The 2015 Corvette Z06. (Elizabeth Conley / The Detroit News)
The “big nasty” said it all. So dubbed by General Motors product chief, Mark Reuss, the Corvette Z06 was the performance car star of the recent Detroit auto show and probably will be for the year to come.
Beyond the nasty 625-plus horsepower Z06, there are plenty more reasons to be cheerful about the state of Motown’s auto industry and its products. GM, Ford and Chrysler all come to the table this year with impressive new or revised cars and trucks.
GM, for example, is betting on a revival of the midsize pickup market through the launch of the new GMC Canyon and its sister model, the Chevy Colorado. As downsized but still very capable versions of GM’s recently launched full-size trucks, the midsize duo are both well engineered and well equipped (especially the Canyon). For anyone looking for pickup functionality in a smaller, more maneuverable package, these are very compelling offerings.
Speaking of the trucks, the big kahuna is Ford’s latest generation F-150 full-size pickup. Ford’s perennial best-seller comes to market later this year complete with clever new features, not to mention aluminum body construction for the first time. Moving to a lightweight material is a bullish move for such a high volume vehicle as the F-150; it brings benefits such as fuel economy savings for consumers but is more expensive than steel.
As well as the F-150, Ford’s other big focus is on the new Mustang, also coming to showrooms this year. A sleek new design and extensive engineering changes make this Mustang one of the most significant in many generations. For performance enthusiasts, it will be fun to see Ford develop hot Mustangs to spur on the long-lasting rivalry with the Chevy Camaro.
Chrysler aims to overcome impressions of its outgoing, lackluster 200 midsize sedan model with an all-new generation. The new 200 promises to be a much more competitive entry in a market segment dominated by the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord.
Speaking of Japanese brands, Toyota’s ongoing efforts to invigorate its rather staid market image are boosted by one of the most exciting performance car concepts in years, the FT-1.
For those who fondly remember Toyota’s powerful Supra sports car from the 1990s, the FT-1 suggests a potential successor if the difficult transition from concept to production car is ever made. If it does happen, it could give Toyota respect among performance enthusiasts for the first time in years.
Toward the higher end of the market, the Detroit show underscored Cadillac’s upward progress in recent years, in that the Cadillac display was no longer incorporated in GM’s overall exhibit but directly across the aisle from luxury car giant, Mercedes-Benz.
The change signals Cadillac’s return to respectability among its premium class peers. But to emphasize the competitiveness of this market segment, Mercedes just staged the world debut of its new compact C-Class sedan. Cadillac already has its C-Class rival on the market in the form of the ATS sedan and recently revealed a coupe version for the first time.
The fact that performance cars and pickups are in the show spot lights tells us the auto industry knows the economy is back on its feet and that consumers are ready for a new wave of practical and fun vehicles.
John McCormick is a columnist for Autos Consumer and can be reached at email@example.com.