2013 Detroit Hits And Misses -- Todd Lassa

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Best in Show: What else? The 2014 Chevrolet Corvette. While the similarly iconic Porsche 911 has to retain its Bauhaus roots and make each redesign look more subtle than it is, Chevrolet designers can go all-out, and finally, they have. If you think the C7 is a bit over-drawn, you’re probably on the waiting list for a 991. The rectangular dual-taillamps don’t bother me. Let’s move on, guys. And Ferrari has influenced Corvette styling since 1953. Consider that Ken Okuyama, the ex-Acura NSX/ex-GM/ex-Porsche 996 and Boxster designer who penned the Ferrari 599 for Pininfarina was criticized for copying Corvette design with that car. It’s a two-way street with no speed limits. The 450-horsepower, 26+ mpg Vette was more than the star. The car and its over-the-top coming out party at the Russell Industrial Center set the tone for the most exuberant Detroit auto show since before The Great Recession. Which leads to …

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Most ‘Meh’ Moment: Ford’s rushed Atlas truck concept, the preview of the next F-150. Rumors were on-again, off-again since late last summer that Ford was planning a sneak preview of its next F-150, which doesn’t begin production earlier than the second half of 2014. The plan was to try and suck the air out of GM’s launch of the ’14 Chevy Silverado/GMC Sierra at the same show. GM’s counter-attack was to preview the truck for the automotive press in December and release the embargo well before the show unveil. Up to the week before the show, Ford PR officially denied the rumors. My theory? When Ford CEO Alan Mulally caught wind of GM’s Corvette/truck/Cadillac ELR plans, he didn’t want to walk into the brightest Detroit show of his short automotive career with just a big van and a small van. The result? If the Atlas is any indication, the half-ton F-Series will take on more of the look of the Super Duty F-Series, which means the next Super Duties will become even more gargantuan-looking. In other words, it’s the same truck design strategy that Ford and GM and Chrysler have relied on for years. Yeah, well, the Ford Atlas may be more interesting than the ’14 GM trucks, but it’s no sports car …

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Most Significant: Toyota Furia Corolla concept. Really? After what I just said about sports cars vs. trucks? While it’s not the kind of car I’d buy, more than 300,000 Americans will again this year. Here’s why it’s significant: tear off the ridiculous “carbon-fiber” lower bodywork and rear fascia and I think you have a pretty good idea of the Toyota compact’s next design. Take a look at the daylight opening. The Furia has a tall, squared-off roofline befitting a commodious-on-the-inside, small-on-the-outside sedan, and there’s no dramatic sweep-up in the beltline from the b-pillar back to make the roofline look more rakish. That’s what Ford has done with its new Fusion, and especially, Chevrolet with its new Malibu. Think of the latest Honda Accord, instead. It sacrifices stylishness for a low, airy cowl that makes front- and back-seat passengers feel like they have plenty of room. This is the future of family sedan design, guys. Give up on trying to make them look “expressive.”

Most Disappointing: Maserati Quattroporte. The Mark VI model retains the big, iconic ovoid grille of the Mark V model, but with a tortured lower fascia and headlamp graphics that actually look too small for the grille. The rear deck appears to be a combination of Infiniti G37 with Ford Taurus taillamps. It’s a step backward from the handsome Mark V Quattroporte. Any car attached to this name should have some kind of breakthrough design element. This Maser fails.

 

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