2009 Detroit Auto Show (NAIAS) Preview – Production Cars

By Chris Haak

01.11.2009

The annual North American International Auto Show (also known as NAIAS or simply, the Detroit Auto Show) kicks off later today with several new production models making their worldwide debut.  Of course, “worldwide debut” doesn’t carry as much weight anymore, since the majority of these vehicles were already released at least in photos -whether officially or via leaks or news organizations ignoring embargoes – over the past few weeks and months.

Nevertheless, it will be a busy show, in spite of being scaled down from previous years, and in spite of the cloud that the poor economy means hanging over everything.  On top of the production cars listed below, there will also be a number of concept vehicles making their worldwide debuts during the next two days, and we’ll be covering the significant concepts as well.

2010 Bentley Continental GTC Speed Convertible – The new top of the Bentley Continental lineup makes its debut in the form of the GTC Speed Convertible.  The car features a twin-turbo W12 that produces an even 600 horsepower and 553 lb-ft of torque.  Carbon ceramic brakes are included, as are more aggressive visual cues, larger tires and wheels, and a lowered ride height.  The top speed is 195 miles per hour with the top down and over 200 with the top up.

2010 BMW Z4 Roadster – BMW has already released photos and details of its all-new Z4 roadster.  The former Z4’s extreme “flame surfacing” exterior styling has been toned down, and the result is a fairly attractive, more grown up Z4.  Powertrain choices closely mirror those of the 1- and 3-series lineups, with 3.0 liter six cylinder engines, including the excellent twin turbo 300 horsepower version found in the 335i and 135i.

2010 Buick LaCrosse – Buick’s all-new 2010 LaCrosse shares its platform with the well-received European Opel Insignia sedan, but rides on a stretched wheelbase.  The LaCrosse eschews the embarrassingly geriatric styling of the current model and significantly steps up its game in terms of interior design and materials.  A pair of new engine offerings – both direct-injected V6s – and available all-wheel drive, coupled with six-speed automatic transmissions – round out the big news from Buick this year.

2010 Cadillac SRX – Cadillac’s SRX has received an extreme makeover – even shifting its platform from the rear wheel drive-based Sigma platform (which underpins the CTS and STS) to the front wheel drive-based TE (short for Theta Epsilon) platform.  All wheel drive is standard, as is a 3.0 liter direct injection V6.  The optional engine – which is surely related to the fact that next year’s Saab 9-4x is sharing the SRX’s platform and likely drivetrain choices as well – is a direct-injected turbocharged V6 that produces 300 horsepower.

2010 Chevrolet Equinox – Chevrolet’s new Equinox midsize crossover looks sort of like its big brother, the Traverse, except for one detail – it’s a completely different vehicle.  It’s also significantly smaller.  The Equinox has only two rows of seats, and features a new 3.0 liter direct injection V6 or a standard 2.4 liter direct injection four cylinder.  As with many other recent GM efforts, the interior materials and design have improved dramatically, and the exterior is far more attractive to my eyes than the current Equinox model.

2010 Chevrolet Spark – The GM minicar trio – the Beat, Trax, and Groove – shown originally in concept form at the 2007 New York Auto Show were fairly well-received; in fact, hundreds of thousands of Internet votes from the public chose the Beat as the most popular of the three.  Then, much to the chagrin of some folks, word came from GM was that the Beat would produce a version of the Beat, but would not be selling i in the US, in spite of earlier statements that the possibility existed.  Now, we will see the production car that resulted from the Beat, except it’s called the Chevy Spark this time.  Aside from growing from two doors to four doors, the production car will be remarkably similar to the concept, and even was painted in the same color to make the comparisons between the two easier.

2010 Fisker Karma Hybrid – At the 2008 NAIAS, well-regarded car designer Henrik Fisker showed a concept of the plug-in hybrid performance sedan that bears his name; just a year later, the production version of that car will be shown.  The Karma will be powered by a 260-horsepower GM-sourced Ecotec turbocharged four cylinder as well as a powerful electric drivetrain.  Of course, being a plug-in hybrid, it should get excellent fuel economy numbers as well.  Pricing is expected to be in the $80,000 neighborhood, which actually seems fairly reasonable for the styling, technology, and performance that this car will have.

2010 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 – The (for the time being) top version of the all-new 2010 Mustang will have a 540-horsepower version of the 5.4 liter supercharged V8 (the previous model had “just” 500 horsepower), which happens to match the output of the special edition GT500 KR of the previous generation.  With the non-KR GT500 making those kinds of numbers, imagine what the higher-performing models surely slated for the future will be doing.  Meanwhile, the GT500 features more aggressive, yet cleaner, styling and a dramatically upgraded interior.

2010 Ford Taurus – Fans of the well-regarded, yet somewhat homely, Ford Taurus who have said for years that the car would sell better if it only looked better will now have to put up or shut up.  The so-called Superman Taurus will finally make its public debut.  Last night after midnight, the official photos of the 2010 Taurus hit the Internet, and it looks remarkably similar to the leaked photos from a while ago.  I’d call it attractive, but certainly not the most beautiful car in its segment.  Still, from an aesthetic standpoint, it’s a huge improvement over the old car inside and out.  The interior features a dramatic new design and upgraded materials, with all of the latest technological goodies.

2010 Honda Insight – Honda’s throwing its hat back into the ring against the Toyota Prius juggernaut with a dedicated hybrid model of its own.  The Insight’s advantage is that it will undercut the Prius’ base price by thousands of dollars, although it carries Honda’s less sophisticated (and cheaper) IMA hybrid system that does not have the ability to allow the car to travel on electric power only, as the Prius can.  We also don’t know estimated EPA fuel economy for the Insight yet, which could go a long way toward determining if the car will meet Honda’s 200,000 unit worldwide/100,000 unit US sales projections.

Jaguar XFR/XKR – The performance derivatives of the well-regarded Jaguar XF and Jaguar XK will be revealed in Detroit, and both will will share the new 510 horsepower 5.0 liter V8 engine.  The XK lineup will consist of the XK Portfolio and the XKR; both vehicles will have 5.0 liter engines, but the XK Portfolio model will have a 385-horsepower naturally aspirated variant.  Interior improvements to bring the XK similar technological enhancements to what the XF has (such as the JaguarDrive gear selector and a new touchscreen navigation system) as well.

2010 Lincoln MKT Crossover – Lincoln’s large three-row crossover, cousin to the Ford Flex, but sharing no body panels, will make its production debut at the show.  Last year, Lincoln showed a concept version of the MKT (whose name, by the way, makes me want to call it the ‘Lincoln Market’) and basically, wherever the Flex had a right angle, the MKT had a curved surface instead.  I wasn’t very fond of the shape, but the MKT could probably replace both the Navigator (which admittedly is something of an iconic vehicle at Lincoln) and the Town Car with a single vehicle, that probably gets better fuel economy than either, and certainly better than the Navigator does.

2009 Maserati Quattroporte Sport GT S – this special edition of the Maserati Quattroporte features a uprated 4.7 liter V8, additional Alcantara and leather in the interior, lowered suspension, sport exhaust, a new blacked-out grille, a new shift map, and additional visual enhancements.  According to Maserati, the car was built in commemoration of the 70th anniversary of Maserati’s first Indianapolis 500 win (nope, I didn’t know they had even raced at Indy until writing this!)

2010 Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren Stirling Moss Roadster – As the Mercedes-Benz SLR supercar ends its production run, the company has developed a limited edition run of 75 cars that pay tribute to the racing great.  The SLR McLaren Stirling Moss Roadsters will feature no roof, or even a windscreen, full carbon fiber bodywork, and 0-62 performance clocking in at 3.5 seconds and a top speed of 217 miles per hour (presuming that the driver is wearing some sort of helmet, because there’s a lot of wind buffeting, not to mention the risk of losing an eye from a stray bug or pebble, at 200-plus miles per hour).

2010 Mini Cooper Convertible – The other variants of the second-generation “new” Mini (the Clubman and Cooper) have been on the market for a while; meanwhile, the convertible model had been soldiering on with the old model.  No longer; the Mini Cooper Convertible now gains all of the same improvements that the other Mini models have enjoyed, such as more engine power, better fuel economy, additional refinement, and a more spacious interior.

2010 Toyota Prius – more interior room, better performance, better fuel economy, and better styling?  What’s not to like about the all-new Prius?  If you liked the old one, you’ll love the new one.  If you hated the old one, you might hate the new one a little less.  It’s definitely an aesthetic improvement, with far better styling.

Overall, many of us expect the show to take a more subdued tone than it has in the past, appropriate for the rough patch that nearly all players – with the exception of Subaru in 2008 – have been going through.  Stay tuned later today and Monday for our take on all of the new cars, including some concepts and all of the surprises that we still don’t know about.

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Author: Chris Haak

Chris is Autosavant's Managing Editor. He has a lifelong love of everything automotive, having grown up as the son of a car dealer. A married father of two sons, Chris is also in the process of indoctrinating them into the world of cars and trucks.

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