Auto show season has been flung back upon us like a cold, sweaty towel, and this week’s Detroit Auto Show has ushered in waves of mediocre boredom boxes and depressing news. The Chrysler Town and Country will be renamed “Pacifica.” Scintillating. But it’s not all bad. In fact, several awesome things have shown up in Cobo Hall this week already. Here are the trends they follow.
No one wants to seem to want to follow the LS7’s cylinder deactivation system, so the best way to meet unrealistic government emissions standards is to lop those engines down to a V6. But that doesn’t mean anyone’s giving up on power, because most of them are turbocharged.
The Ford Fusion will have a 325 hp Ecoboost option for 2017. It will be the same twin turbo 2.7 you can now get in the Ecoboost F-150. Sadly, there’s no manual option unless you get the hybrid. This just seems like a weird pairing, doesn’t it? Oh, Ford. You’re so weird. Now quit screwing around and give us the manual Fusion ST we all want.
The Genesis G90 is not a Hyundai. I mean, it is a Hyundai, but it’s a Genesis first. Or something. Hyundai’s launching a luxury brand called Genesis, which means they’ll likely rename their Genesis car something else. That’s my advice, anyway. The G90 is a clean-cut sedan that seems to fall halfway between a Lincoln and a Mercedes. And that’s a good thing, because RWD is standard, with an AWD option, but it will still have Hyundai’s reliability and accessibility. Power will fire out of a 365 hp, 3.0 liter, twin-turbo V6 or a 420 hp 5.0 V8.
Hyundai’s plan with Genesis is not unlike Nissan’s plan with Infiniti, except they spelled the word right. But Infiniti is working out. Just check out the awesome new Infiniti Q60, the successor to the G37. (Because once you’ve gone alphanumeric, you can never go back.) The Q60 will pack a 3.0 V6 boosted to 400 hp thanks to a pair of snails. The manual is dead, because Nissan hates us and there’s nothing left worth living for.
Something that certainly won’t get a manual is the new Lincoln Continental. I can smell the effort from here. Lincoln is really, really trying to change their image from rebadged Fords to serious luxury competitors, all without breaking back into the world of rear wheel drive. And if Lincoln is Batman, saying, “I only have one rule,” the market is the Joker, chiding, “And that’s the rule you’ll have to break.” This won’t work. Lincoln can put weird door handle loops on the window seals, and they can change the grille, but the Continental is still on a FWD Ford platform, the CD4, which also carries the Taurus and the Fusion. At least it will make an impressive 400 hp from its 3.0 V6.
But now some good news: The Buick Avista Concept. Welcome to your future luxo-muscle car America. It has a 2+2, fastback platform profile. It has a long, luscious hood. It has Euro GT looks. And it has, again, a 3.0 V6, twin-turbocharged to 400 hp. It’s a truly beautiful thing. It shares its platform with the Camaro, so it’s properly RWD, though it is an automatic. If you’re hoping for a new Grand National, this is probably the closest you’ll get. Buick won’t say whether or not they’ll build this masterpiece, I wouldn’t bet too much on it.
Small Trucks for Everyone!
Well, not everyone. But the Honda Ridgeline is back, and it’s actually a truck this time. Sortof. It depends on your definition of “truck.” It is not a body-on-frame pickup like most American trucks, but rather a Pilot with the rear roof and pillars lopped off. It uses the same F/AWD architecture. Yes, a FWD pickup, if you don’t want to go AWD. This will be a major stumbling block for many, but it might be all the truck you need. A whole huge chunk of the truck-buying market only uses them for transportation. And image. Which could also be the Ridgeline’s downfall. But perhaps it’s the start of a trend. Other companies, such as Hyundai, have been making noises about bringing smaller, unibody trucks to America. We’ll see how this does. It looks better than the last Ridgeline. There’s even a nifty sub-bed trunk thing so you can lock up your stuff.
There are also rumors swirling around a possible Jeep Wrangler pickup truck. This isn’t news, though. There are always rumors about this. It’s the “New Ford Bronco” of the Mopar side. “Sergio (Marchionne, FCA CEO) and I work very, very closely on the Jeep product portfolio, and both of us have been a fan of a potential Wrangler pickup… For me, there is a historical place in our lineup for it,” according to Jeep CEO Michael Manley, who is probably very qualified but might have been chosen for his awesome name.
Big trucks, too!
Did you know Nissan now has Cummins diesel trucks? Of course you did. They’re riding that diesel train another stop down the line with their new Titan Warrior concept, which has the most musclebound name in automotive history. You could call your truck the Creatine Tyrannosaurus Terry Crews Edition and it wouldn’t live up to the Titan Warrior. It’s been lifted by 3 inches and widened by 6, which is actually pretty impressive. Nissan wants the Warrior to be an off-road, super tough adventure machine. They also revised the grille and fenders, and added some step bars. Under the hood is the 390 hp Cummins turbodiesel V8. Looks pretty sweet, broh.
On the Blue Oval side, Ford made their F-150 Raptor Supercrew even bigger, stretching it by a full foot, most of which will show up in the form of more legroom for the rear passengers. But despite the growth, the 2017 Raptor is still 500 lbs lighter than the outgoing model, thanks to the aluminum bodywork. The 3.5 Ecoboost V6 is also more powerful than the outgoing V8. Win win win.
Big displacement isn’t dead.
Perhaps the biggest upset of the entire auto show was the Lexus LC 500 Coupe. Front engine, reard-drive, and styled so beautifully you can scarcely stop looking at it until the still hideous spindle grille comes back around, the LC 500 sounds like perfect concept car material. But Lexus is actually building it. This is the production realization of the “new Supra” LF-LC concept they’ve been teasing for years. The big 5.0 V8 is naturally aspirated, which seems out of place on such a futuristic GT car, but Lexus chief engineer Koji Sato says it was chosen because, “This V8 engine has character.” That’s rationalization we can get behind. It’s mated to a 10-speed automatic with paddle shifters, because our wishes ran out before they got to the transmission (and the grille), but apparently it shifts in .2 seconds, so that’s not bad. It will go on sale for about $100k, which is more than Lexus’ so-so RC-F, but far cheaper than their insane LF-A from a few years ago.
Back to forced induction. Someone cornered Michael Manley (the manly Jeep CEO, you remember) about the possibilities of the oft-rumored Jeep Grand Cherokee Hellcat. “Not only can I put a Hellcat motor in one of those for you,” he replied confidently while consuming 5 dozen eggs, “I’m going to bring that to market before the end of 2017.” We made the eggs part up, but not the confidence or the quote. This is happening. Soon you’ll be able to go very, very fast in your 707 hp Cherokee, as long as you’re traveling in a straight line. In a curvy line the Cherokee Hellcat will switch to “Inverted Mode,” riding on the roof to make sure you slow down.
So who remembers the Fisker Karma? It was this impossibly beautiful GT-type sedan with a weird mustache and a somewhat unimpressive hybrid drivetrain. Well, after a slew of problems, including a whole crop of Fiskers burning to a crisp during Hurricane Sandy, they went under. Now designer Heinrik Fisker has allied with former GM CEO “Maximum” Bob Lutz and former Boeing officer Gilbert Villarreal to form VLF, a new boutique car company. Actually, this is the same company Lutz formed with Villarreal back in 2012, when the Karma still showed promise, but Lutz wanted to jam in a Corvette LS7 powertrain anyway because awesome. Now that the Fisker company has sunk, Lutz and Gilbert have scooped up Fisker into their wings like tire-smoking, cigar chomping mother hens, and they have two cars already lined up.
The first is the Destino, the Corvette-powered Karma Lutz has wanted to build for years. VLF plans to supercharge it to 638 hp, and they’ve already fixed the silly mustache for a more sensible and attractive grille. It really does look like a 4-door Vette now, making it the most attractive sedan you can buy.
The second car is the insane and outlandish Force 1, also designed by Fisker. It’s a Dodge Viper, except it somehow looks even more sinister. Note the tiny upper headlights. Most cars can’t get away with that, but Fisker hid more headlights in the grille, so there, NHTSA. If you look at it straight on, it angry-squints at you. The body is all carbon fiber, and underneath there’s a good old Viper V10, ready to kill you. You can keep the Viper’s 6-speed, if you have any courage whatsoever, or you can surrender and get a 6-speed paddle-shifted automatic. All that is good for a 3.0 second 0-60 and a top speed of 218 mph.
VLF wants to put both on sale soon, striking a major blow in the battle against mediocrity. Not so outstanding is the price bracket. $229,000 for a Destino and $268,500 for a Force 1. Good luck with that. But seriously, good luck. We hope many rich people buy these, because they’re awesome, unique, and probably more reliable than anything else at that price point.
What was your favorite car from the Detroit Auto Show?
Andy Sheehan is a blogger, aspiring novelist, and relentless hoon. He plans to will his 2002 Subaru WRX Wagon to his firstborn, plans his daily commute around the swoop of its roads, and doesn’t plan to ever buy an automatic. A cool-car omnipath, he loves the common Mustang or Chevelle, but hunts for the weird and wonderful Velorexes and Cosmos of the autoverse. And when he can afford a garage, he’s going to turn an MX-5 into a race car.