche comment above. This is a small crossover version of the CLA. Only the AMG version is shown.

Hyundai
2015 Genesis: engines are the same, but that’s about all. The new Genesis moves up in styling and luxury, gets a new ZF 8-Speed tranny and AWD is now available.

Kia GT4 Stinger Concept: very stylish 2+2 coupe. The general shape seems to be channeling the Jaguar E-Type. Powered by a 2L turbo with 315HP.

Kia K900: Kia’s first entry in the large premium segment, following cousin Hyundai Equus. The K900 will be available early next year.

Kia Soul: minor update to the best-selling subcompact. Already on sale.

Honda
2015 Fit: fairly major freshening. It’s smaller on the outside and roomier on the inside. More power and better fuel economy (estimated to be 33 city / 41 city). Goes into production next month at a new plant in Mexico, marking the first time the Fit will be made in North America.

2015 Acura TLX: TLX replaces the TL and TSX in Acura’s lineup, and it goes on sale mid year. The TLX is a nice-looking car, despite retaining the ugly, guillotine grille that all Acuras have had for the last few years. 2 powertrains will be offered: a 2.4L I4 with an 8-speed dual-clutch transmission and Precision All-Wheel Steer™ (P-AWS) or a 3.5L V6 with a 9-speed auto and either P-AWS or Super-Handling All Wheel Drive™ (SH-AWD™). I feel like a broken record, but Acura really needs to fire Wylie Coyote from their marketing department.

Nissan
Sport Sedan Concept: really cool looking car, stupid name. Maybe Nissan can hire Wylie Coyote? Though it looks more like Volvo’s current design language, this car is beautiful and Nissan says they expect to build it. Maybe the next-gen Maxima or Altima?

Infiniti Q50 Eau Rouge Concept: a high performance version of the new Q50 sedan. I’ve never heard words like this used for a car introduction, “If we built this car I would expect it to feature over 500hp and 600 lb-ft torque.” Anyway, it looks great, but maybe Infiniti needs to hire Wylie Coyote too? He likely would have consulted urbandictionary.com before deciding on the name.

Infiniti Q30 Concept: already shown in LA, the Q30 shows where Infiniti is headed next – into the compact luxury utility segment, along with…well…everybody.

BMW
M3 & M4: the new M is here…the new M is here!! 425 HP/406 torques, 3.0L twin-turbo I6, 0-60 in 3.9 seconds. What’s not to love?

2-Series: continues BMW’s new model designations, which move the coupes and convertibles to even numbers and leaves the sedans as odd numbers. The 2-Series is larger than the 1-Series coupe it replaces, and will offered as a 228i ($33,025 base price) and M235i ($44,025). On sale any minute now.

2014 Mini Cooper: the Mini Hardtop is new inside and out (but you wouldn’t notice it unless you really know what to look for). The base model now comes with a turbo 3-cylinder engine that makes more HP than the prior 4-cylinder engine (134 vs. 121). The Cooper S engine is bumped up from 1.6L to 2.0L, increasing power to 189 from 181. Mini expects 25% improvement in fuel economy from the base, which would make its combined number 36-37. Fuel economy on the Cooper S is TBD, but considering its displacement increase only results in 8 HP and a LOSS of 33 torques, fuel econ should be going up significantly as well.

Volkswagen
Audi A8/S8: mild freshening of Audi’s flagship sedan. Revised front and rear design, new technology and more horsepower for the 4.0L V8 (435 from 420). On sale this summer.

Audi allroad shooting brake Concept: a look at the upcoming 2015 TT? This looks like the offspring of an Audi TT and a Volvo C30 coupe, and foreshadows the design of the new TT, though the TT will not be a shooting brake/crossover/electric. Take the front design and the rear design and give it the old TT’s middle, and there you have the new TT. Capisce?

2015 Audi A3/S3: already shown in LA, the new A3 family includes the A3 sedan, S3 sedan, A3 cabriolet and A3 Sportback e-tron® gasoline electric plug-in hybrid. The A3 looks very much like a small, premium sedan – inside and out. Engines include 1.8L turbo, 2.0L turbo, 2.0L Diesel, 1.4L Turbo with the plug-in and a high output 2.0L turbo on the S3. Sales begin in the spring.

Porsche 911 Targa: just like legendary 911 Targa of yore, the new models feature the distinctive Targa roof bar, a movable front roof section, and a wraparound rear window. But unlike those classics, the roof segment can be opened and closed at the push of a button. The fully automatic roof system stows the Targa top behind the rear seats. Cool, yes? The Targa will be offered only as AWD models: Targa 4 and Targa 4S. The 911 Targa 4 will have an MSRP of $101,600, while the 911 Targa 4S model will have an MSRP of $116,200.

Porsche Macan: introduced at the LA Auto Show in November, the Macan is the “mini-me” to the Cayenne SUV. The Macan S comes with a 3.0L twin turbo V6, making 340HP / 339 torques and a 7-speed PDK transmission. 0-60 is achieved in 5.2 seconds. It has a base price of $49,900. The Macan Turbo has a 3.6L twin turbo with the same tranny. It makes 400 / 406, goes to 60 in 4.4 seconds and costs $72,300. While these stats are certainly awesome, and Porsche is likely to sell many of these, at what point does Porsche go too far with its product line breadth? When will customers forget what “Porsche” means and why it is so desirable? In other words, when will Porsche cease being Porsche? I’m not smart enough to know the answers to these questions. I just hope that Porsche management is asking them.

Others
Mazda3: introduced last summer and already on sale, the Mazda3 goes all SKYACTIV on us. It has SKYACTIV manufacturing, SKYACTIV engines and SKYACTIV transmissions. I’ve said it before, SKYACTIV might be the greatest thing since sliced roast beef, but it means nothing to customers. It’s just a word (sort of) that only confuses. Just give us the performance and fuel economy and leave it at that. All that said, the new 3 is a really nice car: it has great looks (like a smaller CX-5), performance and economy.

2015 Subaru WRX STI: the hot car from Subaru gets an update to a new platform, which promises even better handling for its 305HP. AWD helps too.

Volvo XC Coupe Concept: winner of the Eyes on Design award for best concept car, the XC looks a bit like a stretched C30 coupe, but with a radically different front end.

Jaguar C-X17: Jaguar keeps threatening to make a SUV or crossover, and now maybe they will. The C-X17 (great name, BTW) bears more than a passing resemblance to the Land Rover Evoque. This is not likely a coincidence, as they are part of the same company. Damn gorgeous though!

Jaguar F-Type Coupe: hardtop version of the beautiful F-Type. Already shown in Tokyo and LA, the coupe shares all of its mechanicals with its topless friend.

The 2014 Slandy Awards®

Slandy Best in Show: Corvette Stingray Z06
SBIS Honorable Mention: F-150, Mustang, Chrysler 200, Hyundai genesis, Nissan Sport Sedan Concept, BMW M3/M4, Jaguar C-X17
WATT: Mercedes-Benz CLA. Inexpensive is fine; cheap is not.
Bet the Farm: Ford F-150. The F-150 pays all the bills in Dearborn, so any large change better be right.
Oops!: CLA (see above)
Uh-Oh!: Kia K900. Kia enters yet another new segment, causing executives on several continents to up their dose of Mylanta.
Most Annoying Trend: the touchy-feely, pointless naming on some brands/cars. These are internal initiatives for these companies. They are not the type of thing that should be branded on the cars. Some MBAs needed more to do. These include the following, along with the companies’ own definitions of these initiatives in parenthesis:
• Mazda’s “SKYACTIV Technology” (SKYACTIV TECHNOLOGY is a blanket term for Mazda’s innovative new-generation technologies that are being developed under the company’s long-term vision for technology development, Sustainable Zoom-Zoom. The SKYACTIV TECHNOLOGY name is intended to reflect Mazda’s desire to provide driving pleasure as well as outstanding environmental and safety performance in its vehicles. To achieve this goal, Mazda has implemented an internal Building Block Strategy to be completed by 2015. This ambitious strategy involves the comprehensive optimization of Mazda’s base technologies, which determine the core performance of its vehicles, and the progressive introduction of electric devices such as regenerative braking and a hybrid system. All the technologies that are developed based on the Building Block Strategy will fall under the SKYACTIV TECHNOLOGY umbrella)
• Honda’s “Earth Dreams Technology” (“Earth Dreams Technology” is a next generation set of technological advancements which greatly enhance both driving performance and fuel efficiency at a high level, using as its base advanced environmental technologies to pursue the joy of driving unique to Honda. It is a series of measures in which efficiency of internal combustion components including engine, and transmission, as well as electric-powered motor technology, is further improved)
• Nissan’s “Pure Drive” (“PURE DRIVE” is our action to improve fuel economy of engine-powered vehicles. A combination of advanced technology measures are prepared, from the comprehensive energy loss reduction from within the power train, the reduction of needless energy usage through idling stop, to the recovering of the wasted energy using hybrid vehicles. All of this advanced technology is being prepared in order to provide all our customers with good fuel economy vehicles)

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2013 Detroit Auto Show

19th January 2013

This year’s auto show was supposed to be bigger and better than it has in many years. In some respects, it is. More than 50 introductions, big, bold displays from the manufacturers and the companies are making money. However, the show had a certain feel to it that didn’t quite live up to the hype. Sure, there’s a new Corvette and many others, but the big news at Ford is a commercial van that they already sell almost everywhere else in the world. Anyway, read on for the highlights and must-see vehicles at the 2013 Detroit Auto Show. For pictures, go to our Facebook page.

Ford

  • 2014 Transit – it’s a slow show when one of the biggest premiers is also one of the biggest vehicles. The Ford Transit is a box that comes in Transit will be offered in three body lengths; two wheelbases; three roof heights; van, wagon, chassis cab and cutaway bodystyles; 3 engines and in XL and XLT trim levels. If you can’t find a Transit to suit your needs, maybe you didn’t really want a commercial vehicle.
  • 2014 Transit Connect – this is Transit’s little brother. It’s been the ugly ducking of the family, but no longer. New styling for 2014, along with new engines, will make the Transit Connect more appealing.
  • Fusion – not new, but still one of the best-looking vehicles to be introduced in a long time.
  • Atlas Concept – this truck hints at the next-generation F-150, due out of the 2015 model year. Big, bold and aggressive.
  • Lincoln MKZ – built on the same platform as the Ford Fusion, this car is better looking every time I see it. Especially from the rear.
  • Lincoln MKC “Concept” – on sale later this year, the MKC is an entry into the growing small luxury crossover segment. Beautiful design, but they’ll probably have to add door handles when they make it for sale. Just a thought.

Nissan

  • Infiniti Q50 Sedan – the first of the new Infiniti naming plan (“everything’s a Q” – sounds like a Star Trek TNG episode). This is a really nice update to the G37 sedan. Has classic long hood, short deck proportions. The front grille seems to be a copy of Lexus’s new spindle grille design.
  • Nissan Versa Note – an update to the Versa hatchback only. The sedan was updated for 2011.
  • Nissan Resonance Concept – supposedly signals the direction of Nissan’s crossover design. They better ask Volvo if they don’t mind, because this looks like a cross between the Volvo C30 and XC60. It’s good-looking, though, and that’s why it tied for the Eyes on Design Award for best concept.

Hyundai/Kia

  • 2014 Kia Cadenza – as I have pointed out before, styling from Hyundai/Kia tends to be “borrowed” from other vehicles. The Cadenza is really great looking, but has a definite resemblance to the BMW 5 Series.
  • 2014 Kia Forte – nice update to the small sedan. As is customary from Kia, this little guy is loaded with features for its price.
  • 2014 Kia Sorento – see Forte. Same nice updates.
  • Hyundai HCD-14 Concept – hints at the next-gen Genesis. Looks part Audi; part Chrysler 300. See styling comment above. Darn good looking though, especially the lamps – front and back.

Chrysler/Fiat

  • 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee – nice update inside and out. Sports a new 8-speed tranny and a new 3.0L Diesel that will get 30 MPG.
  • Ram Pickups – the light-duty (1500) has been on sale and the heavy-duty (2500-5500) will be on sale soon. They get a nice visual update inside and out, though the overall look is the same. An 8-speed trans with the 3.6L V6 on the 1500 yields 25 MPG highway, best in the pickup segment. The 2500+ get up to 850 lb-ft of torque. You can tow up to 30,000 pounds. Not sure where to stay on your next vacation? Just tow your house!
  • Fiat 500L – the bigger Fiat is basically Fiat’s answer to the Mini Countryman. It’s a 500 for adults (with kids). I should have ordered one when I had the chance.
  • Fiat 500e – all-electric version of the 500. It has a push-button transmission selector where the “regular” shifter is on the “regular” 500.
  • Maserati Quattroporte – I have only 3 things to say about the latest 4-door. Drop. Dead. Gorgeous.

General Motors

  • 2014 Chevrolet Silverado/GMC Sierra – the big pickup gets a major update for 2014, but if they didn’t tell you, would you notice? GM showed the twins last month. This is the first showing in public. Big mistake, in my opinion. They spent a ton of money updating the truck, but then show it about 6 months before you can buy it. This is no win for GM. For folks that really like it, GM just gave them a reason to not buy the current truck (which is already having some trouble). For everybody else, they will wonder why GM is calling it new. It has new, forward hinged rear doors (see Ram Quad Cab), a cool bumper step and a damped tailgate that won’t come crashing down on its own anymore.
  • 2014 Chevrolet Impala – this, more than anything else in GM’s lineup, badly needed an update. It finally gets one, and it’s a good one. It’s no longer an appliance on wheels. The touch screen lifts out of the way to reveal storage space and a USB port. It also has tons of legroom and trunk space.
  • 2014 Chevrolet Corvette (C7) – major update. It’s more exotic looking, more powerful, better fuel economy. Brings back the Stingray name, but GM made way too much of that. They said it was only used for special Corvettes, but it was used on all Corvettes from 1963-1976. Also worth noting is that on “Industry Preview Day” when engineers and others are spending their time measuring anything you can imagine on the cars, everybody at the Corvette display was just standing and staring (maybe drooling). That’s Detroit for you.
  • Cadillac ELR – it’s the offspring of the CTS Coupe and Chevy Volt. The baby got its daddy’s looks and its mommy’s spirit.

Toyota

  • 2014 Lexus IS – adopts a new, aggressive look borrowed from the Lexus LFA. The new look includes new daytime running lamps that seem inspired by Nike. The powertrain is carryover.
  • Toyota Furia Concept – signals that Toyota design has finally woken up. The car shows what the next Corolla will look like. If so, then the next Corolla will be quite the looker. This is one good-looking car.

Volkswagen

  • Porsche Cayenne Turbo S – because the 500 horsepower Cayenne Turbo is just a slacker. 550? Now you’re talking.
  • VW Cross Blue Concept – hints at a new crossover for the VW brand. Bears some resemblance to the Audi Q7. Concept sports a Diesel plug-in hybrid.
  • Audi SQ5 – slaps a turbo 3L V6 into the Q5. 354 hp, 0-62 in 5.3 seconds. 21” wheels.
  • Audi RS7 – the A7 is gorgeous; the S7 is hot, so what do we do next? More power! This hottest of the 7’s has a 4.0L twin turbo good for 560 hp and 516 lb-ft of torque. Get in line behind me.

BMW

  • BMW M6 Gran Coupe – adds “M” power to the gorgeous 6 Series Gran Coupe.
  • BMW 4-Series Coupe Concept – really nice looking. Low and wide. BMW’s naming has been odd numbers for sedans and even for coupes and convertibles. Except for the 3-Series, which has had all 3 body types. BMW fixes that with the 4-Series. Coming soon.

Jaguar

  • XFR-S – adds a 5.8L Supercharged V8 to the lineup, good for 550 hp. $99,000, which is more than twice the base XF model.
  • F-Type – the spiritual successor to the E-Type (clever naming strategy, right?), the F-Type might be the best-looking car at the show. On sale this spring, the prices range from $69,000 – $92,000.

Mercedes-Benz

  • E-Class – new styling looks great, especially the front end. The coupe and cabriolet are more aggressive than the sedan and wagon.

Honda

  • Honda EV-Ster – cool, little open-air EV roadster
  • Honda Urban SUV Concept – hints at a car you can actually buy next year. Styled like the CR-V, but smaller and built on the Fit platform.

Others

  • 2014 Mazda6 – new 3rd generation with SkyActiv Technology. What’s SkyActiv? All you need to know is that it allows Mazda to have cars that are fast, handle great and get great fuel economy – all without expensive hybrid or turbo or other technology. Has the same 2.5L I4 engine as the CX-5 SUV. Why does “SkyActiv” sound like it might be the new James Bond movie?
  • Subaru BRZ – not new, but I really like this car (and its brother, the Scion FR-S). Worth noting that this car is the only vehicle in Subaru’s lineup that is NOT all-wheel drive (AWD).
  • Tesla Model X – to be built on the same platform as Model S, Tesla says this is the SUV of Tesla. Whatever you call it, it’s certainly pleasant to look at, especially with the rear “falcon doors” open. Not gull-wing, but similar. You have to see it to understand, but it’s way cool. Should be priced about the same as a similarly-equipped Model S, meaning starting in the low 60s. Available in about 1½ years.
  • Destino – the Fisker Karma is a great looking car, but has a powertrain that many people might not want, or trust. Enter VL Automotive. They’ve made 2 running prototypes, with more on the way. The car is a Karma, with all of the electric motor removed (and sent back to Fisker for re-use) and replaced with the Supercharged LS9 engine from a Corvette ZR1. Now the Destino has the power to back up the looks. Wow!

The Slandy Awards® 2013

Slandy Best in Show-Production – 2014 Chevrolet Corvette C7.

Slandy Best in Show Concept – Acura NSX. proves that there is still a pulse at Honda and Acura

Honorable Mention (in no particular order) – Maserati Quattroporte, Cadillac ELR, Audi RS7, Tesla Model X, Jaguar F-Type, Destino

WATT – Mini JCW lineup. I get it that Mini is all hip and cool. Probably too cool and hip for me. But honestly? That color scheme? Me thinks they are trying WAY too hard to keep up that cool and hip image.

Trends to watch – Logos and other messages in the headlamps of many vehicles (Jeep Grand Cherokee, Ram pickup, matte finish paint is showing up more and more. See Mercedes-Benz, Audi, Chevrolet

Oops Award – Edsel B. Ford II spotted trying to get into a (locked) Jaguar. He showed a bit of frustration that he couldn’t get in. Sorry, Edsel, you don’t own that company anymore.

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2012 Detroit Auto Show

14th January 2012

5000 international journalists in town? Check. Dozens of world premiers? Check. All of the cars spiffed up and ready for their debuts? Check. Must be time for a cold snap and some snow! Welcome to the 2012 North American International Auto Show, or as we call it here at The Slandy Report, The Detroit Auto Show. Read on for all of the must-see cars and trucks this year!

General Motors
Cadillac ATS
– Caddy finally has a legitimate small car that can rival the best of the world – at least on paper. On sale this summer, the ATS features 3 engine choices (2.5L I-4 with 202HP, 2.0L I-4 Turbo with 270HP and a 3.6L V6 with 320HP), auto and manual (only with the turbo) trannies and RWD or AWD. It is designed to compete with the BMW 3-Series and other small luxury cars (Audi A4 and Mercedes-Benz C-Class). It’s almost the exact same size as the new 3-Series sedan (see below), so a showdown appears imminent.
Chevrolet Sonic RS– you might think that the Sonic RS means that it’s the hot-rod of the lineup, and that’s probabbly what Chevy wants you to think. Sadly, though, it’s mostly just an appearance package, albeit a nice one. It has an upgraded interior, including sport seats, thicker sport steering wheel and aluminum pedals. It also includes four-wheel discs, stiffer suspension and a retuned exhaust, a unique front fascia with a new grille and fog lamps, a new spoiler and rocker moldings, a chrome exhaust tip, and unique wheels.
Chevrolet Tru 140S and Code 130R Concepts– these are both coupes that Chevrolet design crafted over 12 months of interviews and research with Millennials (age 11 to 30) to find out what they want in (or even if they want) a Chevrolet. They both have a 1.4L Turbo with eAssist (mild hybrid). Tru 140S is a front wheel drive that looks way too much like a Mitsubishi Eclipse, but is not unattractive. The Code 130R is more interesting, with cues from Camaro and Malibu, but incorporates them into a new, unique look. It is rear wheel drive. Both are concepts, meaning they are not slated for production anytime soon. Curious, then, that the General chose to list certain features as “optional” in the press material.
2013 Chevrolet Malibu – a minor update visually, but it makes a nice improvement. The rear takes on a Camaro-like presence. The interior of the top of the line LTZ model is particularly nice.
2013 Chevrolet Spark – despite the small stature and weird colors, this is not a toy car. It really works. It’s even bigger than a Fiat 500. Cute. Electric version is also in the works.
Chevrolet MiRay concept – sleek sports car. It has a mid-engine, 1.4L Turbo motor, plus 2 electric motors. Batman’s Chevrolet.
2013 Buick Encore – very small new crossover with a 1.4L Turbo and a 6-speed auto tranny. Front or all-wheel drive. Expected to get 30MPG on the highway. It’s the Enclave’s little brother.
2013 Cadillac XTS – shown here before, this is now the actual production version. Great lines, and has a presence that will command attention on the road. Powered by a 3.6L V6 and comes in front or all-wheel drive.

Chrysler/Fiat
2013 Dodge Dart– all-new entry based on the award-winning Alfa Romeo Giulietta, the Dart combines world-class European architecture with Dodge’s design and attitude. Dodge hasn’t had an entry in the compact car segment for a while, so the Dart is a welcome addition. In addition to great style, the Dart should be a great drive as well. 3 I-4 engine choices (2.0L with 160 HP and 145 lb-ft of torque, 1.4L Turbo with 160/184 and a 2.4L with 184/171), 3 transmissions (6-speed manual, 6-speed auto and 6-speed dual dry clutch), 12 exterior colors, 14 interior trim combos, 6 wheel choices. It will have the 8.4″ touch screen from other Chrysler products and a smart phone app like other products are starting to have. I think Dodge has a winner on its hands – if it can execute the launch flawlessly. Customers are still skeptical of Chrysler, and they won’t need much reason to reject the Dart if there are any problems.
Chrysler 700C Concept – preview of next-gen minivan? Chrysler says no, it’s just a styling exercise. It certainly is interesting to look at. Complex lines. Looks part Mercedes-Benz R-Class from the back. It definitely doesn’t look like any minivan I’ve seen.
Ram is showing a Red Wings edition of its 1500 pickup. Limited appeal, for sure, but Go Wings!
Fiat 500 Abarth – this scorpion-laced version of the little 500 is “small but wicked”. It has a 170HP turbo version of the 500’s basic 1.4L engine. The nice lady showing it off does justice to the other nice lady in the commercial/video for the Abarth. Google it. Trust me.
Maserati Kubang – not the best name in the world, and you might think, “Why does Maserati want to sell an SUV?” The answer might be, “Well, Porsche is selling one, why can’t Maserati?” and that’s good enough for me. The Kubang is actually built on the mechanicals of the Jeep Grand Cherokee, but powered by a Ferrari engine. The looks are all Maserati, which is to say, awesome.

Ford
2013 Ford Fusion– the Fusion has consistently been one of Ford’s best selling vehicles since its introduction in 2005, and the 2013 should only enhance its appeal. It looks great and ups the ante in the midsize segment with class-leading powertrains and fuel economy. Ford dropped the V6 option, so all of the engines are of the 4-cylinder variety. This saves weight in the structure, which allows more efficient architecture and allows other components to be smaller and lighter (like the brakes). This follows the example from the Hyundai Sonata. The base engine is a 2.5L (170HP/170 torque), and is joined by 1.6L EcoBoost (179/172/26 city/37 highway) and 2.0 EcoBoost (237/250) engines, a hybrid (185/130/47 city/44 highway) and the Fusion Energi plug-in hybrid (>100 MPGe – better than the plug-in Toyota Prius and Chevy Volt). A manual will continue to be available, but only with the 1.6 Turbo. AWD will also continue, but only with the 2.0 Turbo. On sale late fall, and will be sold in other markets around the world as the new Mondeo.
2013 Ford Escape– already shown in LA, the Escape is all-new with a look previewed last year by the Vertrek concept. It’s an attractive, but somewhat busy design, and it looks more like something from Hyundai or Kia than from Ford. It has the same gas engines as the new Fusion, so no V6 here either. It also has Ford’s “hands-free liftgate” feature, which opens the liftgate by waving your foot under the rear bumper. Pretty cool.
2013 Focus ST – 247HP in a small package from the 2.0L EcoBoost. Has a big, bold black grille. Nice.
C-Max – “regular” hybrid or plug-in (“Energi”) hybrid versions. It’s like a tall Focus wagon. The plug-in has a special quick charging system. The battery takes up some of the cargo area in both versions, forcing the load floor to be higher by 8″-9″ in the Energi and ~4″ in the hybrid.
Lincoln MKZ “Concept” – not really a concept. Sources tell me that it is 80-85% production intent, including the glass roof. Nice update. The Lincoln display area is very cool as well, separated from the rest of the show by a big fence/wall. Very striking.

Volkswagen
2013 Jetta Hybrid– this is VW’s first hybrid, making VW among the last to offer this technology. Combined fuel economy is estimated at 45MPG. It has a 1.4L Turbo and a 7-speed dual clutch transmission. On sale late this year.
Audi allroad – returning to the US after an 8 year absence, the allroad is now based on the A4 (previous version was based on the A6). It has a turbo 2.0L making 211HP and 258 lb-ft torque.
Audi Q3 – Audi announced that they will sell the Q3 in the US when production begins for Europe in late 2013 (should be between July and September). It had not been slated for the US. Audi is showing it as a concept called the Q3 Vail, which is designed for winter sports enthusiasts.
E-Bugster concept – this is a 2-seat, electric Beetle with a lower, flattened roof. Very cool.

Nissan
Pathfinder Concept – Nissan is showing a concept of where the Pathfinder is going. It’s an attractive vehicle, but it’s going right to the heart of the SUV market – car-based and fuel-efficient, but only partly off-road capable. The list of truly capable off-road vehicles is shrinking, and the late ones to leave might find themselves losing their current customers, but getting lost in the shuffle for new ones. The back end reminds me of the Mazda CX-9. Not a good scenario for Nissan. On sale this fall.
2013 Infiniti JX – on sale this spring, the JX is a 3-row, 7-passenger crossover. It has great styling, and is a close relative of the Pathfinder.
Infiniti Etherea Concept – a front-drive compact 4-door hybrid hatchback that looks like it could get a speeding ticket without moving.
QX – not new, but I just had to mention that this is one of the most ridiculous vehicles on the planet. Fugly.

Mercedes-Benz
2013 SL – next gen of M-Bs venerable roadster. Despite a smaller V8 engine and larger size, it has more horsepower (429), more torque (516) and accelerates to 60 faster (4.5 seconds). Includes the wave the foot feature like the Escape, but also will close the trunk as well. The SL550 will be available this spring.
2013 E-Class Hybrids – the E300 is a 2.1L Diesel, combined with an electric motor. Total power is 230Hp and 553 lb-ft of torque. The E400 is a 3.5L gas engine with the same electric motor. Total is 333HP/457lb-ft.
Maybach 57 – nothing new to see here, but check it out while you still can. M-B has announced that Maybach is being discontinued after this model year. There just aren’t that many people willing to part with the better part of $400K anymore. It doesn’t help that it’s (just) a bigger, more expensive M-B S-Class, and that a Rolls is way more desirable. Oh well.
smart for-us concept – electric pickup from the most ironically-named automotive brand in history. Once again, answering the question nobody asked.

Toyota
Lexus LF-LC Concept – really hot new concept, it is a hybrid, but Lexus isn’t giving any specs.
FCV-R Concept – very cool looking fuel cell-powered 4-door.
NSA4 Concept – a midsize hybrid, this might preview the next generation Camry. If so, Camry might go from vanilla to chocolate chip cookie dough. Mmmmm, cookie dough…
“New” Camry – yawn.
Prius – so many Prii, so little time, or gas for that matter. The lineup now includes Prius, Prius Plug-In, Prius v and Prius c. The c is the news here, it’s smaller (think c = “compact”), and gets 53 city MPG and 46 highway. That’s no better overall than the “regular” Prius, which gets 51/48. But it’s less than $19,000, so it’s got that going for it, which is nice.
Scion FR-S – co-developed with Subaru (which will sell its version as the RBZ), this is a hot little sports car. It has a 2.0L, 200HP boxer engine. It’s rear wheel drive and comes with a 6-speed manual, as god intended.

Honda
Honda Accord Coupe Concept – nice freshening of the Accord Coupe, but it doesn’t break any new ground. Powertrains are revised with more horsepower and fuel economy. The big news is the addition of a plug-in hybrid model. Honda says the electric motor can power the car for up to 15 miles of city driving at speeds as high as 62 mph. The battery can be fully recharged in four hours using a 120-volt outlet or in 90 minutes with a 240-volt charger.
2013 Acura ILX – this is a new Civic-based sedan that will eventually replace the TSX in Acura’s lineup. It will have 3 powertrains: 2.0L I-4, 2.4L I-4 and a hybrid (Acura’s first). Nice looking car, but when is Acura going to dump the guillotine grille? They need a new look, and fast. On sale this spring.
2013 Acura RDX – updated and nice looking, the big news here is the bigger engine. While most automakers are downsizing their engines and adding turbo power to make up the power, Acura goes in the opposite direction by dropping the turbo 4 and moving to a 3.5L V6. It nows gets 273HP, up 33 from last year. Also on sale this spring.
Acura NSX Concept – the NSX is back! With sleek new styling and enough technology to make Bill Gates jealous, this new generation NSX could get a speeding ticket standing still. It sports a mid-engine V6 AND electric-driven AWD system. Expected for sale in 3 years. Get in line now.
Acura Display – besides the 3 cars above, the Acura display just looks like the collected rejects from a bad orthodontist nightmare because of all of the buck-toothed grilles, or maybe they belong on The Island of Misfit Toys. Hard to say.

BMW
3-Series – yet another new version of the venerable 3-Series, but don’t expect it to look very different from the current model. When it goes on sale next month, it will be longer and wider with many fuel savings technologies included (lighter curb weight, improved automatic transmission, start-stop and regenerative braking). The 328i and 335i will both have twin turbo engines, with 240 and 300 HP, respectively. Prices start at $35,795. In yet more proof of The Slandy Report’s influence, BMW is now showing an actual manual tranny on the floor, but only 1. They also announced that the new M5 will indeed have a proper manual again. Yeah!
i3 Concept – cool-looking small electric that weighs only 2756 lbs.
i8 Concept – another cool-looking concept. This one has a mid-engine 3-cylinder turbo, PLUS electric motors in the front and back. Total power is 350HP and 406 lb-ft of torque. 0-62 mph in 4.6 seconds.
Mini Roadster – yet another variation of the basic Mini Cooper, Roadster is a 2-seat convertible that will come in the standard 3 versions: Cooper, Cooper S and John Cooper Works. Goes on sale in February.

Hyundai
2013 Veloster Turbo – so what happens with you slap a turbocharger on the pedestrian 1.6L Veloster engine? a. 201HP   b. 195 lb-ft torque or c. All of the above? C!! It also gets a revised, more aggressive front end. On sale this summer.

Others
Volvo Concept You – very cool-looking car. Name sucks.
Tesla Model S – shown before, but this is the production version of the all-electric sedan. Can go up to 300 miles on a charge. Has a rear-facing 3rd row for kids – with 5-point belts. It also has 3 other things of note: Biggest. Touch screen. Ever. (17″!)
Mazda CX-5 – new small crossover that becomes the little brother to the CX-7 and CX-9.First model to show the new design language for Mazda. Interesting that the info from Mazda really emphasizes that it was developed only by Mazda. Maybe they are afraid that people will think it was developed by Ford, which was the case with the Tribute, which the CX-5 replaces in Mazda’s lineup. Powered by a 2.0L motor, it makes 155HP and 150 lb-ft torque. A manual (!) tranny is standard, and in front-drive models, gets 35MPG on the highway. Best in Class figures for all powertrain combos.
Subaru BRZ – see Scion FR-S. It’s basically the same car.

The 2012 Slandy Awards
Slandy Best in Show Production – Dodge Dart. It might not be the most desirable of the nominees, but it gets the nod because of its extreme importance to its company’s future (see below). And it’s damn good too.
Slandy Best in Show Concept – Chevrolet Code 130R Concept
Honorable Mention (in no particular order) – Ford Fusion, Infiniti JX35, Chevrolet MiRay, Buick Encore, Cadillac ATS, Lexus LF-LC, Dodge Dart, BMW i8, Mercedes-Benz SL, Scion FR-S/Subaru BRZ
WATT – Infiniti QX, Nissan Quest. These have got to be 2 of the fugliest vehicles on the planet. Coincidentally from the same company. Or maybe not coincidentally.
Bet the Farm Award – Dodge Dart. Though this looks like a winner (see above), it might very well kill Chrysler and the alliance with Fiat if the launch isn’t flawless AND if it doesn’t sell very well. With several future models based on this new platform, it would be hard to overstate the importance of this product to Chrysler and Fiat.

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Chevrolet introduced the upcoming Camaro ZL1 at the Chicago Auto Show today. All you really need to know is that it has a 6.2L Supercharged V8 making 550HP and 550 lb-ft of torque. It will only be available with a 6-speed manual transmission. It has a revised suspension and a dual-mode exhaust system, which alters the sound level and character in response to engine rpm. First used on the legendary Corvette, and specifically tuned for Camaro ZL1, the dual-mode exhaust will give the car a signature sound.

The ZL1 name is derived from the all-aluminum racing engine of the same name, which was developed in the late 1960s and installed into a handful of regular-production 1969 Camaros. Only 69 were built with the engine, but they’ve achieved mythical status among enthusiasts, as they represented the pinnacle in Camaro performance – until now.

Camaro ZL1’s design communicates and supports its performance mission. Rather than using decorative elements, ZL1 is visually differentiated from other current Camaro models with elements vital to the car’s elevated capabilities.

“Everything about the ZL1’s design is directly related to its technology and serious performance, especially aerodynamics,” said Ed Welburn, vice president, Global Design. “Our designers’ goal was to execute that function-oriented design with beautifully sculpted forms, creating an imposing, powerful persona. Function becomes the aesthetic. The intent is a car that delivers on the attitude it projects.”

Major elements of the ZL1’s design are a new front fascia and hood with air extractors, designed in tandem to create aerodynamic downforce to aid handling. The car’s hood includes a signature center section constructed of carbon fiber and rendered in satin black finish. New rocker panels, wide tires, 20-inch wheels and exhaust tips portray the car’s handling and power. The ZL1 badge appears on the grille, hood and the brake calipers, all key areas portraying the technology within.

 
2012 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1
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Welcome to the 2011 North American International Auto Show, or with apologies to Monty Python, We’re Not Dead Yet! Ford and Chevrolet won the North American Car (Chevy Volt) and Truck (Ford Explorer) of the Year Awards, which really annoyed Hyundai, Nissan and Chrysler (which had the runners-up). The show must go on, and it sure does this year. Not as many truly exciting, hot cars, but lots of good stuff. Read on for the details and what you must see if you go.

Chrysler

  • Chrysler reminds me of Arnold Schwarzenegger in The Terminator, when he said, “I’ll be back.” Last year, the Chrysler stand was sad. It made you feel like they had given up. No longer. Almost the entire lineup has been made over in the last 18 months, since Fiat took over. Still no Jeep waterfall, though. Read on for the highlights.
  • Chrysler 300 has a more refined look, but is a bit cartoonish now. It also has a new interior and better ride and handling. It has clearly gone further upscale. The 300 has the new 3.6L “Pentastar” engine, which is a wonderful new engine. Gets 280+ hp (depending on the vehicle) and pretty decent mileage.
  • Chrysler 200 replaces the Sebring. It is not a completely new vehicle, but it’s way better than the Sebring in every way, including looks. Very nice update. Also gets the Pentastar.
  • Chrysler Town & Country has a nicer interior and a very modest exterior update. Also gets the Pentastar.
  • Jeep Grand Cherokee is one of the major new products from the Pentastar company this year. It’s way better than its predecessor. There’s also a 70th Anniversary edition to see, which is even nicer. Also gets the Pentastar.
  • Jeep Compass now has the Grand Cherokee’s front end, which is a huge improvement, but the rest of it looks mostly the same. The side, rear and interior still are lacking. It’s better, but not good.
  • Dodge Grand Caravan – see Town & Country
  • Dodge Durango is now a 3-row Grand Cherokee with a Dodge front end. That’s not to say it isn’t good. It is. It just looks too much like its platform-mate to me. Also gets the Pentastar.
  • Dodge Charger gets the same treatment as the 300. At first glance, it looks too much like the old one. However, the details are all new. The scooped out side, the taillamps and the grill all look great. The interior is very good too. Also gets the Pentastar.
  • Dodge Avenger gets much of the same treatment as the 200, but the exterior changed much less. Also gets the Pentastar.
  • Dodge Journey looks very much the same, but gets a nice update to the interior, new suspension improvements and also gets the Pentastar.
  • Ram Laramie Longhorn – I’ll ignore the obvious joke about crossbreeding here, and say that this is the ultimate blinged pickup. It out King Ranch’s the King Ranch. Clearly, the Ram designers didn’t see Blazing Saddles (“Badges? We don’t need no stinking badges.”).
  • Fiat 500 – several models in different colors are there in all their cuteness, including a 1970 vintage that is half the size of the new one.

Ford Motor Company

  • Ford Vertrek “Concept” – preview of new Escape and European Kuga. I4 engines only, but because this is a “concept”, there aren’t many details. No word on whether a manual will be available. Looks like the 5-seat C-Max Energi (see below).
  • Ford Focus – in dealer showrooms soon. Ford also unveiled the electric Focus. Ford will only say that its range will be more than the Nissan Leaf’s. Ford is showing a hot-rod ST version. Love the wheels!
  • Ford C-Max – Ford sells 2 versions of this micro-van in Europe: C-Max and Grand C-Max. C-Max is a 5-seater, while Grand C-Max is a 7-seater, or as Ford calls it, “5+2” because the 3rd row is very small. So Ford will sell the Grand C-Max here and just call it C-Max. Also, Ford will sell a hybrid (“C-Max Hybrid”) and a plug-in hybrid (“C-Max Energi”) version of the 5-seater, and still use the C-Max name. Got that? The C-Max is similar to the Mazda5, but before you think it’s too small, consider this: it’s bigger in every dimension (length, width and height) than the original minivan, the 1984 Dodge Caravan.
  • Also new at is the 2011 Ford Explorer, just recently on sale. Prices start at $28,995. This is a major change to the former best-selling SUV. No longer does it ride on a truck platform. Now it shares its mechanicals with the Flex and Taurus. It still has decent off-road credentials though, and it was named North American Truck of the Year. Check out the power-folding 3rd row seats (Flex has the same ones).
  • Flex fuel has come to the Ford F-250, but in this case, it means B20 (not E85). That means it can run on Diesel with up to 20% biodiesel mix. Also, the Ford badge on the front of this thing deserves its own zip code!
  • Speaking of Flex, there is a new version of the giant box called Titanium. This is Ford’s new high-end series. The Ford Flex Titanium on display has a sticker of $50,000. Wow!
  • The only thing exciting at the Lincoln stand is the 1965 Lincoln Continental (there’s also one at the DUB display). Amazing, a Lincoln with an actual name. Who woulda thunk it? Prediction: one day, real names will make a comeback, as a “retro” thing.
  • Ford’s display also has its own demo ride of 2 electric cars. You can get a ride (you can’t drive) in an electric Transit Connect and an electric Focus. In the middle of the track is a dynamometer, where they can accelerate up to about 45 mph without risk of plowing through the GM display.

General Motors

  • 2012 Chevrolet Sonic – replaces the Aveo, which nobody can pronounce. Sonic is a better name, and looks nicer, but will Chevy sell these through the burger chain of the same name? What about the Hedgehog version? Same engines as the Cruze (1.4L I4 Turbo and 1.8L I4) in a smaller, lighter package! It will be available as a sedan and a 5-door hatch. The hatch has the same general shape as the Chevy Orlando shown (LAST YEAR?) and somewhat odd rear door handles. It also has an odd speedo display. Overall, a bit quirky, but that will help it get through the clutter. People will notice it.
  • Camaro Convertible – shown last year (?), but worth another look. Adding the convertible will help the sales momentum (BTW, Camaro outsold Mustang in 2010 for the first time since (WHEN) – and that’s with only a coupe.
  • Volt – not new (it’s been at the show for about 17 years), but this is the first time you can get in and really check it out. So check it out! Really nice interior!
  • Cruze – on actual display is a Cruze with a proper 6-speed manual tranny! I was beginning to think that manuals went out of style along with actual names that are real words. Check out the Cruze LT with the red fabric seats. The dash material matches the seats, so the dash has the fabric. Nice look.
  • Buick Regal – was there last year, but now it’s for sale. A true European sports sedan from Buick (it’s virtually the same as the Opel Insignia, which won the European Car of the Year). One question: when does the damn manual come out already?
  • Buick Verano – out later this year, the Verano looks like a Regal that shrunk in the wash, which is good, because the Regal looks great. Standard powertrain is a 2.4L I4 with a 6-speed auto transmission. A 2.0L Turbo will be available later. No word on whether it will have the all-important 3rd pedal on the floor. The Verano is based on the same architecture as the Chevy Cruze. Buick apparently rejected the name Bruze and Cruick. Verano is Spanish for summer, so I’ll be waiting for the obvious convertible version at next year’s show.
  • GMC is showing the Sierra All-Terrain HD Concept. It’s a true off-road pickup that certainly looks the part. It doesn’t really look like a concept. Looks ready to go. Unfortunately for GMC, Ram already has this on the market. It’s called the PowerWagon.

Volkswagen

  • We are witnessing nothing short of the downfall of this company. They are going down the road to oblivion, and it’s all because of their egomaniac CEO, who wants to conquer the (automotive) world and overtake Toyota as the biggest. Look where that got Toyota. The newest products (Jetta and Passat) are too mainstream, too dumbed-down. They’ve lost the soul of a VW. They may very well increase sales, but at what cost? My only hope is that VW’s “other” brands (Audi, Lamborghini and Porsche) are spared this fate. In the goal to be bigger, VW is losing the cache that has made them loved by their customers. Sounds a little like Toyota’s recent problems. Be careful what you wish for, VW. You just might get it
  • That said, I think the new Jetta and Passat are pretty nice looking, if bland. They look too much like each other, though. If others and I need to look at the badge on the back to tell the difference, they’re too similar.
  • 2012 Passat – the car formerly known as NMS (new midsize sedan) that will be built at VW’s new plant in Tennessee was anointed as Passat. 3 engines – 2.5L I4 (170HP), 3.6L V6 (280HP) and a Diesel that VW claims will have an 800-mile highway range. It looks nice and more directly competes with Camry and Accord
  • CC – still the best-looking car VW makes. Love it.
  • 2012 Audi A6 – beautiful update. Won Eyes on Design award at the show. Will include a hybrid model.
  • 2012 Audi A7 – a new beautiful design in the “4-door coupe” family that began with the Mercedes CLS, but with Audi’s wonderful styling.
  • Porsche returns to the show after X year absence. 918 RSR is a race car version of the 918 spyder shown at last year’s Geneva autoshow. 4.5L V8 makes 565HP at 10,300 rpm (holy crap!). electric motors on the front axle add another 200, but only for 8 seconds at a time. Like an afterburner.

Toyota

  • Prius family – in a surprise to nobody, Toyota has decided to make Prius a family of vehicles, like a sub-brand. All of the product experts are wearing t-shirts that say, “Prius Goes Plural” and there is also a sign that says “Prium” like that’s the plural of Prius. Cute, but they might have a problem from the Jewish lobby, which will argue that Prium sounds too much like Purim. So the new models are a plug-in, a wagon (Prius v) and a smaller model (Prius c), which appears to be based on the FT-CH concept from last year.
  • Sienna has a new design. Looks pretty good, but it is a van. The 2nd row slides fore/aft, and the 3rd row folds into the floor very easily, but all of the instruction and warning stickers will intimidate you at first. It’s much easier than it appears, but not as easy as Honda’s.
  • There’s also a Sienna Swagger Wagon concept, which plays off of the Sienna Swagger wagon commercial. It’s a Sienna limo, and it’s pretty ridiculous.
  • Lexus has the CT200h, its latest hybrid. What’s odd here is the imagery that Lexus is using for this vehicle. “Welcome to the Darker Side of Green” is loudly exclaimed in big bold letters. Smaller letters on the info stand say, “43 MPG Hybrid with and Attitude.” I’m not quite sure how this little hybrid that goes 0-60 in 9.8 seconds got the attitude, but somebody (like maybe the 392 Dodge Challenger) is going to kick its butt if it shows any of this attitude on the playground.
  • The Scion iQ is one of the smallest cars you will ever see. It’s slightly bigger than a smart fortwo at 120” long, but it seats 4. Actually, it’s “3+1” (what’s with all the math in seating these days?). This means (I had to ask) that it will hold 3 adults, plus 1 kid/dog in the rear seat behind the driver, where there is virtually no room. Still, it’s way more practical than the smart, and it’s way more of a “real” car – at least, Aston Martin thinks so. 1.3L (“90+ HP”) engine, 8.5 gallon fuel tank, 2116 lbs.
  • In the corner of Toyota’s display is a very big video board, which they use to play commercials (including the Swagger mentioned above) and other propaganda. One of these pieces touts how the Sienna is made in America and how many jobs it supports. While it is true that it is made in America, the piece comes off as being a bit desperate. Grabbing at straws. My, how the mighty have fallen.

Hyundai/Kia

  • Hyundai and Kia are the only parts of the same company that are not right near each other on the show floor. I don’t have an opinion about it; I just find it interesting.
  • Hyundai Sonata – already successful as a gas-engine car, the hybrid breaks new ground. It uses a lithium polymer battery, the first such use in a production car. It can go up to 74 MPH on electric power. Compare that to the Ford Fusion Hybrid, which can go “only” 47 on electric. It’s incredibly aerodynamic, with a Cd of .25. The Fusion is .33.
  • Hyundai Elantra – new for 2011, this is a great-looking vehicle. Starts under $15K.
  • Hyundai Curb Concept – small SUV concept built off the Tucson. Likely won’t be built, but the styling might find its way into a future model. Looks good.
  • Hyundai Veloster – this 2012 model has some looks from the Nissan 370Z in the back, buck-tooth beaver in the front. It also has a 3-door design, with a rear door only on the passenger side.
  • Hyundai Equus – Hyundai moves even further upscale and bigger. Starts at $58,000. One cool feature that I think is unique is a front camera. Hyundai calls it “Forward-view Cornering Camera” and it gives you a 180° view from the front of the car. Could help pulling out of a parking garage or when parking in a tight spot. It only works at low speeds (under 10mph).
  • Kia Optima – really nice looking car inside and out
  • Kia Sportage – new for 2011 (?). Really good looking.
  • Kia KV7 Concept – after some very interesting designs that actually show originality of thought, Hyundai/Kia are back to their old tricks. Calling this a “modern-day activity vehicle”, Kia has blatantly stolen the design of the Ford Flex here, except for the huge gull-wing door (which would never make it to production anyway).

BMW

  • BMW obviously has been reading The Slandy Report. For 2 years, we have pointed out the irony of “The Ultimate Driving Machine” not having a single manual transmission on their stand. This year, they’ve stepped up and are showing 3 actual manual transmission cars. You’re welcome.
  • I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out that BMW still has a few vehicles that are just horrible. In increasing order of stupid, they are the X5, 5-Series GT and the X6. The Ultimate Driving Machine has too many vehicles that are overweight, bloated and are simply not vehicles for people who love driving. There. I feel better now.
  • 2012 BMW 650i Convertible – $91,000, 400HP, 450 lb-ft of torque, 0-60 in 4.9!
  • 2012 1-Series M Coupe – the littlest BMW gets an M version and a mild facelift. Good news for the most BMW-like BMW. The “M” is $47K, 335HP and goes 0-60 in 4.7!
  • Mini Countryman – if you haven’t seen this yet, check it out. It’s a very small SUV at 162” total length, about the same as a Kia Soul. Just a bigger Mini Cooper. Same powertrains.
  • Mini Paceman concept – Mini calls it a “sport activity coupe”, but it is a 2-door version of the Countryman.

Honda

  • Civic concept – with minor differences, this looks like a scaled-down Accord Coupe to me. It’s nice looking, but hardly original. Just another in a long line of uninspired designs from Honda.
  • Odyssey – the new look doesn’t appeal to me (see Civic comment). It looks like pieces of different designs cobbled together. It is a great seller, though, so they must be doing something right. One of those things is the magic seat, Honda’s name for its folding 3rd row seat. It is clearly the best, with only 1 very easy step to fold the seat away. Takes about 3 seconds.

Others

  • Subaru Impreza Concept – officially a concept, but this looks close to production-ready. Nice looking.
  • Mazda 5 – updated for 2012. Has interesting character lines (3) flowing on the sides.
  • 2012 Land Rover Evoque – on sale later this year, this new Land Rover will come in 2-door and 4-door versions. It is a radical departure from the styling of any Land Rover you’ve ever seen.
  • Volvo is showing the S60, S60 “R Design” and XC60. All are beautiful new vehicles. They all also have a very confusing array of buttons cluttering their dashboards. The S60 R Design is not the old S60R. It has the same engine as the S60, and no manual. It has revised transmission software, suspension, struts and fascias to make it special, but don’t think you’re going to get more go for your dough. You won’t.
  • Mercedes-Benz showed the SLS AMG E-Cell the car. Forget what the car actually is, it’s the paint job that’s interesting. It’s bright, neon yellow with a matte finish, which M-B accentuates with black lights.

The Slandy Awards® 2011

Slandy Best in Show: Hyundai Sonata Blue Drive

Honorable Mention: Hyundai Elantra, Audi A6, Ram Laramie Longhorn, Jeep Grand Cherokee, Buick Verano, Ford C-Max, Ford Explorer

Lost Their Way Award: a 3-Way Tie goes to BMW, Honda and Mercedes-Benz. BMW and M-B have put a product in every conceivable niche (real or imagined) and in so doing have dilluted their brands and assembled such an array of confusing and overlapping (and in some cases, stupid) vehicles that I dare anybody to even name them, let alone describe their reason for being. Honda just can’t seem to design anything good anymore. Gone are the days of Honda designs exciting anybody.

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2010 New York Auto Show

2nd April 2010

Here are the major introductions from the 2010 New York Auto Show:

2011 Mercedes-Benz R-Class gets a new front end, which makes it look better, but I still think this is an example of M-B thinking it can make anything and we will buy it.

2011 Mercedes-Benz R-Class

2011 Mercedes-Benz R-Class

2011 Cadillac CTS-V Sportwagon – 3rd time’s a charm, right? This is the 3rd version of the CTS-V, following the sedan and coupe. I don’t think that they will sell many, especially in the US, but this product is clearly intended for European tastes. Americans don’t like wagons very much, but think of it this way: with 556 HP from the supercharged, 6.2L V8, you won’t have to be in it very long.

2011 Cadillac CTS-V Sport Wagon

2011 Cadillac CTS-V Sport Wagon

2011 Chevrolet Cruze – yeah, yeah, we’ve all seen the Cruze before, but Chevrolet wants us to keep thinking about it leading up to its introduction later this year. Rumors have been around for some time that the Cruze will get 40 MPG; now we find out how. The Cruze Eco will use fascia shutters to close off openings in the front fascia to improve aerodynamics, a special axle ratio and lower rolling resistance tires to eek out every possible bit of fuel economy without resorting to a stripped-down model that lacks features that customers want. Chevrolet is also showing the Cruze RS, which gives the Cruze a sportier appearance, but alas, no performance improvement.

2011 Scion iQ – not to be confused with the Aston Martin Cygnet, this is Toyota’s answer to the Smart car. If it has a high iQ, is it even Smarter? Scion boss Jack Hollis said it is Mini-er and Smart-er than the competition. Oh, those crazy Toyota execs.

2011 Scion iQ

2011 Scion iQ

2011 Scion tC – Scion also showed the revised tC coupe with revised styling and a bigger, more powerful engine (2.5L, 180HP/173 torque vs. 2.4L, 161/162)

2011 Scion tC

2011 Scion tC

2011 Acura TSX Sport Wagon – after adding the 3.5L V6 to the TSX sedan, Acura now treats us to a wagon. But the wagon will not have the V6; it will have to make do with the 2.4L I4, which makes no sense at all. The wagon is likely heavier than the sedan, and they went to all the bother of adding the word “Sport” in the name. But no V6? Adding insult to injury, the wagon will not offer the manual tranny from the sedan either. Some “sport” wagon! What they did keep is the guillotine-like grille, which is cutting-edge styling, but not attractive.

2011 Acura TSX Sport Wagon

2011 Acura TSX Sport Wagon

2011 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid and Turbo – after showing us the base model in Detroit, Hyundai now introduces the bookends of the line. The hybrid will get 37 MPG city, 39 highway, almost equalling the best-in-class Fusion hybrid. It can also travel up to 62 MPH on electric only, which beats the Fusion. The turbo has a direct-injected, 2.0L turbo that delivers 274 HP and 269 lb-ft of torque. Heady numbers from an engine that size. And it does it on regular unleaded.

2011 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid – does to the Z what the hybrid has already done to the Fusion. Same hybrid system, and will get the same 41 City MPG and electric-only top speed of 47. This is the first hybrid for Lincoln, and its first 4 cylinder engine ever.

2011 Nissan Juke – first revealed at the Geneva show, Nissan announced that the Juke will get a 1.6L, direct-injected, turbo engine. I know what the word Juke means, and it seems a nice name for a small crossover like this. However, I don’t think that Nissan really thought this one through completely. It seems obvious what people will call it who aren’t fans. The Nissan Joke? How about the Nissan Puke? Based on its looks, I’ll go (with) Puke.

2011 Nissan Juke

2011 Nissan Juke

2011 Infiniti QX56 – on sale this summer, the new QX56 is more powerful (up 80HP to 400) and will get 10% better fuel economy. The looks of the QX have always seemed awkward to me, and the new one doesn’t break that trend. It looks like it is trying to be an SUV limo.

2011 Infiniti QX56

2011 Infiniti QX56

2011 Suzuki Kizashi Sport – Suzuki just launched the nice-looking but poorly named Kizashi (gesundheit!), and now they add some pizzazz to the equation with this sport model. There’s no performance upgrades, other than a slight tweak to the suspension, but the sport certainly looks like it will go fast. It has a revised fron fascia, lower ride height, rocker moldings and special 18″ wheels. Looks good – even better than the base model – though the styling more than just reminds me of a Volkswagen.

2011 Suzuki Kazashi Sport

2011 Suzuki Kizashi Sport

2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee – the new Jeep goes into production in early May, but Chrysler has decided NOT to show the production version at any auto show yet. They showed it in concept form at last year’s NY Auto Show. The standard reason to not show new vehicles is that you wouldn’t want to hurt the current model’s sales. But guys…come on…you’re going to start making it 1 month after the NY Show opens! Wouldn’t you like a little…you know…FREE publicity?

2011 Kia Optima – the Optima has been a nice, if not exciting product…up to now. The 2011 model will change all that, with an all-new design. Kia calls the design language “tiger” and there is a certain feline appearance to it. There will be 3 engine choices, including Kia’s first-ever hybrid. 6-speed manual and automatic transmissions will be available. I’ve said in this space before that most every Korean model’s design is derivative from somebody else’s. The Optima continues that tradition, looking like some kind of Lexus from the back. Nevertheless, this is a really nice-looking car that will surely gain Kia some new fans.

2011 Kia Optima

2011 Kia Optima

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Chicago Auto Show

12th February 2010

In many ways, the Chicago Auto Show is one of the best out there. McCormick Place is a great venue, and lots more space than Cobo Hall, home of the Detroit Show. It takes a back seat to Detroit, though, because Detroit gets so many debuts. Production and concept introductions bring in the press, and the press bring attention. Chicago has many debuts this year, and if you’re in Chicago, you’ll be sure to check out these important must-see vehicles.

2011 Chevy Silverado HD – it looks pretty much the same, but nobody buys a heavy-duty pickup for fashion. The Duramax 6.6L Diesel engine is new, with improved towing capacity of 20,000 pounds for the Duramax Diesel and a top payload of 6,335 pounds for Vortec V8-fitted trucks. Curiously, Chevy introduced a new pickup that looks the same, but gave no specs on horsepower and torque. Those figures are expected sometime later. So why introduce it now at all?

2011 Ford Edge – substantially revised looks (with a gigantic grille) go with a new powertrain lineup. The existing 3.5L V6 gets a 20 HP bump, and now you can also get a 3.7L version with over 300 HP and the 2011 Edge will be the first application of the 2.0L Ecoboost engine with TBD power ratings. I guess Ford took a cue from Chevy on that one. The Edge also will be the debut of the MyFord Touch system, which we reported on for the Detroit show.

Transit Connect Electric – Ford is showing an all-electric version of the delivery van that won North American Truck of the Year. It has a top speed of 70 MPH and a range of 80 miles.

2011 Hyundai Azera – gets a new look and more power and better fuel economy from both the 3.3L V6 and the 3.8L V6. Goes on sale this spring.

2011 Toyota Avalon –  Toyota aimed to divert attention from all of its troubles by showing off the Avalon, but the media insisted on asking about the quality troubles instead. The look is updated inside and out, but I doubt most will notice. The powertrain is also carryover, but fuel economy is improved by 1 MPG.

Honda Odyssey “Concept” – This is officially a concept, but is likely to look very much like the next-gen minivan, which is expected this fall as a 2011 model. Honda expects fuel economy of 19/28, which would make it the most efficient in the segment, better even than the 2.7L 4-banger that will be available on the 2011 Toyota Sienna, introduced at the LA Auto Show in December.

Kia Ray Concept – this is a plug-in based on the Kia Forte Coupe. It has a 1.4-liter four-cylinder engine mated to a 78-kilowatt electric motor. Kia says it has a range of more than 50 miles on the electric motor alone. The Ray has a range of 746 miles including the gasoline engine.

Nissan 370Z 40th Anniversary – for the 40th anniversary of the Z car, Nissan has outfitted it with some special equipment, including special wheels with red brake calipers and 40th-anniversary badges. On the inside, it has red leather seats with 40th Anniversary logos, and red stitching for the steering wheel, center stack and shift boot. You get a 40th Anniversary plaque and a commemorative 40th Anniversary satin car cover. On sale at the end of February for a base price of $38,860. The edition run is limited to 1,000 cars.

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