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This year’s Detroit auto show was the most exciting in a long time, giving this northern city some much-needed heat with the launch of two supercar revivals, the Acura NSX and Ford GT.
Having seen a string of concepts for the NSX over the last few years, I was anticipating this one, and the production launch did not disappoint. Underneath the NSX’s sleek body sits a gasoline-electric hybrid drivetrain that Acura says makes more than 550 horsepower. With gasoline engine driving the rear wheels and individual electric motors on the fronts, it’s got the formula for excellent all-wheel-drive handling. Oddly, Acura emphasized the car’s domestic development and the fact that it will be made in Ohio, losing the crafted-in-Japan mystique of its predecessor.
Ford led its slew of performance car launches with the GT, a mid-engine 600-horsepower revival of the 2005 GT, itself a revival of the 1960s GT40. Suffering nothing from its multiple iterations, the new GT looks amazing and takes advantage of Ford’s latest technologies, such as the twin turbo EcoBoost V-6 engine. The pontoon-style rear body architecture is unique among modern supercars and should give the new GT a handling edge. Ford added the new F-150 Raptor pickup truck and the Shelby GT350R to the performance bundle.
Before I got to see these cars, the show started out on a much greener note with the new Chevy Volt and an exciting new concept called the Chevy Bolt. Yes, those are two different cars. The Volt gets its first major update, with all-new body styling and an improved drivetrain. Where the previous Volt could go 38 miles on its battery pack, the new model will travel 50 miles under electric power alone, and still have its gasoline generator engine to extend range. Both interior and exterior styling are a big improvement. The Bolt is Chevy’s first crack at a an electric vehicle with a 200-mile range, which should be the sweet spot for US drivers and hopefully increase electric vehicle adoption. This practical four-door hatchback shows off a large greenhouse helping to increase visibility. Chevy said it will continue development in order to put this model on the road in 2017 at a planned price of around $30,000, after incentives.
Also in the GM camp, Buick stepped out of Cadillac’s shadow with the Avenir concept and the Cascada convertible. The former was well-received, and would give Buick an excellent flagship sedan if ever built. The Cascada, as a four-seat convertible, looks a little tubby, but boasts an interesting 1.6-liter turbocharged engine good for 200 horsepower. Cadillac brought out its CTS-V, using the engine from the new Corvette Z06 for huge power.
Along with the Buick Avenir, we had concepts from Infiniti, Hyundai and Volkswagen. The Infiniti Q60 concept is an almost-ready-for-production coupe, soon to take its place in the Infiniti lineup. Volkswagen continued its Cross Blue and Cross Coupe experiments with the Cross Coupe GTE, a stubby five-passenger plug-in hybrid. Hyundai was the big surprise, offering the Santa Cruz pickup truck concept. “Truck” might actually be a bit of a stretch, as the Santa Cruz was built on a car platform and had a relatively short bed. CNET Editor Antuan Goodwin compared it to the Subaru Baja.
Mercedes-Benz showed some pure muscle with the Mercedes-AMG GLE63 S Coupe, a direct competitor to the BMW X6 M. Of a similar size, but less power, were the Audi Q7 and Lincoln MKX, both big updates for these models. The Q7 is a tech powerhouse, using Audi’s new Virtual Cockpit instrument cluster and offering two Android-based tablets as rear seat entertainment. For the diesel TDI version, Audi is claiming average fuel economy over 40 mpg, which would be very impressive for such a big vehicle.
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On the road to fully self-driving cars, it seems that self-parking may be the next big innovation. As shown at CES 2015, you would pull up to a parking garage entrance, then get out of your car and send it to find a parking place. When you left the restaurant, theater or office, you would summon the car, and it would be waiting for you in a special pickup zone in front of the garage.
Self-driving technology from automotive suppliers Delphi and Valeo at CES 2015 suggest that current adaptive cruise control systems may soon add self-steering, so drivers can let the car take over in stop-and-go traffic and on long highway runs. Delphi even showed the full capabilities of its self-driving technology in an urban environment, but that likely won’t hit production for many years.
Mercedes-Benz’s F 015 Luxury in Motion research vehicle, unveiled at CES 2015, showed the German automaker combining self-driving, advanced electronics in the cabin and a clean-energy drivetrain in its prediction for what a car might be like in 2030. You can’t accuse Mercedes-Benz of being short-sighted.
Cabin tech improvements included the unveiling of the Virtual Cockpit cabin Audi designed for the next generation of its Q7 SUV. That Virtual Cockpit included implementations of both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, letting drivers mirror their phones on the car’s LCD.
The cars of CES 2015 (pictures)
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Apple CarPlay and Android Auto signs were in abundance around the Las Vegas Convention Center’s North Hall, the domain of automotive electronics. Hyundai was showing off a new low-end head unit supporting both features, which will appear in its least expensive cars. And if you are not ready to buy a new car, aftermarket stereo makers Parrot, Pioneer and JVC Kenwood had systems supporting Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.
Unlike the many makers of personal and home electronics at CES, automakers and equipment suppliers tend to focus less on product announcements and more on future tech. At CES, we get to see what the car of tomorrow can do. See all of CNET’s car tech coverage of CES 2015 here.