New cars and experimental concept vehicles were introduced at the North American International Auto Show, which will continue through Sunday. Here are some notables:
Ford GT: The lightweight, carbon-fiber GT has a twin-turbocharged 3.5-liter EcoBoost V-6 engine that produces more than 600 horsepower. The two-seater has deep, dramatic scoops in the hood and the sides and advanced aerodynamics, including a deployable rear spoiler. It's Ford's first GT in more than a decade and one of 12 new Ford performance vehicles coming to market by 2020. Pricing will be announced later, but executive chairman Bill Ford says it will be in the range of other exotic supercars like the $200,000 Lamborghini Gallardo. ...
The Accord has long been a bestseller, but the car is in a class of its own when it comes to model range: Honda is the only automaker that still makes a coupe version of its midsize sedan. In some ways, it's a throwback to the day when two-door cars were common. For 2015, most of the changes to the Accord involve features for the various trims.
Appearance: Overall, the look is a bit simple, some might say bland, for a sporty coupe. But in this case, less is more. This isn't a performance car, after all. What you get is a handsome coupe with enough visual interest — bold, black-mesh grille, LED-underscored headlights, flared fenders, 18-inch alloy wheels — to stand out among the drones on your morning commute....
Pity the minivan. The family hauler seems under assault from the ever-expanding market for SUVs and crossovers, and now the automakers seem to be scrambling to make them hip (?) and competitive. Enter the refreshed-for-2015 Toyota Sienna, one of the leaders in the minivan segment.
Appearance: It's tough to make a boxy minivan look good, but Toyota has done its best. Most of the changes are in the front fascia, which is bolder and more chiseled, a la the rest of the Toyota line, and has more modern upswept headlights. In our SE tester, the restyled grille came with chrome-trimmed black mesh that gave it a sporty look. The SE also comes with 19-inch, 6-spoke alloy wheels....
When it comes to cars, the term "entry level" has a no-frills connotation. When it comes to Mercedes-Benz, however, it's a relative term. To wit: the new SL400. The sporty two-seater is nominally the entry-level SL model, but for $84,000 — $22,000 less to start than the more powerful SL550 — there's little this roadster lacks.
Appearance: With its convertible top down, the low-slung SL400 carries the classic Mercedes roadster profile: long hood, raked windshield and sweeping lines that seem born of a sculptor rather than of a computer. As a design element, the wide mesh grille makes a statement all its own. It's bisected by a chrome bar that has the three-blade, propeller-style Mercedes-Benz logo in the middle with a deep air dam beneath it. The car's iconic look is complemented by LED running lights and wraparound LED taillights....
Auto sales are up, gas prices are dropping and 2014 ends with the big SUVs surging in popularity again. But it was two small SUVs that impressed us. Here are our favorites from among the vehicles we drove this year. As always, there were many we didn't get the opportunity to drive, so we are already preparing our 2015 wish list.
Lexus NX 200t (2015): The Lexus is one of the best-looking small SUVs on the market and carries the automaker's first turbocharged engine. It has the practicality of a "ute," but in its F Sport trim also has lively performance and handling. Not to mention it's eye candy — all chiseled angles and bold character lines. Best of all, it's fun to drive. ...
It's not every day the term "mac daddy" is used to describe the Toyota Camry, which despite being the bestselling car in America, has always been more bland that hip. But when Peter pulled the redesigned-for-2015 Camry into a Publix parking space, the car was greeted by an admiring onlooker calling it the "mac daddy" of Camrys. That's true — our tester was the top-level XSE, a new package — but in any trim, this is not your daddy's Camry....
We've all heard the saying "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." Fortunately, so has Subaru. For 2015, it has refined its Outback both inside (more room, nicer cabin) and out (bolder design) without changing what makes the crossover so popular.
Appearance: We call it a wagon, Subaru calls it a crossover. No matter. For 2015, the Outback carries a new front fascia with a more integrated design for the hexagonal grille and bumper. (The grille also has active shutters to cut down on drag.) The headlights now carry a hint of the automaker's sporty WRX. There's less gray plastic cladding and more chiseled character lines on the body. In all, these changes make for a handsome wagon. ...
The Mercedes-Benz M Class is the luxury automaker's midsize SUV. For 2015, the ML400 replaces the ML550 and its gas-guzzling 4.7-liter V-8. There's no question the SUV has better fuel efficiency and, of course, luxury, but does it have anything that makes it stand out?
Appearance: The "designo" Diamond White Metallic (a $1,515 option) shimmers in the sun. Aside from that striking paint, the ML400 is a handsome, if slightly generic-looking, SUV that wears Mercedes' three-slat grille with traditional fan-blade logo. Standout design details include chrome skid plates, bold character lines and LED daytime running lights. Our tester had the optional 20-inch AMG five-spoke wheels and Bi-Xenon headlamps. Those headlights have Active Curve Illumination and adaptive high beams, which came in handy on the dark back roads Lyra sometimes drives....
The bottom line: The WRX STI is one of the last of a dying breed: street-legal rally cars. We're glad Subaru is committed to improving this gem.
Earlier this year, we drove the newly refreshed 2015 Subaru WRX Limited, and loved it. But consider that model the "WRX light." We've driven the rally-inspired STI performance version, and wow, the car is a beast.
Appearance: For 2015, the WRX STI comes only in a sedan, which grows slightly and looks ready to pounce. The car has a bold front end with squinting headlights and muscular fenders. And, of course, there's the cartoonish wing, which is almost big enough to invoke the Road Runner Superbird for those of us old enough to remember it. Our tester's paint was the catch-me-if-you-can Lightning Red Metallic, which really stands out in traffic — so watch your speed....
It seems like it was just the other day that we drove the 2014 Corvette Stingray — a convertible — and were impressed with the all-new, seventh-generation Corvette. Now we've driven the 2015 model — this time a coupe — and Chevy already has made a big improvement: There's a new 8-speed automatic transmission that's more refined than the previous 6-speed gearbox. Even manual enthusiasts should take notice. ...
Proof that the luxury compact crossover segment is the new arena for upscale automakers comes in the form of cars such as the Lexus NX 200t, which we reviewed recently, Porsche Macan and Mercedes-Benz's new GLA. We drove the GLA45, and anything we say has to be gauged against the version that Mercedes provided: AMG performance.
Appearance: At first look, it's tough to classify the GLA, which is based on the CLA sedan chassis. Mercedes staunchly calls it an SUV. Well, maybe, since it's raised a bit. But to us, it's a hatchback. In the AMG version, a very hot hatch. Our tester had the subdued Mountain Grey Metallic paint, but Mercedes also has an interesting palette that should appeal to younger buyers, including the matte-finish Mountain Grey Magno (which Lyra loves) and Northern Lights Violet Metallic. In its AMG guise, the GLA is all sinew, aggressively sculpted with flared wheel wells, high shoulders and twin power-dome hood. The front end features a large Mercedes three-point star with the "AMG double-cross-wing" design bisecting the mesh grille, and swept-back bi-Xenon headlamps with LED running lights. There also are aluminum skid plates, large air intakes, chrome roof rails and an integrated hatch-top spoiler. Our tester also had the upgraded 19-inch double-spoke alloy wheels. And this should please Mercedes: Lyra noticed some 20-somethings admiring it in a restaurant parking lot. ...
We drove the Lexus CT 200h when it first came out in 2011, and surmised it was the car for people put off by the funky look-at-me design of hybrids such as the Prius. For 2014, Lexus has continued to refine the compact hatchback for those who want to go green with luxury and style.
Appearance: The major change is an updated front-end design, which now carries the metal-trimmed hourglass-shaped grille that is the Lexus standard. LED headlamps are now available as an option. Overall, the five-door hatchback retains its athletic-looking appearance with its long hood, flared fenders and sharp body creases. Our tester's paint color was a stunning hue called Redline, which seems more a case of wishful thinking with the CT 200h. Dual-spoked 17-inch alloy wheels complement the sporty look....
In an automotive age where SUVs rule, station wagons are a fading market category. But Volvo has been a resolute defender of the traditional family haulers. Its all-new stylish V60, which is based on the S60 sedan, is just what you'd expect from the Swedish automaker that has a solid reputation for safety.
Appearance: Yes, wagons can be sexy. The V60's front channels the classic Volvo. The grille has a familiar diagonal line with a Volvo badge. The hood is chiseled, and the car's look is heightened by a high door line and narrow windows that appear as one uninterrupted design framed in chrome trim. The vertical taillights flare out to hug the body. At an angle, they are almost L-shaped. The spokes of the 19-inch Ixion alloy wheels have a visual twist, and the integrated chrome dual-exhaust tips finish off the look. Overall, these elements fuse into a cohesive design. The V60 has certainly come a long way from the boxy Volvo wagons of previous decades....
Americans have an insatiable appetite for the SUV. The latest segment automakers are battling over is the compact luxury crossover. Lexus' entry in the competition is the 2015 NX 200t — with the carmaker's first turbocharged engine and its hybrid counterpart, the 300h. Both models are based on parent Toyota's RAV4.
Appearance: The NX 200t we tested was a preproduction model in the F Sport trim. It's probably the sexiest crossover on the market. It carries the now-familiar Lexus spindle grille, which has prominent black mesh instead of the regular trim's horizontal slats. Everything about the NX 200t's aggressive styling — a mix of chiseled angles and bold character lines — seems calculated to send the message to a younger demographic: This isn't your father's Lexus. We particularly like how the almost-triangular headlights sweep up in a curve along the hood line and the 18-inch Y-spoked alloy wheels. ...
Despite gas prices still being over $3 a gallon, large SUVs have been making a comeback. Among them, the Infiniti QX80, one of the most sumptuous. For 2014, Infiniti's land yacht gets a new letter-number designation — previously it was the QX56 — under the brand's "renaming" of its lineup. What ever happened to actual names?
Appearance: The QX80 looks somewhat ungainly, with its high belt line and its not-quite-seamless mix of angles and curves. It's an odd look, especially in profile. Lyra likens it to a Beluga whale — albeit one that rolls on 22-inch alloy wheels and has a large chrome-trimmed grille and low-set headlights....