O Opinions & Commentary

Detroit Auto Show Highlights and Gallery

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The press preview days at the North American International Auto Show showcased some exciting unveilings and concept previews for the pulbic show, which starts this Saturday at the Cobo Center in downtown Detroit.

Executive Editor Lee Bailie and myself were sent down by PRN Ignition and PASMAG to cover the latest vehicle releases and future trends that we can expect to see on our roadways in the near future.

Auto Shows of this scale are always filled with an enthusiasm that is equally shared between press, industry officials and enthusiasts alike. This was especially the case given the international unveilings for the 2014 year, including Bentley, BMW, Hyundai, Mercedes-Benz and Shelby among many others.

Because of the vast territory and vehicle coverage, Bailie and myself split duties to ensure we could provide the best information and photos for each concept and unveil.


Jeep unveiled four redesigned 2014 models for the show, including a new Compass, Patriot, Grand Cherokee and Grand Cherokee SRT.

Dropping the SRT8 moniker, the new SRT featured dramatic restyling on the front and rear fascia, as well as innovative and luxurious interior appointments.

The most obvious style changes were the front LED headlamps and grill, surrounded by a black trim for a more aggressive appearance.

On the rear, reshaped taillights encompass the same proportions as last years SUV, but the new shape and light cluster gives the SRT a more modern appearance.

While the new exterior styling looks sharp, the interior is where most drivers will notice and appreciate the change.

Starting with the front cluster, driver’s can choose which vehicle and driving information is shown via a multi-function TFT display. The centre console was completely reconfigured for an 8.4-inch in-dash, full-colour touchscreen and climate controls as well.

The show model also included a new Laguna leather-bound interior in Sepia which included the T-handle shifter knob. A Torque (black) colour option is also available.

A new eight-speed automatic transmission with paddle-shift is mated to the 6.4-litre HEMI V8 with 470 hp, 465 lb-ft of torque and Fuel Saver Technology. An Eco Mode optimizes shifts for the new transmission for addition fuel savings.

SRT’s addition of  launch control in the new model is a very welcome addition to the new Grand Cherokee package, which will undoubtedly appeal to performance enthusiasts of the brand.

The new SUV is aimed at taking a chunk out of the performance luxury SUV market, where German and Japanese automakers have been recent headliners, but the newest SRT could provide a serious challenge.

When asked to comment on the latest innovations of the Cherokee SRT, SRT President and CEO Ralph Gilles commented, “The previous model was born in hard times. We were able to restyle the 2014 a year ahead of the usual schedule, which is a great thing for our customers and the SRT brand.” 

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Introducing a new concept to compete in the growing small luxury SUV market, Lincoln’s MKC was focused on showcasing the company’s latest luxury and style appointments.

Standard LED headlamps, newly designed front grill and rear, full-width taillights and a full, panoramic sunroof highlighted the exterior, which appeared largely based on the current platform MKX.

Inside, the interior was dressed completely in white leather, custom stitched in the door panels and continuing into the rear cargo bay. Chrome and wood accents provided a very luxurious feel throughout the vehicle, with rear seat and panel appointments that gave the MKC a very clean, bright appearance.

Unfortunately few details were released on accessories, but the company announced a push-button transmission and customizable interior lighting. Many of the styling features will be put into the future production model, the company said.

Because the MKC Concept shares so many similarities with the current MKX, we won’t be surprised if Lincoln either re-badges their next release for the 2015 model year, or just transfers the upgrades into the next MKX.

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Aside from the obvious buzz around Chevrolet’s latest Corvette, the anticipation of two new BMWs was a major point of anticipation at the NAIAS press preview. The new M6 Gran Coupe and Concept 4 Series did a great job generating their own interest, which has been on high since the initial announcements.

The Concept 4 Series looks to take on a similar role as the 6 and 8 Series as the coupe version of the 3 Series. Using BMW’s latest design technologies, the front end features new LED head lamps and a kidney grill to accentuate the lower and wider stance of the 4.

On the inside, leather hand-bound seats and door trims make the coupe feel like a luxury exotic. Complemented by wood and aluminum trim throughout, the interior details are traditional BMW, but as equally impressive as the outside.

The company couldn’t release production or powertrain details, but a 2015 model with 3 Series power would make the most sense.

For the M6 Gran Coupe, the model will be placed alongside the current coupe and convertible versions.

Making use of a longer wheelbase and carbon-fibre rear diffuser, the four-door is capable of zero-to-100 times of approximately four seconds, thanks to a TwinPower Turbo V8 with 560 hp and 502 lb-ft of torque.

Sharply styled, the M6 Gran Coupe provides a sports-driven, spacious alternative to M6 consumers. Expect it to hit showroom floors later this year.  

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The marquee of luxury, Bentley arrived to Detroit with the best of their sport luxury cars for the release of their new flagship convertible.

Flanked by the Continental GT V8 on the left and the Mulsanne on the right, the Continental GT Speed Convertible was hidden under silk prior to the unveiling.

Praised as the world’s fastest four-seater convertible, the cover was lifted to show the beautiful craftsmanship and styling we have come to expect from the British carmaker.

The interior and exterior appointments remain the same as the Convertible’s hard top brethren. The most surprising feature of the new car was the retractable roof,  which was made of a four-layer fabric, rather than a rigid material.

Bentley assured the top will remain draft free, even driving -30 degrees at speed, but it’s hard to imagine the soft-top would remain completely stable or quiet given the car’s 325 km/h top speed from the 616 hp twin-turbo W12 engine.

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Mercedes-Benz knows how to put on a show. American pianist and “The Way it Is” legend Bruce Hornsby kicked it off with a spotlight performance and grand piano on center stage for the highly-anticipated E-Class announcement.

The Stuttgart company premiered the new lineup with five vehicles, including the Saloon (sedan), Estate, Coupe, Cabriolet and the highly-anticipated E63 AMG, along with a number of efficient and safety upgrades.

Top of the list of eco-friendly upgrades, the E-Class comes with available four, six or eight cylinder diesel and gasoline engines ranging from 136 to 585 hp. The new BlueDIRECT four-cylinder topped the list of eco-friendly choices with a class A efficiency rating.

The E63 AMG makes use of a 5.5-litre, 557 hp Biturbo V8 and 4MATIC AWD drivetrain, making it the most powerful E-Class to date. An even more powerful “S” model has an output of 585 hp and includes the AMG’s new “twin-blade” radiator grill.

The Saloon and Estate models in particular also come in two options. The Avantgarde line introduces sports-oriented features and integrates the Mercedes-Benz logo in the front grill, while an Elegance package is directed at luxury appointments with the traditional hood ornament. 

Although the unveiling didn’t include any major redesigns, it showed a number of forward-thinking technical and safety innovations that are still years away for other manufacturers.

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Coinciding with the sale of the Accord Plug-In yesterday in New York, Honda took the opportunity to debut their Urban SUV concept during the second day of the press preview.

Acting as the basis for Honda’s new compact SUV due in early 2014, the Urban SUV Concept utilizes new styling features and showcases the company’s vision for small, practical vehicles.

“I believe small cars are the key to the future,” Honda President and CEO Takanobou Ito said.  

The styling features a large front grill and LED headlights, while the rear taillights use a unique lighting design for a modern look.

The 2014 compact SUV will use the same Earth Dreams technology and be produced at the same Mexico facility as the Accord Plug-In, due later this year.

Pricing was not announced, but the compact SUV will be less than the Crosstour and SUV. Look for performance specifications in the coming months.

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Making one of the biggest splashes on the concept front, Hyundai’s HCD-14 Genesis Concept was directed at luxury, performance and innovative accessory features.

Sporting a long, elegant bodyline, the HCD-14 has a dramatically large front grill and LED headlights with foglamps integrated into the bumper. Large tail lamps and styled dual exhaust tips highlight the chopped rear end. Carbon-fibre wheels and rear-hinged (reverse-opening) rear doors finish off a truly beautiful package from the Seoul-based manufacturer.

The Concept utilizes the 5.0-litre, 420 hp Tau V8 that currently powers Hyundai’s full-size Equus luxury sedan and Genesis sedan.

Inside the car, leather, wood and carbon-fibre cover the seats, paneling and centre console.

One of the most talked about features was the concept’s gesture and voice controls. Removing buttons and dials from the dash, the interface is controlled completely by talking and using hand and eye movements to adjust settings.

While it seemed impressive, it was moreso after the audience was told they were functional in the show car.

Despite the Genesis Concept name, the company said the car was a representation of future premium luxury projects. Hinting at a release of a new premium vehicle at next years show, Hyundai America CEO John Krafcik also said the next iteration of the Genesis would employ certain stylings and functions from the Concept, but would not go in to further detail.

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Ford took the opportunity to use the biggest venue and largest stage for their new Atlas Concept pickup truck at Joe Louis Arena.

The Atlas represents the company’s desire for more functional pickups, while at the same time improving fuel economy.

Most interesting were the functional upgrades, including a 360 degree top-mounted camera to aid drivers in hard-to-navigate areas. Multiple tie-down points, an illuminated cargo box and Dynamic Hitch Assist will be welcome additions both at home and on the jobsite.

An EcoBoost powertrain with auto start-stop engine shutoff technology, active grill shutters for engine cooling and active wheel shutters and a drop-down front air dam automatically adjust at high speeds to improve airflow and fuel efficiency.

Perhaps one of the busiest events of the day, the Atlas includes a number of innovative features and could go into showrooms as early as next year, although the company could not confirm.

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Lexus debuted the redesigned IS model line with a number of key stylistic and performance upgrades for 2014.

Starting with the design, the exterior features strong lines front to back. L-shaped daytime running lights sit below the headlights inside the bumper, which includes Lexus’s new signature gaping front grill.

The interior has been completely converted for driver-focused control and convenience. A more sporting driving position was created by altering the steering wheel adjustments, an issue that was apparent in the previous IS. Having a 70 mm longer wheelbase and being 10 mm wider, space was also improved for rear seating.

Rear and all-wheel drive versions are now available for the IS 250 and IS 350, mated with a rear multi-link suspension brought over from the GS.

New for 2014 is an F-Sport package for both the 250 and 350. Featuring 18-inch wheels, suspension and trim details, the 350 will include a 3.5-litre V6 with upwards of 350 hp. It will also feature a Sport Plus driving mode on top of the standard Eco, Normal and Sport modes.

Lexus Group VP and GM Mark Templin said the new IS will reach showrooms in June.

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KIA almost deserves a break after the complete revamp their lineup has seen since Designer Peter Schreyer took office in 2006. His recent work helped bring KIA out of the design doghouse and this time around he sketched the latest Cadenza sedan.

The Cadenza is KIA’s latest move into the luxury segment – it is also the most technologically advanced KIA to date.

Standard to the 2014 model is an eight-inch HD touchscreen, backup camera and premium 550-watt Infinity 12 speaker sound system, complete with subwoofer. Dual-zone climate control, push-button start and Premium and Technology Packages are also available.

Depending on the package, blind spot indicators, lane departure warning system, panoramic sunroof, heated front seats and 19 inch wheels are included.

The 3.3-litre engine is KIA’s most powerful V6 ever, and it also pushes 293 hp and 255 lb-ft of torque using just regular gasoline.

Pricing was not announced, but expect to see it in showrooms in the second quarter this year.

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Shelby has always been synonymous with power and performance. Take the name and put it beside Ford and everyone knows you’re talking about either a GT 350 or GT 500 Mustang.

This time around the performance manufacturer added an additional car into the mix, unveiling the highly-regarded Focus ST to create the ultimate “Pocket Rocket.”

In the first Auto Show in Detroit since Carroll Shelby’s passing, the company unveiled the Shelby Focus ST alongside the Mustang-based Super Snake. It was one of the last concepts Shelby drove last year. Displaying the true spirit of the company, when he tested the 850 hp beast he asked why it wasn’t 1,000 hp!

The Super Snake was the first car unveiled. With a 4.0-litre Whipple Supercharger, performance radiator, Shelby/Wilwood front and rear brake kit and Shelby suspension kit, mufflers and short throw shifter, the performance upgrades make this an instant track contender.

The visuals of the Super Snake are equally as impressive. A full wide body kit is available in the highest trim package, paired with 20-inch Shelby three-piece billet forged offset wheels, Shelby stripe packaging and a carbon-fibre front splitter. Inside, customers are privy to Recaro seats with Shelby/Katzkin premium leather inserts, door sill plates, mats and an A-pillar gauge cluster.

It’s a sight to behold and customers can convert their base Mustang to either a 662 hp version ($28,995 USD) or 850 hp version ($39,995).

The Shelby Focus ST carries the heritage of Carroll Shelby in the 1980s, when he started turbocharging small four-cylinder cars much to the chagrin of auto enthusiasts. The Focus ST adds a serious performance package to make for a very quick car, proving again he knew what works.

Limited to just 500 vehicles per year, the Focus ST is available in three visual graphics packages, including traditional stripes, competition graphics and the Checkered Flag Splash (shown). With Shelby parts that cover literally every major performance component, the interior also includes a premium interior package.

While performance specs were not announced, the Focus ST should pack a serious punch with a Shelby Performance Tune and more options to follow within the next few months. Best of all, it will be top level performance at under 6 L/100 km.

The cost of the Shelby Focus ST package starts at $14,995 (USD), plus the cost of the vehicle.

Speaking with CEO John Luft after the conference, he informed me after Shelby's death, customers still have the option of getting the traditional dashboard signed via an authorized stencil replication of his signature. Where Shelby used to place two dashes underneath his name, the company signifies his post-humous signature with a third. All proceeds from the option go to the Carroll Shelby Children's Foundation in support of acute coronary and kidney care for young patients.

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Photos: Jordan Lenssen (@jordanlenssen)


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