2014 NAIAS Detroit: Contenders and Pretenders

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Kia GT4 Stinger Concept
KIA GT4 Stinger Concept

Media days are over and the critics have spoken. Now it’s time to reflect on the days events and determine which offerings are contenders in the automotive market and which ones are pretenders. The proclivity of automakers towards producing more performance capable machines points to an obvious upturn in the new car market. Their willingness to present more and more powerful concept vehicles demonstrates great confidence in the future of the auto industry. The 2014 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Michigan, opens to the public in a few days. Admirers from every facet of society will enter the COPO Center and gaze upon the best that automakers have to offer and decide for themselves which ones are contenders and which are pretenders.


Performance Coupe

Corvette Z06
2015 Chevrolet Corvette Z06
2015 equus bass 770
2015 Equus Bass 770 Prototype

Among the contenders for performance coupe the 2015 Chevrolet Corvette Z06 stands head-and shoulders above its competitors.  Its tight, slender lines and aggressive athletic stance compliment the abundance of sheer power that it brings to bear. The Vette’s interior is all business, with leather-clad racing buckets, a flat bottom steering wheel, and huge multi-function LCD touchscreen display. Sure, the Vette is pricey, but when compared with comparable sports cars it is still a great value. Equipped with a 6.2-liter supercharged V8, the Z06 turns out 625-hp and 635 lb.-ft. of torque, a figure which is comparable to the chief-pretender of this segment, the 2015 Equus Bass 770 prototype. The 770 is offered for approximately three times the price of the Corvette and it closely resembles a cross-bred Mustang Fastback/Chevy Camaro. It features the exact same Chevy LS9 6.2-liter as the Z06 (screams pretender), with all-aluminum body construction, twin-plated clutch equipped manual gearbox, and carbon-ceramic brakes.

2015 Ford Mustang Shelby GT 500

Other performance coupe contenders were the Kia GT4 Stinger Concept, with the 315-hp turbocharged 2.0-liter Optima racing car engine, it is rumored to be nearing production form. The 2015 BMW M4 also seems to be a contender (albeit a little overpriced) with its new inline six-cylinder engine and sequential twin-turbos along with the redesigned 50th Anniversary 2015 Ford Mustang with all of its many engine and transmission variations. The jury is still out on the Toyota FT-1 Concept; it looks fantastic, but is still a long way from a production version.

As far as pretenders go, the 2015 Subaru WRX-STi was generally unimpressive, with a huge winged spoiler on the rear and a 2.5-liter turbocharged mill, expect tons of turbo-lag, an average boxy appearance, and less than spacious interior.


Performance Sedans

MB C400
2015 Mercedes-Benz C400

The 2015 Mercedes-Benz C-400 sedan is certainly a contender, boasting a 329-hp turbocharged six-cylinder engine and 4MATIC drivetrain, in the performance sedan category, as are the impressive 2015 Audi A8, S8, and the 2015 BMW M3. The A8 and S8 both offer performance options that exceed the 500-hp mark, with luxurious interior surfaces and tight handling in typical Audi fashion. The new M3 Sedan comes with a twin-turbocharged six-cylinder engine and M-Sport series suspension, steering, and brakes. The Infiniti Q50 Eau Rouge Concept also deserves an honorable mention here, as does the fantastic looking Nissan Sport Sedan Concept.

Performance sedan pretenders include the 2015 Chrysler 200 and the 2015 Dodge Dart Blacktop Edition. The Acura TLX Prototype was presented in a pretty shade of red but with two other sedans in the Acura lineup, the new TLX is easily overlooked. The 2015 Hyundai Genesis, while a very good bargain for the money, is virtually identical to the 2014 model.

S.M. Darby

S.M. Darby

I am a freelance author with over 25 years of experience as a professional, ASE certified automotive technician and shop owner, muscle car enthusiast, avid street racer, and classic car restoration specialist.