Detroit 2013 Hits And Misses -- David Zenlea

There’s a lot of distraction during the press days of the Detroit auto show. Business conferences, interviews, parties, free coffee. My show even included a 34-hour round trip to an engine plant in Mexico

Nevertheless, I judge auto shows by a simple standard: Were there cool cars? This year, automakers certainly succeeded on that count. Of course, some were more successful than others.

Hits

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Chevrolet Corvette: Like most “top-secret” concepts, this one was all over the Internet before the show started. Doesn’t matter. A new Corvette has happened only seven times in sixty years. As I walked up to the Chevy stand and saw the latest iteration sitting among its predecessors, I remembered what it was like to attend auto shows as a kid, when all of this was just fun and not “work.” I’ll also note that I caught representatives from other automakers talking about the Stingray not as jaded industry professionals but as excited car enthusiasts. I’ll leave the real design analysis to our own Robert Cumberford, but I will say it looks very fast, very cool, and very much like a Corvette without trying to look very much like a Corvette.

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Cadillac ELR: The ELR is the first luxury car from a mainstream automaker (ie: not Tesla or Fisker) that truly gets the green car enthusiast. Until now, most efforts have been slightly more efficient versions of rather thirsty cars—the Lexus LS hybrid (20 mpg, combined), the BMW 3-series (28 mpg, combined), or Cadillac’s own Escalade Hybrid (21 mpg). These efforts, which are all well engineered and expensive to build, nevertheless miss the point—people buy hybrids and EVs because they are, you know, efficient. The ELR is very efficient. It just also happens to look fantastic and have a leather wrapped, power-sliding cup holder cover (really).

Misses 

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Chevrolet Silverado

Although General Motors hit homes runs with niche products, it may have settled for a sac-fly on its single highest volume vehicle. I’m reticent to cast aspersions at a vehicle I’ve not yet driven, and yet I can’t help but be concerned by what we do not see from the new Silverado. No turbocharged, downsized engine, no eight-speed transmission, no significant weight reduction. These are things Dodge and Ford offer today. And remember, a new F-150 is around the corner. It strikes me as rather similar to the new Malibu in that it’s likely a good vehicle competing against several great vehicles. 

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Infiniti Q50 

The G37 is one of my favorite sport sedans. All it needs is an efficient four-cylinder base engine. It didn’t get that. Instead, it received a few things it did not need, including a new name no one will recognize and optional all-electric steering that aims to sever the driver from the front wheels. Again, I will reserve my judgment until I get out on the road in it. And, to be fair, new Infiniti chief Johan de Nysschen fully recognizes the need for a four-cylinder, like, yesterday. But for now, I’m concerned.

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