The 2014 North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) exceeded all expectations as the biggest show in years and automakers were sure to make lasting impressions during their press conferences on January 13 and 14. Ford started things off with the much anticipated reveal of its next generation F-150 while Honda presented its new Fit and Chrysler showed off its new 200, but for the most part, the overarching theme of the show was undoubtedly performance. With brands looking to add exhilaration and spice to their product lineups in hopes of appealing to new buyers, many identified the Detroit show as their opportunity to make a splash with a fresh wave of sporty vehicles.
Toyota has become one of the most recognizable and highest volume brands in the world and its product portfolio fills nearly every hole there is to be plugged. What the nameplate has lacked for much of the last 15 years, however, are truly thrilling and fun to drive cars like the Supra, MR2 Turbo, and Corolla AE86 from the 1980’s and 1990’s. In response to the stale image the company has developed, CEO Akio Toyoda has made it known that he wishes to add excitement back into the brand and the release of the Scion FR-S in the United States was the first step towards achieving that goal. Last week, the automaker previewed what could come next when it displayed its Toyota FT-1 Concept, a rumored Supra successor that was conceived by the organization’s Calty Design Research team. While still only a design concept, the project was initiated almost two years ago and with last month’s official announcement of a jointly developed sports car in the works between Toyota and BMW, a new production sports car appears to be more reality than fantasy.
Although General Motors has run into some bumpy roads over the past several years, it has turned things around since entering – and emerging from – bankruptcy, running ever more efficiently as it looks to pick up speed. To celebrate the momentum it has gained since the recession, the company flexed its muscle at the Detroit Auto Show by rolling its new 2015 Chevrolet Corvette Z06 on stage, a supercar that is said to be the brand’s fastest Corvette model ever produced, including the 2014 Corvette ZR1. The new Z06 is fitted with a 6.2-liter supercharged V8 capable of no less than 625 hp and 635 lb-ft of torque and buyers can choose between either a seven-speed manual or the newly-offered 8L90 eight-speed automatic that is lighter than the six-speed found in the Stingray. Handling is improved by means of a tuned version of the Stingray’s suspension, but with Magnetic Ride Control and an electronic limited-slip differential appearing as standard features. Also available is a Z07 package that adds Pilot Sport Cup tires and Brembo carbon ceramic rotors, in addition to other elements including components that increase downforce. All in all, the 2015 Chevrolet Corvette Z06 is the most capable supercar ever produced in the GM family, and while the organization is currently in the midst of continued change, it is certainly proving that it still knows a thing or two about making fast cars.
Subaru has been on a roll for months, successfully navigating the ever-changing automotive landscape and outmaneuvering the competition despite not traditionally being a major player in the industry. Much of the automaker’s sales growth has been accomplished through a sharp focus on its core products, but the brand has also introduced some new models in the form of its BRZ sports car and XV Crosstrek utility vehicle. Intent on not forgetting its racing heritage, however, the company finally turned its attention towards its flagship model, the Subaru WRX STI, which made its grand appearance at the Subaru Press Conference a week ago. No longer associated with the Impreza sedan, the all-new 2015 Subaru WRX and WRX STI models both made their introductions during the current auto show season and exemplify the best of everything that is Subaru. The WRX STI, now offered only in sedan form, delivers its 305 hp and 290 lb-ft of torque from its 2.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine through its famed Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive, which now utilizes a new Multi-Mode Driver Controlled Center Differential that applies torque vectoring to make the STI the best-handling Subaru ever produced. As in years past, the STI will only be offered with a six-speed manual transmission as it has always been meant more so for die-hard loyalists than fair-weather fans, but those who pick up the keys to Subaru’s best-ever rally racing halo car will surely be rewarded like never before.
Korean automakers had long been known for offering inexpensive commodity cars that lacked emotion and had no business on a racetrack, but Hyundai dove into uncharted waters when it introduced its Genesis Coupe sports car. In Detroit, sister brand, Kia, made its intentions known when it introduced its GT4 Stinger Concept, a 2+2 rear-drive coupe with a six-speed manual and a turbocharged four-cylinder engine that puts out a notable 315 horsepower. At 169.7 inches in total length, the concept is significantly less than that of the Genesis Coupe, which suggests that the brand has models such as the Scion FR-S and Subaru BRZ twins in mind as potential competitors. Also, the car’s curb weight stands at a mere 2,874 pounds, which should result in spritely performance and solid handling ability. Kia’s GT4 Stinger hints at the company’s first sports car, following the footsteps of the Hyundai brand, and is a sign that the Koreans are not done breaking boundaries and shedding their ugly duckling image from the past.
On a mission to prove that it is serious about instilling passion into its products, Toyota unveiled its second sports car at the Detroit Auto Show, the Lexus RC F Coupe production car. After unleashing its LFA supercar and subsequently adding F-badged variants to other models, the company has done much to change the perception of its luxury brand, but the reveal of the RC F two-door sports car proves that Lexus is not done working toward achieving its goal. Under the hood lies a 5.0-liter V8 beast of an engine that cranks out in excess of 450 horsepower, with gears shifted by a newly calibrated eight-speed automatic transmission, and the model is the brand’s first to transfer the power from the wheels to the ground utilizing a torque vectoring differential. Of course, downforce will be need to be manipulated to manage all that power and speed, which is why an aero package was created, including an active rear wing that raises at 50 mph and lowers once the vehicle slows to 25 mph. While the aggressive design scheme may be polarizing, the new Lexus RC F Coupe is undoubtedly one mean machine with high aspirations and is an impression addition to the company’s stable of performance models.
Other Notable Models Include:
2015 Acura TLX – Bigger than the TSX but smaller than the TL, the all-new TLX is Acura’s “red carpet athlete,” an attempt to get back to its sport luxury roots. Acura’s relevance in the sport marketplace has vanished almost entirely over the course of the past decade, but the TLX should help shoot some adrenaline back into the brand. Expect to see a racecar version of the TLX piloted by Peter Cunningham tearing up the Pirelli World Challenge GT class this year as well.
2015 Ford Mustang – It still looks like a Mustang, but designers were able to lower the roofline 1.5 inches, the hood 1.3 inches, and as a result the new 2015 looks super sleek compared to the outgoing model. Powertrains will come in the form of a revised 3.7-liter V6 and 5.0-liter V8, as well as an all-new 2.3-liter turbocharged EcoBoost four-cylinder.
2015 Cadillac ATS Coupe – The all-new ATS Coupe is Cadillac’s answer to the new BMW 4 Series, Audi A5 and Mercedes C-Class Coupe. Compared to the ATS Sedan, the Coupe will only be offered with a high output version of the 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder or 3.6-liter V6. Cadillac actually spent some money making this car special and didn’t simply lob off the two rear doors.
2015 Volkswagen Golf R – VW’s new ultimate Golf packs a mean punch, a “street fighter… ready for the racetrack” according to brand officials. Equipped with a direct-inject 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder boasting 290 hp and all-wheel-drive, we have no reason to disagree.
2014 BMW M235i – BMW’s replacement for the 135i, looks even sleeker than the outgoing model and closer to the classic BMW 2002 roots. Powered by a turbocharged 3.0-liter straight-six with 322 hp, it’s sure to please the power-hungry performance driver in all us.
2015 BMW M4/M3 – This is the first BMW “M3 Coupe” to wear M4 badges and following the brand’s new nomenclature, 3 Series Coupes will now be badged as the 4 Series. Lighter and more powerful than their predecessors, a 3.0-liter straight-six twin-turbocharged with 425 hp will propel the new M line to 60 mph in about 3.9 seconds with the M-DCT dual-clutch transmission. A conventional manual will still be available for diehard stick fans, but the 0-60 mph figure rises to 4.1 seconds.
2014 Porsche 911 Targa – The latest addition the Porsche 991 lineup pays homage to historic 911 Targa models, boasting a huge wraparound rear window and halo roll bar along with design cues lifted from the 1967 911 Targa. Unlike the original, the new Targa’s roof is electric and self-storing behind the rear seats, so no fumbling around with body panels in the hatch.
Mercedes GLA45 AMG – The GLA45 AMG is performance version of the all-new GLA-Class packing racer body cues and the same turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder found in the CLA45 AMG.
Infiniti Q50 Eau Rouge Concept – Infiniti’s Q50 Eau Rouge concept combines luxury and Formula One intensity in one outrageous sports sedan. If built, Infiniti says they would equip the Q50 with an engine packing more than 500 hp, surely enough to take on the M’s and AMG’s of the world.
Audi Allroad Shooting Brake – A preview of the third-generation TT, Audi say the Allroad Shooting Brakes’s e-tron powertrain is good enough for 408 hp and 479 ft-lb of torque.
Nissan Sport Sedan Concept – The next generation Maxima is due out later this year and it’s no coincidence that the brand showed off a four-door Sport Sedan Concept in Detroit. It’s very likely that the Sport Sedan Concept gives us a sneak peek in the new design direction for the automaker, but sports enthusiasts will surely hope that they offer another transmission option besides the Xtronic CVT.