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Motoring: Auto show had nice revelations

Nauman Farooq | Interrobang | Sports | February 2nd, 2009

Tough times have fallen on the American motor industry, its once powerful players have now been reduced to beg for a bailout from the government, which they got, but not for as much as they were hoping.

So what most people are wondering, how would the current economic condition effect what was once the biggest auto show in North America?

Well there were some notable cutbacks, and seven manufacturers decided to not participate this year.

However, the manufacturers that did show up put an amazing show together. Here are some of the highlights.

We'll start with the American manufacturers, and General Motors kicked off the show by rolling out not only the production spec version of the highly anticipated Chevrolet Volt, but Cadillac showed a concept based on the Volt's platform called Converj. Yes, that is how they spelled it, but aside from the misspelled name, it looks to be a very interesting car. It looks great, and with some extra luxury features and some extra power, this can certainly be made in addition to the Volt as a higher classed vehicle. I do hope they put it in production.

The new Chevrolet Camaro is going into production and will start hitting showrooms by May, and it looks great. Can't wait to test that later this year.

Ford will also try to ensure it still gets a cut of the muscle car market with the introduction of the new Mustang, and in Detroit they rolled out the new Mustang Shelby GT500, which now has 540hp. This gas guzzling monster might seem wrong at a time when the economy is down and that everyone is talking about econo-cars, but for petrolheads like me, the new GT500 is a celebration of everything that made me fall in love with cars in the first place, a loud, fast, good looking car that will put a dent in your wallet but a smile on your face.

Ford also showed the European market Fiesta hatchback, which will sell in North America next year, and they also showed the hybrid version of the redesigned Fusion, which looks very good.

Over at Chrysler, they brought out some hybrids and electric cars, the best of which was the Dodge Circuit EV. This car is based on the Lotus Europa, only it has been transformed from gas power to electric power. It produces 268hp from its electric motor, and its lithium-ion battery pack gives it a range of about 300km. I think it's a great vehicle and I do hope it ends up in showrooms next year.

Over at Mercedes-Benz there were more gas-guzzling supercars, like the SL65 AMG Black Series and the very limited production SLR McLaren Stirling Moss (only 75 will be produced and will cost $1.3-million each), however neither of these speed machines will be sold in Canada.

Bentley chose to hold the world debut of its Continental GTC Speed in Detroit, and like its name suggests it is fast. Top speed is in the 320km/h range, thanks to its twin-turbo, six-litre, W12 engine producing 600hp. This will go on sale in Canada next month, so start saving, you'll need about $240,000 for one.

On a more affordable scale, Subaru showed its new Legacy sedan in concept form, but we all know it is production ready and will be on sale by next year. The concept looked fantastic, something that isn't usually the case with a new Subaru, and with its production spec engine, a 3.6-litre, flat-six, it looked ready to pounce onto the market now.

Another car I cannot wait for is the Fisker Karma. Henrik Fisker, the man behind such beautiful designs as the BMW Z8 and the Aston Martin V8 Vantage, started his own company two years ago, and he not only showed a concept car last year, but showed the production version of that car this year. It looks amazing, and it is green too, as this will be the first Plug-In Hybrid car to go on sale, when it hits the market this November. It has two-electric motors that give it an 80km range, thanks to its lithium-ion batteries, but once that power supply is finished, a 2-litre gas engine will kick-in to drive you the rest of the way home. If you want a convertible, Fisker also showed a new concept called the Sunset. Both the Karma sedan and Sunset will have the same powerplant. As Henrik Fisker said, “it is an electric car with no mileage limitations.”

BMW is also talking about removing limitations, but in a different style. They are saying, that with their new Z4 roadster, you are not limited to just having a convertible. With the touch of a button you can turn it into a hard-top coupe. The new Z4 looks great and comes with more performance than the outgoing model. It will be on sale in Canada in June and I again can't wait to bring you a full test of this vehicle in the coming months.

BMW's competitor from across the town, Audi, also showed some tasty cars. There was the production version of the R8 V10, which offers you 525hp. This will also be on sale later this year, so if you have about $200,000 to spend later this year, you might like this machine.

Audi also showed the Sportback Concept, which is a four-door coupe. I personally think the whole idea of a coupe style sedan is pointless, but seems to be of interest to all the German manufacturers these days. The concept looks decent, and I am sure a production version is not too far away.

Best concept of the show was possibly the VW BlueConcept. This two-seat roadster has a 180hp, two-litre diesel engine, which gets an economy rating of just 4.3-litres/100km. So imagine a fun little roadster that is good looking and economical, to drive around in, sounds like a great idea to me.

Well that is it for this years North American International Auto Show coverage, be sure to check out our local Toronto International Auto Show starting February 13.
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