CES 2019 presented a glimpse of the automotive future. Cars will operate with autonomy, play nicely with digital assistants, and have 48-inch dashboard displays that don’t obtrude. NAIAS in Detroit took a different turn. Carmakers sliced through the mobility jargon with some gasoline-swilling performance, presenting cars that were, in the words of F1 legend Fernando Alonso, “totally lit.”
Ford’s mobility strategy? Putting the pedal to the metal, bro. The company unveiled the Shelby GT500 Mustang, the most powerful street-legal Mustang ever built by Ford. Its 5.2-liter supercharged V8 will deliver more than 700hp and a 0-60mph time of around 3.5 seconds. Ford did not produce a Bronco for the show. But, Ford did produce an ST “Hot SUV” version of the new Explorer with 400hp and 415lb-ft of torque for some high-performance kid hauling.
Lexus likes big engines. The Japanese maker will continue with a naturally-aspirated 5.0-liter V8 in the RC F. The new “RC F Track Edition” adds power (472hp), drops weight and hits 60mph in less than four seconds.
Toyota revived the Supra. That, of course, meant cramming a 335hp BMW-developed 3.0-liter V6 into a two-seater coupe. The Supra will reach 60mph in 4.3 seconds.
Subaru countered with a limited edition, top-tier STI S209. That collectible bit of all-wheel-drive awesomeness will be the hottest STI branded car ever (341hp) and the first “S” car to hit the U.S. market.
We can’t forget trucks. Sorry – TRUCKS. RAM revealed its new heavy-duty truck. It won’t trump the Silverado 2500HD for grille surface area. But, the 6.7-liter Cummins Turbodiesel will make the HEMI hold its manhood cheap. The new RAM will produce 1,000 lb-ft of torque, hold a 7,680lb payload and tow up to 35,100lbs.
In a fitting metaphor for the day, Infiniti’s QX Inspiration EV concept could not power itself to the stage. I watched Infiniti staffers try to push it there. Unnecessarily, if not borderline absurdly, aggressive gasoline power ruled the day.
The difference between the two shows – CES and NAIAS – highlights the automotive market’s present discordance. The mass-market EV future is coming. Cars will operate without drivers. Everyone will be mobile and connected. Your vehicle will update itself over the World Wide Web. It will be awesome, in a fashion, like your iPhone.
Paying for that future that excites shareholders and venture capitalists, though, requires strong sales in the present market. Judging from NAIAS, real-life customers still want some limited edition, eye-blistering internal combustion, preferably with third-row flexibility and a snorkel. The halcyon days of fossil burning will persist, at least through the next model cycle.
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