The North American International Auto Show opened last week to the press and is now open to the public. If you’re interested in going, here are some highlights you shouldn’t miss. Several companies unveiled new cars or concepts at the show this year and a lot of cool things are available that may never be seen again.
As the whole world knows by now, Acura finally unveiled the long-awaited NSX sports car. On press day, this was one of the most-attended unveilings and, though it wasn’t the best presentation at the show, it was certainly the most covered. Was the wait worth it? Go look at the car in its booth and find out for yourself. With Jerry Seinfeld and Jay Leno together in a commercial to promote the car, though, you can bet it’s built some excitement.
Alfa unveiled the new 4C Spider at NAIAS this year, but that’s not necessarily the highlight of the Alfa Romeo booth. The new 4C is flanked by not one but three classic Alfa race cars, all of which are beauties from the past that have not lost their luster. Two cigarette-style track racers from the 1940s are on display in all their shiny red splendor and above, on a special parking rack to protect it from wandering hands, is a $10 million dollar Alfa coupe. Bring a handkerchief, you’ll drool.
Buick unveiled two vehicles at the Detroit show this year. Lucky press members attended a pre-show event the night before the Cobo Center opened and saw them up close and personal. Both are on the show floor, though, and surrounded by lovely ladies in the Buick booth, so it’s difficult to say which presentation is better. The first is the big, bold, and breathtaking Buick Avenir Concept, a sedan that evokes Buick design language from the early days with Harley Earl. The other is a tiny convertible that’s headed for production this year as the Buick Cascada to take on the entry-level convertible coupe class with 200 horsepower of good times.
For Chevy, this year was all about plug-ins. The newest rendition of the Chevrolet Volt is on display, having unveiled in Las Vegas just before Detroit. The Volt gains a true back seat and better styling, though rumors that it was “based on the Corvette” were greatly exaggerated. The other unveiling was the new Chevrolet Bolt electric car concept. This is a fun little four-door in bright orange paint with a futuristic interior. Chev plans to build this car for the 2017 model year with about 200 miles of electric range per charge.
The 2015 NAIAS show was all Ford this year. Their press event was attended by a huge contingent of bloggers and “social media influencers” flown in by Ford just for the occasion. On stage was not one but three mouth-watering performance vehicles. They started the unveil with the new Ford Raptor everyone has been wanting to see since it was mentioned they’d be updating it. Big news there? 10 speed transmission and the F-150’s aluminum bodywork. Next was the powerful and anticipated Ford Mustang GT 350R with its over-clocked EcoBoost engine powering burnouts around the arena. Then came the real badass, the new Ford GT. Holy crap this is a great speedster. With Lamborghini looks, 600 horsepower of roaring muscle, and carbon fiber everydamnthing, it’s beyond awesome. Plus they’ve promised to make it for 2016. Hell. Ya.
Downstairs from the main show floor at Cobo is Hall E. This is where the “other stuff” gets put. Down there you’ll find a huge display from the U.S. Army featuring all kinds of badassery for blowing stuff up. Plus they have a prototype self-driving vehicle there you can check out. Across from the Army is the Local Motors Strati display. Below you’ll find a description of their main show floor display, but here in Hall E, they have the actual car and will drive you around in it. While cruising in the Strati, look over the Shell display behind the LM booth with its solar-powered cars and concepts that are featured in the company’s global competition every year. Also look at the great stuff from students at the College for Creative Studies and, finally, at the 3D printed Shelby GT remakes. Awesome stuff down in Hall E.
Honda is emphasizing three things this year in Detroit: fuel cells, jet propulsion, and personal mobility. Their booth prominently displays their new HondaJet, with a life-sized version of the engine on display alongside a scale model of the airplane itself. Next to that is the new FCV concept, their vision of the next-generation of their fuel cell vehicle to replace the Clarity. Finally, little personal mobility devices like electric unicycles that self-balance and such can be seen scooting around the booth as people attempt to take selfies without running into things. This is probably why Honda has a lot of blue lighting in their booth this year – blood looks less dramatic under blue lights.
The Hyundai booth has a couple of displays highlighting their hydrogen fuel cell technologies and a breakdown of their HFCV Tucson, but the real highlight is the diesel-powered Santa Cruz concept. This is a truck based on a crossover design, but as a pickup truck. It seats five, has a small pickup truck bed (ala the El Camino) and is styled and designed to be the ultimate beach goer and getaway machine on top of being capable of doing light duty pickup truck work. The market is totally ripe for something like this, but alas, Hyundai says the Santa Cruz is for show only.
The big unveil from Nissan’s premium brand was the new Q60 Coupe Concept, a production-ready version of their upcoming new coupe to replace the outgoing design based on the G37. Big news here is in powerplants, though the design of the Q60 deserves a lot of attention. Sleek curves and a powerful, but sinuous physique in a fastback coupe design make the new Q60 an eye hugger. Infiniti says they have a new turbocharged V6 they’ll introduce with this car, replacing the venerable 3.7L currently used.
Although there isn’t anything new to showcase at Jeep this year, they have the usual display of awesomeness with vehicles around the floor and mounted to the walls. Only Jeep can pull this off and not have it look gimmicky. Go stand under the Wrangler on the wall and get a selfie.
The new Lexus GS F unveiled at Detroit this year as another entry into the company’s F-Sport lineup. The sedan is pretty, but a bit underwhelming given the way all of the Lexus lineup is kind of beginning to blend together now.
On the show floor in the Cobo Center, Local Motors has a small booth that keeps emitting industrial sounds and grinding noises. This is their 3D printer and mill machine building the next-generation of the Strati electric car. Yes a 3D printed car. Now in its third generation. After only a year of development. Talk with the Local Motors guys on site and find out about their process. This is going to change automotive forever.
The big unveil at Nissan this year was the much-anticipated Titan Diesel, now officially called the Titan XD. This is the new-generation Titan truck built as a heavy-duty half-ton with a huge Cummins turbocharged V8 diesel engine in it. This monster packs 555 lb-ft of torque and tows up to 12,000 pounds. In a half-ton truck. A truck that looks pretty damn butch too, I’d add. The new Titan gains about 20 inches in overall length, ten inches of wheelbase, and an inch in height. It’s massive and it lives up to its name, but Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn assures us that it will still park in the average garage. No mention was made for where you’re going to park the huge number of toys this thing is capable of pulling around for you, though.
Speaking of trucks, Ram unveiled the new Rebel party truck. This is a Ram 1500 decked out to emphasize offroad and fun times. Ram insists it’s not a “Raptor fighter,” but marketing says otherwise and with the signature Ram brand beefiness and near-unlimited amount of customization that can be had at the dealership for this one, we think it’ll win. The only disappointment with this one was that there will be no diesel option this time around. Speaking of diesel options, though, the new Ram 1500 EcoDiesel HFE model gets 29 mpg on the highway. That was also (quietly) unveiled at the show this year.
Ahh, Toyota. Last but not least in our roundup. Toyota has a pile of goodies to show off this year. Their big unveil was the new Tacoma and Tacoma TRD, both of which were kinda-sorta leaked before the show and neither of which was a big surprise. The new look is best seen in person, though, because photos don’t do it justice. Also on display is the Mirai hydrogen concept and some other fun concepts and race cars. Toyota is really pushing its race heritage and headlining that is the Tundra TRD that won the Baja 1000 this year. It’s unchanged since its win day, still covered in dirt and dust and with a giant gouge down one side where it “bumped” another racer. All things well worth getting a look at. Then, as you leave the booth, feast your eyes on the FT-1 supercar, meant to give Supra fanboys a reason to finally STFU.
All in all, a great show in Detroit this year. Well worth the trip to see.