Forget about Emotional Support Musical Instruments, airports understaffed due to the government shutdown, trains, and Wisconsin…can we talk about automobiles, again?
We can. The North American International Auto Show opened for its final January at Cobo Hall in Detroit. We will the final vestiges of a cold auto show on the shores of the Detroit River, before it goes into its scheduling conflict with Motor City Pride over the use of Hart Plaza.
However, there are still several debuts that should be discussed here. Because, in the end, it’s all about product.
Let’s talk about what made the headlines at this year's NAIAS…aside from the water main break affecting Cobo Center and downtown Detroit.
2020 TOYOTA SUPRA: Akio Toyoda called this "the worst kept secret" in the automotive industry. Part of the agreement with BMW, the Gazoo Racing team jumped in to raise the bar for the newest Supra. Powered by a turbocharged in-line six, the Supra only manages 335 horsepower. Yet, they tried to make the coupe distinctive and attractive for those looking for a sports car that is supposed to evoke all previous generations of this vaunted name. The fanboys may have some debate amongst themselves over this car.
2020 CADILLAC XT6: General Motors President Mark Reuss proclaimed that "Cadillac is going to be all about Cadillac." OK, Mr. Reuss, was this three-row mid-sized SUV what you had in mind when you said that? It is handsome, but I was hoping for more design dramatics. It will come with the 3.6-liter V6 and a nine-speed automatic, which can be mated to an all-wheel-drive system as available. Contemporary Cadillac design will also be found inside. The CUE infotainment system can also be controlled by a new knob – something that European premium vehicle buyers will welcome. But, let me ask this: will the XT6 become "the standard of the world" or become part of the "penalty of leadership?" We shall see…
2020 FORD EXPLORER: They did this in two parts. The week before, they featured the new mid-sized three-row SUV at a special event for media inside Ford Field. A week later, Ford added a hybrid version and the ST. This gives the consumer four choices in power/propulsion over a range of five trim levels on a new rear-drive-biased platform it will share with the Lincoln Aviator. The ST adds a new model to the Ford Performance stable with it twin-turbocharged Ecoboost V6 spewing 400 horsepower. The most important piece of the new Explorer puzzle is its stunning interior and its available landscape-oriented, tablet-like infotainment screen. In all, Ford is set to win this segment by, well, "doing it right."
2020 FORD MUSTANG SHELBY GT500: In the performance game, you have to raise the stakes. So, Ford Performance did. They needed something to rattle the cages at Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and GM. They took the Mustang, slammed a supercharged 5.2-liter flat crank V8 underneath its new fascia, and raised it to 700 horsepower. The big surprise is what’s connected to this monster mill – a dual-clutch transmission. Sorry, three-pedal drivers. The truth is that maybe this is the transmission that can handle such power – according to Ford, that is.
2019 RAM HEAVY DUTY: Taking the theme of the award-winning Ram 1500, the Heavy Duty gets a new grille, hood, fenders, box, and interior. And, yes, the UConnect 12-inch screen is now affixed inside of this bigger Ram. That is not the big news. The 6.7-liter Cummins turbocharged diesel has finally reached the 1,000 lb-ft mark for low end grunt. That now gives the Ram Heavy Duty a maximum tow rating of 35,100 pounds with a 7,680-pound top payload rating. FCA has fired the first salvo in the heavy-duty pickup truck race that will heat up when GM and Ford introduced their new versions in the next month or so.
2020 VOLKSWAGEN PASSAT: The new design looks sharper. It takes cues from the new Jetta towards creating an evocative midsized sedan. The interior gets some updates, with larger infotainment screens and some clean up on switchgear, instrumentation, and vent positions. However, it will be built on the current platform that underpins the North American Passat, along with retaining the 2.0-liter turbocharged TSI engine and its six-speed automatic transmission. So, where’s the Digital Cockpit and the eight-speed automatic? I’m sure it will be nice…
2020 KIA TELLURIDE: It is officially official! The "boxy" mid-sized SUV finally makes its production-ready appearance after months of prototypes for specialty shows and such. The real Telluride will have a 3.8-liter V6 with 291 horsepower on tap, three-rows of seating, the largest infotainment screen in Kia history, and
LEXUS LC CONVERTIBLE CONCEPT: As much as I disdain concepts, I will give this a thumbs up. Why? Would you love to see a droptop version of #VOTY18? It looks the part, considering what it will be positioned against. Think Maserati Gran Cabriolet, Aston Martin DB11, Porsche 911, BMW 8-Series Cabriolet, Mercedes-Benz S-Class Cabriolet and SL. You could throw in the Rolls-Royce Dawn and the upcoming Bentley Continental GT Cabriolet for further justification. The business case is there, because of the market still wants high-end convertibles for the status conscious. Now, the question remains whether Lexus should build it. I say “yes.”
2020 LEXUS RC F: My favorite car just got better. It received a few updates on the outside, but the real updates are hidden from view. The 5.0-liter V8 received added horsepower (now 472), added torque (now 389 pound-feet), and stiffer motor mounts. They also firmed up the mounts for the steering system, as well. The RC F will also be equipped with electronic launch control. On top of the standard model will be the Track Edition, which offers a more hardcore feeling on top of the RC F's performance. That carbon fiber rear spoiler – OK, wing – is a nod to Lexus F Racing’s efforts on the GT3 circuit. Hmmm…going stealth or going track-bound? You decide.
Cover photo courtesy of Toyota Motor North America