The hype and hyperbole are over for the year, as the 2015 North American International Auto Show wrapped up January 25th. There were massive hits and utter failures that left industry reporters and automotive enthusiasts with a lot to talk about. The floor space was filled with exotics, driverless cars, hydrogen cars, and even 3D printed cars. There was something for everyone, but like at Detroit’s old Cobo center, we have a lot of ground to cover, so let’s get started.
Car/Truck of the Year
Early in the show, the automotive press voted and generally came to an agreement on the most important new production vehicles launched at the Detroit show. Surprising absolutely no one is Ford’s new F-150. With a stylish redesign, a great interior, powerful and efficient EcoBoost engines, and that innovative aluminum body, the new F-150 is likely going to take every Truck of the Year award, from every show and magazine.
More surprising was the choice of the Volkswagen Golf series for Car of the Year. It’s a little more understandable when you remember the Golf is a perennial journalist favorite, and the new version ups the lux, maintains the sport, and adds value. That’s a great combo on what was already a good car.
Flops and Failures
Not everyone gets it right every time. For example, there’s that Hyundai truck thing. In fairness, the Santa Cruz Crossover Truck Concept is actually pretty cool looking. However, it fails because it will never make it to production. North America dislikes two-door trucks, and dislikes small trucks. Make a small two-door pickup, and you’ve got a sales flop worse than the Subaru Brat. At best, this swoopy concept evokes where Hyundai will take their design cues for the next few years.
Also stumbling was Nissan’s full-size Titan truck. It looks like a last generation F-150 that raided the fake chrome bin at Pep Boys, but interestingly has optional diesel power. Still, it might not make enough of a dent in the lucrative truck market, which means this might also be the last Nissan Titan.
Then there was Audi’s announcement that they are working on a flagship SUV to debut sometime around the end of the decade. That’s what the world needs: more six-figure SUVs.
Moments of Brilliance
Fortunately, there were enough hits at Detroit, due to some endlessly talented designers and engineers. Acerbic auto industry critic Peter De Lorenzo calls them “True Believers,” and their craft was in full force on a few vehicles.
First, there’s the Acura NSX. Sure, yeah, we saw it years ago in Iron Man 2. But this is the real deal, the one you can buy. Acura (and Honda) have made a lot of missteps in the last decade, but the new NSX looks to erase all of the ugly/boring/cheap mistakes in one design. The Acura grille has finally evolved into an attractive design, and the low-slung profile easily evokes the legendary ‘90s NSX. The powerplant is dead-on, with a twin turbo v6 connected to a nine-speed dual clutch transmission. Oh, and like the top dogs at Ferrari and Porsche, it’s a hybrid.
And then there’s the one that blew the doors off Cobo. The Ford GT returns as a potential Le Mans slayer, ready to decimate everything on the track, and everything in sales at its price point. Unlike the 2005 Ford GT, that was a beautiful retro sports car, the new GT will be spec’ed to race with a 3.5L v6 delivering over 600 horsepower. There are just a couple of heritage cues that mark this car as GT lineage, but otherwise the retro was ditched in favor of the far future. The aerodynamically worked body looks like nothing else, and is arguably more visually impressive than million dollar hypercars from Koenigsegg or Zonda. Guaranteed, this car is keeping top Ferrari executives up at night.