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Detroit Auto Show: Genesis car of the Year, Ram wins trucks race and Ford delivers most powerful street-legal Mustang ever

Norris McDonald
Written by Norris McDonald

DETROIT – The 30th – and last, in its current iteration – North American International Auto Show (a.k.a. the Detroit auto show) opened for media preview days at Cobo Center this morning with the Big Three and other North American automakers present and many offshore (mostly German) manufacturers missing.

In five short years, the Detroit show has gone from being the most important auto show on the continent to an also-ran, primarily because of the technological revolution that has enveloped the industry and resulted in automakers making their major announcements at an electronics show in Las Vegas instead of at a car show in Motor City.

As a result, the NAIAS is going to shift dates and focus in 2020. Instead of a 10-day run in a downtown convention centre in January, it will become a community festival in June that will stretch over several weekends. Fingers are crossed that it will help Detroit return to its former prominence.

Meantime, it is not as if this place is deserted.  Nearly 30 OEMs (as the insiders call them) have product on display and tire companies and racing series have a presence. IndyCar, for instance, has a media conference scheduled for Tuesday when, it is assumed, a new title sponsor will be announced.

The first big news of the show came today at 8 a.m. when the North American Car, Utility Vehicle and Truck of the Year were unveiled. This year’s winners were the Genesis G70 (car), the Hyundai Kona/Kona EV (UV) and the Ram 1500 (truck).

The Genesis beat out the Honda Insight and the Volvo S60/V60 for Car of the Year, the Hyundai defeated the Acura RDX and the Jaguar I-Pace in the UV category and the Ram was voted best truck over the Chevrolet Silverado 1500 and the GMC Sierra 1500.

As I have written previously, they should get rid of the Utility Vehicle category unless they restrict it to automobiles the size of the Lincoln Navigator, which lets you go to IKEA and buy a bookcase. The three vehicles in this category this year might be able to fit in a kitchen chair, but that would be about it. It is just silly to call them utility vehicles.

As is traditional in Detroit, Ford kicked off the press conferences after the Car of the Year announcement and took the opportunity to introduce four vehicles to the assembled media.

After rolling out their new Ford Police Interceptor, the Detroit icon introduced the new Explorer ST and the Explorer Hybrid. The ST is, according to the company, the most powerful Explorer ever manufactured with a specially-tuned 3.0-litre EcoBoost engine projected to make 400 horsepower and 415 lb.-ft. of torque and reach a targeted top track speed of 230 km/h.

The all-new Explorer Hybrid is an SUV designed to offer performance and capability in a fuel-efficient package. Its 3.3-litre hybrid engine produces 318 system horsepower combined.

What the throng was waiting for, however, was the arrival of the 2020 Mustang Shelby GT500, the most powerful street-legal Ford ever manufactured with a supercharged 5.2-litre V8 producing more than 700 horsepower.

The car is capable of mid-three-second 0-100 km/h and sub-11-second quarter-miles. The Shelby GT500 features the best Mustang track times, the best cornering and the largest brakes of any domestic sports coupe thanks to tech transfers from the Ford GT and Mustang GT4 racing programs.

(Got that? There will be a test later. . .)

For the information of readers wondering about how realistic a car like this is, the media were not particularly interested in the hybrid but mobbed company chairman Bill Ford (left), who was pressed up against the Mustang. It’s always interesting to see people’s reactions to loud, powerful, gas-guzzling monsters when they are put beside an EV.

There is simply no contest.

Ram, Toyota, Volkswagen, Nissan/Infiniti, Hyundai, Subaru and Lexus also had press conferences scheduled today.

The 2019 Ram heavy duty pickup, the company says, is the best riding, handling and towing vehicle ever with an emphasis on comfort and confidence. The standard 6.4-litre HEMI V8 power with cylinder deactivation and Variable Cam Timing (VCT) delivers class-leading 410 horsepower and 429 lb.-ft. of torque. The new, class-exclusive TorqueFlite eight-speed automatic for the 6.4-litre HEMI V8 brings shift refinement not seen in heavy-duty trucks. This is good: active noise cancellation, anti-vibration devices and acoustic glass contribute to the quietest cabin yet.

Meantime, the fifth-generation Toyota GR Supra, the first global Toyota GAZOO Racing model, made its undisguised world debut at the Detroit show today, ending years of anticipation and speculation among sports car enthusiasts. Behind the new Supra is a 50-plus-year lineage of Toyota sports and GT cars. Ahead of it awaits the world’s great roads, some of which were used to develop this all-new expression of Toyota pure sports car performance.

The 2020 Supra will go on sale next summer. Driving enthusiasts can look forward to an exhilarating blend of power, precision and agility, thanks to a rear-wheel drive design that honours Toyota’s sports car heritage with its low centre of gravity and weight balance.

While there is a strong connection to Toyota’s 1967 2000 GT and 1993-2002 Supra in both design and mechanical configuration, the 2020 Supra is a fully forward-looking sports car with a cutting-edge powertrain, chassis and multimedia technology. The 2020 model will be powered by a turbocharged inline six-cylinder engine. The 3.0-litre twin-scroll turbo six will produce 335 hp and 365 lb.-ft. of torque and will be teamed with a quick-shifting 8-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters. Toyota projects 0-96 km/h acceleration in 4.1 seconds.

Volkswagen unveiled its new 2020 Passat this morning and it has more interior space and creature comforts. It also boasts upgraded technology and driver assistance features.

Volkswagen made an announcement of significance, It said it would create 1,000 new jobs in Tennessee by making a manufacturing facility in Chattanooga  its electric car centre.

VW and Ford are expected to announce on Tuesday morning that they have reached agreement on a working relationship. They would partner initially on the manufacture of commercial vans and mid-size pickups and then continue reviewing opportunities to cooperate on electrification and driverless technology, the Detroit Free Press reported.

While Infinity’s new all-electric QX luxury car developed a problem before it could appear on the stage – the company said it hoped to have it on display by the weekend when the public will be admitted to the show – the Nissan electric/autonomous concept was front-and-centre this morning. Called the Nissan IMs concept by Nissan Intelligent Mobility, it has the height of a crossover, the look of a sports car and is a pure electric.

It is also an autonomous (self-driving) car. It is a great concept but unlikely to ever see the light of day.

Hyundai brought two hatches to Detroit – one for the road and the other for the track. The one to doll up and enter in the Canadian Touring Car Championship and race at famous tracks in Ontario and Quebec like Canadian Tire Motorsport Park and Le Circuit Mont-Tremblant can be purchased from Brian Herta Motorsport in Indianapolis. Take your platinum card. The one to drive on the street is significantly cheaper. Ask your dealer.

Subaru, for the first time, announced that one of the automaker’s “S” models will be coming to the United States and the limited-edition STI S209 will be the most powerful model the Japanese automaker has ever offered U.S. buyers.

Meantime, Cadillac jumped the gun Sunday night by unveiling the new XT6, a three-row SUV. It also took the opportunity to tell reporters that it doesn’t intend to be left behind in the electric car race and announced that it was working on a new Cadillac EV, although no name or other details were revealed.

GM CEO Mary Barra said, however, that Cadillac would lead the company in the development of electric cars.