The smoke billowing out from beneath the concept cars has vanished; car paparazzi are off to another assignment; and the frenzied press reports have hit their plateau. Nonetheless, the best vehicles from the 2015 Detroit Auto Show live on in the minds of attendees and the plans of world automakers.
In a year of tremendous growth for the industry and low gas prices at the pump, automakers were not shy about flashing exotic supercars or burly pickup trucks. High-performance hotrods from Acura and Ford made their desired points, while Japanese trucks reminded Detroit that the segment may not have maxed out yet. Even green cars and a surprise EV made waves at the 2015 edition of the NAIAS.
Here are the seven most significant debuts of the 2015 Detroit Auto Show, chosen for the splash made at the event and their potential impact on the automotive industry in the long term.
1. Buick Avenir
When was the last time Buick had a head-turning car? For the youngest readers, it may be never. General Motors made sure Buick would be getting attention on its home turf by unveiling the Avenir concept (French for “future”). With a sculpted front end that gives the prettiest Infiniti a run for its money, this Buick concept managed to breath life into one of the most boring auto brands in existence. We say bravo to GM for accomplishing that tough mission.
2. Ford GT
Raise your hand if you saw a 2016 Ford GT headed for Detroit. No one seemed prepared for this supercar bomb Ford dropped on the spectacle, so we picked it over the Acura NSX as the best-in-show thriller. Ford employees must have felt like they worked for Lamborghini when it appeared, and the significance of the 50-year anniversary of the original’s Le Mans win in 1966 was simply too much to ignore.
This model packs a mid-mounted, 3.5-liter, twin-turbo EcoBoost V6 capable of at least 600 horsepower, and Ford plans to take it to Le Mans in 2016 to see how it fates against racing’s best. In the meantime, we’ll throw the stats away and just marvel at the beauty that is the new Ford GT, an American car that needn’t flinch when parked next to the world’s exotics.
3. Nissan Titan
The U.S. is truck country, and Detroit’s three pickups topped the list of best-selling vehicles one-two-three in 2014. Any new entry in the segment is worth noting. With the Detroit unveiling of a its new Titan for the 2016 model year, Nissan is hoping it can gain some ground from the truck’s current spot, 180th place on the sales charts.
Titan has a shot at grabbing market share with its bold new looks and XD trim that sports a Cummins 5.0-liter, diesel V8 that churns out 310 horsepower and 555 pounds-feet of torque. Those specs make the 2016 Titan XD a light-duty truck that punches above its weight. For Nissan, it was another bold move in its advance on the U.S. market.
4. Chevrolet Bolt EV
Journalists might throw around words like “show-stopping” and “stunning” when describing auto show debuts, but we admit the Chevrolet Bolt EV definitely had that impact on our editorial team. General Motors has looked outmatched in electric vehicles since the emergence of Tesla, but in one fell swoop the General got its swagger back with a concept that delivers on the promise of the mythical Model 3: 200 miles at an affordable price point ($37,500 before rebates).
We don’t know if the Bolt EV will impress on performance, and we’re almost positive it won’t be a “Tesla killer” as some publications have hilariously claimed. However, we do know the Bolt EV is a concept that appeared in Detroit while Tesla continues struggling to finish the delayed Model X. In other words, GM got the jump on the industry’s biggest innovator. Now that is worth a few headlines.
5. Hyundai Santa Cruz
Pickup trucks rule, so show us a new type in an attractive package and you can count us among the impressed. Hyundai of all companies was the one that rolled into Detroit with a “lifestyle pickup” concept dubbed the Santa Cruz that will ring the bells of many auto consumers. Dave Zuchowski, CEO of Hyundai North America, explained the logic behind the Santa Cruz.
“We are not trying to be a truck,” Zuchowski told Detroit Free Press. “You are not going to get towing capacity out of this. You are going to get five passenger comfort. You are going to get flexibly and versatility. To do some things you want to do.” In terms of innovations, we have to salute Hyundai for its vision. Santa Cruz was a Detroit Auto Show winner on originality alone.
6. Cadillac CTS-V
There have been so many obituaries written for Cadillac thinking about the company has bordered on depressing. Some wondered if the move to Manhattan would lead to the old-school showboat brand’s demise, while others simply bemoaned those declining sales while German luxury brands cleaned up in the U.S.
Then the Cadillac CTS-V showed up in Detroit, which was the equivalent of the class weakling showing up after secretly sculpting with a UFC trainer for the past year. It’s difficult to swagger more than the new performance Caddie did in Detroit. Between the sharp exterior details and the 640 horses this CTS-V packs under the hood (plus 620 pounds-feet of torque), this was the type of chest-thumping we love to see from Cadillac.
7. Toyota Tacoma
Did we mention trucks could hardly be more popular? Toyota certainly noticed the Chevy Colorado and GMC Canyon eating into the Tacoma’s sales, and it came to Detroit prepared with this forceful response, developed in Michigan and nine years since its last meaningful update.
Let’s not forget the outdated Tacoma sold 155,041 units in 2014, which made it fifth on the truck list behind the GMC Sierra and 29th overall in U.S. sales. Tacoma is a powerhouse, and it got a new, direct-injection V6 displacing 3.5 liters to go along with its standard four-cylinder engine. Factor in Tacoma’s smaller footprint than both GM midsize trucks and you can expect Toyota to turn those mildly slipping sales around with the 2016 edition.