Welcome to the – 2014 North American International Auto Show edition! This is a weekly recap of some of the biggest stories in the automotive industry without the fluff or the bull, which comes entirely from the first big auto show of the year in Detroit. I also throw in a little opinion of mine, just because I can. This week:
Chevrolet’s Corvette Z06 returns and is more mad than ever
Porsche 911 Targa returns back into our hearts
Ford redesigns the F-150 from top to bottom
Subaru WRX STI is all-new
2015 Chevrolet Corvette Z06
Perhaps one of the most anticipated Chevrolets of 2014 is finally here. The 2015 Chevrolet (C7) Corvette Z06 has been fully revealed and detailed in Detroit and it’s been one of the most-talked about production cars at the show all week. And you don’t need to dig through the details for very long to figure out why.
This new Z06, like all others before it, is built primarily for speed on and off the track. But unlike other Z06s before it, this one is supercharged. 6.2-liter’s worth of LT4 V8 with a cherry on top means this Z06 can play with “at least” 625 horsepower and 635 lb.-ft. of torque, which is old ZR1 territory. Like the old tire commercials used to say, power is nothing without control, and the Z06 has plenty of both. Between the three varying levels of “true” aerodynamic downforce to pick from, Michelin Pilot Sport Super Cup tires, Brembo carbon ceramic brakes, electronic limited-slip differential, and purpose-built suspension, the Z06 has all the tools it needs to lap faster than any Corvette before it, including the last ZR1.
Other race-proven technologies that you can’t see include an in-house, all-aluminum frame for lightness and stiffness and all the road racing expertise gained from the Corvette race team in the United SportsCar Championship and the many development laps at the Nürburgring. The stiffness of the chassis means that the carbon fiber roof panel can be removed manually but the car will still be 20% stiffer than the old Z06 which had a fixed roof. Keep the carbon fiber roof in place, however, and you’ve got a Z06 that’s 60% stiffer than the last one.
The seven-speed manual is still standard equipment on the Z06 as it is on the Stingray, but a new option is an eight-speed automatic featuring super quick shifts and paddles for “manual” control, so now people who don’t know how to row their own gears can have access to one of the best performance cars on the planet.
Even with all the grip a road-legal Corvette can have and even with the intelligent performance traction control systems on, I have a feeling this is a car that’s going to be crashed a lot.
The 2015 Z06 will arrive in dealerships early 2015 and pricing info will be available at a later date.
Porsche 911 Targa
If you, like many, have ever looked at the current Porsche 911 lineup and thought it was missing something (other than the 30 yet to be released special variants), then this should be good news for you. The beloved 911 Targa is back, and it’s sleeker, faster, and more complicated than ever.
All the design elements that make a 911 a Targa are present, including the distinctive roof bar, removable front roof panel, and the wrap around rear window. The hips are also wider to provide a more low-slung sporty profile which complements the new roof line quite well. There is one fundamental change however, and that’s the new automated roof folding system which is as complicated as only a German can make it. With one push of a button, the roof is stowed behind the back seats and your Targa driving experience begins without having to do any manual labor like you needed to on the old one (for better or worse).
The roof is the only new mechanical component in the 911 Targa. It is, however, only available in 4 and 4S configurations, which means all-wheel drive is standard with your choice of a 3.4-liter flat-six producing 350 horsepower (Targa 4) or a 3.8-liter flat-six with 400 horsepower (Targa 4S). The AWD setup is also why the hips are wider because of the wider track in the back. When equipped with PDK (Porsche’s seven-speed dual clutch automatic) and the Sport Chrono package, the Targa 4S can nail the 0-60 mph run in just 4.2 seconds. Top speed is 183 mph with the manual or 182 mph with the PDK.
The Porsche 911 Targa 4 and 4S will hit showrooms just in time for summer and will be priced at $101,600 and $116,200 respectively.
2015 Ford F-150
Ford was in Detroit with a completely redesigned version of its F-150, which remains one of its highest selling vehicles in their entire lineup. For the 2015 model year, they’ve made it tougher, smarter, and more capable than ever before. They also changed the way it looks, so I’m sure all the truck forums are having a calm and civil debate on what they think of it.
The new design is intended to suggest capability and toughness but still reflect an undeniably Ford exterior. The interior is also redesigned for more comfort, improved ergonomics, and better storage solutions. Some of the more important updates are done beneath the skin, including its new high-strength, military-grade aluminum alloy construction which results in more rigidity and a weight savings totaling an impressive 700 pounds, which allows the new F-150 to focus more on working and less on hauling its own mass around. And believe me, when you want it to work for you, it will deliver.
And when you’re out working and doing pickup owner things, you’ll appreciate all the new tech and convenience features the new F-150 can offer. Feature likes a 360-degree camera view, integrated loading ramps, smart cargo box storage solutions, a new rear camera to help drivers back up with a trailer without needing to use a spotter, the ability to luck and unlock the tailgate remotely and separately from the doors, and LED spotlights on the door mirrors to illuminate the area around the truck are just some of what’s available on this truck.
Customers will get to choose between four engine options, including a new Baja 1000-proven 2.7-liter EcoBoost engine, 3.5-liter V6, 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6, and the good ole 5.0-liter V8. Auto stop/start technology and active grille shutters aim to keep fuel efficiency as high as possible no matter what engine you opt for.
The 2015 Ford F-150 will be available later this year in five trim levels – XL, XLT, Lariat, Platinum, and King Ranch. Pricing is not available yet.
Subaru WRX STI
As I briefly teased last week with some leaked photos, Subaru has redesigned the WRX STI for the 2015 model year. Currently available exclusively as a four-door wide body, the 2015 WRX STI is stronger, faster, more comfortable, and more capable by taking advantage of new features and its rally-bred hardware.
The design, as you could probably tell, represents the biggest change to this car. The interweb seems to think it looks too much like the Mitsubishi Evo, but I’ll ignore that. The design promotes aerodynamic efficiency and a fresh, bold new look for the company’s flagship performance car. And I think it looks quite alright. The massive wing in the back is still there and still massive, and if you opt for one of the 1,000 Launch Edition models, the WR Blue paint is still available and the BBS wheels are still gold.
The interior, like it is on the standard WRX, has grown up a little. It’s been cleaned up and is more comfortable for both driver and passenger, but on the STI, it’s loaded with Alcantara and typical red stitching.
Those that like playing in the dirt will be happy to know that the car’s capabilities are better than ever. A 305 horsepower 2.5-liter turbocharged Boxer engine is up front, power goes all around, all six gears can only be changed manually, torque is distributed from side-to-side by a Torsen limited-slip rear differential, and Active Torque Vectoring can help keep you in check.
The Subaru WRX STI may have grown up in some controversial ways, but everything they’ve told us so far suggests it will be well worth it. What it’s actually worth isn’t known yet.
The BLIPS section this week is more of an honorable mention section, as there were so many new cars on display at the NAIAS that I can’t cover them all in the space or time I have available. For each car, I’ll give a super quick recap and a link to read the full story from our pals at Autoweek.
Toyota FT-1: The concept car that many people are hoping to be a preview of the Supra successor and the one that seems to be the most popular concept there. It demonstrates Toyota’s intentions for greater hybrid performance, more aggressive styling, and to serve as proof that there’s still a bit of excitement left at Toyota. Also, you can now drive this car in Gran Turismo 6.
Kia GT4 Stinger: Kia’s concept car has done something that few others have done for the company so far – get people excited. Their lightweight, RWD concept has many hopeful for a production run, and I know Kia is listening to fans for back to help them decide. Just saying…
Cadillac ATS Coupe: It’s a Cadillac ATS with two doors. Nothing more, nothing less. That’s not exactly bad though.
Chrysler 200: After the last 200’s less than ideal sales performance, Chrysler is hopeful that the new redesign, new features, and new attitude can be enough to win compact car buyers to the brand. We’ll all be waiting anxiously to see if it pays off for them, but I have a feeling it will.
Lexus RC F: Lexus’ super sports coupe which was made official last week now has some official details to go along with it, including its claimed 450 horsepower V8 and its determination to beat the BMW M4 at what it does best.
Honda Fit: New design, new attitude, and greater efficiency. It looks fresh and as with most Hondas, you’ll soon see them everywhere. I’m actually looking forward to that.