2014 North American International Auto Show, hottest in years and we’re not talking weather (part 1)

Lindsey Simon's NAIAS poster

High school senior Lindsey Simon’s NAIAS poster won one of the Chairman’s Awards.

The 2014 North America International Auto Show is one of the most significant and exciting thing to happen at Detroit’s Cobo Center since Co met Bo. We counted 27 world debuts of production and  concept cars. Well, cars and trucks, too. The Ford F-150 and the Lexus RC F, in fact, we reported  on separately. If we did that for everything, with all the details, we’d be here for a month, which when we drive the production models we’ll be happy to do. In the meantime, and in no particular order…

Toyota FT-1 Concept

The Toyota FT-1 Concept could be a Toyota Supra reincarnate. (click to enlarge)

Toyota FT-1 Concept  Is this the new Supra? If so, it can’t come soon enough. Billed as a symbol of Toyota, the Toyota FT-1 Concept could make it to production, its name derived from “Future Toyota” and the number “1” for ultimate. Toyota made sure to link the radical sports coupe to earlier sports coupes, laying its profile over that of the classic Toyota 2000GT, legendary Supra and the new Scion FR-S. The “slingshot” cabin placement, with a long hood recalls the earlier cars. However, although the aero coupe’s radical contours are “a beautiful solution to dirty air,” the more outrageous features might need to be tuned down for production. Or maybe not. The Toyota/Scion FR-S/Subaru BRZ went from concept to assembly line with few changes. Hard and fast details about the FT-1 Concept were few—is it officially a concept, after all—and no mention of what might be under the hood of the new Supra by whatever name, but the FT-1 will be hitting the track in the video game Gran Turismo 6. Can’t wait to drive? Gear up for video. We’ll wait for the real thing. Standouts: Front engine, rear drive…and true sports coupe heritage but all new.

2014 Acura TLX

The 2014 Acura TLX Prototype is very close to the production configuration. (click to enlarge)

Acura TLX Prototype  Say farewell to the Acura TL and hello to the Acura TLX. Acura showed a close-to-production-ready Acura TLX Prototype that shakes up the staid TL with a sleek and semi-fastback body style. The still-controversial Acura beak remains, but the TLX Prototype has an aerodynamic slippery look that’s a clean break from its predecessor. When the production version arrives, said Mike Accavitti, senior veep of Honda cars operations in the U.S., it will be powered by either a direct-injected 2.4-liter VTEC four-cylinder via an  all-new, Acura-designed and developed eight-speed dual clutch transmission with a torque converter, or Acura’s 3.5-liter V-6 with cylinder deactivation plus a new nine-speed automatic transmission. Acura promises “vault-like quietness,” citing added body stiffness, improved body sealing and sound insulation, and the application of electronic Active Noise Control…using speakers to mute unwanted sound waves. A lot noisier will be the 2015 Acura TLX GT race car that will hit the track before the production TLX is released later this year. Standouts: Available with front-drive all-wheel steering and new generation Super-Handling All-Wheel Drive system, and this is what it will look like.

Porsche 911 Targa

The Porsche 911 Targa has a complex mechanism for opening a small section of roof. (click to enlarge)

Porsche 911 Targa  “Targa” is one of the oldest names in the Porsche lexicon, borrowed from the Targa Florio, the classic race over Sicily’s public roads, a race won more by Porsche than any other make. And now the new Porsche 911 Targa is another generation of the semi-open version of the rear-engined Porsche. Recognizable by its brushed-metal basket handle over  what passes for a back seat and the removable roof panel, the Targa is reworked with a new power top system that lifts the removable fabric-covered magnesium panel and slides it under the rear window, which raises and lowers back into place. The 2014 Porsche 911 Targa will be available only with all-wheel drive as the Targa 4 and Targa 4S. Yes, it’s overly complicated, but it’s German. And a lift-off panel would be lighter and less expensive, but when you’re spending that much for a car… Standouts: Overly-complicated one-touch Targa gives snow-belt all-wheel drive owners sun when it happens…however short.

2014 Cadillac ATS Coupe

The 2014 Cadillac ATS Coupe adds twp-door excitement to the ATS line. (click to enlarge)

Cadillac ATS Coupe  Just as the CTS Coupe followed the CTS sedan, so the Cadillac ATS sedan begets the ATS coupe. Like the larger CTS sedan and coupe, the 2015 ATS Coupe has a new body from the A-pillar back, with the roof, doors, rear fenders and trunk lid unique to the Coupe.  Performance is ratcheted up a notch from the sedan, too, with a wider track for better handling, and torque from the standard 2.0L Turbo engine increased by 14 percent, taking it to 295 lb-ft., with 272 horsepower. The ATS Coupe is one of the lightest cars in its class, and Cadillac’s lightest vehicles ever—at least that Cadillac wants to remember (we won’t mention names)—for a 0-60 mph time of 5.6 seconds. Those craving more power at some expense in weight can specify the 3.6-liter V-6. And of course it gets all the good stuff available in the bigger Cadillacs, too. Standouts: Brembo front brakes, 0-60 mph in 5.6 seconds with the 2.0-liter turbo, 50-50 weight balance…track ready.

Audi Allroad Shooting Break Concept

The Audi Allroad Shooting Break Concept could be junior partner to the Audi Allroad. (click to enlarge)

Audi Allroad Shooting Break Concept  Audi calls it a “crossover in a compact package,” and the concept shown at the Detroit show fits that description exactly. A smaller version of the current production Audi Allroad, the Allroad Shooting Break has two doors and a hatch instead of the larger Allroad’s four-door/hatch configuration, but has a similar elevated ride height for off-pavement excursions. The Allroad Shooting Break however has a wheelbase just under 99 inches, and powered by Audi e-tron technology for a maximum with 400 horsepower from a plug-in hybrid featuring a disc-shaped electric motor at the transmission with a decoupling clutch, along with another electric motor at the rear differential, operating independently or in conjunction with the front powertrain. The term “shooting break” implies a gentleman’s transportation for a bit of gentleman’s hunting. The Audi Allroad Shooting Break is just a concept, but just conceptualize getting to the hunt before the critters do. Standouts: Ulrich Hackenberg, introducing the car, “you get an idea of what the “new Audi TT” will look like.” What? Wait, we want the Shooting Break.

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Multiple award-winning author John Matras is founder and buzzard-in-chief at CarBuzzard. He has written about and photographing cars, including books, dead tree and on-line since 1980, fired by the best and some of the rest. John primarily runs and writes for CarBuzzard, also freelancing elsewhere. More about John