NEW models galore! If it’s January and you’re seeing and hearing a lot about fresh cars, SUVs and trucks, chances are they’re debutantes from the Detroit motor show. Or were.
Officially known as the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS), the USA’s premiere motoring showcase will leave its wintery January setting and migrate to the warmer, more humid climes of mid-year, starting from 2020. The aim, according to the organisers, is to boost attendances and offer more outdoor events.
To diehard car enthusiasts on holidays down here in Australia wanting to kick off the new year with something new and exciting to look at, that’s a bit of a shame, especially as the final winter NAIAS did not disappoint.
Perhaps the most anticipated newcomer was the fifth-generation Toyota Supra, the 250kW/500Nm twin-turbo rear-drive sportscar with a perfect 50:50 front-rear weight distribution co-developed alongside the closely related BMW Z4.
Capable of hitting 100km in 4.3 seconds in its quickest form, the Austrian-built two-door provoked fierce debate about its intended price (speculated to be somewhere between $75,000 and $100,000 when it hits our shores later this year) as well as the bold styling. Long bonnet, short cabin.. the inspiration was clearly the beloved Toyota 2000GT of the 1960s.
Was the new Supra worth the wait?
At least Australians will have the opportunity to buy one, because the other huge NAIAS freshman isn’t even earmarked for our market.
That’s right, the sixth-generation Ford Explorer – the model some pundits were predicting would be the actual successor to the homegrown Ford Territory after the latter ceased production in 2016 – won’t be produced in right-hand-drive.
Ford Australia must be fuming, since the big seven-seater crossover would fit the bill perfectly to take on the popular Toyota Kluger and Hyundai Santa Fe.
Intriguingly, the big American SUV departs from all mainstream rivals by switching to a longitudinal engined rear-drive/AWD platform (just like the Territory), giving the Blue Oval the sort of dynamic engineering capabilities found in premium crossovers such as the BMW X5.
Even the specs seem exotic – turbo four-cylinder or V6 units, channelling their substantial power through a 10-speed torque-converter auto.
Just like the latest Mustang, meaning there’s probably a V8 waiting to be shoehorned into some future Explorer. Can’t say that about your neighbour’s boring old Kluger or Kia Sorento!
Still on American muscle, the Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 also broke cover at the 2019 NAIAS and – guess what – its steering wheel, too, will stay steadfastly bolted on the incorrect side of the car. Boo.
Just to see what we’re missing out on, the GT500 is the “most powerful street-legal Ford in history”, Ford boasts, brandishing a 522kW hand-built 5.2-litre supercharged V8 engine, driving the rear wheels via a Tremec-sourced seven-speed dual-clutch automatic.
Zero to 100km/h is over in around 3.7 seconds while the quarter-mile is finished in 11s flat.
It’s not as if the Mustang is Australia’s best-selling sportscar (it has been, for the last three years in a row!) or anything! C’mon, Ford of America. Do you even care about Australia anymore?
Australians may actually have a hand in the (also-not-for-Oz… yet) Cadillac XT6. The 116-year-old brand that was almost launched in Australia at the end of last decade before the Global Financial Crisis put the kybosh on those plans is vying for worldwide relevancy again with this, its first crossover that offers a fully-electric version (alongside more conventionally-powered versions).
Due out in 2021, the electric version will be the first General Motors product to leverage its all-new electric vehicle (EV) platform that will eventually take over, as the future is mainly going to be electric.
Given GM’s statement late last year that it is recruiting 150 engineers from Australia for the Advanced Vehicle Development team, who will focus on autonomous and electric technologies, it is fair to surmise that there will be more than a bit of Holden in the future Cadillac EV.
“Cadillac’s EV will hit the heart of the crossover market and meet the needs of customers around the world,” according to Cadillac president Steven Carlisle. Watch this space…
Speaking of space, the Kia Telluride was yet another NAIAS debutante that isn’t coming Down Under due to left-hand-drive-only engineering.
As the brand’s biggest vehicle yet, this Georgia-made wagon can seat eight people comfortably (we presume), and is aimed at that oversized US SUV segment populated by other LHD-only behemoths such as the Cadillac Escalade, Ford Expedition, Nissan Armada and Toyota Sequoia.
How the 216kW/355Nm 3.8-litre V6 petrol driving all four wheels via an eight-speed auto performs… we probably will never know.
But the striking styling will most likely inform the look of Kia’s next-generation SUVs, so it’s worth noting the Telluride’s design.
Still on sharply penned models, the Lexus LC Convertible Concept drew plenty of admiring glances, and is tipped for production (and possibly Australian importation – hurrah!) sometime in the near future.
Mirroring its coupe sibling of the same name, the sexy Lexus has had to have the entire rear reworked in order to accommodate the folding roof.
The result, in some observers’ eyes, is more harmonious than the closed car on which the concept is based upon.
Expect variations of the 351kW/540Nm 5.0-litre petrol V8 (LC500) or 264kW/348Nm 3.5-litre petrol-electric hybrid powertrain (LC500h) when this Japanese supermodel drops its top.
Another concept with possible legs for future production possibilities in one guise or another is the Nissan IMs Concept, which is the company’s attempt to create a whole new vehicle genre due to its “elevated sports sedan” presentation.
Described as being “closer to a sedan than a crossover”, the IMs can be viewed as the once-all-pervasive midsized sedan’s last gasp, bringing a higher ride height and better vision within a three-box context.
This one’s electric, invariably, featuring a 115kWh battery pack beneath the floor for a claimed driving range of 600km.
Staying with EV concepts, Nissan’s upmarket brand Infiniti also got into the act at the 2019 NAIAS with the near-production Infiniti QX Inspiration concept.
Aimed straight at the exciting Jaguar I-Pace and upcoming Mercedes-Benz EQC and Audi e-tron SUV, it combines a “high-performance” powertrain with “potency and character” as well as “complete range confidence”, suggesting breakthrough EV engineering when the real thing lobs in during 2021. Fascinating!
“QX Inspiration is the beginning of a new era for Infiniti and an illustration of where we want to go with the brand,” Infiniti Motor Company executive design director (and ex-BMW stylist) Karim Habib said.
At the other end of the vehicle spectrum was the debut of the all-new Ram 2500/3500 HD.
Due to arrive in Australia from next year, the new Heavy Duty 2500 and 3500 full-size pick-ups surface with three engine options, revised styling and an upgraded interior.
The range-topping HD 2500/3500 is powered by a new 298kW, 1356Nm 6.7-litre Cummins turbo-diesel V8; tied to a six-speed automatic, it sports a towing capacity of an incredible 15,921kg and 3484kg payload capacity. There will also be a 306kW/582Nm 6.4-litre Hemi V8 petrol mated to an eight-speed auto.
“Ram Heavy Duty owners constantly demand the highest levels of capability to tackle the biggest jobs,” a brand spokesperson said. That’s an understatement!
Finally, the Subaru WRX STI S209 made its global entrance at the 2019 NAIAS, as the current series’ last hurrah before an all-new version arrives sometime soon.
A heavily modified version of the normal STI sedan, around 200 units will be produced – sadly all for the North American market only – to make it Subaru Tecnica International’s (STI) ‘most powerful model ever’.
While the S209 still uses the venerable EJ25 2.5-litre horizontally opposed turbo-petrol four-cylinder engine, STI engineers have coaxed another 34kW out of it thanks to a new HKS-built turbocharger, for a total power output of 254kW.
The chassis, brakes, suspension and body have also been modified to cope with the extra performance on offer, making this one of the most desirable and exclusive STIs ever produced.