The North American International Auto Show running this week in Detroit is stuffed with sexy vehicles like Ford’s GT supercar, a convertible version of the Alfa Romeo 4C and various Porsche variants.
But noticeably absent are everyday cars such as a new family sedan or crossover that would sell in the hundreds of thousands. Chevrolet showed a new Volt, which sells only a couple thousand a month. Ford didn’t have a single mass market vehicle on display. Honda talked about fuel cell vehicles and a distant electric car.
Many of the cool vehicles are at the edges of the auto business, stuff that you wish you could put in your garage but never will.
With that in mind, here our five top picks.
Ford GT: Hands down this was the show winner. It turned the most heads, had the most advanced technology and was the one vehicle most people attending the show wanted to take for a spin - and for good reason.
The carbon-fiber-bodied supercar features a 3.5-liter six cylinder EcoBoost engine, a twin-turbocharged unit that produces more than 600 horsepower. The styling is long and lean. Put wings on it and the GT could be a fighter jet in a coat of car-friendly metallic blue paint.
Chevrolet Bolt: The top brass at General Motors are only 95% committed to building this long-range electric car to go on sale two years from now. Maybe they are leaving themselves an “out” in case the price of gas continues plunging.
But if there is going to be a battery electric car that ever approaches the 100,000 unit sales level, this is the one. It has crossover styling, room for at least four passengers and decent cargo space. The Bolt’s range will be 200 miles per charge and GM promises to bring it in at an approachable price in the low $30,000 range after government sales incentives.
Toyota Tacoma: This replaces an older model that had fallen far behind the new mid-size pickup truck offerings from Chevrolet and GMC. Toyota’s pickup will offer a new six-speed automatic transmission, better sound deadening materials to quiet the cabin and an option for a more powerful and efficient V6 engine than the current six cylinder motor sold in the top range of the truck now. This bodes well for competition in the fuel-efficient mid-size pickup truck segment.
Audi Q7: This is a big seven-passenger SUV that Audi put on a diet. The new model is 700 pounds lighter than its predecessor. The interior is clean and stunning and we’re hoping it tells us what future Audis will look like on the inside. Under the hood, the Q-7 comes in every flavor. You can get a gasoline or turbo diesel engine. If you want to go green, look for the plug-in electric-diesel hybrid, outfitted with Audi’s e-tron engine.
Buick Avenir: When General Motors drove this onto the stage at an event Sunday night, the crowd gasped. French for “future,” the upscale Avenir sedan is a concept car that signals the design direction for the Buick brand. Long and sleek with gracious, elegant curves, this upstages anything currently produced by GM’s Cadillac division. We hope Buick brings this to market. They should pack it with a 300 horsepower engine, intuitive, usable technology and give the brand a car people will covet. It would sell well here and even better in China, Buick’s biggest market.