North American International Auto Show 2014

January 20, 2014

One of America’s biggest automotive calendar events has once again come around. Ringing in the New Year, we have the annual North American International Auto Show, more commonly known as the Detroit Motor Show. This year’s event is especially important for the United States as it follows on from a couple of disastrous scenarios which crippled the American automotive industry.

It marks, as the first major American auto show since 2010, that General Motors is no longer taxpayer funded. Yet, it is also the first time it has been held in the now bankrupted city of Detroit. Want to find out how it went for them? Let’s take a look!

Stars of the Show

[one_half]Toyota FT-1 Concept Rear for Detroit Motor Show article[/one_half][one_half_last]Toyota_FT_1_interior[/one_half_last]

The star of the show award will undoubtedly go to the Toyota FT-1, which turned heads with its out-of-this-world futuristic design. No details were revealed about performance but Akio Toyoda, Toyota’s chief executive, did assure everyone that it could lap the virtual Fuji circuit faster than a Lexus LFX race car. I’ll be putting that to the test later when I fire up my copy of Gran Turismo 6, which is currently the only way to take it for a test drive…

[one_half]Kia GT4 Stinger Concept[/one_half][one_half_last]Kia GT4 Stinger Concept[/one_half_last]

Kia was a close runner up with the stunning GT4 Stinger concept, offering a glimpse into the future of South Korean high performance vehicles. Enlisting the help of designers at their California design studio, the result is a distinctive appearance which definitely includes some American muscle heritage. Behind the huge front corporate grille lies a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine, which produces 315bhp. Kia also confirmed that the model will be rear-wheel drive and include a close-ratio six-speed manual gearbox.

All eyes on the Americans

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Not to be outdone on their home turf, the Detroit three, (Chrysler, General Motors and Ford), managed to bring a little surprise to the proceedings. General Motors finally revealed the new 2015 Corvette Z06 to the world, sporting a fourth generation LT4 engine and a 1.7 litre Eaton Supercharger. The supercharger limit has been increased from the previous ZR1 version to 20,000rpm, and while GM couldn’t give the exact horsepower rating of the new engine they did say that it would produce “at least” 625hp. With three downforce packages, an overhauled driver cockpit and an all-new 8L90 eight-speed automatic transmission, this is a big update from its predecessors.

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GM also announced a new Chevrolet Silverado which managed to win both Car and Truck of the year awards, but it was the new F-150 pickup variant revealed by Ford which proved to be the bigger talking point of the show. Surprising everybody by switching to aluminium body panels from the usual steel, the move was seen as a big gamble by the American motor giant. This is due to the fact potential truck buyers usually favour steel body shells on the basis of their superior strength. On the plus side however, its lightweight properties did allow Ford to reduce the F-150’s load by a sizeable 317 Kilograms.

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The last of the big three, Chrysler, unveiled an updated Chrysler 200, which one photo-journalist had famously called “one of the three ugliest cars he had ever photographed”. Thankfully, this new version has received a well deserved facelift courtesy of some help from Fiat. Built on a shared production platform with the Italian parent company, the new 200 is offered in two powertrain variants: a 3.6-litre V6 with 295hp or a 2.4-litre inline-4 that produces 183hp. No news on a European release date for this one though.

Best of the Rest

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The Germans decided to play things a little safe this year, choosing to tighten up their line-ups with a few new additions. Audi introduced new A3, Q3 and S8 models to help further improve their sedan category. They also gave us a taste of the near future with the hybrid powered Allroad Shooting Brake concept, which serves to showcase what we could expect in the upcoming TT and Allroad series. BMW announced a string of smaller models, starting with the 1 and 2 series. They also debuted lightweight versions of the M3 and M4 models. Mercedes revealed the new C-Class sedan, with the help of a ‘modestly’ dressed Kelly Rowland, and Volkswagen introduced a Dune buggy concept that is essentially a longer, wider Beetle that sits 2 inches higher. Finally, Porsche unveiled the new 911 Targa, which features an impressively designed convertible roof where the rear glass window actually tilts upwards to allow the fabric to retract and expand.

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Our last notable mentions go to Volvo for the unique XC Concept and Lexus for the RC-F. Hinting on the upcoming XC90 SUV, the XC Concept showcased a refreshing design that was much better than the coupe concept shown at Frankfurt. The Lexus RC-F on the other hand, is a highly modified RC Coupe that includes a huge 5.0 litre V8 engine producing “well in excess of 450bhp”. A production version of the RC-F is expected in 2015, while the upcoming Volvo XC90 is expected to debut at the Paris Motor show in October.

Written by Tom Wellburn