2014 Detroit Auto Show Highlights

By John Stewart

Photography by Mike Spagnola and courtesy of the manufacturers

Media at the 2014 North American International Auto Show spent the week feasting on new car and truck offerings from all over the world. Among them were several that will be of interest to SEMA members and aftermarket manufacturers in general.

2015 Ford F-150

Ford F-150

Ford revealed details on the ’15 Ford F-150, historically the world’s largest-selling vehicle of any kind and a driver of specialty-parts development. The newest version of the F-150 makes maximum use of high-strength steel in the frame, aluminum alloy in the body and employs an all-new high-output 2.7L EcoBoost engine as standard. Three other engines—a 3.5L V6, 5.0L V8 and a high-performance 3.5L EcoBoost V6 will also be available.

In addition to use of lighter-weight metals and smaller, highly boosted engines, Ford is employing a variety of other tricks to improve mileage and performance. These include start-stop technology and active grille shutters that can close to reduce aerodynamic drag at higher speeds.

Other features are available to improve productivity. One would be a remote tailgate feature, allowing for the tailgate to be locked, unlocked and released with the key fob—eliminating manual locking and increasing convenience and security. The tailgate also is damped, dropping down, hands-free, to a flat position when opened. Other interesting features include 360-degree cameras to assist parking and close maneuvering, a smart trailer towing module and high-wattage power outlets in the cab.

On the safety front, there will now be second-row inflatable safety belts that include a tubular airbag that inflates in the event of a crash, curve control to improve stability in corners, radar-based cruise control and an automatic lane-keeping system.

When it goes on sale late this year, the all-new Ford F-150 will offer five primary trim levels: XL, XLT, Lariat, Platinum and King Ranch. Chrome appearance packages are available with XL, XLT, Lariat and King Ranch. Monochromatic sport appearance packages are available with XL, XLT and Lariat.

2015 Subaru WRX STI

Subaru WRX STI

The flagship of Subaru’s performance model, the WRX STI, will be powered by a 305-hp, 2.5L turbocharged boxer engine. Handling is enhanced with a stiffer chassis, firmer springs and faster steering. The 13.0:1 steering ratio provides a quick 2.5 turns lock-to-lock compared to 14.5:1 and 2.8 for the standard WRX model.

As on previous WRX STI models, the ’15 version uses an exclusive inverted-strut front suspension system that provides higher levels of cornering agility. Aluminum front lower L-arms reduce unsprung vehicle weight. The STI-tuned suspension teams with standard 18-in. wheels and 245/40R18 summer performance tires, with the WRX STI Launch Edition and WRX STI Limited models featuring BBS forged aluminum-alloy wheels. Active Torque Vectoring, new this year, now combines with other WRX handling enhancements, such as a multi-mode center differential, three-mode electronic vehicle dynamics control, Brembo performance brakes and Super Sport ABS. A full aerodynamic body package includes the large trunk spoiler that has been a WRX STI signature feature.

MOPAR’s Showroom Custom Chrysler 200

Chrysler 200

MOPAR’s announcement to offer products for the new Chrysler 200 mid-size sedan took a page from the SEMA Show when the performance branch of Chrysler put a modified ’15 200 on display. The customized sedan is intended to demonstrate how MOPAR products can personalize the well-received, all-new sedan for new-car buyers direct from the showroom. More than 45 MOPAR parts and accessories will be available at launch, with nearly 90 products available by the end of the year.

2015 Corvette Z06

Corvette Z06

The ’15 model is the first Corvette Z06 to offer a supercharged engine, an automatic transmission and, thanks to a stronger frame, a removable roof panel. The new 6.2L engine is fitted with an Eaton supercharger and is expected to deliver at least 625 hp, and can be matched with either a seven-speed manual or an all-new, high-performance eight-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters for manual control. The aluminum frame carries over from the Corvette Stingray, and will be used essentially unchanged for the Corvette Racing C7.R.

The heart of the ’15 Corvette Z06 is the all-new LT4 6.2L supercharged V8 engine, expected to deliver an estimated 625 hp (466 kW) and 635 lb.-ft. of torque (861 Nm). To balance performance and efficiency, the LT4 leverages the same trio of advanced technologies introduced on the Corvette Stingray: Direct injection, Active Fuel Management (or cylinder deactivation) and continuously variable valve timing.

The new 1.7L Eaton R1740 TVS supercharger spins at up to 20,000 rpm—5,000 rpm more than the supercharger on the Corvette ZR1’s LS9. The rotors are shorter in length, too, which contributes to their higher-rpm capability, and enables them to get up to speed quicker, producing power-enhancing boost earlier in the rpm band. That boost is achieved more efficiently, thanks to a new, more direct discharge port that creates less turbulence, reducing heat and speeding airflow into the engine.

The seven-speed manual incorporates rev-matching technology for upshifts and downshifts. This driver-selectable feature can be easily engaged or disengaged via paddles on the steering wheel. The seven-speed is used with a new dual-mass flywheel and dual-disc clutch, which deliver greater shift quality and feel through lower inertia.

The eight-speed automatic is tuned for world-class shift-response times, and smaller steps between gears keep the LT4 within the sweet spot of the rpm band, making the most of the output of the supercharged engine for exhilarating performance and greater efficiency.

Toyota FT-1 Concept

Toyota FT-1 Concept

Toyota revealed the stunning FT-1 sports car concept, first devised by Calty Design Research (CDR) in the Sony PlayStation Gran Turismo game environment. FT-1 stands for “Future Toyota,” and the number “1” represents the ultimate. According to its designers at CDR, the FT-1 Concept is the ultimate expression of a Toyota coupe design, building upon Toyota’s sports coupe heritage dating back to the 2000GT, Celica, Supra, MR2 and most recently, Scion FR-S. In addition, the concept draws inspiration from Calty’s more recent sports-car concept work, such as FT-HS (’07) and the Lexus LF-LC (’12). 

“The FT-1 is a dream-project for a designer and car enthusiast like myself,” said Alex Shen, Calty’s studio chief designer. “Our team was heavily influenced by Toyota’s sports-car past, especially Celica and Supra, and we sought to capture some of that history. It is an aggressive, track-focused sports-car concept with a presence that has been amplified for shock and awe.”

While technical specifications do not accompany the concept, one can assume that the FT-1 represents an ideally balanced front-engine, rear-wheel-drive layout that is powered by a high-technology, high-performance internal combustion engine. Beneath a transparent glass hood and an ambiguous engine cover hides a powerplant left to the imagination of the onlooker.

Lexus RC F

Lexus RC F

Lexus revealed its most powerful V8 engine in the all-new ’15 RC F performance coupe. The F performance model, based on the RC coupe, gets more than 450 hp and more than 383 lb.-ft. torque. To get that amount of power efficiently to the ground, the RC F will make use of a Torque Vectoring Differential (TVD). The power will transfer through a newly calibrated eight-speed Sports Direct Shift (SPDS) transmission with paddle shifters.

The RC F has an all-new 5.0L, 32-valve V8 engine that will provide increased maximum power at higher engine rpm than previously possible. For the first time in a Lexus performance engine, the RC F uses the Atkinson cycle at cruising speeds for enhanced fuel economy and then switches to the Otto cycle at higher rpm to develop higher performance levels. A uniquely tuned eight-speed Sports Direct Shift (SPDS) transmission improves linear throttle response.

 It helps the driver control the torque and power precisely as it is applied. The newly calibrated VDIM adds a vertical G-sensor to provide greater vehicle stability

The RC F uses a Torque Vectoring Differential (TVD)—a first in a Lexus—to increase driving performance. It has three operating modes: Standard for a balance of nimble performance and stability, Slalom for emphasis on nimble steering response, and Track.

An active rear spoiler is incorporated into the trunk lid to provide down force at speeds of more than 50 mph. The active spoiler is a highlight of RC F’s aerodynamic package, which includes careful tuning of the underbody, the intakes in the grille and the front fender vents and strategic placement of the aero stabilizing fins.

 To the side, front fender ducts in the shape of an L also aid cooling performance while adding to the aggressive stance.