Detroit mus­cle

The con­cept coupe that could be­come a Holden hero

Mercury (Hobart) - Motoring - - FRONT PAGE - JOSHUA DOWL­ING NA­TIONAL MO­TOR­ING EDITOR joshua.dowl­ing@news.com.au

DETROIT is fi­nally back on its feet. Record sales in the US last year — with more than 17.47 mil­lion new ve­hi­cles sold — have put the grim years of the global fi­nan­cial cri­sis in the rear-view mir­ror.

But apart from Buick, none of the big Amer­i­can brands had any out­landish con­cept cars to wow the crowds at this year’s Detroit mo­tor show.

It was left to the lux­ury im­porters to cap­i­talise on Detroit’s re­turn to pros­per­ity.

Lexus un­veiled a sur­prise pro­duc­tion car borne from what was sup­posed to only ever be a dream ma­chine, while Audi un­veiled a hy­dro­gen-pow­ered SUV.

The big news was mostly in­side the cars, how­ever, now loaded with more tech than ever be­fore, some of it wor­thy, some of it a flight of fancy.

Here are the high­lights of Detroit 2016.

BUICK AVISTA

Gotta love multi­na­tional com­pa­nies. De­pend­ing on which coun­try you’re from, this is ei­ther the suc­ces­sor to the Holden Monaro, an Opel Cal­i­bra or the new Buick Avista. The cor­rect an­swer is: it’s all of the above. Take note of the round badge on the grille. That could be the Holden logo, the Opel logo or, in this case, the Buick logo. All we know is that it looks stun­ning and is a safe bet to be headed our way as part of Holden’s roll­out of 24 new mod­els by 2020. There’s no V8 un­der the bon­net but the twin turbo 3.0-litre V6 has V8-like grunt (300kW) and drives the rear wheels, just like ev­ery Holden Monaro since 1968. Holden is yet to con­firm if this car is com­ing or what it will be called, but it will at least give Holden some­thing to chal­lenge the hugely pop­u­lar Ford Mus­tang.

LEXUS LC500

You could be for­given for think­ing the world is up­side down when a US brand whips the cov­ers off a fuel-ef­fi­cient twin-turbo V6 coupe, and a Ja­panese brand that prides it­self on hy­brid tech­nol­ogy un­veils a high-revving V8, but that’s what hap­pened at Detroit. The Lexus LC500 is a 2012 con­cept car that made it to pro­duc­tion largely un­changed. It turns out, just like the Com­modore coupe show car that spawned the mod­ern Monaro in 2001, this Lexus was never meant for pro­duc­tion. But the pub­lic de­manded it be built and Lexus re­sponded. While you’re lis­ten­ing, Lexus, can we have a full-size, car-de­rived, sev­enseat SUV like you promised? And a hot hatch to ri­val the Audi RS3? Or did they get side­lined to make this niche, hero model?

AUDI H-TRON

Most car mak­ers are ner­vous about us­ing the word “hy­dro­gen” be­cause they don’t want to con­jure im­ages of the Hin­den­burg air­ship disas­ter of 1937. So it was sur­pris­ing to see Audi name its lat­est con­cept car the “H-Tron”, which is not far off “H-bomb”. While us­ing the op­por­tu­nity to talk about its ad­vances in fuel cell tech­nol­ogy (the car has a claimed driv­ing range of 600km), the con­cept ve­hi­cle is ac­tu­ally a rather large clue to some­thing we will see in show­rooms much sooner than a hy­dro­gen-pow­ered Audi. Squint a lit­tle, and imag­ine dif­fer­ent wheels and con­ven­tional head­light de­tail­ing and you have the se­cond-gen­er­a­tion Audi Q5, due within the next two years.

VOLVO S90

Volvo’s new S90 ex­ec­u­tive sedan made its first pub­lic out­ing in Detroit. The headlights share the same de­sign as the XC90 SUV while the rear end looks like a Skoda. Volvo is more about in­te­rior am­bi­ence th­ese days; the tablet-style touch screen first seen on the XC90 has been car­ried over, as has the un­der­stated cabin de­sign. It will share the XC90’s choice of four-cylin­der turbo petrol and turbo diesel en­gines, and a plug-in hy­brid will fol­low. Volvo boasted about a new level of au­ton­omy in the S90 (the steer­ing gen­tly as­sists au­to­mat­i­cally at cer­tain speeds) but this mod­est step for­ward was over­shad­owed by the new Mercedes E-Class un­veiled on the other side of Detroit’s Cobo Hall: it has tech­nol­ogy that can change lanes at the press of a but­ton and the driver can take their hands off the wheel for up to 60 sec­onds while the car steers it­self (see sep­a­rate story in pres­tige pages).

KIA TEL­LURIDE

We have no idea what the name means ei­ther. It is one cy­clist ad­mir­ing an­other’s leg mus­cles? “I can tell you ride”.

Re­gard­less, we won’t need to worry in Aus­tralia be­cause it will likely be a US-only model. It did have some cool tech­nol­ogy to give the world’s mo­tor­ing me­dia some­thing to write about, other than the boxy Volvo-like shape and LandCruiser-dwarf­ing pro­por­tions. Kia claims the Tel­luride con­cept’s cabin has an LED panel that dis­plays “a pat­tern of ther­a­peu­tic light to treat desyn­chrono­sis ( jet lag) and im­prove en­ergy lev­els”. And you thought the name of the car was weird.

NIS­SAN TI­TAN WAR­RIOR

It wouldn’t be a US auto show with­out a hero pick-up. This year, Ja­pan stole the lime­light in the heart of Mo­town, al­beit in a sin­cere form of flat­tery with a ute it makes in the US. This is Nis­san’s an­swer to the hugely suc­cess­ful Ford Rap­tor, a pick-up with desert-racer looks, beefed up sus­pen­sion and ex­tra per­for­mance. Nis­san has copied the Ford Rap­tor for­mula to the let­ter, with wider body pan­els, tough looks and sports sus­pen­sion (which coin­ci­den­tally makes big pick­ups ride bet­ter over con­crete free­ways). But it has added some touches Ford may want to con­sider: the start but­ton is hid­den un­der a flip-up “bomb safety switch”, just like a Lam­borgh­ini. And there is an epic 5.0-litre V8 Cum­mins turbo diesel un­der the bon­net (the Ford has twin turbo 3.5litre V6 petrol power). Trag­i­cally, nei­ther is headed to Aus­tralia (we’ve got a bet­ter chance of con­vinc­ing the govern­ment to switch us to left-hand-drive) but we hear Ford is work­ing on a Rap­tor ver­sion of the next gen­er­a­tion Ranger due 2019.

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