High Tech Gloss at the Auto Shows

2015 Mustang, Sam Vamhagen/Ford Motor Co.

The American auto show season kicked off in January with the North American International Automobile Show in the Mecca of U.S. car manufacturing, Detroit. The city stands as a tribute to the automotive revolution of America, and in turn the industry continues to lavish the NAIAS with innovations. Here are some of the highlights:

Ford F-150

Ford F-150

Ford F-150

The Ford F-150 is synonymous with both American-made and American-driven pickup trucks; it has been the best-selling truck in America for the past 37 years. This year at NAIAS, Ford aimed to cement the F-150 at the top of the best-selling list for at least a few more years to come.

The F-150 got its body work overhauled; a high-strength steel frame now complements a new 95 percent aluminum alloy body. The composition adjustments trim up to 700 pounds off of the vehicle body weight while retaining uncompromised strength.

“The all-new F-150 redefines the future of trucks, and it is yet another example of our One Ford plan, producing vehicles that serve customers with a commitment to the very best quality, fuel efficiency, safety, smart design, and value,” said Mark Fields, Ford Motor Company chief operating officer.

Customers have four engines to choose from; a new 2.7-liter EcoBoost with standard Auto Start-Stop and a 3.5-liter V6 engine with twin independent variable camshaft timing join the proven 3.5-liter EcoBoost and 5.0-liter Ti-VCT V8. The 2.7-liter EcoBoost engine features a lightweight, compact design to deliver the same power as some mid-range V8s, and was also battle tested in the grueling desert race, the Baja 1000.

BMW M series

BMW made a splash at NAIAS by splitting the M series into the M3 Sedan and the M4 Coupe, although both are practically the same aside from the 2-door vs 4-door complexion. Both carry a turbocharged 3.0-liter I6 engine and the same six-speed manual or optional seven-speed dual-clutch. The necessary modifications to make the M4 coupe a more practical M3 Sedan only add 62 pounds to the overall curb weight, which helps the M3 keep up in the time trials; the 0-60 MPH times only differ by .2 seconds (3.9 for the M4, and 4.1 for the M3).

Chevrolet Covert Z06

Chevrolet Covert Z06

Chevrolet Corvette Z06

The biggest hit of NAIAS was by far Chevrolet’s introduction of its new supercar, which industry analysts have dubbed a “Ferrari-killer”: the 2015 Corvette Z06.

The new, supercharged 6.2L engine is expected to deliver at least 625 horsepower (466 kW) and 635 lb-ft of torque (861 Nm). The Corvette Z06 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 new Z06 delivers levels of performance, technology, and design that rival the most exotic supercars in the world,” said Mark Reuss, president, General Motors North America. “And the Z06 leverages the engineering expertise of GM, offering the choice of two world-class transmissions, supercar performance without supercar fuel consumption, and technologies that make it easier to fully enjoy the incredible experience of driving it.”

The only thing Chevrolet could have done to make analysts’ jaws drop further was offer the Z06 as a convertible, which it did at the New York International Auto Show.

“Until recently it was not possible to create a lightweight, open-roof structure strong enough to cope with the braking, cornering, and acceleration of Corvette’s top performance models,” said Corvette chief engineer Tadge Juechter said. “The frame for the Z06 convertible leverages advancements in computer-aided engineering, metallurgy, and manufacturing techniques – many of which were not available just five years ago.”

WASHINGTON, D.C.

The Washington Auto Show is not necessarily known for its reveals; only the 2015 Lincoln Navigator was slated for its premier at the event in February. However, D.C.’s tradition of unheralded reveals continued as the scheduled premier of the 2015 Lincoln Navigator was eschewed for a publicity stunt.

On the day of the reveal, the SUV sat shrouded in a canvas tarp in front of a large board bearing the words:

Introducing the new 2015 Lincoln Navigator

And yet, as the time for the reveal drew closer, the car mysteriously disappeared into the ethos. Stranger still, the billboard suddenly only read, “Introducing the new”, the second line redacted with a layer of white tape. Soon enough the entire exhibit had disappeared—the CIA could not have done a better job itself with a cover-up operation.

Lincoln did release specs and images of the 2015 Navigator that day, though they did such a good job of covering up their release hardly anyone took notice.

NEW YORK CITY, NY

In 1900, the New York International Automobile Show became North America’s first automotive exhibition. For over one hundred years, through depression, war, boom-time, oil crises, recession, and growth, it has continued its pioneering tradition of bringing new and innovative ideas to a national and world stage.

Combined with the energy of the city and its massive market for new car sales, the NYIAS is now one of the most important automotive events in the world.

The NYIAS offers virtually every make and model car sold in the U.S. under one roof, giving consumers the unique opportunity to see everything the auto industry has to offer. From fuel-sipping economy cars to million dollar supercars, NYIAS has something for everyone; below are a few of the standouts from this year’s show:

2015 Toyota Camry

Toyota’s new 2015 Camry is revamped and revved up. Sleek styling inside and out has brought this classic vehicle into the 21st century. Although the Camry has been the best selling car in America for 12 years running (selling almost a million of the industry’s benchmark sedan since the current generation launched in 2011), Toyota decided a major overhaul was necessary to keep consumers interested in its bread and butter.

Toyota stripped the Camry down to its chassis and rebuilt it from the ground up, raising the bar yet again in the ultra-competitive mid-size sedan segment.

“Customers today love the durability, quality and value that the Camry represents, but they are looking for a little more style, comfort and performance, and this 2015 Camry has all of the above,” said Bob Carter, senior vice president of automotive operations of Toyota Motor Sales, USA, Inc. “This is the new Camry, and it’s coming from the new Toyota.”

Toyota designers and engineers re-imagined nearly every exterior surface of the car. Only the roof remains unchanged. The new, upscale interior features premium, soft-touch materials throughout the spacious cabin. Advanced instrumentation with intuitive controls helps keep the driver’s eyes safely on the road ahead.
Underneath the striking new exterior, the chassis and body structure are bolstered with additional spot welds, enhancing rigidity for better ride quality. A retuned suspension takes the Camry’s handling to a whole new level of responsiveness. All new Camry models will be powered by either the carryover 2.5-liter four cylinder or 3.5-liter V6, both of which are mated to a six-speed automatic. The exception is the hybrid, which gets a 2.5-liter Atkinson cycle Hybrid Synergy drive mated to an E-CVT transmission.

Ford Mustang turns 50

Visitors to the World’s Fair on April 17, 1964 were among the first in the world to see the Mustang on display at the Ford Rotunda pavilion. That same day, Americans stampeded into Ford dealerships to buy a Mustang. By the end of the day, more than 22,000 Mustangs had been purchased or ordered, a breathtaking start to one of the greatest product launches in history.

50 years later, Ford Mustang fans and company executives gathered at Flushing Meadows Park in Queens, N.Y. to celebrate the iconic sports car that debuted on the grounds of the 1964 World’s Fair.

“It’s a great feeling to be here at Flushing Meadows 50 years to the day after Ford unveiled the original Mustang at the 1964 World’s Fair,” said Raj Nair, Ford group vice president, global product development. “Seeing the devotion that owners put into caring for these amazing classic Mustangs reinforces why we put so much passion and effort into making the all-new 2015 Mustang great.”

The 50th Anniversary Mustang will be powered by the upgraded 5.0-liter V8 making 420-hp and 390 lb-ft of torque, and as part of the Mustang GT performance pack, it will feature large six-piston Brembo front brakes and 19-inch alloy wheels wrapped in Y-speed-rated Pirelli P-Zero summer tires. Ford plans to produce only 1,964 units of the 2015 Mustang.

Mazda MX-5 Miata turns 25

Mazda North American Operations debuted the MX-5 Miata 25th Anniversary Edition at a press conference at the NYIAS. This limited-edition automobile will be sold as a 2015 model with only 100 vehicles being slated for sale in the U.S. The anniversary edition was built not only as a tribute to the unassuming diminutive roadster that sparked a large automotive impact but also to celebrate every owner and car enthusiast it’s won over throughout its 25-year history.

“The original concept behind the MX-5 was so simple: to offer the pure joy of a lightweight sports car that moves precisely as the driver intends,” said Takashi Yamanouchi, chairman of the board, Mazda Motor Corporation. “While responding to increasing safety and environmental requirements, in the 25 years since its launch we have had to continually reinvent the MX-5 – far beyond a simple evolution – in order to stay true to that original ideal. The history of the MX-5 is one of changing everything in order to stay the same, a history of innovating in order to preserve.”

Just 100 examples of the 25th Anniversary Edition Miata will arrive in America, Mazda claims that no two pieces will look the same. Every car will be painted a deep, metallic soul red. Almond leather seats and door trim dress the interior, along with “25th Anniversary” badges. The glossy instrument panel is hand painted with a piano black gloss overlaying a red base coat.

Alfa Romero 4-C, Clement Buccho-Lechat

Alfa Romero 4-C, Clement Buccho-Lechat

Alfa Romero 4C

After a 19 year wait, the revered Italian car maker Alfa Romero promises to return to America with the 4C.

Although the car maker promised to return in 2013, enthusiasts have been yearning for the return of the slick sports car since it was first exported to the US in 1995. Over the past 19 years rumors of return have been floated incessantly, yet every time a deadline has come and gone Alfa Romeo has pulled a Lucy from “Peanuts,” yanking back the production from eager buyers.

Lightness and affordability were in the back of the engineers’ minds during 4C design, with the resulting road car built around a carbon-fiber central chassis tub that weighs just 143 pounds. The dry weight of the entire 4C is under 2,000 pounds; 2,300 pounds for the American version (due to different style and safety regulations). Final curb weight sans passengers is likely to come in under 2,500.

Alfa added an all-aluminum 1.75-liter turbocharged I4 that makes 240 hp at 6,000 rpm; more importantly, 258 lb-ft of torque comes in at a low 2,200 rpm. The end result is a specific output of 137 hp per liter and 8.3 lbs/hp.

Chevrolet Corvette

Chevrolet introduced one of the most capable drop-tops on the market: the 2015 Corvette Z06 Convertible. With at least 625 horsepower, and 635 pound-feet of torque, the Z06 is also the most powerful convertible ever produced by Chevrolet.

This is the first Z06 Convertible offered from the factory since 1963 when the Z06 option package was introduced for endurance racing. Records show only 199 Corvette orders with a Z06 package that year, including one convertible.

Recent technological advancements enable the building of a modern Z06 Convertible, said Corvette chief engineer Tadge Juechter.

Land Rover Discovery Concept

Another vehicle to return to the sand of America is the Land Rover Discovery. And this concept vehicle announced on the USS Intrepid, is a futuristic romp into a high-tech wonderland.

The Discovery Concept is a vision into the future of Land Rover’s new family of leisure vehicles. It is a vision of a premium and thoroughly modern lifestyle vehicle – with a strong focus on relevant versatility and compelling design. This will truly resonate with customers while respecting the established values of Discovery’s unique heritage.

While the slick design and spacious interior features are enticing as standalone attributes, the true mouth watering begins after a review of the advanced “smart technologies” throughout the Discovery.

Laser headlamps that utilize laser-activated phosphor projection to emit a bright and even beam of pure white light are merely the tip of the iceberg.

Smart glass will be included in the composition of all of the windows of the vehicle. Augmented reality involves overlaying real-time information onto the view of the surroundings as seen by the driver or passengers. For instance, a passing landmark is observed by one of the vehicle’s passengers – in turn the Discovery will display relevant information such as navigation or tourist data to that passenger.

A number of other functions in the Discovery Vision Concept are also controlled by intuitive gestures. Engineers have developed carefully calibrated motion sensors that precisely recognize designated hand or finger movements, thus eliminating the chance of unintentional triggering of functions. In addition to the passenger infotainment systems, gestures open and close the vehicle’s doors and tailgate, operate the lights and turn signals, activate the rotary gearshift control, and dim and brighten the cabin lighting.

Another futuristic enhancement to the driver’s capability is Laser Terrain Scanning. The Discovery Concept’s fog lamps are capable of emitting infrared lasers, and these are used to scan the ground ahead, map the terrain and display the mapped imagery on the hi-definition cluster screen, providing the driver a vital visual reference and helping him understand the lay of the land while driving in challenging off-road conditions.

NYCLASS Horseless eCarriage

Perhaps the most controversial vehicle to be revealed at the NYIAS was the NYCLASS Horseless eCarriage. As part of Mayor Bill DeBlasio’s vision for a horse-drawn carriage free Central Park, his plan includes the introduction of electric powered horseless carriages to take place of the longstanding animalistic means of transportation.

NYCLASS, a nonprofit animal rights organization, commissioned the prototypic automobile. The result was an eight-passenger, fully electric, rear-wheel drive, 84-horsepowered vehicle (with 184 ft.-lbs of torque). The Horseless eCarriage is powered by a lithium ion battery and has a top speed of 30 mph and a range of 100 miles.


 

The general theme throughout the auto show(s) has been generating an influx of finesse while maintaining or increasing power ratios. In a testament to lessons learned throughout the recession, manufacturers are neither afraid to drastically update design and specifications of long standing quality models, nor experiment pushing vehicles past their normal constraints. As style and engineering continue to blend into one entity, the future production of cars will undoubtedly breach the limits of art, science, and technology.

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