The 8 Best Cars of Detroit 2014

By Michael Lockhart

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The 8 Best Cars of Detroit 2014:

With the Auto Show season now in full swing, our attention turns this week to Detroit, where the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) has been rocking the news all week with a ridiculous number of droolworthy models.

General Motors swept both the North American Car and Truck of the Year, with the gorgeous Corvette Stingray (read our review here) and hefty Silverado 1500‎ taking home the gold awards. Well deserved.

As for the top Playboyesque vehicles of the show, we're proud to continue our annual Playboy.com Best of Show roundup for your hot rod enjoyment. Compared against our 2012 and 2013 coverage, we think this could be one of the best Detroit lineups we've seen in years!

Reviving a model legend (1966-89) is always a gamble for a manufacturer, but when a historic nameplate is given some fresh attention and the right technology to come up to modern standards while still paying respect to its past, you can achieve greatness. And that’s the case for this year's rebirth of the storied 911 Targa. The new Targa 4 will hit 0-60 in 4.6 seconds and the 4S trim is even faster at 4.2. With its powerful flat-six engines (350-hp 3.6 liter and 400-hp 3.8 liter, respectively), the AWD semiconvertible Targa has a top speed of 182 mph. As we mentioned on Playboy Radio earlier this week, we love the functionality of the entire glass-encased rear lifting up and dual robotic arms grasping and hiding the roof panel. We’re ecstatic about this modern twist on a favorite classic and can’t wait to get behind the wheel.

The week before the show kicked off, an SEO-crazed GM staffer laced the metadata of the Z06 launch site with the car’s übersecret horsepower and torque upgrade from the base Stingray we drove this summer. The track-hungry next-gen Z06 is the fastest, most advanced Corvette Chevy has ever built. The Z06 contains the new supercharged LT4 6.2-liter V8 engine that produces an astounding 625 horsepower and 635 pound-feet of torque. Even without the optional Z07 package to help boost air over the massive flares and the adjustable wicker bill to increase downforce, the Z06 is a brutal force to be reckoned with.

The BMW M3 has always been a reminder of German grace and engineering, but as the model was due for its ceremonial refresh, the suits in Munich decided the newly christened 4 Series (formerly 3 Series coupe) would make its first foray into M territory. The gorgeous sibling Ms are both fitted with twin-turbo six-cylinders that produce a hefty 431 horses for these small . With an approximate torque of 406 pound-feet, these stunning vehicles are a 40 percent improvement over the outgoing M3 and can sprint 0-60 in just 4.1 seconds. Opt for the optional M driver’s package which will increase your top speed from 250 to a wicked 280.

Toyota’s unveiling of the FT-1 concept was one of the biggest surprises of NAIAS this year, emphasizing that the Japanese automaker has no intention of letting Acura and their upcoming NSX steal the market when it comes to Asian supercars. While still technically a design study with no indication yet of what’s under the hood, the response to the FT-1 is sure to kick-start talk of a Supraesque vehicle making a return to their lineup after a decade. If you’re as keen as we are, you can go drive the car virtually in Gran Turismo 6 at about 518 horsepower, which would make one sick vehicle if it carries over into real life.

If you’ve read our review of the incredible G37 successor, the 2014 Infiniti Q50, you’ll know that as far as sports sedans go, the Q50 has nailed it in almost every category. The Eau Rouge concept bumps it up a few levels with the addition of Infiniti’s F1 team and German auto rock star Sebastian Vettel stepping in to lend a hand. Bold, menacing and reportedly in the 500-plus horsepower category (compared to the Q50’s 325), the Eau Rouge is absolutely worthy of our Best Upgrade award. Production should start now.

By now most truck fanatics will have heard that Ford’s biggest announcement out of Detroit this year was that the half-ton F-150 was going aluminum. Yes, the F-150 is going on a crash diet that allows it to immediately drop between 500 and 700 pounds off the previous model, which will go leagues in terms of improved fuel consumption. Because Ford has invested in military-grade aluminum, the truck’s durability and strength expectations will still be met, but great additions such as a 360-degree bird’s-eye camera, new 2.7-liter EcoBoost engine and upgrades to the cargo management system will ensure lineups for this baby.

When we last spoke of Volvo, we were gushing like a teenage schoolgirl about how their Concept Coupé would be a sure win if they were ever to bring it to market. The Swedes have inspired our devotion yet again this year with their NAIAS entry of the Concept XC Coupé crossover, which, as futuristic as it looks, has some tech cues we should really be paying attention to. The XC is part of a new breed for Volvo that will aim to reduce all fatalities in their vehicles by 2020, an ambitious goal, but one definitely in line with their reputation for safety and efficiency. We love the light setup and the sleek but functional profile of this hatchback. This new brand architecture will, we think, help set a new global standard that will be the foundation of future consumer vehicles to come.

Named for the relationship between Nissan and their customers, this new design direction of simplicity and direct expression set forward by the brand has, we must confess, caused us some puzzlement. We loved the new Sports Sedan Concept they unveiled at Detroit (a runner up to the FT-1), but the boxy IDx Freeflow looks distinctly Datsunlike (specifically the 510 BRE), a nameplate the brand has recently relaunched in Russia, India and South Africa. The Freeflow is a car we hate to love/love to hate due to its quirky persona, race styling and oh-so-passionate launch press release.


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