Downtown Detroit in January is not exactly in the brief for most people's dream vacations, but the fact is that the Detroit Auto Show is still mecca for gearheads the world over. With the auto industry newly resurgent – budgets raised and prospects glittering for 2014 – the outlay of new metal in the storied halls of Cobo was as good as it has been in years.
Massively important new production cars, ultra-performance vehicles that will end up in heated garages and on bedroom walls, and concepts that stretch the boundaries of what is possible, all could be seen in thick array.
Having walked the floor, written dozens of news stories and taken hundreds of pictures and videos, your editors are now ready to share their favorite vehicles from Detroit 2014. Remember: We choose from the heart, not with a strict mandate based on industry impact or importance, with each team member submitting a list of cars that spoke to them most. Read through our list of five favorites, and be sure to give us your own list in Comments.
#5: Audi Allroad Shooting Brake Concept
We'd be ecstatic if the vehicle you see above, the Audi Allroad Shooting Brake, were to make it into production completely intact. That's not going to happen, sadly. But all is not lost – the basic design of the Allroad Shooting Brake is indeed going to hit the roads as the next-generation Audi TT. Expect the rear hatch to take on a more conventional shape and its suspension to drop much closer to the ground, but other than that, we're looking at the next version of Audi's long-running design icon.
We're not holding our breath for the two-motor through-the-road hybrid powertrain to make it into the next TT, with its combined 480 horsepower and 479 pound-feet of torque, but a hybridized powertrain of some sort could very well be in the offing. We're also looking forward to seeing Audi's Virtual Cockpit technology in production trim, with its massive 12.3-inch LCD screen combining with the brand's well-liked MMI infotainment system to pack all kinds of technology into the compact sports coupe.
#4: Toyota FT-1 Concept
Akio Toyoda has said he wants to make emotional, fun-to-drive cars a top priority at his namesake company, and he didn't disappoint with the FT-1 Concept. As Autoblog editors, we are arguably more excited about what this Toyota showcar represents than we are excited about the car itself: The FT-1 suggests a concerted company effort towards a new Supra, something we've been pining for since the fourth-generation model motored off into the sunset way back in 2002. We also love a surprise, and serious credit is due to company officials for keeping this car totally under wraps until showtime.
How much of this long-nose, all-business FT-1 concept will make it to production? It's incredibly hard to say. Toyota has confirmed a sports car joint venture with BMW, and a blown Bavarian straight six powerplant would certainly seem appetizing underhood, would it not? At the moment, Toyota has revealed exactly nothing about what motivates the four-seat FT-1 (if indeed it's anything more than gravity), so our minds are left to wander about what the future may hold. Pardon us, we'll be playing with the digital version in Gran Turismo 6 while we mull it over...
#3: 2015 Ford F-150
Editors' Picks shouldn't be mistaken for "Most Significant," or even "Most Brave," as surely the Ford F-150 would have towed away such titles, no questions asked. Even if the Blue Oval's new breadwinner is a bit conservative in doling out Atlas concept design cues, there's no denying that this is a watershed moment for American pickups – and arguably for the industry as a whole. 700 pounds of weight lost through intensive use of aluminum would be enough to qualify as game-changing, but this truck also furthers the segment's engine downsizing trend with a 2.7-liter EcoBoost twin-turbo V6. And if anyone would have told you five years ago that a 3.5-liter V6 would be a full-size pickup's range-topping engine, would you have believed them? Neither would we.
If you think about it, the F-150's leadership in mass-producing aluminum ought to help decrease the cost of manufacturing the material significantly while simultaneously accelerating interest in it. Said another way, the F-150 could lead to your next car or truck being lighter, regardless of whether or not it carries a Blue Oval badge on the grille. Even if the former doesn't come true, the F-150 is America's best-selling vehicle, so there's a powerful argument to be made that it should be in the running for every green vehicle of the year award. After all, it's likely to have a bigger ecological impact than any other new vehicle hitting the road, including whatever hybrids and alt-fuel vehicles the industry can cook up.
Most of all, however, the 2015 Ford F-150 just looks like it's going to be a damn good truck.
#2: 2015 Chevrolet Corvette Z06
Ever since the Corvette Stingray bowed at the 2013 Detroit Auto Show, it has been winning fans and blowing minds by being the most complete sports car yet to wear the double-flag emblem. It is a fitting followup then, for Chevrolet to trump its own ace at this year's show, with a 2015 Corvette Z06 that looks to take no prisoners on the road or on the track.
Built on the aluminum bones of the Corvette C7.R racecar, the new Z06 has a lightweight base for its monstrous supercharged 6.2-liter V8 engine. That LT4 mill is set to make a minimum of 625 horsepower and 635 pound-feet of torque, and will no doubt ensure that 335-/285-section front/rear rubber is put through its paces.
We love the jaw-on-the-floor performance potential of this new Z06; we love its unapologetic design; we love that one of the new, great supercars of the world hails from the US. But mostly we love the sweet, terrible wait between now and our first chance to drive it.
#1: Kia GT4 Stinger Concept
A sleek, well-crafted concept car with excellent proportions and exemplary detailing, our favorite thing about the Kia Stinger Concept is still probably something that you can't see in pictures. At under 3,000 pounds, only about 170-inches long and with a turbo'd 2.0-liter engine pushing out 315 horsepower, our favorite thing about this Kia is the good chance that it might get the green light for production.
Don't expect to see a Kia sports coupe with items like drilled-out A-pillars, extravagant lighting and a bespoke interior in your local showroom anytime soon. But a slightly tamer version of the rear-drive car – smaller than a Hyundai Genesis Coupe and more powerful than a Subaru BRZ/Scion FR-S – is a real possibility.
The future of lightweight, affordable sports cars, then. One very good reason why the Stinger won fast friends among your Autoblog editors, and the surprise top spot on our list of faves from Detroit 2014.
So... how'd we arrive at this list? Autoblog editors picked their favorites of the show, with each editor having a total of 25 points to distribute amongst their picks. All 25 points had to be used, and no more than 10 points could be awarded to any one car. Basically, instead of just lining them up one-through-five, this allows us to put more weight on the cars that we think were really special.
What's interesting to note about this show, is how close the race was, especially between the top three cars. We normally see one or two vehicles that are far and away the dead ringers for first and second place, but not so with the Detroit show. Here's how it all broke down:
- Kia GT4 Stinger – 50 points
- Chevy Corvette Z06 – 46 points
- Ford F-150 – 45 points
- Toyota FT-1 – 36 points
- Audi Shooting Brake – 20 points
Part of the fun of doing this list is seeing what each individual staff member votes for. And since this is a point-based list, there are always a good number of cars that don't quite make the Top Five cut. Here's a look at the other things we liked in Detroit.
- 2015 Ford Mustang – 13 points
- 2015 Chrysler 200 – 12 points
- 2015 Mercedes-Benz C-Class – 10 points
- 2015 BMW M3 Sedan – 9 points
- Volvo Concept XC Coupe – 9 points
- 2015 Porsche 911 Targa – 7 points
- 2015 Honda Fit – 6 points
- 2015 Subaru WRX STI – 6 points
- Infiniti Q50 Eau Rouge Concept – 4 points
- 2015 Lexus RC F – 1 point
- 2015 GMC Canyon – 1 point