Sports cars to sport-utes, the 2015 version had something for everyone.
DETROIT -- Hands down, this was one of the most interesting North American International Auto Shows in years. The mood was upbeat, the products introduced were startlingly varied – high-horsepower monsters, fuel-sipping hybrids, full-sized pickups and everything in-between – and the general feeling was that the automotive industry is back in general, Detroit is back in particular.
There were dozens of introductions at the Detroit auto show: Here's our Top 10. We've included one photo of each vehicle in order -- for more than 600 photos of from the show, click here. The show opens to the public on January 17 -- if you've never been to America's most important auto show, add it to your bucket list.
1. Ford GT: Rumored for months, confirmed only weeks ago, few of us were prepared for what a fully realized, downright gorgeous car this would be, styled as an homage to the original GT 40, but unlike the last revival model done for Ford’s 100th anniversary, this one genuinely advances the supercar genre. It’s powered by a 3.5-liter, twin-turbo, 600-horsepower V-6 from the TUDOR United Sports Car Championship racer, and yes, we will see this car on the track in 2016, as well as in a few select garages of lucky, and well-heeled, owners.
2. Acura NSX: Without the Ford GT, the NSX would have been the star of the show, but it holds its own as the long-awaited successor to the first genuine Japanese mass-market supercar. Flashier and less organic than the GT, it is still expected to be a worthy alternative to Ferraris and Lamborghinis, just like the original was.
3. Lexus RCF GT3: The vast majority of media attendees at the NAIAS are not particularly motorsports-savvy, so they generally overlooked the Lexus RCF GT3 concept, which was very easy to picture as Coming Soon To A Racetrack Near You. The car debuted in Geneva, but this was our first real look at it. The unstoppable GT3 business model makes so much sense as at least 50 series around the world will be racing this class, so it makes sense for Lexus to jump aboard. It should hit the track sometime this year, and in the U.S. by 2016.
4. Mini Superleggera: Yes, it’s just a concept at this point, and one that has already made the rounds in Europe since last May, but this is such a neat little sports car – looking a little like a miniaturized 1955 Ford Thunderbird, but more in the spirit of an MG Midget or Triumph Spitfire that would actually start every morning – that it makes a lot of sense if Mini could keep it affordable. This brand needs to get its mojo back, and this little convertible could do it, but not as an electric vehicle using BMW technology, as has been rumored.
5. Hyundai SantaCruz: More than a decade ago, Kia showed a surprisingly finished pickup truck at auto shows, but never pulled the trigger and built it. Corporate cousin Hyundai will likely never build the SantaCruz, but in the spirit of the Ford Ranchero and Chevrolet El Camino – not to mention the Subaru Brat and Baja – he idea of a good-handling, moderately useful car-based truck is still a solid one.
6. Ford Shelby Mustang GT 350: The 2015 Ford Mustang is an excellent update on the model that has now been around for 10 years, so it stands to reason that the Shelby version of the new car would be a knockout. This model and the track-ready GT 350R should arrive late this year.
7. Ford F-150 Raptor: We’re a little self-conscious about giving Ford three slots on the top-10 list, but hey, good product is good product. The last-generation Ford Lightning was a revelation when it came to performance pickups, and its spiritual successor, the Raptor, was just as successful, with more of a rugged off-road bent than the Lightning. And this update model looks like a winner, too. It will be a 2017 model, and while the V-8 will be replaced with a V-6, Ford promises it will have more than the current 411 horsepower.
8. Alfa-Romeo 4C Spyder: The Alfa 4C is one of those cars that looks near-perfect on paper, but it’s just too frantic and poorly executed, especially on the inside, to fulfill its promise. This Spyder version, which debuted last year in Geneva, may turn out to be in wait of the same sophistication update, but man, isn’t it hot looking?
9. Chevrolet Bolt: Listen, we are as environmentally-friendly as the next website, so we applaud electric cars and hybrids, especially since it leaves more fuel for our own gas-guzzlers. With a proposed 200-mile range per charge, the electric Bolt – and no, that cartoonish name isn’t final, yet – could be the first affordable (if $32,000 is affordable) electric that could actually work as a real car.
10. Volvo XC 90: Alright, alright, one SUV: It comes down between this Volvo XC 90 (this is a hybrid concept version) and the sanitary little Audi Q3, updated for 2016, which is almost more of a hatchback than a sport-ute. But Volvo always seems to bake in a large percentage of driving fun with their utility, and we have to go with the XC 90.