2013 NAIAS The Most Important Auto Show Of All - Wrap Up +VIDEO


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COMPLETE 2013 NAIAS PRESS PASS COVERAGE

By Steve Purdy and Thom Cannell
The Auto Channel
Michigan Bureau

The Detroit auto show is not the oldest. That honor goes to either New York or Chicago, depending on which promoter you believe. And, it’s not the biggest. Chicago has way more square footage and draws more visitors. But there is no question that our North American International Auto Show in Detroit is the most important in influencing and reflecting the worldwide industry, evidenced by drawing media attendance from around the world like no other show.

Our many years covering this show mean we’re able to discern the mood, the ambiance and the underlying theme of the show in addition to evaluating the plethora of new production and concept cars and light trucks that the world depends on for both transportation and for pure pleasure. Though not entirely jaded we’re able to see through most of the smoke, mirrors and hyperbole filling Cobo Center during all the press conferences.

Traditionally, the show kicks off with the announcement of the North American Car and Truck of the year winners. Among the plethora of awards this one is most respected because the jury is composed of independent U.S. and Canadian journalists. The Car of the Year Awardsis the fast and cool Cadillac ATS and the Truck of the Year is the Dodge Ram 1500.

Here are some highlights in no particular order, remember if the marque you are looking at is highlighted you can click to watch video of its hcomplete full length press event.


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STEVE: Nearly every story you see about the 2013 NAIAS will lead with Chevrolet's C7 (seventh generation) Corvette. We apologize for following the crowd, but there is a reason for the hoop-la. It is, perhaps, the most important and newsworthy introduction at the show. Many, many years have passed, with both Corvette and GM facing uncertain futures, since this “halo” car has been fully redesigned. Chevrolet confidently brought back the Stingray moniker from the most popular Corvette of all time, the C3 (’63 to ’67) to grace this new one. I found it stunning. The design brings America’s sports car fully into the modern age with sophistication and drama we’ve not seen before. The interior is just as beautiful and bold as the striking exterior. Under the skin everything is new as well, except it still uses the iconic “small-block” V8 that graced the first successful ‘Vette in ’55. In those days, though, it would have been considered science fiction to think we’d be getting 450 horsepower and 30 mpg from that motor.


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THOM: It’s not only that it has that kind of power-induced street cred, but that it does so from an engine that continues to use pushrods instead of overhead cams. Adding Direct Injection allowed upping compression ratio while maintaining the option to run on regular fuel—wanna try that in your Ferrari or R8?—and utilizing continuously variable valve timing (VVT) and GM’s AFM active fuel management for shutting off four cylinders. Sort of unnoticed in engine analysis, unmistakable by naked eye are the four tail pipes.


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STEVE: We’ve waited a long time for Acura to come out with a new version of the NSX mid-engine super sports car that was so far ahead of its time in the early 1990s. They’ve teased us more than once with concepts they said “may” become the new NSX. Last year we saw a concept they promised “will” become the new NSX, so I expected to see a preproduction version when they pulled the silky white cover off the low-slung hidden treasure. What we saw, they insist, is another concept, one step closer to promised production car coming in late 2014. Low, wide and sleek, the proportions confirm the mid-engine layout and it will be a high-performance gas-electric hybrid. Can’t wait for more details on this one.


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THOM: Looks almost identical to last year’s stunning car, we’d have to have them side-by-side, which we do not expect. Does anyone else wonder how this sleekly compressed teardrop emerged from the same designers that gave us far blockier Acura models?


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STEVE: Toyota models have mostly been renewed and refreshed now except the compact, white-bread Corolla. A hint of what shape Corolla might take is embodied in the bright orange concept car called Furia, and there’s nothing plain or simple about that. Let’s see how much of that design panache makes it into production.


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THOM: Flamboyant, yes. But where the heck did that bowling ball-stuffed butt come from? Other than that somehow oddly Pontiac reminiscence, the car, oops concept, is about right for moving a mainstream car into the future stream.



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STEVE: Lincoln is desperately trying to refocus and redefine themselves as a true luxury brand with a distinctive personality. To that end the featured car on their stand, the Lincoln MKC Concept, a small crossover based on the Escape platform, is packed with elegant and rich details, jewel-like lighting themes and beautiful materials. We’re assured by the PR staff that much of the high-style, including the artful stitching throughout the leather-rich interior, will carry over to the production model.


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STEVE: Under the hot lights at the Cadillac display we found the new ELR, an upscale, full-zoot version of the Volt extended range electric car. ELR looks much like the highly acclaimed CTS Coupe
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with simple, sleek, angular styling featuring vertical headlight and taillight themes following Cadillac’s styling language.

THOM: Sadly, I don’t find the exterior as compelling as it might be. Three or four years ago, prior to total familiarization with Cadillac’s chiseled angular design language which debuted with the 1999 Evoq Concept, I would have. While Art & Design isn’t dead and has a place in the market, it needs a firm nudge in my opinion.


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STEVE: Chrysler showed nothing particularly dramatic or newsworthy. The Dodge Dart gets a new GT version and the Jeep Grand Cherokee gets a mid-cycle refresh, and lots more towing capacity. Without the current version right next to it, I couldn’t tell the difference in the Grand Cherokee. A couple of special models in the Chrysler display sported mat-finish paint jobs which we thought might become trendy, but so far appears only on specialty vehicles and the occasional exotic.


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Thom: Well, that view excludes the return of diesel power to Chrysler (Jeep) in the form of a 3.0-liter diesel that, when combined with an 8-speed transmission that slots into all 2014 Jeeps, pushes fuel economy to a guesstimated 30 mpg on the highway. Plus you can expect the Jeep diesel to have hundreds and hundreds of miles of range and a bucket load of torque for towing. And if you’re visiting there are face lifts of the Patriot, Compass, and a special Chrysler 300 painted in the colors of Chrysler’s turbine project. PHOTO 3669 - 3667 3672


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STEVE: Nissan's offering in the concept car category, a flashy, swoopy, bright-gold, forward-leaning people hauler called Resonance, is hinted to be a preview of what a new Murano might look like. When the original Murano debuted it represented one of the first “crossovers” and seemed mighty bold, indeed. If the new one holds onto even half the drama of the Resonance, it will be a hit. Nissan, by the way, presented one of the most dramatic new displays with spiraling circles above an arrangement of cars on various levels. After a few years absence from the Detroit show Nissan is coming back with a vengeance.


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Thom: Let’s not forget the name changed small Infiniti, now a Q instead of G. Their reasoning is to present a globally consistent name and to expand the reach of what was essentially a product aimed at the USA. INFINITI Q50 3337 3424 3426


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STEVE: Ford put on another great show for their press conference, this time in the hockey arena next door to the exhibition hall. Their introductions were of truck products; including an awesome concept pickup truck called the F-150 Atlas, which reminded me of one of the best concept pickups of all time from Ford some years ago called the Tonka Truck Concept. Ford also highlighted a renewed Transit Connect and revised E-series Utility Van.
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I'm sure that some of the design elements that make them look both hard-working and industrially-artsy will likely make it into the next generation of Ford trucks.

Thom: And after the success of Transit Connect as a small carrier of tradesmen, cargo, and passengers the larger globally sourced full sized Transit arrives to challenge traditional B-vans (which Ford also updated) and Mercedes Sprinter.


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STEVE: The Honda Urban SUV Concept, a small, super stylish car with multiple crisp character lines along its flanks caught my eye and even caused a double-take. I was drawn in by design details around the headlight and taillights that I wasn’t expecting from usually conservative Honda. Smaller than the CR-V it is promised for production in 2014 focusing on fuel economy and utility as well as what they call “next-generation connectivity.”


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Thom: At Acura, the MDX is credited with generating plenty of financial success and in holding on to families as they expand into their child bearing years. This new “concept” is 38 mm lower than the outgoing model with longer wheelbase and improved interior room. For the first time an FWD model join the SH-AWD (super handling all wheel drive) vehicle. It’s new engine displaces 3.5-liters and is direct injected with variable cylinder management.


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STEVE: Over at Mercedes-Benz, where we are used to seeing exotic, expensive, powerful and elegant cars, we found the new line of mid-size cars – the E-Class. With 18 engine/driveline combinations – diesel, hybrid, gasoline, all-wheel drive – M-B is proudly at the leading edge of technology, design and price. The styling of the E-Class will turn heads like no other E-Class yet, I’ll predict. It comes in coupe, sedan, wagon, cabrio and super-car iterations as well. All were on display.


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The other Germans all had beautiful stuff to show. Audi touted a Q5 S performance CUV, a lovely A7 luxury coupe and RS7 sports car. Volkswagen showed performance versions, known as R-Line, of the cute-ute Tiguan and Passat along with a couple of concept vehicles, Diesel Hybrid Cross Blue and Cross Coupe, that are expected to become production models. BMW was in contention for one of the design awards with its M-6 Gran Coupe and they poured maximum embellishment into a show-off small car called 4-Series Coupe. And, MINI offered a new John Cooper Works version of the Pacemen.


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Thom: Let’s also note the unheralded arrival, a global debut of the Porsche Cayenne Turbo S, a car that accounts for a large percentage of Porsche’s annual sales even as if fails to thrill those who see the SUV as a dilution of the brand. However, with 550 hp, a top speed of 175, and 0-60 time of 4.3 seconds it still sounds like Porsche performance.


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Steve: Hyundai surprised us with the HCD-14 Genesis Concept, a big sedan with a design both bold and polarizing. The vertical front fascia and gaping grille seemed to put some critics off, but the wild and beautiful interior, accessed through wide doors, impressed all. With rear-hinged rear doors there is no B-pillar to obstruct access or the view of that amazing interior. This one is not slated for production, I’ll guarantee.


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THOM: Au contraire mon ami, I’ll bet this one is sending chills all across Germany. Hyundai has a habit of sending out hares and making hasenpfeffer of them. I’d have to call it breathtaking, emotional content that reminds of Jaguar, elder BMW and Mercedes, even Rolls and Bentley-like stateliness. I think you’ll see something very much like that car within four years.


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STEVE: Kia showed a much more practical plain but attractive sedan, one surely slated for productions soon, called Cadenza, based on the same large-sedan platform as the Hyundai Azera. That seems like an odd name but at least it’s not alpha-numeric like so many uninspired car names today.


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Thom: I’m surprised by the relative blandness of this car. Hyundai/Kia’s head of design operations Peter Schreyer has overseen recent vehicles like Forte and Optima, as well as notable work at Audi and VW. While Cadenza sports a familial Kia cat nose, its side profile reads a bit heavy and the tail only approaches modern luxury. If the object was to be relevant for several years, they’re spot on. If it was to turn heads? Not so much.

STEVE: Press days wrapped up with the traditional presentation by the EyesOn Design folks honoring what their amazingly broad and respected panel of judges – a Who’s Who of designers - designate as the best production and best concept designs of the whole show. The production car honor went to Cadillac’s sleek new ELR coupe. The concept car honor was shared (first-ever tie) between the Nissan Resonance and the Ford Atlas truck. All good calls, I say.

A new feature of the EyesOn Design closing ceremonies is their Design Catalyst Award honoring those in the business who have empowered or fostered great design. The first recipient, perhaps the most consistently entertaining guy in the business and the guy with the most awards gracing his mantle is, of course, the ubiquitous Bob Lutz. Often referred to as “The Ultimate Bob,” he acknowledged that he is certainly no designer but has always appreciated understood and demanded great design. We agree and we never get tired of hearing him pontificate.

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