At the North American International Auto Show in Detroit this week, the level of exuberance seemed more amped up than in previous years—automakers are throwing it all against the wall to see what awesomeness sticks. With the economy rebounding, there were a lot more concepts on the floor of Cobo Center, a few of them jaw-dropping (we’re looking at you, Toyota FT-1 and Kia GT4 Stinger).
Here are our top picks from the show.
Nissan Sport Sedan Concept
In what could be a preview of the new Maxima, Nissan showed off a new Sport Sedan concept. We really like the floating roof design, mean-looking V-shaped front grille, and futuristic, boomerang-shaped head and taillights. We think the design is reminiscent of the Tesla Model S in all the right ways.
Kia GT4 Stinger Concept
With its 2+2 seating configuration, a 315-turbocharged-horsepower and six-speed manual transmission and an out-there, race-inspired design, the GT4 Stinger represents a new benchmark for the brand. Created in Kia’s Irvine, Calif., design studio — the birthplace of previous Kia concept vehicles like the Track’ster and Cross GT — the GT4 Stinger concept is a car we hope they make.
2014 Porsche 911 Targa
Porsche showed off two brand new 911 variants, the 911 Targa 4 and 911 Targa 4S. The new Targa models are inspired by the original 1965 911 Targa and feature a retro-inspired Targa roof bar with a movable front roof section. Unlike those early Targa models, the fully automatic roof segment is opened and closed at the push of a button, making it a lot more like a convertible. Scheduled to go on sale this summer, the 911 Targa 4 has an MSRP of $101,600; the 911 Targa 4S model is a bit more pricey at $116,200. Porsche lovers, start saving now.
Lexus RC F
A mean-looking coupe if there ever was one. Lexus is trying to reinvigorate its lineup, with the launch of the new IS last year, a slew of F performance models in the mix, and a lot more aggressive styling through the range. The brand has come a long way in a short time. The RC F is the performance version of the RC coupe and has a powerful V-8 that produces 450 horsepower and more than 383 lb.-ft. torque. It’s a great effort from Lexus, and we hope to see more like this in the future.
Volvo Concept XC Coupe
Volvo said its new Concept XC Coupe was inspired by the design of modern sports equipment. The XC looks a lot like an SUV Tom Cruise’s character in “Oblivion” would drive, if his future included a sport-ute (spoiler: clones don’t drive SUVs). We like that Volvo is trying to stay relevant and sexy for the future.
2015 Ford F150
This being Detroit, the hometown boys at Ford showed off a completely redesigned F150 pickup truck, which is a perennial best-selling vehicle. The 2015 F150 is 700 pounds lighter, due to Ford’s use of high-strength steel and aluminum alloys throughout the body and the fully boxed ladder frame. The F150 exterior design leans toward the bigger-is-bigger category, and we really like the new design cues and the use of an Eco-Boost engine. Ford went a long way toward bringing the F150 into a more modern era.
2015 GMC Canyon
More trucks from Detroit, this time from GM. Mary Barra, GM’s new CEO, showed off GMC’s new mid-sized (but still plenty large) 2015 GMC Canyon. Along with its stable mate, the Chevrolet Colorado, GM shows it still wants to play in the smaller mid-size truck market – think Toyota Tacoma and Nissan Frontier.
We love this sports car’s front-engine, rear-wheel drive setup, long hood, and mean-looking front and rear. Here’s hoping Toyota puts the FT-1 into production.
VW Beetle Dune Concept
VW said it’s built “a Baja Bug for the 21st Century”. The Dune Concept is longer, wider, and taller than the Beetle R-Line and has an additional 2 inches of ground clearance. The Dune features a 210-hp turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine and a six-speed DSG dual-clutch automatic transmission. We love the whole concept – and have been waiting years for VW to make a concept Baja Bug. While we don’t think this will go into production, it’s a great try.
2015 Chevrolet Corvette Z06
The specs speak for themselves: 6.2L supercharged V-8 engine, an estimated 625 horsepower and 635 lb-ft of torque, optional eight-speed automatic, and a prediction of low 3-second 0-60mph times. The new Z06 builds upon the Stingray and ups the ante on everything. Mean, fast, loud and totally awesome. Goes on sale this fall.
Audi Allroad Shooting Brake Concept
In what could be a sneak peak at the next generation Audi TT, the Allroad Shooting Brake Concept is powered by a nifty gas-electric hybrid powertrain. Audi says the plug-in hybrid drive delivers 300 kW or 408 hp of total system power and a whopping 479.42 lb-ft of torque. The concept weighs around 3,527 pounds, and Audi claims a 0-62mph time of of 4.6 seconds, top speed of 155.34 mph, and 123.80 mpg with a total driving range of up to 509.52 miles. This little concept has brawn and efficiency, and we dig the design. If this is the new look for the next-gen TT, Audi is on the right path.
Infiniti Q50 Eau Rouge Concept
Infiniti is a brand known for subtlety, but under the new leadership of ex-Audi of America president Johan de Nysschen, the brand is trying to take a leap forward in the luxury market and present itself as something more. The Q50 Eau Rouge is the first step in showing the brand in a new light. We like the F1-inspired design of the kitted-out Q50 concept. The roof, front splitter, rear diffuser and side sill skirts are all made from carbon fiber. Throw on some 21-inch forged alloy wheels, a race-inspired dual-exit exhaust sports system and, natch, a massive rear spoiler, and you have the makings of an S8 competitor. Infiniti says the engine would produce over 500 hp and 600 lb-ft of torque.
2015 Subaru WRX STI
Subaru’s new flagship, the WRX STI, produces 305 horsepower and 290 lb.-ft. torque from a 2.5-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder Boxer engine. The only available gearbox is a six-speed manual transmission. At launch, Subaru will proffer up a WRX STI Launch Edition, limited to 1,000 units.
2015 Cadillac ATS Coupe
While not the most scintillating of designs, the ATS Coupe represents the best of what’s going right for the American luxury nameplate and shows the brand is making strides in mixing it up in their lineup. A small, compact coupe powered by a 2.0L turbocharged four-cylinder (or an optional 3.6L six-cylinder) and a whole cockpit of new Cadillac tech makes this a top pick.