From where we stand, the the 2015 North American International Auto Show and all its wheeled wares at COBO Center speak praiseworthy volumes about the future of the automobile industry. And it all takes place right in Downtown Motown, just off the banks of the Detroit River. The glitz, the automotive powerhouses, the stratospheric horsepower totals and sheet metal that sparkles enough to wake the dead all make for a show that always brings us hope by showing us what might soon bless the streets of America in the coming years. This year, in particular, qualifies as a showing of the no-holds-barred variety. Carmakers from Germany, Italy, Japan, Korea and the good ol’ US of A came to play a righteously good game with refreshes, redesigns and crisp concepts to wow both the press and the motoring masses.
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We’ve selected the most noteworthy cars and trucks of the entire show amid a field of fantastic new vehicles. And though there was nary a dud in all of COBO, little more than a dozen made our list of standouts. From boulder-crushers to Le Mans legends, these are the 15 cars at the 2015 NAIAS that won our hearts (and will, perhaps someday, win our checkbooks).
2017 Ford GT
Best New Legend: In a word, the new GT is delicious. Not only is it a show-stealer, it could easily qualify as the most beautiful modern American car today. It sports a futuristic design that still pays homage to the original while getting wholly reworked under the hood. It does away with the supercharged V8 of the original and instead uses a mid-mounted 3.5-liter twin-turbo EcoBoost V6 with over 600 galloping horses. Not to be outdone by other supercars, Ford also blesses the new GT with an über-light, über-rigid carbon monocoque, carbon fiber body panels, carbon ceramic brakes, active rear wing, adjustable pedals and a fully digital instrument cluster designed for racing.
As for the new body style: it’s far more modern than the previous car, with better aerodynamics, better venting and new doors that swing up rather than out — and you’ll see it in racing guise as it tears up the track at the next 24 Hours of Le Mans. Everything about it proves that American supercars still have their best years ahead.
Alfa Romeo 4C Spider
Best Hair Dryer: Italians are nuts when it comes to their cars. Reliability tends to sit low on the list of build criteria, tossed on the factory floor and replaced with extra doses of passion, purity and soul. So, it’s only fitting that Alfa Romeo followed emotion (not rationality) and sliced off the top of the 4C. The hard-canopy roof is manually operated (what, this isn’t Germany!), so you can hear the 237 horsepower, turbocharged inline 4-cylinder engine roar in all its rawness. Not much else has changed, other than your need for stronger-holding hair product.
2016 Toyota Tacoma
Best Truck Makeover: The old Taco was a workhorse, and it only got your pulse racing when you nailed the trails. Design-wise, it was about as exciting as Cheez Whiz on a saltine cracker. All that changes with the redesigned Tacoma for 2016. The front and rear get thoroughly updated designs, with more aggressiveness built right into the bigger grille and headlights, as well as the fresh tailgate treatment and fat fenders that trump the flaccid ones on the last truck. Toyota loses the 4-liter V6 and shoves in a naturally aspirated 3.5-liter V6. The Taco will also see a 2.7-liter 4-cylinder, likely geared toward customers who go to Home Depot solely for begonias and potting soil.
As if shedding corpulence wasn’t enough, Land Rover is seeking to improve efficiency with the introduction of two diesel models for 2016. Both the Range Rover and Range Rover Sport will get turbo’d 3-liter V6 diesel engines good for 254 horsepower and 440 lb-ft. Expect near 28 mpg highway and 25 mpg combined. Just don’t call them miserly; that lingo just isn’t in Land Rover’s wheelhouse.
Best Late Arrival: The original NSX still tops our list of the greatest cars of all time, so waiting for the new one since 2012 hurt like riding a bike without a seat. This, folks, is the final production version, and it’s spectacular. Acura went and carved out more vents and creases, giving the new NSX more attitude than the concept car. It also gets more presence via increased width and length, while the twin-turbo, longitudinally mounted V6 nets more than 550 horsepower along with its 3 hybrid motors — all mated to a ridiculous 9-speed dual-clutch tranny that routes power to all four wheels. Orders will be taken this summer. Start practicing your line shoving.
Buick Avenir Concept
Best Near West Concept: Buick used to be a brand for those who ate dinner at 3 and clipped coupons for storage in a fanny pack. The truth hurts. Well, Buick is still working on all that, and the new Avenir Concept is proof that they care. Bringing back a boat-tail design in a fresh new way, the big 4-door displays a possible new flagship for Buick and one that would easily qualify as a beautiful boulevardier. The long and graceful profile leads to one of the best rear ends we’ve seen from an American automaker in, well, forever. It even gets a thoroughly modern V6 with cylinder deactivation and auto stop/start, along with a 9-speed auto and a dual-clutch AWD system. Just don’t try to parallel park it in Manhattan since it’s longer than a Cadillac Escalade.
Lexus GS F
Best Horsepower Bump: Lexus seems quite serious about its sporting inclinations as of late: the LFA, IS 350 F Sport, RC F and now the GS F. Though it likely won’t make the Germans toss their schnitzel out of fear, it certainly makes the case for Lexus’ desire to bring more driving excitement to their arsenal. It’s lighter than its competitors from Munich (BMW) and Stuttgart (Mercedes-Benz), despite its somewhat deficient 467 horses from its 5-liter V8 (the Germans don’t get out of bed for fewer than 500 horses). That’s a huge bump from its stock sibling’s 306 horsepower, but will it be enough to go at it with other powerful sedans? At the very least, we know it’ll handle quite well with its torque vectoring system, and the sound of the naturally aspirated V8 will be music to our ears.
Infiniti Q60 Concept
Best Far East Concept: The artist formerly known as the G37 is stale history compared to the new Q60 Concept, a car that shows Infiniti is far from resting on its laurels. Everything about it is curvaceous goodness, from the contoured bass-mouth grille that’s big enough to swallow Jonah, to the deeply sculpted doors and quarter panels, to the gentle round-lip spoiler that gracefully emerges from the tail. The profile is very M4; the front is very Jaguar XF. Hm. Regardless, it’s a step in the right direction for Nissan’s luxury arm — and it all comes together nicely, including the decadent cream-quilted leather interior that’s a bit like a futuristic Bentley, sans boardroom woodwork. We hope to see a production version soon, even if it is bereft of some of the concept car fancy bits; just keep the 3-liter twin turbo V6, please.