A few really important or spectacularly beautiful cars and trucks arrive every year, and the North American International Auto Show in Detroit has more than its share this week.
Here are 10 must-see vehicles for anyone who goes to the show.
2015 Ford F-150: The biggest change ever for America’s best-selling vehicle, the new F-150’s all-aluminum body reduces weight by about 700 pounds versus last year’s truck. That could mean major fuel savings for owners.
What will it cost? Will pickup customers accept the new material and features like LED lights, a 2.7-liter Ecoboost V-6 and radar-based automatic brakes? Those questions will decide if the F-150 is a breakthrough that other automakers will scurry to follow.
2015 Chrysler 200: This sleek midsize sedan is the most compelling reason Chrysler merged with Fiat. The 200’s new modern chassis, nine-speed automatic transmission and upscale interior wouldn’t exist without Fiat’s expertise at fuel-efficient cars. The 200 combines the best of the company’s American and Italian talents. It may be Chrysler’s best ever bid to compete with leading midsize sedans: Ford Fusion, Honda Accord and Toyota Camry.
2015 Cadillac ATS coupe: Cadillac keeps its sights locked on BMW with this sleek two-door. The ATS coupe is lighter and boasts more torque than BMW’s new 428i coupe on a neighboring stand. Look for more versions of the ATS in the future as Cadillac challenges BMW and Mercedes in each segment. A high-performance V-series is near certain to follow, a convertible looks likely and even a sport wagon is possible.
2015 GMC Canyon: General Motors is betting the 2015 GMC Canyon and Chevrolet Colorado midsize pickups will attract buyers who’d like a little more capability without the parking headaches and gasoline bills a fullsize pickup brings. Small pickups were an American favorite for years. If the Canyon rekindles that flame, watch for more to come.
Infiniti Q50 Eau Rouge concept: Based on Infiniti’s Q50 sport sedan and named for a famous corner in Formula 1 racing, the Eau Rouge isn’t much more than a body kit and a paint job, but what a paint job! Its deep, glistening red would make a candy apple blush in embarrassment. The car started with a regular layer of silver paint and Infiniti added 24 layers of barely red-tinted clearcoat to create the remarkable finish. The concept also features carbon fiber body panels and aerodynamic parts.
Toyota FT-1 concept: Toyota desperately wants its cars to be as exciting as they are reliable.
Styled in Toyota’s Calty studio in southern California, the FT-1 concept is a response to president and CEO Akio Toyoda’s demand for passionate designs. The name translates roughly to “Future Toyota – Ultimate,” and the body blends elements of previous sporty models like the Celica with touches from the current Scion FR-S and an expected future Supra.
Mercedes-Benz S-class coupe concept: Arguably the most drop-dead gorgeous car at the show, the low, sleek two-door version of the S-class luxury sedan is officially a concept, but Mercedes insiders say it’s a near dead ringer for the upcoming production model.
The S-coupe’s glamorous lines, shimmering paint and hand-sewn silk carpets are reminders of why Mercedes was the king of automotive luxury for decades.
2015 Kia K900: Ambition, thy name is Kia. The big elegant K900 sedan declares the Korean automaker’s intention to challenge luxury brands. The K900 shares its platform with the stuffy Hyundai Equus, but its modern looks are pure Kia. Features include power reclining rear seats and an eight-speed transmission.
Despite its doggy name and the oddball chrome portholes in its front fenders, the K900 is a car to take seriously.
2015 Hyundai Genesis: The award-winning 2009 Genesis is a tough act to follow, but Hyundai pulled it off with dramatic new proportions and top-flight features. The sport sedan’s long hood and roof create an impression of power and more room. Hyundai says prices will start below $40,000 and available features will include automatic braking and head-up display.
2015 Ford Mustang: This new Mustang improves just about everything about the original pony car, just in time for the Mustang’s 50th anniversary. The deceptively long hood makes the Mustang appear larger, but the 2015 is actually 0.2 inch shorter. From the independent rear suspension to an EcoBoost four-cylinder engine to high-end interior materials, the coupe and convertible at the show are full of surprises.
And don’t miss the white 1965 Mustang convertible near the entrance to Ford’s stand. It’s number 001, the first Mustang ever built. Tourists from around the world visit the Henry Ford in Dearborn to see it, but this week it’s at the North American International Auto Show.
Mark Phelan is the Detroit Free Press auto critic. He can be reached at mmphelanfreepress.com.