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2006 Detroit Motor Show report - Shane O' Donoghue
The 2006 Detroit Motor Show runs from January 14th to January 22nd, and though the LA Auto Show starts earlier, the Motor City show is a step above in importance and international significance. We attended the show for the press days preceding the show opening and here's our run down.
Note that hundreds of images will be uploaded over the coming week. It was quite a show!
The official show website is www.naias.com.
Ford's jewel in the Premier Automotive Group crown put on a confident display of its complete range in the impressive Cobo Hall arena before Chairman and CEO, Dr. Ulrich Bez, revealed the Aston Martin Rapide concept. There is little doubt that Aston Martin will produce a four-door car in the vein of the concept in the future. As elegant as it is, we hope the styling is modified to give the Rapide its own identity; it looks just like a stretched Aston Martin DB9.
We were given no hints before the show started that Audi's stand would be worth visiting, but it was! Alongside the US debut of the V10-engined Audi S8 sat its smaller, but more sporting Audi S6, complete with the same 5.2-litre V10 engine borrowed from Lamborghini. Performance is not far off that of the BMW M5, and the S6 has the all-weather security of its Quattro four-wheel drive system. Our only gripe is that it is a little too subtle. Elsewhere on the stand, the Audi Roadjet concept car was revealed. It is thought that this spacious fastback will spawn a new Audi A5. Design language aside, the concept features a new 3.2-litre V6 engine that is mounted longitudinally under the bonnet. Could this signal a move to rear-wheel drive for Audi?
There were no surprises on the BMW stand, though we did get the chance to chat to Adrian van Hooydonk about the facelifted Z4 and the Z4M Roadster that was present. The superb BMW Z4 Coupe concept was also present, backed up by the news that it will enter production this year.
Not really of interest to the UK market, but the Buick Enclave concept was shown, previewing a near future crossover vehicle from Buick. The production version will be in Detroit in 2007.
Kings of bling, Cadillac oddly used punk rockers Blink 182 to mark the announcement of an even larger Cadillac Escalade called the ESV, as well as the EXT pick-up version, all displayed in black with 22-inch alloys naturally.
Forget about the application of the Chevy badge to mediocre Daewoos; there are still some great cars produced by GM's bargain brand, such as the Corvette Z06. Stealing all the limelight on the Chevy stand at the Detroit Show was the new Chevrolet Camaro concept. We spoke to the designers and were informed that short of a few regulation-pleasing tweaks, the show car will be put into production. This was one of the stars of the show without a doubt, certainly with the American media.
DaimlerChrysler put in a very strong presence at this year's show. Chrysler itself revealed its first SUV, the Chrysler Aspen, set to compete with more expensive 'premium' off-roaders that never go off road. A new concept was also shown, called the Chrysler Imperial, hinting at a new range-topping saloon due in the future. It's a daring design that manages to be retro and forward-looking. It also has a hint of the Rolls-Royce Phantom about it.
Not content to let the Ford Mustang run away with sales of retro-styled muscle cars, a new Dodge Challenger concept was displayed on the Dodge stand, sharing stardom with its Chevrolet Camaro cousin. The new 'world car' Dodge Caliber was almost ignored in comparison, though this is Dodge's first decent effort with left and right-hand drive versions planned along with diesel engines for Europe.
The incredible (did someone say incredulous?) Ferrari FXX made its show debut in Detroit. I must admit that the car looks rather special in the 'metal'. Not sure about the black wheels, but otherwise it looks like the racecar it basically is. A Ferrari 612 Scaglietti was also shown in a disgusting two-tone paint finish. Unfortunately, the awesome new Ferrari 599 GTB didn't make it to the show, and its existence could have been ignored as Ferrari sent out details amongst the hubbub of the show. Elsewhere in the show hall, Italdesign displayed the Ferrari GG50 concept we first saw at the Tokyo Show last year.
There seemed to be new cars at every turn on the Ford stand. We liked the Ford Reflex sports coupe, complete with a hybrid turbodiesel-electric powerplant and groovy netting seats. Production stars included the incredible new Ford Shelby GT500 Mustang (in coupe and convertible guises) that was introduced by Mr. Shelby himself. Star of the stand though, if only for its ridiculous size, was the Ford F-250 Super Chief pick-up concept. The Super Chief name refers to American locomotives of old, and really, this concept is bigger than most trains I've been in. Size aside, the concept featured a fantastic, luxurious interior and an advanced V10 engine that can run on hydrogen, E85 (85% ethanol) fuel or regular petrol.
There was a big fuss about Geely displaying a car at the Detroit Show as it is the first time a Chinese manufacturer has ever done this, but the car itself is best described as archaic. Still, they said the same when Honda started bring cars to the States...
Honda / Acura
Surprisingly, there was little of interest on the Honda stand in Detroit. The new Civic took pride of place, but we are unlikely to be getting the same three-door coupe shape as that on display. A new Honda Fit Sport was revealed (same as the Honda Jazz we get), but again, we don't think that version will be coming to the UK. In America, Honda also has the Acura brand, a kind of more upmarket Honda. On that stand was the Acura RDX concept, which for a small SUV, looked quite interesting, especially as it packs a turbocharged 2.3-litre petrol engine. Let's hope that unit makes its way to Europe.
For some bizarre reason, somebody forgot to turn on the lights over the Hyundai stand, or so it seemed! Just as well the Hyundai HCD9 Talus concept was painted in such a bright metallic orange colour. Hyundai has been rolling out the HCD line of concept cars for a few years now and nothing ever seems to come of them. That's a pity; some of the styling elements of the Talus would not look out of place on a new Hyundai Coupe. The press material tried to link the Talus with the new Hyundai Santa Fe, making its world debut at the show, but I couldn't see it personally...
The latest generation Jaguar XK made its North American debut in Detroit, alongside the Jaguar XK Convertible world debut. Prices were announced too, putting the XK dangerously into competition with the Porsche 911.
New cars on the Jeep stand consisted of polar opposites: the new Jeep Wrangler is true to core Jeep values. Despite appearances, this is an all-new car with a long list of improvements and a claim from Jeep that it is the most capable off-roader in the world. I noticed that no such claims were made for the new Jeep Compass... It's very much an SUV for the road, competing against much smaller SUVs than Jeep usually bothers with.
The Kia Soul concept was shown for the first time in Detroit, though perhaps it should be renamed the Kia Stole... If you've seen the Skoda Roomster concept then you'll understand what I mean.
There was no doubting the beauty of the Lamborghini Miura 'concept' on the Italian supercar maker's stand, but seeing as it looks identical to the original, then that was not a difficult job for the designers. No doubt it would sell well if made, though we do hope that Lamborghini continues to move forward, and not back. There are enough retro sports cars in the world, despite the success of the Ford GT.
The production version of the new LS was revealed in Detroit, along with a long wheelbase derivative. Only shown in LS460 guise, the new car features an eight-speed automatic transmission amongst its Mercedes S-class baiting technology arsenal. We also spotted the highly desirable Lexus IS350 on the stand, though at present it is not coming to Europe.
The luxury division of the Ford Motor Company rarely makes the news over here in the UK, but now that ex-Volvo Brit Peter Horbury is at the helm of the design team in North America things are changing. At Detroit we were shown the new Lincoln MKX CUV (basically a more luxurious Ford Edge), alongside the Lincoln MKS saloon concept. The latter is as stylish as any of the large luxury saloons we get over here and is set for production next year.
We already knew that the Mazda CX-7 would rear its head in Detroit, having had its world debut at the earlier LA Show. Though based on the same platform as the Ford Edge and Lincoln MKX, this is the best looking version, and praise the lord, is coming to the UK. Not so definite for production is the curvy Mazda Kabura concept car also shown in Detroit. It would make a fine Mazda MX-5 derived sports coupe, but may step on the heels of the Mazda RX-8.
Next to the best cafe in the building Merc revealed the AMG version of its distinctive new S-class. The Mercedes S65 AMG gets all the important visual cues as well as a biturbo V12 under the long bonnet. Unnecessary, but fun. Even more questionable, at least in European markets, is the new Mercedes GL-class, essentially a stretched ML-class SUV. Of more interest to us was the launch of a new family of super-clean diesel engines under the BLUETEC banner, including a 300bhp V8 version.
After the Mini Concept Frankfurt and Mini Concept Tokyo comes the, you guessed it, Mini Concept Detroit... The latest show car is a variation on the same Mini Traveller theme, with the focus on winter sports and the stars and stripes of the American flag. BMW also announced that the production version will be on our roads in less than three years.
One of the funkiest concepts at the show this year was the Mitsubishi Concept CT-MIEV. As well as showcasing future electric motor technology, the CT's shape looks like no other small car in the world, yet ready for production. Let's hope that the next Colt looks this good! It would have been easy to not notice the unveiling of the new Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyder on the other side of the show stand.
Nissan / Infiniti
We love the menacing black and green Nissan Urge concept shown in Detroit. It is said to take styling cues from motorcycles and should be great to drive thanks to rear-wheel drive and a high-revving engine. Too realistic for you? There's also an XBox 360 included. Of considerably less visual interest, but more applicable to the UK market was the launch of the Nissan Versa hatchback. We believe that the next generation Almera will look the same when it is launched in Europe later this year. Nissan's Infiniti brand will be launched worldwide shortly so we thought it was worth taking a look through the Infiniti cars. The Infiniti FX45 looks great for an SUV, but the Infiniti Coupe Concept grabbed our attention with its Nissan GTR concept proportions and classy, yet sporting lines.
The Detroit Show was the first US outing for the new Porsche Cayman S, but the only real new car on the stand was the Porsche Cayenne Turbo S.
The facelifted Saab 9-5 made its American debut, and for the occasion Saab also wheeled out a high-power bio-fuelled version.
Suzuki had its first chance to show the US public its excellent new Grand Vitara. For a bit of fun, a concept version called the Suzuki Dune was also shown, made to pull race bikes over sand dunes apparently.
For the US market, the launch of an all-new Toyota Camry was an important day for the Japanese company. The Camry Hybrid was also revealed in Detroit. Elsewhere, we pored over the retro Toyota FJ Cruiser SUV and the 'lounge-on-wheels' Toyota F3R concept car.
One of the show stars was the compact Volvo C30 concept, previewing a new BMW 1-series rival from the Swedes. It is certain to be a huge success.