The symbolic start of the New Year for the world's auto industry isn't January 1 - it's the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. As always the 2015 edition of the NAIAS has something for everyone - concepts and production cars - sub-compact EVs to Le Mans racers - and everything in between. Here are some of the vehicle highlights of the show from our perspective.
2016 Chevrolet Volt
Chevrolet announced significant changes for its second-generation Chevrolet Volt PHEV, which debuts as a 2016. The most obvious is the sheet metal, which is much sleeker, sportier and less obviously an electric vehicle. The cabin has been similarly matured, ditching the Apple-white instrument panel for a more traditional design. Mechanically, the Volt gets two electric motors that offer not only better acceleration, but also weigh less than before. As does the revised lithium-ion battery pack with about one-third fewer cells than before, which helps give the 2016 Volt an estimated electric-only range of 80 kilometres. The new gasoline 1.5-litre four-cylinder ‘range-extender’ engine is more efficient, and promises to deliver 5.1 L/100 km (41 mpg US) once the batteries deplete.
Chevrolet Bolt Concept
The much-rumoured standalone electric-vehicle from GM with over 320 kilometres of range has been previewed by the Chevrolet Bolt Concept, a five-passenger hatchback that shares plenty of design inspiration not only from the equally new ’16 Volt but also several vehicles from cross-town rivals at Ford. If it hits production, the goal would be for the Bolt EV to cost around $30,000 US. Unlike its own California-only Spark EV “compliance car” the Bolt production version would be offered in all 50 US states, and global markets, which presumably would include Canada too.
2015 Buick Cascada
Buick is pushing against its reputation of building boring cars, and the 2015 Cascada convertible is its strongest effort yet. Much like the Regal is an Opel Insignia, the new Cascada is an almost virtual copy of the European Opel. Based on the same platform as the Verano, the two-door Cascada offers a powered soft convertible top that can raise and lower in 17 seconds at up to 50 km/h. Power comes from a 200-horsepower version of Buick’s new 1.6-litre turbocharged four-cylinder matched to a six-speed automatic transmission. And the company’s excellent HiPer strut-based front suspension and a Watts-style Z-axle at the rear will help deliver grins when the roads are more challenging.
Buick Avenir Concept
It’s been 20 years since Buick offered a rear-wheel-drive sedan, and the company is hoping to fix that problem if its Avenir Concept is any indication. The gorgeous full-size sedan brings touches of Bentley’s ultra-lux offerings, with large sculpted rear fenders, a very long hood and 21-inch wheels at all four corners. The interior is dripping with beautiful touches, including a 12-inch screen, wireless charging for mobile devices and more. Power comes from a ‘next-generation’ V-6 engine with a nine-speed automatic transmission and an on-demand all-wheel drive system.
2016 Ford Mustang Shelby GT350R
For those who may find the regular Mustang Shelby GT350 too soft, Ford is offering an R version that should quell those complaints. The R shares the same 5.2-litre ‘flat-plane-crank’ V-8 engine with over 500 horsepower and six-speed manual transmission, but goes even battier. There’s an enormous fixed rear wing, which complements the larger Shelby-etched front splitter, and larger hood scoop to aid cooling. Track-ready seven-spoke wheels cover upgraded brakes and stickier tires, and Ford’s first application of magnetic variable-resistance dampers. And to help save weight, there’s no rear seat or air conditioning. Can’t wait for the twin-test against the Chevrolet Camaro Z/28.
Ford’s Baja-busting F-150 Raptor has been one of its most surprising and popular high-performance vehicles in years. So the second-generation promises to be even better, helped by an even stronger chassis, redesigned suspension featuring Fox Racing Shox with even more travel than before, and a lighter aluminum body. Ford promises a smarter four-wheel-drive system with several pre-set modes depending on surface conditions, and a Torsen front-differential for better rock-crawling and steeper ascents. But the growling 411-horsepower 6.2-litre V-8 will be replaced by a version of Ford’s ubiquitous 3.5-litre EcoBoost V-6 that promises more horses and torque than the outgoing V-8. It will also have a 10-speed automatic transmission, which might be a world’s first, depending on timing.
2017 Ford GT
Ford is celebrating its commanding 1-2-3 at the 1966 24 Hours of Le Mans with a new GT supercar. But this latest GT will feature intensive carbon-fibre construction, sophisticated race-spec torsion-bar and pushrod adjustable suspension, carbon-ceramic brake discs, and lightweight 20-inch wheels with ultra-sticky Michelin Pilot Super Sport Cup 2 tires. The sleek styling echoes not only the original GT40 racers of the ‘60s, but also the excellent Ford GT follow-up a generation ago. But where the new GT differs from its predecessors is in the engine bay where the expected V-8 has been replaced by a 3.5-litre EcoBoost V-6 engine. But don’t worry: with Ford promising over 600 horsepower in its final tune, this will be one exceedingly rapid ride.
2016 Cadillac CTS-V
The Cadillac CTS-V has always been a distinctly in-your-face American go-fast luxury sedan, and the recently revealed third-generation 2016 version follows almost the same recipe. While certainly more refined than before, the 2016 CTS-V uses a supercharged 6.2-litre OHV V-8 that produces a NASCAR-friendly 640 horsepower and 630 lb-ft of torque. Unlike previous examples, the only transmission available will be the same paddle-shifted eight-speed automatic found in the less powerful V Sport version. The full CTS-V remains rear-wheel drive, though, and will do the 0-100 km/h sprint in under four seconds and top out over 320 km/h.
Infiniti Q60 Concept
Infiniti revealed its Q60 Concept, which is a sleeker two-door version of its Q50 sedan, albeit with some interesting alterations. Visual highlights include white-and-blue front lighting, including the grille surround and Infiniti badge. Big 21-inch black-and-chrome wheels dominate the curvaceous wheel-wells, and there’s a built-in trunk-lid spoiler and interesting exhaust surrounds. The Q60 Concept also uses the new 3.0-litre twin-turbocharged V-6 that ‘debuted’ in the Q80 Concept in LA, but there’s no word on expected horsepower or transmission choices. Judging from previous efforts, this won’t change much once it officially goes in production.
2016 Acura NSX
The long-teased second generation of Acura’s excellent NSX sports car has finally broken cover and, judging by the looks and specs alone, it should be worth the wait. The mid-engined design stays faithful to Tony Stark’s version, and although the production version still has a roof – for now, anyway. The NSX uses not only a twin-turbocharged 3.5-litre V-6, but also a trio of electric motors, two of which power the front wheels for on-demand all-wheel drive and torque-vectoring control. The sole transmission choice is a nine-speed dual-clutch type. All other pertinent details – power, range, equipment and price – will be revealed sometime in the future.
Volkswagen Cross Coupe GTE Concept
Volkswagen has been positively glacial about a three-row crossover set to compete in North America, although this Cross Coupe GTE concept is yet another step closer. Although only a five-seater, the Cross Coupe shows off the company’s future styling language for its SUVs, while being built off the highly flexible MQB architecture. Power for the concept comes from a plug-in hybrid system with a 276-horse 3.6-litre VR6 gas engine, and two electric motors of 54 and 114 horsepower respectively. Thanks to standard all-wheel drive, the GTE can hit 60 mph (96 km/h) in just six seconds, although it would be hard to hit its maximum EV only range of around 32 kilometres with the gas pedal pinned.
2016 Volvo S60 Cross Country
Volvo recently reintroduced its V70 Cross Country – i.e. a station wagon with extra ground clearance, subtle body modifications and all-wheel drive – but must have figured that at least a few customers would prefer a sleeker sedan shape instead. Hence, the 2016 S60 Cross Country, which gets the same 65-mm added ride height, darker fender flares, brushed aluminum skid plates and side guards and unique 18- or 19-inch wheels wrapped with more off-road oriented tires. Power comes from Volvo’s new T5-spec turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder with 250 horsepower.
2016 Alfa Romeo 4C Spider
One of the most desirable pocket supercars around gets a version better suited to sunnier climes. The Alfa Romeo 4C already delivers a carbon-fibre-intensive body and aluminum chassis that’s ridiculously strong and light, so providing one without a fixed roof certainly isn’t a stretch. The 4C Spider will offer either a stowable cloth roof, or optionally a removable carbon-fibre hardtop. Other changes include different wheels, and an available Akrapovic ‘dual-mode’ exhaust system with centrally-mounted tips and carbon-fibre surrounds will give plenty of Italian character to the carryover turbocharged 237-horsepower 1.7-litre engine.
2016 Nissan Titan XD
It feels like North America has been waiting eons for Nissan to redesign its full-size Titan pickup. Almost a dozen years have passed since the Titan first broke cover, with very few changes in the meantime. The 2016 Titan aims to change all that, with a ground-up redesign that includes three cab configurations, two bed lengths, and several trim levels. Nissan has never shied away from controversial designs, and the Titan follows that trend. Crucially, it also gets a choice of three engines. While details on the new gasoline V6 and V8 will be shared later, the biggest news comes from the Cummins-built turbodiesel V8. At 5.0 litres, it packs 310 horsepower and 555 lb-ft of torque, mated to a six-speed automatic transmission, and properly equipped gives over 5,450 kg of conventional towing and over 900 kg of payload.
2016 Toyota Tacoma
Despite its relative age, the Toyota Tacoma has continually been top on Canadians’ popularity list. So the timing should be near-perfect for its next generation of mid-size pickup. The exterior styling offers larger wheel flares and higher beltline than before, a “clamp-shaped” front bumper and available LED running lights highlight the front. A new locking tailgate with an integrated rear spoiler add to the functional upgrades. Power will come from a carryover 2.7-litre four-cylinder and new direct-injection 3.5-litre V-6, and rear-or four-wheel drive available. Bizarrely, a six-speed manual is available on the V-6, while six-speed automatics cover the every other combination. There will be five trim levels available, including a new lux-themed Limited grade.
2016 Audi Q7
Perhaps smarting after letting its three-row seven-passenger Q7 wither on the vine, Audi has ignored trying to play catch-up with its competitors. Its second-generation Q7 goes on a strict diet, meaning over 325 kilograms lost thanks to more aluminum and other lightweight materials. The current supercharged gasolie V-6 and optional turbodiesel V-6 engines carry over, but an all-new diesel-based plug-in hybrid with 373 horsepower and 516 lb-ft of torque will become a market first for Canada. Now it looks more like a station wagon than before, but the interior features Audi’s new impressive MMI technology, along with the expected lovingly executed craftsmanship.
2016 Mercedes-AMG GLE63 S Coupe/GLE 450 AMG Coupe
Mercedes-Benz’ new GLE Coupe Class is the company’s take on BMW’s angular X6, and was shown in several different guises at the show. Besides the plug-in hybrid version to be unveiled later this year, there's the GLE 450 AMG Coupe, which uses the same 3.0-litre twin-turbo V-6 as other recent ‘Benz models only with 362 horsepower and 384 lb-ft of torque. Combined with a nine-speed automatic, that pushes the 450 AMG to highway speed in around five seconds. The full-bore AMG GLE63 S Coupe gets a twin-turbo 5.5-litre V-8 with 585 horses, seven-speed automatic transmission, 4MATIC all-wheel drive and plenty of added attitude inside and out.
2016 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid / Plug-In Hybrid
Hyundai took an extra year to properly engineer its Sonata Hybrid, and also added a plug-in version at the same time. The plug-in version uses a larger 9.8 kWh battery – about five times larger than the regular hybrid – and is expected to deliver around 35 kilometres of electric-only range. Both use a new 154-horsepower 2.0-litre four-cylinder as their base, with the plug-in delivering 202 horses combined and the hybrid still at 193 horses. Also, even though the hybrid’s battery offers around 13% better capacity than before, it now stows under the trunk floor rather than behind the rear seats. Visually, the pair get unique aerodynamic wheels and eco-friendly tires, and unique headlight clusters, with HIDs available on upscale models.
Hyundai Santa Cruz Concept
Hyundai has been leery of jumping into the pickup truck market, but its new Santa Cruz “crossover truck” concept could provide a safe point of entry. In a modern take on the Ford Ranchero and Chevrolet El Camino, the Santa Cruz offers plenty of neat usable features, like rear-hinged rear doors and plenty of tie-downs around the bed and rails, while the tailgate can slide out – like a drawer – to accommodate longer items. Perhaps most intriguingly, the Santa Cruz uses a 2.0-litre turbo-diesel four-cylinder engine with 190 horsepower and 300 lb-ft of torque, combined with HTRAC all-wheel drive. No word on which platform it would be based on, but Hyundai says it offers “typical CUV driving character” so almost certainly a front-drive unibody rather than a separate body-on-frame construction like traditional pickups.
2016 Lexus GS F
Through four generations of its mid-size luxury sedan, Lexus had resisted building a true competitor to the full-bore road rockets from its German competitors. No longer. The new GS F should prove an interesting alternative given the excellent bones it uses, although the performance machine will be lower, stiffer sprung and have quicker reactions thanks to retuned suspension, bigger brakes and stickier tires. But the real motivation comes from the 5.0-litre V8 and eight-speed automatic transmission found in the smaller RC F coupe. It brings 467 horsepower and 389 lb-ft of torque to bear, which is significantly less than the twin-turbocharged V-8s of its competitors. But, the GS F only weighs 1,830 kg, a relative lightweight here, it might be a wash.
2015 Porsche 911 Targa GTS
Porsche’s reborn Targa perfectly exemplifies its technological progress in the last 40 years. Where once the Targa had simple removable roof panel, it now features one of the most dizzyingly complex automated roof systems around. Much was made of the Targa’s blunted performance thanks to the added weight, so Porsche is responding by offering it in GTS trim. The GTS gets an extra 30 horsepower from its 3.8-litre flat-six engine, which when equipped with the optional seven-speed PDK transmission, gives 0-96 km/h (0-60 mph) times of only 4.1 seconds. The GTS also includes the popular Sport Chrono, active suspension, sport exhaust and 20-inch centre-lock wheels, which are usually expensive extras.
2016 Lincoln MKX
Previous versions of Lincoln’s MKX haven’t hidden its Ford Edge basics very well, but like the company’s MKZ sedan and MKC compact SUV, they’re working hard to change that. The latest MKX follows suit again, with a much more sculpted silhouette, featuring plenty of dramatic fender bulges and details. The interior follows the MKC’s lead with a tall centre console free of a transmission shifter, with larger screens. Plenty of new safety available like a 360-degree camera, auto-hold braking and full LED headlights. Power comes from a carryover 300-horsepower 3.7-litre V-6 in base models, with an optional 2.7-litre EcoBoost V-6 delivering more than 330 horses and 370 lb-ft of torque. A six-speed automatic and – in Canada, anyway – all-wheel drive are standard. The Canadian-built MKX will also get Lincoln’s active suspension and drive control as an option.
2016 BMW 6 Series
BMW’s 6 Series has never been a huge seller, but the recent addition of the four-door Gran Coupe version has added plenty of interest. In fact, the Gran Coupe now accounts for nearly half of the 6’s sold, with the traditional coupe and convertible picking splitting the rest. The whole line gets a mild freshening for 2016, which includes full-LED headlights, a revised BMW grille and lower cladding front and rear. BMW also says the cars should be better to drive with tweaked suspension and steering response too. The full line of engines turbocharged straight-six and V-8 engines – including the 560-horsepower 4.4-litre version in the M6 – continues unchanged.
2016 Ram 1500 Rebel
Ram keeps offering an expanding number trims of its popular 1500 pickup, and the new Rebel is the most distinctive yet. It gets an all-new blacked-out grille and front bumper, aluminum hood, dark fender extensions, and an enormous RAM script stamped into the tailgate. The 17-inch wheels are wrapped in meatier 33-inch off-road tires, and the standard air suspension sits around two centimetres taller than normal. The interior gets colour-matched accents, along with a tread-pattern embedded in the seats. Power comes from the 305-horsepower 3.6-litre V-6 with four-wheel drive and a 3.92 gear ratio; the 395-horse 5.7-litre HEMI V-8 is available in either rear- or four-wheel drive. Eight-speed automatic transmissions are standard across the board.
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