Originally published January 14, 2015

Article and photos by Brendan McAleer and Mark Stevenson

Brendan’s Highlights

They don’t call it the Motor City for nothing: at this year’s Detroit auto show, the theme was big power, brawny pickups, and mid-engined madness. Not that there weren’t more sensible machines shown, stuff you might actually consider putting in your driveway, but in terms of excitement Detroit was a damn-the-torpedos, full-steam-ahead affair.

Rumours were confirmed, teasers were teased, some very silly publicity stunts were tried, and even Jerry Seinfeld showed up for a visit. Outside, temperatures were dropping and the snow was flying, but inside the cavernous Cobo centre, things were heating up. Here are our highlights kicking off a whole new year in the automotive sphere.

Best in Show: Ford GT

It was a mid-engined massacre. Even as Acura carefully prepared the long-awaited rollout of the replacement for its NSX supercar-fighter, Ford was getting ready to steal their thunder. Acura had heritage to draw on, a high-profile celebrity (Seinfeld) in the audience, year after year of development to get things right, and the expectations of the entire audience. Ford? Well, Ford had a secret basement and some crazy engineers.

Guess who won?

When the liquid blue Ford GT rolled out as part of Ford’s product onslaught, it was a complete surprise to many. Rumours were already swirling that a mid-engined car bearing the blue oval might show at Detroit, but there were no leaks, no teasers, no camouflaged examples spotted testing at the track. In comparison, we’ve all been bombarded with NSX propaganda to the point Acura’s concepts started to look a little boring: familiarity breeds contempt.

But everything about the GT was a surprise, from 600-hp twin-turbo V6 to centre-exit exhausts and wastegate-dumps mounted in the taillights. Developed under tight security in the basement of Ford’s Product Development Centre, only a few people knew it was coming. And it’s no concept either – Ford has announced they’ll be building the car starting as early as next year.

Side bets are already being taken on which mid-engined beast will have the best Nürburgring lap. Maybe the Acura wins back its honour on the track. For now though, Ford’s sucker-punch has ’em all floored.

Best Concept: Buick Avenir

In terms of real impact for Canadians, Buick’s reveals at this year’s show were a minor disappointment. The Cascada convertible won’t enter our market – you’ll probably be able to rent one on holiday – and the only other real surprise was a concept that Buick’ll never build. But what a concept it was.

The Avenir is both a throwback and a look forward to what Buick might do with their styling, and it’s frankly stunning. There’s some of the regal superiority of the boat-tail Rivieras here, combined with a less bulbous interpretation of Buick’s flowing design language. It’s a long-wheelbase wonder, and while many of the elements are clearly aimed at Chinese tastes, Buick’s largest market these days, the polished appearance and more upright grille could start making their way into the sedans and crossovers Canadians buy before too long. The Avenir was a surprise, not just because we weren’t expecting it, but because it actually piqued public interest in Buick styling once again. A much-needed win for GM.


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