Top 10 Cars of the 2014 Detroit Auto Show

Luke Vandezande
by Luke Vandezande

If you had to pick a theme for the 2014 Detroit Auto Show, performance would be a pretty logical choice. What else would you suggest, bankruptcy?

Yes, Detroit is coming close to overtaking Buffalo as the most depressing city in the U.S. But at least this year’s show is chock-full of exciting vehicles. From concepts to production cars, there certainly wasn’t a shortage of interesting metal.

Take the Audi Allroad Shooting Brake concept as an example. Its powertrain has a combined output of 408 hp and 479 lb-ft of torque coming from a hybrid system and a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine.

Blah blah hybrid, blah blah turbo, it’s all been said before in the name of drawing attention to a concept car that has as much chance of being built again as the Berlin wall, right? That might be the case for the concept, but maybe not. Audi hinted that there could be a TT-based crossover in the works. Meanwhile, the TT is meant to debut during the upcoming Geneva Motor Show in March.

You might assume that something called a “sport sedan” would be sporty. You might assume it would come with a manual transmission, or at least a dual-clutch automatic. All of those assumptions are wrong. The Sport Sedan concept from Nissan has a V6 that makes something in the neighborhood north of 300 hp mated to Nissan’s emasculating CVT.

But there is something to be thankful for here. Nissan hasn’t said as much, but the Sport Sedan concept is believe to preview the next Maxima.

Arguably the most under-appreciated car of this year’s Detroit Auto Show, Infiniti is directly to blame for the lackluster reception its Q50 Eau Rouge weathered. The Japanese luxury brand didn’t even bother to cover its car before its press conference and that’s a shame because that choice deflated hype like a sewing needle stuck into a hot air balloon.

Somehow, Infiniti managed to scuttle the excitement around its best-looking concept since the exotic-looking Essence Concept. That’s a shame because the brand says if it builds the car, it will have at least 500 hp and 600 lb-ft of torque. The powerplant is still an enigma, but we know it will feature forced induction with a V cylinder configuration and that it will probably come from one of Infiniti’s corporate partners. Combine that with the fact that it has as higher hood than the normal Q50 and it sounds an awful lot like Infiniti is flirting with a turbocharged Mercedes V8.

Kia’s Detroit concept car might be small, but this pint-sized pepper pot packs a punch. Yes, the GT4 Stinger concept sounds like an entertaining sports car. It uses a custom-built chassis with an independent double wishbone suspension and weighs 2,874 lbs. The engine routs power to the rear wheels via a close-ratio six-speed manual transmission.

The concept car’s proportions and ride height are probably as realistic as you hitting the lotto, but it’s hard nto to hope that this will eventually give birth to a lightweight rear-wheel drive 2+2 sports car for Kia in the same vein as Hyundai’s Genesis Coupe.

The C-Class is entering a new generation for the 2015 model year and that’s big news because Mercedes tends to sell quite a few of its compact luxury sedans in this market. It won’t be long before these things start filling your local Whole Foods parking lot. If you’re thinking about leasing one – because that’s almost exclusively how they leave dealer lots – you’re in for either a turbocharged four-cylinder engine with 241 hp or a force fed six 329.

BMW has two new M cars coming soon to a dealer near you and the news here is that they’ve dropped the V8 in favor of a twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter straight six. The powerplant makes 425 hp and 406 lb-ft of torque. The new M siblings are a product of the Bavarian brand’s choice to split its former 3 Series into two models, segregating the coupe and soft top to their own nameplate.

A six-speed manual is available as is a seven-speed dual clutch. The former will help you hit 60 mph in 4.1 seconds while the latter does it in a lightning quick 3.9. A special limited-slip differential is standard while carbon ceramic brakes are optionally available and advisable if you’re planning on any track time.

The 2015 Subaru WRX STI still comes with a 2.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that makes 305 hp. It still comes with a six-speed manual and still looks like one of the angriest soft-roaders this side of the six-wheeled monster made by Mercedes’ AMG. But is that really a reason to be excited? After all, those are the same power numbers you could brag about with the old STI…

If the improved driving dynamics Subaru’s new WRX have anything to say on the subject, the answer will be a resounding yes.

Toyota’s FT-1 concept was pretty much the only debut that didn’t leak in advance of the show this year. Hell, even the Corvette Z06, which is rumored to run on nightmares instead of high-octane fuel, slipped out before the official Dee-troit debut.

The track-focused sports car uses an FR layout, of course meaning it has an engine in front and power to the rear wheels. Like the Q50 Eau Rouge, we know that this car has an engine but not a whole lot more. Toyota promises that it will be an internal combustion mill, which hints that it isn’t a hybrid. This thing is cool. Just look at it.

Ponder this for a moment: the F-150 is 700 lbs lighter in its new generation. Ford is taking a bold step into the future with its highest volume seller by using the lightweight metal. Ford will also offer the truck with a 2.7-liter EcoBoost V6 that Ford hasn’t announced technical specifications for yet.

The new F Series gains styling cues lifted directly from the Atlas concept Ford unveiled a year ago at the same show. If there’s one car on this list you’re likely to start seeing everywhere, it’s the new F-150.

Chevrolet didn’t know quite what it had on its hands with the new Z06, but the new supercar even surprised its own engineers when it spanked the old ZR1 at GM’s Milford proving grounds. Here’s the best part: there’s still a year’s worth of development ahead before it reaches dealerships. For new, the company says its supercharged LT4 V8 makes “at least 625 hp and 635 lb-ft of torque.

Luke Vandezande
Luke Vandezande

Luke is an energetic automotive journalist who spends his time covering industry news and crawling the internet for the latest breaking story. When he isn't in the office, Luke can be found obsessively browsing used car listings, drinking scotch at his favorite bar and dreaming of what to drive next, though the list grows a lot faster than his bank account. He's always on <A title="@lukevandezande on Twitter" href="">Twitter</A> looking for a good car conversation. Find Luke on <A title="@lukevandezande on Twitter" href="">Twitter</A> and <A title="Luke on Google+" href="">Google+</A>.

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  • Roberto Franceschini Roberto Franceschini on Jan 31, 2014

    What sick looking cars: typical USA lack of taste...where is the Italian Flair in design ?

    • Eric c algor Eric c algor on Mar 08, 2014

      i would rather go horse riding, rather than take on Italian designs.

  • Dave Russell Dave Russell on Feb 01, 2014

    kudos to Tucker 9691 and Sister Taran. Why this type of comment doesn't go viral is part of the reason for Americas demise. Americans for whatever reason don't give a s**t. I spent last weekend in LA at the Grand National Roadster Show. LA was awash in garbage. The food in all but one of the restaurants we "dined" in was crap. Deep fried everything. The hotel we stayed in was a train wreck. "oh room service- can you send up some face cloths and towels". I have no idea what it would take to get America back on track, your President can't seem to do much as he is hamstrung by your own gov't system. Being a Canadian who has spent lots of time travelling in the USA since the 60's there was a time when I didn't have any complaints about all of the above. But that was a while ago. You guys need to take your country back. Where to start? Have a boy cot of Walmart? Oh- and while you are at it, cut down on the deep fry and pulled pork. And: only buy AMERICAN!