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The Top 15 Debuts of the 2015 Detroit Auto Show

It’s hardly unusual for automakers to bring out the big guns for their home auto show; the Germans do it in Frankfurt, likewise the French for Paris, and historically the Detroit Three have done it for the Detroit Auto Show (which is technically the North American International Auto Show, though its acronym – NAIAS – sounds to us like some sort of combination antihistamine/antidepressant whose side effects include dizziness, dry mouth and melting teeth). Well, Chrysler didn’t bring a whole lot in the way of sock-knocker-offers to this year’s expo (unless you count the Alfa Romeo 4C Spider, which we could have sworn was officially a “go” for production ages ago), but Ford and GM…oh man, did those cats come loaded for bear. But the out-of-towners brought some neat stuff, as well, and you can find all the rides that we thought were the coolest on the next 15 pages.

Ford GT

2016 Ford GT front 3/4 view

The Ford GT40 is one of the most iconic racecars of all time, and the 2005-’06 Ford GT road car it inspired is one of the coolest supercars of this century. So what does Dearborn do for a third act? Apparently, it creates the 2017 GT, which ditches its predecessors’ V8 rumble and instantly-recognizable shape for a thoroughly modern look and even more modern guts: A carbon fiber passenger cell with aluminum front and rear subframes houses a 600+ horsepower EcoBoost 3.5L twin-turbo V6, 7-speed dual-clutch transmission, pushrod suspension and carbon-ceramic brakes. That faint screaming you hear? Yeah, those are engineers with Ferrari, McLaren and the like declaring a Code Red.

Cadillac CTS-V

2016 Cadillac CTS-V front 3/4 view

No vehicle – with the possible exception of the Escalade – has done more to reinvent Cadillac’s image than the CTS-V. And the third-generation of Cadillac’s stereotype-shattering super sedan has pretty much all the ingredients needed to humiliate the European establishment: A sport-tuned electromagnetically-damped suspension, functional aerodynamic revisions designed to improve cooling and increase downforce, reinforced unibody, quick-shifting GM-designed-and-built 8-speed automatic transmission (A moment of silence for the no-longer-available 6-speed manual…) and, most importantly of all, the new Chevrolet Corvette Z06’s LT4 supercharged 6.2L V8 tuned to make a slightly-less-potent 640 horsepower. We’re betting there are a lot of M, AMG and quattro GmbH engineers curled up in the fetal position under their desks right now…

Infiniti Q60 Concept

2015 Infiniti Q60 Concept

Ever since it came on the scene as the G35 Coupe, Infiniti’s midsize two-door has been a compelling argument against joining the sheep that comprise the BMW 3 Series Coupe/4 Series owner flock. Now the Q60, as it is now known, is gearing up for another assault on its foes, and Infiniti used Cobo Hall as the venue to preview its battle plan. The Q60 Concept (compelling name, we know…) features sheetmetal that manages to be simultaneously complex and subtle wrapped around a new 3.0L twin-turbo V6 driving the rear wheels through a 7-speed automatic transmission. Expect the production model to show its face sometime next year or so.

Chevrolet Volt

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The original Chevrolet Volt was one of the first mass-market plug-in hybrids, but various compromises and quirks kept it from enjoying Prius-like levels of acceptance from consumers. For the second-generation Volt, Chevrolet went back to the drawing board and came up with a much more refined green machine. The styling is less zany yet more aerodynamic, the new 1.5L inline-four gas engine/generator/range-extender runs on regular unleaded (The old Volt’s 1.4L required premium.), and the battery pack is now small enough to allow for three-across rear-seating, for a total of five occupants. Oh, and it will now do a claimed 50 miles on a single charge, and get 41 mpg when running in gas-hybrid mode. Not too shabby, Chevy…

Mercedes-AMG GLE63 S Coupe 4Matic

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While we will probably never cease questioning the need for four-door hatchback crossover coupe thingamabobs, at least Mercedes-AMG – like BMW M before it – was kind enough to cook up a factory-tuned version. The GLE63 S Coupe 4Matic (…and breathe.) doesn’t look dramatically different from the regular GLE Coupe, but it looks a lot different when you pop the hood; it is there that you’ll find Mercedes-AMG’s 5.5L twin-turbo V8. It transmits the better part of 577 horsepower to a sport-tuned 7-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel-drive system. To paraphrase Raoul Duke, this…vehicle is too weird to live, too rare to drive slowly.

Buick Avenir Concept

Buick Avenir Concept front 3/4 view

Perhaps the most pleasant surprise of this year’s Detroit show (if you don’t count the Ford GT, since rumors about its existence have been swirling for months) was the Buick Avenir Concept. A love letter of sorts, both conceptual and visual, to the Roadmasters, Electra 225s, Wildcats and other big Buicks of old, this striking sedan (which is slightly longer than a Cadillac Escalade) boasts such powertrain trickery as a new-generation V6 engine, 9-speed automatic transmission and something called a twin-clutch AWD system. Depending on whom you talk to, the Avenir previews the next-gen LaCrosse or a new Holden-developed flagship sedan; either way, the sooner Buick puts something like this in showrooms, the sooner we can all (hopefully) stop dropping the brand’s name in the same sentences as phrases like “bingo night,” “dinner at 4 p.m.” and “Shady Pines.”

Ford Mustang Shelby GT350R

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The debut of the new Ford GT would have been monumental enough, but the Blue Oval’s new Ford Performance arm – made from the amalgamation of Ford Racing and the company’s U.S. (SVT) and European (Team RS) tuning divisions – also used Detroit to debut an even more athletic version of the Mustang Shelby GT350, the GT350R. The 500+ horsepower, flat-plane crankshaft 5.2L V8, 6-speed manual transmission, Torsen limited-slip differential and unique body panels are shared with the “regular” GT350, but the GT350R will add an even more aggressive aero package (with a towering trunk spoiler), suspension tuning that’s even more track-focused, exclusive 19” wheels made of carbon fiber that reduce unsprung mass by a claimed 13 lbs. per corner, and Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires; meanwhile, Ford Performance removed the air conditioning system, stereo, rear seat, exhaust resonators and even the tire sealant and inflator to help cut weight by some 130 lbs. relative to the GT350 Track Pack (though you’ll be able to re-add sound and climate control systems through an option package if you wish). Looks like the next-gen Camaro Z/28 is going to have to be a real beast to keep from getting smoked…

Nissan Titan XD

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It’s easy to forget that Nissan has been building a full-size, V8-only, North-America-exclusive pickup truck called the Titan for the past 11 years. A lot of that invisibility might be related to the fact that, other than a few exterior and interior trim revisions, today’s Titan is basically the same as the 2004 original. That all changes for the 2016 model year, when Nissan will start shipping an all-new Titan to dealers. The new Titan will be available in all the same configurations as the current truck, while a new regular cab body and a base V6 engine will join the menu.

But the biggest addition to the menu is found in the Titan XD, a not-quite-3/4-ton model that harkens back to the Detroit Three’s emissions-loophole-exploiting “heavy half” pickups of the late-1970s and early-1980s. The Titan XD will be available with the standard version’s gas V6 and V8, a new 5.0L V8 turbodiesel from the diesel experts at Cummins. It’s rated at 310 horsepower and 555 lb.-ft of torque, and will be matched exclusively to a 6-speed automatic transmission. We’re guessing all these extra choices will help Titan get a much bigger slice of the big pickup pie, though Ram, Ford and Chevrolet/GMC will likely continue to bogart the sales race podium.

Porsche 911 Targa 4 GTS

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Did you notice the severe shortage of Porsche 911 variations that’s been happening recently? Us neither. Now even fewer people will be able to complain about a lack of choice in the rear-engine sports car’s lineup, because Porsche is adding the 911 Targa 4 GTS to the roster. As you might have guessed, it combines the other 911 GTS models’ firmer suspension, unique trim and upgraded 430 horsepower 3.8L flat-six with the new 991-generation Targa and its intricate power-retractable roof panel and retro-cool brushed metal “basket handle” and “bubbleback” rear window. Can a 911 Targa Turbo revival be far away? We’re guessing “Nein.

Acura NSX

2016 Acura NSX front 3/4 view

An entire decade has passed since the last Acura NSX zoomed out of the factory in Japan, and the company has spent most of that decade threatening to release a new one. Well, Acura is finally following through with those threats in the form of the new 2016 NSX. As before, it’s a two-seater powered by a mid-mounted V6, but that 3.5L V6 features twin turbochargers and at least 550 horsepower. The V6 is teamed with a 9-speed dual-clutch transmission and three electric motors, two of which independently power each front wheel. The Ohio-made NSX won’t be as fast or potent as the hybrid hypercars from Europe, but it will be considerably cheaper and made in greater numbers, which sounds like a fair trade to us.

Chevrolet Bolt EV Concept

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No, we haven’t made a typo powerful enough to rip open the time-space continuum; the Chevrolet Bolt (with a “B”) EV Concept really is a thing, and it really does have our attention. This tiny two-box five-door electric car will supposedly cover 200 miles on a full charge (about double the range of most current EVs not named Model S) and, if put into production, would retail for about $30,000. Here’s hoping the Bolt follows the Volt’s lead by making the jump from show floor to showroom floor in the not-too-far-away future.

Volvo S60 Cross Country

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You there! Do you spend your days sulking around and lamenting the fact that you can’t buy a brand new AMC Eagle Sedan or Subaru Legacy Outback SUS? Well get ready to turn that frown upside down, homeslice, because Volvo is reviving the jacked-up, AWD crossover sedan genus with the S60 Cross Country. U.S.-spec S60 Cross Countries will be propelled by Volvo’s turbocharged 2.5L inline-five (producing 250 horsepower) and matched to an AWD system and anextra 2.5” of ground clearance shared with its station-wagon-on-stilts sister, the V60 Cross Country. We’re betting Volvo will sell quite a few of these things in places like New England, Colorado and the Pacific Northwest but, like its American and Japanese forebears, we’re guessing it will remain a very much niche model.

Lexus GS F

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For years now, enthusiasts and journalists alike have been wondering when or if Lexus would release a hopped up F version of its mid-size GS sedan. Supposedly, a GS F based on the previous-generation GS and powered by the LFA’s sublimely-shrill 4.8L V10 was considered, but the new fourth-gen-GS-based reality is much more modest: Yeah, it’s got butched-up bodywork and sharpened chassis tuning, but under the hood you’ll find the same 467 horsepower 5.0L V8 that resides under the RC F’s bonnet. That hardly qualifies as anemic on its own, but when lined up against the E63 AMG, M5, CTS-V and all the rest, it looks awfully half-hearted. Still, it’s noticeably lighter than the competition, and if you stack it up against other not-quite-super-sedans like the Cadillac CTS Vsport and BMW 550i, it should more than hold its own on the test track.

Ford F-150 Raptor

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Instead of just revealing the new GT and Shelby GT350R at its hometown show and calling it good enough, Ford decided to go for the trifecta of performance vehicle awesomeness by rolling out a third new machine: The 2017 F-150 Raptor. Like the old SVT Raptor, this new truck is a hardcore dune-hopping machine, with updated Fox Racing Shox dampers, BFGoodrich all-terrain tires and bold new bodywork built for beaucoup bogging. Unlike the prior version, though, and like the new run-of-the-mill F-150, the new Raptor’s body and bed are made of aluminum, which is one of the things that helps cut the curb weight by some 500 lbs.

The other part of its diet comes from the downsized engine; like the GT, the F-150 Raptor has dumped its V8 for the new-generation EcoBoost 3.5L twin-turbo V6, which Ford says will trump the old 6.2L V8’s 411 horsepower and 434 lb.-ft of torque. The engine will be matched to a new 10-speed (yes, ten) automatic transmission and a unique drivetrain that combines the best attributes of all-wheel-drive and four-wheel-drive to, presumably, create a vehicle that’s civilized on the pavement and a muscle-bound maniac off it.

Land Rover Range Rover Diesel

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While not staging a world premiere of any new products in Motown, Jaguar Land Rover did use this show to announce that it is launching a whole herd of diesel models from both brands here in North America over the next few years. In fact, the only product line the company said definitely won’t be getting a diesel offering is the Jaguar F-Type. First off the boat will be versions of the Land Rover Range Rover and Range Rover Sport powered by a 3.0L V6 turbodiesel. That engine – rated at 254 horsepower and 440 lb.-ft of torque – is expected to return 28 mpg on the highway, an outstanding figure for these big luxury SUVs. Vehicles powered by a 2.0L inline-four turbodiesel – such as the Jaguar XE, with highway fuel economy expected to top 40 mpg – will follow. Good show, chaps!



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