The North American International Auto Show is the biggest event of the year for the American auto industry. It’s the time when Ford, GM, Chrysler, and all the foreign brands that want to sell their cars here gather in Detroit to show off their best work. The fastest sports cars. The strongest pickup trucks. The most family friendly people haulers.
The show opened to the public this past weekend (its open to the public until 1.25.15), and everyone willing to spend $13 and suffer Detroit in the snow is now able to get up close to some of the newest and coolest cars on the planet. As usual, Cobo Hall is stuffed with more than 500 cars, so it’s hard to know where to start.
To help guide you through the show, the biggest in the country, we’ve selected the 10 coolest cars on display. From the spectacularly ludicrous Ford GT super-car, to the Chevy concept that could beat Tesla in the race to build a practical electric, to the bonkers Mercedes-Benz concept that imagines a future where humans are just passengers.
Ford had three new vehicles to unveil at the Detroit auto show, and all three of them – the 2017 Ford F-150 Raptor, the 2016 Ford GT, and the 2016 Shelby GT350R Mustang – pack a lot of power under the hood. The new GT was arguably the biggest highlight of the auto show that was, and it arrived earlier this week as a commemorative model celebrating the 50thanniversary of Ford’s podium sweep at Le Mans. Its twin-turbo EcoBoost V6 is notable for producing more than 600 horsepower, while its aerodynamic design is a nod to both the Ford GTs of the 1960s, and the last production GT from nearly a decade ago.
Another powerful new car debuting at Detroit was the 2016 Acura NSX. The new NSX is a high-performance hybrid that comes with a mid-mounted V6 engine mated to a nine-speed dual clutch transmission and capable of 550 horsepower when combined with its electric motors. Pricing has yet to be confirmed, but we’re thinking this bad boy will cost no less than $150,000 once it becomes available at dealerships. And while not half as powerful, the 2015 Alfa Romeo 4C Spider is small, sporty, and flashy-looking, with an impressive 0-60 mph time of 4.1 seconds and top speed of 160 mph. That’s despite the fact its 1.75-liter turbo four engine “only” makes 237 horses.
It wasn’t just high performance sports and muscle cars that shone at Detroit, as Chevrolet unveiled two new “green” cars – the 2016 Chevy Volt, and the Bolt Concept. The Volt is notable for its sportier, more aggressive design with extended all-electric range, while the Bolt Concept hopes to challenge the upcoming Tesla Model 3 as an electric car the masses can afford. We also saw Buick unveil the Cascada and Avenir concept (pictured), the former being a sexy-looking convertible, and the latter also standing out as a Buick that should help the company shed its reputation as the carmaker of choice for senior citizens.
This is Detroit, so it’s no surprise Ford came out with a loaded bazooka. Behold the latest incarnation of the Ford GT, the third generation of the automaker’s supercar. Carbon fiber everywhere and a twin-turbo 3.5-liter V6 engine make us very, very excited. We don’t have exact specs yet, but the twin-turbo will send more than 600 brake horsepower to the rear wheels, and styling that’s all about aerodynamics have us thinking this thing’ll easily hit the 200 mph mark.
At the dawn of the 1990s, the Acura NSX proved Honda could do over-the-top amazing as well as solid and reliable. In Detroit, we got our first look at the production version of the latest generation NSX, three years in the making. The name is a slightly belabored acronym for “New Sports eXperience,” and while the new look isn’t as striking as the original was 25 years ago, there’s a lot going for it. Power comes from a twin-turbocharged V6 engine with a 9-speed dual clutch transmission, which, unfortunately, you can’t shift yourself.
We’ve gotten to know and love the Alfa Romeo 4C, and now we’ve been officially introduced to its baby brother, the 4C Spider. The topless version gets the same 240 horsepower as the coupe, but it’ll feel like a lot more when you can actually feel the wind rush by. To keep the weight down, Alfa used 10 percent thinner glass for the windows and windshield, so the Spider comes in just 22 pounds heavier than the coupe.
“Buick made this?” We assume that’s what you’re thinking, because it’s the first thing that went through our minds, too. The Avenir—the French word for “future—is a sleek concept for a flagship sedan that’s a big step away from the Brand’s usual, un-astonishing and inoffensive fare. Sitting on 21-inch wheels and powered by a direct-injected V6 engine, the Avenir is a vision of where Buick design could go, says GM design boss Ed Welburn. Please, please, go there.
The Chevy Bolt is a concept, yes, but a preview of a battery electric production car that GM CEO Mary Barra says will deliver more than 200 miles of range for a base price around $30,000 (after the obligatory $7,500 federal tax credit). It’s loaded with lightweight materials like aluminum, magnesium, carbon fiber, and, apparently, “woven mesh.” A lighter car requires less energy to propel, thereby increasing range. Vented rear fenders and an integrated rear spoiler help with aerodynamics, which also will boost range.
On top of teasing us with the all-electric concept Bolt, Chevy brought the new, 2016 Volt to Detroit. Three years after putting the original Volt into production, the automaker took lesson learned and evolved technology and put them to use. Changes include a fifth seat (which still doesn’t look too comfortable) and a new two-motor drive unit that’s 12 percent more efficient and 100 pounds lighter than the original. The battery pack offers 18.4 kWh, and it’s 20 pounds lighter than its 400-pound predecessor.
Unveiled in Las Vegas at CES and then shown off in Detroit, the Mercedes-Benz F 015 Luxury in Motion is a old, completely bonkers vision of a future in which we become entirely optional behind the wheel. The interior, with front seats that rotate to face the rear, creates a communal space. The vehicle is controlled through hand gestures, eye-tracking, and touchscreens. Everything has LEDs. When the car senses a pedestrian ahead, it can project a crosswalk onto the ground. More important than the look is what’s under the hood: An optional 5-liter V8 turbo diesel engine that will crank out 310 horsepower and an impressive 555 pound-feet of torque, which is what you need for serious hauling—up to 12,000 pounds.
For the all-new 2016 version of the Titan, Nissan wanted to go from a “play truck” to “a true work truck,” design boss Diane Allen told Car and Driver. After going nearly a decade without major changes, the Titan has a longer and higher nose and boasts an “anatomical feel.”
The 911 Targa, unveiled a year ago with its seemingly magical pop-top, was the most beautiful open-top 911 since the original Targa appeared in 1967. Porsche upped in Detroit with the 911 Targa 4 GTS, the long-awaited marriage of Targa style and the sharpened handling and performance of the company’s GTS models. You’ll want the seven-speed manual transmission, which comes standard. But if you can’t handle three pedals, get the double-clutch gearbox that changes gears in milliseconds. Letting the computer do the shifting for you shaves your zero to sixty time another three-tenths to a mere 4.1 seconds.
Yes, we’ve seen it before, but it’s still one of the coolest cars you’ll find on the show floor. In addition to sending power to all four wheels, good for snowy climes, the system will boost the already impressive acceleration and the top speed. The P85D will get to 60 mph a full second faster than the current top of the line Tesla, the P85. It will max out at 155 mph instead of 130. Tesla didn’t bring the Model X, its upcoming SUV model, to Detroit, but it did ship in the P85D, the dual-motor, extra powerful electric sedan it unveiled back in October.
Click through our gallery below to see what’s best in Detroit in 2015.