The Best of Detroit 2013

By Michael Lockhart

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The Best of Detroit 2013:

The North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) in Detroit is on par with Paris and Los Angeles as one of the most important automotive events of the year, as much about highlighting the annual achievements of Motor City as it is a continuous launching pad for 2014 production variants that started rolling out last November in L.A.

This year’s show had a number of vehicular stars, with some of the showstoppers making it onto our Best-of list. GM and Ford really brought out the big guns in their hometown, but we’ve got to hand it to the German manufacturers for stealing some of the more refined moments, as seen in our choice for Best of Show.

We’ll go further into our picks in the next few weeks, but for now check out our 2013 favorites below:

Long speculated about amongst Beemer fans, the new BMW Concept 4-Series Coupe is the official confirmation that the Munich-based manufacturer will be transitioning their 3-Series Coupe and Convertible to a new moniker. BMW believes that the 4 represents a new dimension for the brand in terms of aesthetics, dynamics and elegance. Distinctly sporty yet luxurious and athletic, the coupe’s long wheelbase, large front air intake and spontaneous body lines are refined and classy with a dose of sex appeal. While the low-slung initial production variants will borrow engines from the 328i (240 HP V4) and 335i (330 HP V6) for the moment, the recently confirmed M4 model, which we’ll see a couple years down the line, will probably go after something resembling the M3 or M5. Look for the finalized 4-Series sometime this fall—preferably around the Playboy Mansion.

So how does the “Built Ford Tough” brand keep its core truck service in the limelight without a major production model ready to show? Easy: rent out the empty Red Wings arena and lower the unexpected F-150 next-gen replacement from the ceiling. Not only is this two years early (the new model is supposed to drop for 2015), but Ford easily managed to steal the show from GMC and the new RAM 1500 (named Truck of the Year). Although most of the specs are being kept from the public for now, the slightly larger Atlas is stern and aggressive and will easily appeal to the demographic that has made it the best-selling truck in North America the last 30-odd years. An extremely impressive debut, and definitely one of the highlights from this year’s show.

Up until now, the saying “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” seems to have been taken quite seriously in Toyota HQ; their hesitancy to change the design of the Corolla is understandable, however, as it is the world’s current best-selling nameplate. The new Furia concept unveiled in Detroit is intended to test consumer response to changes in the sales heavyweight and provides a few styling cues fans and new buyers can expect when Toyota previews the next-generation Corolla in the near future. We’d definitely keep the aggressive front fascia, gently sloping roofline and the carbon-fiber fender highlights. Keep your eyes tuned to the Tokyo Motor Show later this year for some concrete details.

When it comes to luxury vehicles, we’re often torn between the various Italian, British and German makes, which are as gorgeous as they are powerful: the auto world’s version of Playmates. Detroit this year was no exception, which left us with a dead heat in this category.

The 2014 Benz CLA Class is based on the Concept Style Coupe we got up close with down in Pebble Beach. The CLA remains fairly close to its Concept days, giving fans a refreshing but aggressive-looking entry-level coupe in the vein of the CLS model. Available in a number of variants producing up to 211 horses and a max speed of 150 mph, the CLA and soon-to-emerge performance CLA 45 AMG will definitely be on our radar when they are released in April in the $50-60K+ category.

On the other end of the spectrum, the all-new sixth-generation 2014 Maserati Quattroporte made its debut at NAIAS, boasting 530 horses from its parallel-engine 3.8-liter V8 that is sure to get fans of the trident going into overdrive. While you’ll likely find this beast at the upper end of your price range ($130K+), its sheer presence at 17.3 feet will definitely make you take a second —or third —look.

Probably the most anticipated announcement of Detroit—and the most highly under wraps image-wise—was the unveiling of the seventh-generation (C7) Corvette, returning the nostalgic Stingray name to the brand after over 30 years. The most powerful stock model ever released by Chevy, the standard 450-horse C7 relies on a 6.2-liter LT1 eight-cylinder direct-injection that gives it the power to hit zero to 60 in under four seconds. We’re a big fan of the integration of lightweight composite materials into the sculpted body, specifically the carbon fiber hood and removable roof panel. Check back next Saturday as we give the new Ray a full preview.

Continuing GM’s obsession with pushing forward with extended-range electric vehicles (EREVs) such as the underperforming Chevy Volt, the big guys of Detroit have decided to test out whether marketing it to the luxury perspective may speed up the rate of adoption with the 2014 ELR from Cadillac. An extension of the Converj Concept from ’09, the ELR is pure Caddy in styling cues that emphasize a cohesive theme from front grille to rear, very much in line with recent models such as the ATS that we featured in Sweet Rides. We think it has potential with a range of 300 miles under the hood (35 miles pure electric) and a combined output of 207 HP; however, we’ll reserve judgment until we know whether the ELR can produce a decent pickup in line with the segment it’s joining.

This “car” made its debut back in 2011 in Tokyo, but we’re still inclined to have a chuckle over it as Toyota continues shipping it to auto shows two years later. Effectively a giant, vaguely car-shaped television, the Fun Vii—or vehicle interactive internet—is made up of touch panels allowing the driver to display everything from a new paint color or pattern to curses for the driver who just cut him off. While not slated to actually find itself on the highway—though, sadly, there is a market who would buy it—the vehicle is a tech concept for the future. Hey, at least we’re not going after another ridiculous Smart Car concept. Though we must report that the ugly Smart ForStars with the on-board projector was hanging around for some reason…


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