The 2014 Detroit Auto Show wrapped up a few days ago. Detroit has always been one of the largest and most important shows in the auto show season. Detroit is home to the big three US auto makers, GM, Ford and Chrysler, and all three brought important vehicles to debut to the public. This is their home turf, and they always take the opportunity to have at least one major reveal per manufacturer.
The following list, arranged in no particular order, is simply my thoughts on just a handful of vehicles that were brought to the show. I’m picking and choosing vehicles that stood out to me personally. I was not there, so any comments on the aesthetic appeal of the vehicles are simply from the photos I’ve viewed.
2015 Ford F-150
This was probably the single most important vehicle launch at the show. The F-Series trucks have been the best selling or one of the best selling vehicles in the United States for years. Ford sells hundreds of thousands of these trucks every year. The current model is the oldest of the big three. GM introduced the Chevrolet Silverado/GMC Sierra twins last year, and the Ram 1500 has had a recent refresh. As such, Ford really needed to pull out the stops on this vehicle.
Rumors have been floating around for a long while about Ford’s weight loss plan for the F-150. CAFE (Corporate Average Fuel Economy) standards are forcing automakers to increase the efficiency of their entire range. New technology in recent years has helped, but large trucks are still some of the thirstiest vehicles on the road.
With the last generation of F-150, Ford dropped their EcoBoost twin-turbo V6 under the hood of the vehicle. While not the most efficient engine on the market, sales of the EcoBoost far exceeded Ford’s expectations. This year, Ford announced a second engine in the EcoBoost range would be optional in the F-150. This new engine, a smaller 2.7L twin-turbo V6, will help raise the average fuel economy and emissions ratings for the new F-150.
The big news though is the massive weight loss in the new F-150 compared to the outgoing model. Ford claims up to 700 pounds have been shaved from the new truck through the extensive use of aluminum and high-strength steel.
Aluminum has been used for years to help reduce weight in cars while keeping structural integrity intact. The main problems have always been cost and the difficulty of manufacturing aluminum on a large scale. Ford seems to have overcome both problems.
Weight is the enemy of efficiency. Vehicles of all sorts have been getting heavier and heavier for years. New technology and safety standards have added bulk to vehicles, meaning engines have to work harder to move all that extra weight. More power helps to move the vehicles, but decreases efficiency. Less weight means less to move. That means engines can be downsized without a loss of performance.
Ford’s use of aluminum on such a scale might be the most important innovation in trucks in years. Chevrolet/GMC and Ram are going to have to respond on the next generation of their trucks. They cannot afford to be left behind when it comes to innovation. Trucks are American manufactures bread and butter.
2015 Chevrolet Corvette Z06
I love the Corvette. Since I was born, my father has owned five, a 1986, a 1988, a 1994, a 2002 and currently a 2007. The last two were both Z06 models. I learned to drive a stick shift in the ’94. There was enough torque in that engine to help a teenager from stalling all the time. I had more difficulty driving my cousin’s Mini Cooper S than I did with that Corvette.
Though the F-150 was probably the most important debut this year, the Z06 was my personal favorite.
The new car follows a similar formula to the last one. More power, more technology, less weight and a new engine. Gone is GM’s LS7, the normally-aspirated 7.0L V8 that powered the last generation Z06. This new model features a supercharged 6.2L V8 with at least 625 horsepower and 635 lb-ft of torque.
Personally, I think the biggest news about the new Z06 is the introduction of the 8-speed automatic transmission. A seven-speed manual is available as well. GM claims that the new 8-speed up shifts quicker than Porsches dual-clutch PDK transmission in the 911. And GM’s still features a conventional torque converter. Surprisingly, my father has expressed a desire for the 8-speed.
The new Z06 will features a wider wheel arches compared to the standard Corvette Stingray. Wider wheels and tires are standard all around, as well as larger brakes. The Z07 option includes carbon-ceramic brake rotors and sticker tires at all four corners.
The new Z06 is also the basis for Corvette Racing’s new C7.R. Aero devices on the street car were designed with racing in mind. Homologation rules are requiring racecars to be much closer to street cars.
I can’t wait to see one of these on the road and to watch the new C7.R out on track.
2015 Cadillac ATS Coupe
The new ATS Coupe is Cadillac’s smallest coupe ever. This is simply Cadillac’s 3-Series fighter made slightly less practical. I think it’s quite handsome, though the new Cadillac emblem is going to have to grow on me.
I know that GM is trying to make a more mainstream coupe, but I was slightly disappointed that we didn’t see something quite as radical as the CTS coupe. I can only hope the next ATS variant will be a wagon.
2015 Chrysler 200
I was genuinely surprised about how much I liked the looks of this car. I’ve never been a big fan of Chrysler styling. The first generation 300C never did anything for me, and I really only like the current generation in SRT trim.
The new 200 follows in the footsteps of the Mercedes-Benz CLS, Volkswagen CC and other 4-door coupes. I think it works, but I wonder how much headroom will be lost in the back seat because of the slope on the roofline.
This is an important vehicle for Chrysler. The mid-size sedan market is one of the most hotly contested segments in the US. The Camry and Accord are the sales leaders, though the Ford Fusion has made some headway in recent years. Chrysler hasn’t had a competitive product in this segment in years, so the new 200 needs to deliver the goods.
Will we see a Dodge variant next?
2015 Mercedes-Benz C-Class
This car looks like a mini S-Class, and that’s a very good thing.
I’ve always had a fondness for the C-Class. My grandfather currently owns a C230 and the wicked C43 AMG. They’ve never handled quite as well as the BMW 3-Series, but it always made up for it in the straights. Mercedes seems to use a hammer when BMW uses a scalpel. That hammer always came in the form of one of the best sounding V8s on the market. I don’t know what kind of wizardry Mercedes uses to eek out torque from their engines, but the few I’ve driven seem to pull harder off the line than most.
I think the last generation was the best looking car in its class. I think the same goes for the new one as well. With the release of the smaller, cheaper CLA-Class, Mercedes can move the C-Class slightly up market. I just wonder if they’ll drop the V8 in favor of a turbo V6 when the AMG makes an appearance.
2014 BMW M235i
I loved the old 1-Series. Several times I’ve sat down and attempted to figure out how I could afford one. It’s smaller than the 3-Series, yet uses the same engines. BMW’s new naming system means all coupes are even numbers, so the new 2-series is essentially the next generation of the old 1-Series Coupe.
The M235i currently sits atop the 2-Series range and is a replacement for the old 135is. Power from the strait 6-cylinder engine is delivered through either a six-speed manual or an eight-speed automatic. BMW claims a 0-60 time of 4.8 seconds with the automatic.
I look forward to some head-to-head comparisons with Mercedes CLA45 AMG.
2015 BMW M3/M4
I’m going to lump these two together since the M4 is really just an M3 with two doors.
Both cars drop the high revving V8 for a turbo straight-6. Both cars are lighter and more powerful than their predecessors, meaning they’ll be faster and more efficient. I’m still not sold on the looks of the twins. Not that the cars are by any means ugly, but I seem to prefer the last generation’s styling a bit more.
Of the two, I’m actually partial to the M3. I’ve always loved fast yet practical cars, and the M3 certainly fits the bill more so than its two-door sibling.
My friend is a mechanic for BMW. I await his opinion on the new twins.
2015 Subaru WRX STI
Let’s take a moment of silence in honor of the death of the hatchback.
Now that that’s finished, I can talk about the new WRX STI. This car is basically a more aggressive WRX, just like every generation before it. Like the WRX, the STI is powered by a turbo flat four-cylinder that sends power to all four wheels. This engine puts out 305 horsepower and 290 pound-feet of torque. Unlike the WRX, the STI is only available with a manual transmission.
The all-wheel drive system features a 41/59 torque split and torque vectoring. It also features a driver adjustable locking differential.
The new car features all of the requisite STI features: blue paint, gold alloys, a large air intake on the hood and a massive wing out back.
I’ve always respected the WRX and its more powerful STI brother. Cheap, powerful and aggressive, this new car should be better than the old. I’ll attempt to drive one the first chance I get.
2015 Volkswagen Golf R
I drive a 2006 Volkswagen GTI. I love my car, and I’ve always liked the R32 and its replacement, the Golf R. To me, these cars were always a more civilized competitor to the WRX and the WRX STI. They were never quite as fast, but they were substantially more refined.
Like the Subaru, the Golf R features a turbo four-cylinder and all wheel drive. Unlike the Subaru, you get the choice of a manual transmission or Volkswagens fantastic dual-clutch automatic. Power is up over the old model and weight is down. This should mean the new car is faster and more agile than its predecessor. Buy one with four doors and you have a practical, well-built everyday driver.
The reason I love my GTI is that I can flog it through the corners, but still achieve 31mpg on the highway in relative comfort. Plus, with the hatch, there is plenty of room to cargo space. When I moved to Auburn in August of 2011, I fit nearly everything I needed in the back of my GTI.
This Golf R is essentially a faster version of the GTI, and if it drives as well as the old one, I might have to upgrade mine in the future.
2014 Mazda Skyactiv Prototype
Formula 1 might be my favorite race series, but endurance racing isn’t far behind. There is respectable about a series that features Corvettes and Porches battling against wild Audi prototypes for hours on end.
This new car is Mazda’s return to the top tier endurance category. The car will use a 2.2L diesel four-cylinder engine making 451 horsepower and 580 pound-feet of torque. We’ll see how this new Mazda pans out when it heads to Daytona this upcoming weekend.