Detroit 2013: The Debuts

2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray 5
All photos by Randy Stern

The 2013 North American International Auto Show yielded some grand debuts.

It is no secret which vehicle was the star of the show. It certainly caused a huge amount of discourse from its fans and its detractors. Yet, it was the most visible debut of them all given the live streams a few outlets – including the OEM's own social media channels.

This debut leads this special Five Favorite Debuts from Detroit. You can see which ones were going into production in comparison to near-production concepts. In all, you can count on Detroit to always bring the drama to the auto enthusiast masses.

From the floor of Cobo Hall to you – here are these five debuts…

2014 CHEVROLET CORVETTE STINGRAY: There is an absolute audacity in the way it introduces itself. The grille could either be seen as a paean to the 'Vettes of the 1950s or an affront to Ferrari. From there, the shocks continue ranging from the first 'Vette to have an immediate rear side glass fixture since 1962 to the new generation of the Small Block V8 underneath its long hood. In today's sports car world, there is room for eccentricity – the Porsche 911 considered the standard of such with its mid-rear boxer six-cylinder engine setup. The 'Vette retains the idea of a front engine/rear-drive two-seat sports car with an eye both in the past and in the future.

Though cabin quality has improved, there are some questions about some of the choices made in design whether they are too much for global sports car drivers to work with. Then, there is the idea of adding paddles to the seven-speed manual gearbox to augment shift points to engine response. You would think that an F1-type gearbox would be the answer to that question, but, alas, this one of the ambitious parts of engineering the Corvette set out to accomplish.

Ultimately, the C7 has to prove itself on the global stage. No longer should we be satisfied with a 'Vette only as the ruler of the Interstate or Main Street. It has to perform accordingly on the Stelvio Pass followed with a series of hot laps at Monza or Spa. That is the measurement of absolute audacity in the global sports car market.

2014 Infiniti Q50 1

2014 INFINITI Q50: I will admit being intrigued by Infiniti's styling. The best way to describe it is "glam." We are talking glamour that is chic and polarizing. The replacement for the G Sedan certainly created a buzzworthy mix of Infiniti's familiar design tenets with aspiration to play in the same sandbox as the 3-Series, A4, C-Class and ATS.

While the design was the main attraction, there is much more to the Q50. While standard power comes from a 327 horsepower VQ37 3.7litre V6, Infiniti decided to add a hybrid called Direct Response. They claim to have at least 350 horsepower on tap for the sustainable driveline. Infiniti also promises customizable driving dynamics settings ranging from performance modes to adaptive steering. The massive amount of geekery on the Q50 may be a bit much for the purist, but we are in the 21st Century after all. As shown by the C7 'Vette – electronic driving dynamics are all the rage these days.

The one thing that will spark debate will be the nomenclature change on the new car. Being the G Sedan for a few generations, Infiniti's enthusiasts raised hackles when they found out that their vaunted letter is going away to a paean to the original Q45. Or, is it truly a paean. Additionally, the originality of the new Q50 would come into repute. The glam design may also raise some eyebrows of the G faithful as maybe a bit "soft." Debate away, everyone, but I fear you will miss the point of the Q50 in the middle of it all. This will be a good car in its segment and a great alternative to the axis of the 3er/ATS/A4.

BMW 4-SERIES CONCEPT: Let us stop the whole renaming convention business in Munich for a moment. There are many realities to discuss regarding the 4-Series Concept that will help you understand why it is not called the 3-Series Coupe. Despite some cues between the sedan and the coupe, the latter will certainly stun you into amazement.

The 4er offers a classic coupe silhouette – long hood, a sweeping roofline and a flat rear deck. BMW serves up a classic coupe harkening back to the days where they ruled the road. If you believe that BMW has not hit the mark in design, you may want to do a complete once over of the 4er.

No official word on engines, but I would expect the same from the 328i and 335i for the 428i and 435i respectively. BMW has been very quiet on the M front, but I would not it past them to offer up a M4…or, would it be called the M3. Regardless of the nomenclature, a M coupe would be both staggering in power and astounding in looks. For now, it is all about the silhouette.

2014 Cadillac ELR 4

2014 CADILLAC ELR: If the Corvette Stingray was the star of NAIAS, this was its co-star. The ELR looks like a scaled down doppelganger to the outgoing generation of the CTS coupe. It is a lovely shape with aggressive angles and svelte silhouette. Inside is a two-plus-two seating arrangement that emulates the best attributes of the ATS and XTS.

Underneath the Art&Science skin and 2+2 cabin is a Chevrolet Volt with a few more enhancements to the extended range electric vehicle architecture. It was confirmed the 273-pound-feet of torque would continue to drive through its solid electric motor. Alongside of it is the 1.4litre ECOTEC generator that extends the driving range over 300 miles. Nothing else is known outside of the architecture, except for a battery position adjustment and perhaps the promise of better driving dynamics on top of the Volt's solid ride.

One thing to take in consideration – there is no lineage to the past. Though it is a coupe, one cannot connect the dots back to 2002 and the last Eldorado coupe. It certainly has the luxury and the gumption, but the Eldorado is from an era where personal; luxury coupes were grand flights of fancy. The ELR is a concentrated package full of absolute luxury that reboots Cadillac's heritage of the grand coupe. Just add electrification and slather on the leather and CUE connectivity and you got a 21st Century grand tourer.

2014 JEEP GRAND CHEROKEE: It is a revision, true, but it yielded the biggest announcement for the brand. A diesel engine has been plunked into Jeep's most popular vehicle. The 3.0litre VM V6 turbocharged diesel adds another option for premium SUV buyers. The new diesel starts off with 240 horsepower, with the low-end grunt of 420 pound-feet of torque. You command the newly christened EcoDiesel through ZF's 8-speed automatic gearbox. Chrysler projects a 30MPG highway fuel consumption figure with a potential 730-mile maximum range. The biggest number to top them all: A towing capacity of 7,400 pounds. Expect the diesel to be available with up to three 4WD systems and the option of being Trail Rated. Imagine the capabilities an EcoDiesel equipped Trail Rated Grand could do off road.

Diesel is a huge piece of the revised Grand's story. Several nips and tucks were visible both front and back. Visually, the Grand is more fluid, but sharper at the same time. However, you will be blown away by the interior. Improvements for the 2011 were not enough. Chrysler integrated their TFT touch screen for the center stack and an interchangeable TFT screen in the middle of the instrument cluster. Even the steering wheel changed. There is a huge emphasis on quality and soft touch materials compared to a few years ago on the Grand.

Alongside the regular Grands, the SRT model got a few tweaks. The 6.4litre SRT HEMI V8 also gains ZF's 8-speed automatic gearbox without detracting from the overall performance picture. While remaining at 470 horsepower, you can tow up to 7,200 pounds in an SRT – provided you have a pretty light track car to load on am appropriate trailer. While the new cabin details are carried over in the SRT, the hardcore cabin atmosphere gets a new twist – Sepia leather seating, If you are going to spend the money on the Grand SRT, why not have a truly glam option? Again, Jeep wants to elevate the Grand Cherokee to a premium level while maintaining strong volumes for mainstream consumers.

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