Here's the deal: One of my freelance clients asked me to get credentialed for the 2015 North American International Auto Show. I received my credentials, however I was unable to get the funds for travel to do so. Long story…I rather not get into it.
However, that does not preclude me from covering the show. Technology is a wonderful thing that allows me to do so from the comfort of my own office. It might not be the same as being on the floor of Cobo Center, but it will have to do.
From the office in Robbinsdale, here are my headlines from Detroit…
2016 BUICK CASCADA: We were reminded that Buick has not sold a convertible in 25 years. That one was the Reatta. This is something different – a four-seat soft top convertible designed for luxury touring. In truth, it is an Opel – based on the Astra, to be exact. A 200-horsepower 1.6liter turbocharged Ecotec lies under the hood with a six-speed automatic available driven through its front wheels. Expect a high level of equipment found across the Buick line, including OnStar's 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot, Intellilink infotainment system and an electronic rear seat access system. A running joke I have – that a few people got – was the coincidence that the name is shared with a dance music star of the same name. Though untrue, one who is into music might have a bit of a chuckle. One would hope this Buick is no joke on the road. In fact, I expect it to be very, very good.
2016 TOYOTA TACOMA: Toyota took some pages from two playbooks – their own Tundra and GM's on the Chevrolet Colorado/GMC Canyon. Or, maybe, they didn't. The Tacoma not only grew size-wise, but in importance. The new mid-sized truck is looking for a street fight…rather, a construction site or a stretch of desert. There is a lot of the larger Toyota's influence on the new Tacoma. However, Toyota refuted the similarities by focusing on the truck's intent – for recreation, not work. It looks aggressive and, if you go with the TRD Off-Road model, it looks it would be a lot of fun. There is an emphasis on refinement all around, from the new Atkinson-Cycle 3.5liter V6 to the new features inside the cab – such as QI wireless phone charging. Now that things are starting to get crowded in the mid-sized pickup segment, Toyota just may have sealed their sales leadership for a few more years.
2016 NISSAN TITAN XD: Never mind what the XD stands for, this thing looks gargantuan! What I meant is…it has presence. From what I gathered, there will be three engines – the 5.0liter Cummins turbocharged diesel V8 included – hence the XD designation. The crew cab looks massive from the photos, though I wonder if it will beat the Toyota Tundra's rear seat space. The cabin looks superior, but will be as high quality as the Ram's? How will it ride against the new Ford F-150 or handle like the Chevrolet Silverado/GMC Sierra? Knowing this is Fred Diaz's baby, the expectations on the Titan are stratospheric. Luckily, he did not copy the Ram – a good thing in my book! However, Carlos Ghosn did say that the Titan was going for "Best New Class." What does he mean by that? It appears the Titan XD was positioned in-between traditional half-ton full-sized pickups and the heavy duties. That would be concerning, since it would either succeed and goad on the competitors to do the same – or backfire. A drive would help in confirming either conclusion.
2016 ACURA NSX: Forget all of the prototypes and concepts you have seen since 2013. Things just got real. The theme for the new NSX is about making "dreams come true." Start with the mix of carbon fiber, steel and aluminum in the construction that stayed true to the concept. Add a twin-turbocharged V6 with three electric motors, a nine-speed dual-clutch gearbox and all-wheel drive…no, wait, SH-AWD! Acura also mentioned about a “driver-centered” cockpit. It all sounds great…that exhaust makes it sound superb. Even better, they're making it in Ohio in a specific assembly line dedicated to the NSX. We waited too long for this, Acura.
2016 CHEVROLET VOLT: Though the new body looks spectacular, the news is the EV range. At 50 miles, it is a marked improvement for the extended range EV that still draws debates from all comers. Yet, the Volt was overshadowed by a concept called the Bolt. That EV now claims 200 miles on a charge with a price of a 2013 Volt, wrapped in a body for what could be the next Spark. My problem with the Bolt is why can't you put that propulsion system in the Volt if you want to battle with Elon Musk and Tesla?!? I just hope this new Volt is roomier than the current one.
2016 LINCOLN MKX: We saw the concept a while back. We knew where the design language was going to go. Simply, if you know what the MKC looks like, think of it as stretched over the new Ford Edge's platform. Which makes this luxury crossover a two row affair. Not that is a bad thing. In addition to the standard 3.7liter V6, the 2.7liter EcoBoost turbocharged V6 joins the lineup with 330 horsepower. That already caught my attention. The fact that the MKX is a global product is more important. By global, they mean China. Lincoln did report a boost in sales after they opened up there, but they still need to keep up the momentum in North America, as well. Sales were up 15.6% in 2014 from 2013, but the MKX has slipped in sales. This new version looks pretty good. Maybe it will do the trick to reverse the sale slide.
HYUNDAI HCD-15 SANTA CRUZ CONCEPT: Hyundai said that it is not what the industry expected, but it is what younger customers wanted. They have a point where "traditional" truck buyers are mainly over the age of 35. Hyundai believes that by creating a crossover-based pickup, it will gain the younger consumers wanting a vehicle of this kind. Looking back, we had the vehicles Hyundai is looking to create – Subaru Baja, Honda Ridgeline and Chevrolet Avalanche. What will Hyundai do to make this kind of truck better? If their concept of creating a five-passenger space with a small truck bed that is useful and a chassis that is integrated such as a crossover, perhaps Hyundai might succeed where others have turned their backs.
FORD GT CONCEPT: By one fell swoop, the entire world tittered. It is not about how it looked and the traces of heritage the third GT supercar/racer embodied. Rather, it is an exercise on technology and construction advances. They took the 3.5liter twin-turbocharged Ecoboost V6 to somewhere north of 600 horsepower, mated it to a 7-speed dual clutch transmission and wrapped up it in a carbon fiber structure. The result looks stunning – according to everyone in attendance at Joe Louis Arena. Being the "Doubting Thomas" among my people – bring it to production and let those who can drive it have fun with it. If proven to be what it is, it should be a pinnacle product for Ford.