2014 Detroit Auto Show Studs—No Duds

By Jacob Brown | January 17, 2014
Usually when we attend an auto show, we compose a list of "studs" and "duds." While the studs aren't guaranteed sales success by any measure, they stand well above the rest of the pack in getting our attention and lighting the auto world with buzz. Meanwhile, our duds aren't necessarily relegated to the dust bin of the world, but they fail to wow us with something different. While there are always cars that wow us more than others—the Chevrolet Corvette never fails to exceed our expectations—and there are always cars that disappoint us—the 2015 Subaru WRX STI comes to mind with more weight and the exact same power level as its predecessor—we couldn't come up with a substantive list of duds this time around. We've never been afraid to call a spade a spade, but the 2014 Detroit auto show, we've seen the strongest list of debuts in a North American auto show in years. Instead of calling out five winners and five losers, we're just going to relegate this list to picking our 10 favorite debuts of the 2014 North American International Auto Show.

2015 Chevrolet Corvette Z06

This car is what dreams are made of. It wasn't long ago that the Chevrolet Corvette was seen as a good sports car for an American car at a cut price. Now, without any such quibbling, the Chevrolet Corvette is a world-class sports car—and it's still a fantastic bargain relative to its competition. Now, that competition includes vehicles like the Porsche 911 Turbo, McLaren 12C, and Nissan GT-R with the introduction of the 2015 Chevrolet Corvette Z06. Starting where the previous-generation Corvette ZR1 left off, the 2015 Corvette Z06 features a supercharged LT4 6.2-liter V-8 engine with 625 horsepower, a race car-inspired aerodynamic body kit, and, for the first time, an automatic transmission with eight speeds to complement the car's standard seven-speed manual, opening the Z06 up to a wider swath of sports car enthusiasts.

2015 Ford F-150

Back in the 1990s, the Dodge Ram was marketed as the truck that changes everything. Twenty years later, Ford might want to think about revisiting that tagline for its 2015 Ford F-150. How does it go about that? To start, in all but the frame—which is now rated to withstand 70,000 PSI of force, the 2015 F-150 is made of aerospace-grade aluminum, allowing it to shed 700 pounds over its predecessor. It also features built-in LED spotlights, movable tiedowns with its bed, available LED headlights, and even active cruise control and lane-departure warning. On top of that, it will have a lineup of two EcoBoost V-6 engines at launch—a tiny 2.7-liter and a beefier 3.5-liter—in addition to a standard V-6 and a 5.0-liter V-8. Ford is emphasizing change, and while we wonder how customers will respond to it, we think what we've seen so far certainly warrants all the fanfare it can get.

Toyota FT-1 Concept

Originally, we thought this thundering exotic car concept would be called the Supra when it landed at the Detroit auto show, harking back to the long-missed sports car that left our shores after 1998. Instead, Toyota drew inspiration from that car and the 2000GT of the 1960s to come up with something completely different and yet so much the same. The Toyota FT-1 is what we expect to be the inspiration for the next-generation Toyota flagship sports car, with 485 horsepower coming from a yet-unnamed inline six-cylinder engine, at least in concept. Accordingly, the Toyota FT-1 also weighs a svelte 2,910 pounds, according to statistics revealed in the Gran Turismo 6 video game. If this car does ever make it to production, expect it to be an absolute giant killer. As it stands now, though, it's just a car we can't get enough of.

2015 Lexus RC F

Arriving with 25 more horsepower than the 2015 BMW M3 and M4, the 2015 Lexus RC F foregoes the turbocharged six-cylinder route for a honkin' 5.0-liter V-8. Replacing the Lexus IS F—at least before a new generation arrives—the 2015 Lexus RC F is Lexus' first true coupe since the first-generation SC was replaced in the early 2000s. The 2015 Lexus RC F features radical styling and an eight-speed automatic that shifts its mighty power to the rear wheels. While we don't know much about its performance, expect it to stack up nicely against the lighter BMW M3 and M4 when it goes on sale this fall.

2015 BMW M3 and M4

Not terribly radical, the 2015 BMW M3 and M4 reverse the ever-present trend BMW has set to make the next car heavier than the last. The M3 and M4 instead come in at around 200 pounds less than the cars they replace, making them about the same weight as the 2004 BMW M3. Power comes by way of a new twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-6 with 425 horsepower, paired to either a seven-speed dual-clutch automated manual or a six-speed manual transmission. Larger, more sophisticated, more luxurious, lighter, and faster, expect the BMW M3 and M4 to be the new benchmark in their segment, at least until Cadillac throws its hat into the ring with the ATS-V.

Infiniti Q50 Eau Rouge Concept

But not to be outdone, Infiniti has released a concept version of its Q50 sports sedan called the Eau Rouge that's intended to compete against cars like the BMW M3 and M4 as well as the Lexus RC F. However, this Formula 1-inspired sedan features no real statistics, at least not yet. All we know is that it is intended to have an engine sourced from an "alliance partner"—read: Mercedes-Benz AMG or Nissan—with at least 500 horsepower and 600 pound-feet of torque, putting it well above the numbers some of its intended competitors can muster. Infiniti Americas VP Michael Bartsch said there was an incredibly high chance the Q50 Eau Rouge would be built. We can only hope.

2015 Honda Fit

Smaller on the outside, yet larger on the inside. More powerful, yet more efficient. The 2015 Honda Fit is all of this and a lot more. Expected to reach fuel economy numbers in excess of 40 mpg on the highway, the next-gen Fit will far surpass the current car. It's also expected to be lighter, sportier, and an overall far better car, utilizing Honda's latest touchscreen interface that operates in much the same way as a smartphone. The volume transmission will be a new continuously variable automatic. But Honda isn't giving up on the enthusiasts who've helped build a strong following with in the subcompact hatchback; a new six-speed manual will also be available. Later on, expect the U.S. to receive both a version of the new Fit-based Vezel crossover as well as a sedan variation.

2015 Mercedes-Benz C-Class

It used to be said that Mercedes-Benzes were built to a standard and not to a price. Looking at the 2015 Mercedes-Benz C-Class, we're inclined to say that saying once again applies. Longer, larger, and more luxurious, the 2015 Mercedes-Benz C-Class is also the most aerodynamic car in its class by a considerable margin. Initially, power in the U.S. will be sourced from either a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder with 235 horsepower or a turbocharged 3.0-liter V-6 with 329 horsepower. Both engines will come paired with a seven-speed automatic transmission; all-wheel drive will be available. In many ways skipping the technology used in the mid-level E-Class for what just debuted in the S-Class, the 2015 C-Class is expected to be one of the foremost cars to watch in its segment, now featuring more amenities to differentiate it from the smaller CLA-Class.

2015 Chrysler 200

Maybe we simply went into the Detroit auto show with modest expectations based on how rental fleet-tailored the previous Chrysler 200 was. Or maybe the 2015 Chrysler 200 simply blew away our expectations for what Chrysler's midsize sedan could deliver. The 2015 Chrysler 200 takes the company's Compact U.S. Wide architecture shared with the Dodge Dart and stretches it even more, keeping a 2.4-liter, 184-horsepower four-cylinder engine standard and making a 3.6-liter V-6 with standard all-wheel drive available. Both run through a nine-speed automatic. But it's not the engines that put the Chrysler 200 over the top; it's simply what might be the new standard in interior design for a vehicle in its segment. Add to that a price that undercuts its rivals by a few thousand dollars, and we're finding the 200 to be a potential class-leader.

2015 Audi Q3

It's easy to become jaded with this new subcompact luxury crossover craze. There's the Buick Encore, BMW X1, Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class, and now the 2015 Audi Q3. So what makes the 2015 Audi Q3 stand out enough to include on this list? We'd pin it all down on its interior and technology. Instead of the almost vinyl-like leather used in some BMW and Mercedes-Benz products, the Audi uses a glove-like material that's rich to the touch. It has available Google Earth navigation and in-car Wi-Fi connectivity. Power for the 2015 Audi Q3 will come by way of a 200-horsepower, 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine. While none of this sounds particularly different than the A3 that has come before it, the 2015 Audi Q3 will undoubtedly become a hot-seller in this quickly burgeoning segment.