So-called green cars — electric vehicles, hybrids and hydrogen fuel
cells — are being heavily overshadowed at the Detroit show by sports
cars, in a broad spectrum of sizes, shapes and price segments, from
Ford Motor Co's <F.N> redesigned 2015 Mustang to Kia Motors'
<000270.KS> zippy GT4 Stinger concept.
"Sex sells. Speed sells," said Michael Tracy, principal at
Michigan-based consultancy the Agile Group. "People don't talk about
wanting to buy a Camaro because the base V6 gets great mileage."
A HINT OF GREEN
In fact, there is more than a hint of green lurking in even the
sexiest sports cars at this year's Detroit auto show, which opens
for media members this week. Take the new Mustang, which this fall
will offer buyers the choice of a 420-horsepower 5.0-liter V8 — a
throwback to the classic street cars of yesteryear — or an
economical 2.3-liter four-cylinder EcoBoost engine that still cranks
out an impressive 305 horsepower.
"We're seeing a new era of performance cars that are very safe, very
fuel-efficient and more mainstream," said industry consultant
Lincoln Merrihew, of Millward Brown Digital.
The latest edition of Volkswagen AG's <VOWG_p.DE> Golf R, which goes
on sale in early 2015 in the United States, is a good example.
Under the familiar hatchback shell of the long-running Golf, VW has
fitted a 290-horsepower turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine.
VW said it is the most powerful Golf ever sold in the United States,
but it also surpasses the fuel economy of the 2013 edition, with an
EPA highway mileage rating of 31 miles per gallon. To help improve
the car's stability and traction, all-wheel drive is standard.
The definition of "performance" is evolving, from the old-school
values of straight-line acceleration and cornering capability. As
with the Mustang and the Golf, engines are getting smaller to
improve efficiency, but devices such as turbochargers provide more
power, so there is less tradeoff between going faster and going
Perhaps the epitome of the modern sports car is Kia's GT4 Stinger, a
compact, low-slung four-passenger model fitted with a 315-horsepower
turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that hints at a future
rear-wheel-drive performance model from the Korean manufacturer.
Makers of traditional sports cars are reducing weight, which further
enhances both sides of the power versus economy equation.
Even the 2014 Chevrolet Camaro Z28, which goes on sale this spring,
has benefited from General Motors Co's <GM.N> "lightweighting"
efforts. GM engineers shaved mass from the $75,000 muscle car by
using a smaller battery and thinner rear glass, as well as
eliminating the trunk carpet and the tire-inflator kit.
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BMW <BMWG.DE> says its redesigned 2015 M3 sedan, which reaches U.S.
dealers in early summer, has shed 175 pounds, in part by using more
aluminum and carbon fiber-reinforced plastic in place of heavier
steel and by switching from a normally aspirated 4.0-liter V8 to a
twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter six-cylinder engine. The smaller engine
makes more power and, with the weight reduction, enables faster
acceleration, while boosting fuel economy by 25 percent and lowering
emissions by the same amount.
Both the M3 and its two-door companion, the new 2015 M4 coupe, also
provide an array of driver assistance systems, including a new
Active Driving Assistant that warns of an impending collision with a
Enthusiasts will find many of the same safety systems and focus on
efficiency in the latest supercars from Europe, Asia and the U.S.,
notably the 620-horsepower 2015 Chevrolet Corvette Z06, which goes
into production late this year.
THE FUN FACTOR
Chevy also aims to amp up the fun quotient for Corvette owners.
Later this year, the 2015 Corvette will offer an optional
Performance Data Recorder — essentially a built-in high-def videocam
and microphone that will enable drivers to record up to 13 hours
behind the wheel and play it all back on the car's in-dash
touchscreen or upload it to Facebook and other social media sites.
Five years ago, during the depths of the U.S. auto industry's
recession, "excess went out of fashion," said consultant Merrihew,
as auto companies parked their performance models to focus on
Now that the economy has rebounded and automakers are redefining
performance as a combination of speed, safety and efficiency, "that
stigma is starting to fade," he said, "and performance cars are OK
to buy again."
(Editing by Matthew Lewis)
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