The 5 Trends and Takeaways from the 48 Hours of Detroit

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The 5 Trends and Takeaways from the 48 Hours of Detroit

The 5 Trends and Takeaways from the 48 Hours of Detroit

As the premier auto show in North America, Detroit is where automakers can be expected to pull out all the stops. At Car and Driver, we mobilize our worldwide staff to attend and report on the 20-plus automaker press conferences in addition to covering more than a dozen evening events. And we do it all in service to you, the reader. From Sunday afternoon through Tuesday, it's a blizzard of activity, which afterward begins to coalesce into clear themes-and pounding hangovers. Here, then, are our five takeaways from the 48 Hours of Detroit:

The Horsepower Ratings Are Unreal

Advances in technology-such as the widespread adoption of turbocharging-are fueling an incredible horsepower race. And it's being done with smaller engine displacements. Ford's GT supercar concept debuted with a twin-turbocharged V-6 that is said to make more than 600 horsepower. The V-8 isn't dead, of course: The 2016 Ford Mustang Shelby GT350R promises more than 500 horsepower from its naturally aspirated flat-plane-crank V-8, and Cadillac's CTS-V ultra sedan's supercharged 6.2-liter LT4 V-8 proffers an insane 640 horsepower. That latter figure, together with the BMW M5's 560 horsepower and the Mercedes-AMG E63's 550 ponies, set the bar at such a nosebleed level that the new Lexus GS F, which also made its debut at Detroit, was immediately dismissed for having just 467.

The power madness extends to trucks, as well, with the new Raptor expected to deliver 450 to 500 horsepower-again, from Ford's EcoBoost V-6-easily surpassing the 411-hp figure from the previous model's 6.2-liter V-8. And overmuscled SUVs are represented, too, with Porsche taking the wraps off the 570-hp Cayenne Turbo S and Mercedes trotting out the 577-hp GLE63 AMG (which will be sold here only in extrapotent S form).

Plug-In Hybrids Are a Thing, Too

Yet for nearly every big-power beast that blitzed Cobo Center, there was also a plug-in hybrid introduced-and sometimes from the same brand. The reason is simple: Companies need these electrified models to meet ever-tightening fuel-economy standards both here and abroad. European manufacturers are especially keen on the technology, even as many of their executives have gone on record as hating it, because PHEVs can achieve ridiculously lofty-and nearly unobtainable in the real world-fuel-economy numbers on a special Euro test cycle. But plug-ins also provide bonus credits for manufacturers in their quest to meet U.S. CAFE regulations.

The headline PHEV was, of course, the all-new Chevrolet Volt, which has increased EV range and a new four-cylinder range-extending engine. Honda also announced a stand-alone plug-in model set to arrive by 2018. The VW Group, which greatly prefers diesel technology to hybridization, plugged in with the Volkswagen Cross Coupe GTE concept and the production Audi Q7 e-tron, while Mercedes countered its wild GLE63 AMG SUV with a sensible plug-in C-class sedan. Finally, Hyundai added a Sonata plug-in to its lineup to counter corded family sedans from Ford and Honda.

Truckin' Trucks to Motown

It used to be that, on the automotive calendar, the Chicago auto show was known as "the truck show." It was there that manufacturers for whatever reason decided to debut their latest and greatest workhorses, commercial vehicles, and boulder-bashers. That appears to have definitively changed here in Detroit: With gas prices still hovering around $2.00 per gallon in the area, this year saw not only the gnarly second-gen Ford Raptor take the stage, but also new trucks of all sizes from Toyota (Tacoma), Nissan (Titan), and Ram (Rebel). And what's this? Even Hyundai showed a truck? And it was shockingly cool and likely headed to a dealer near you? It's true-as is the fact that Motown is down with trucks.

Detroit Diesels

Despite the fact that nearby gas stations were selling unleaded for less than $2.00 per gallon, Detroit was a hotbed of diesel enthusiasm this year. The biggest headline came from Nissan, whose all-new-and somewhat curiously styled-Titan XD packs a 5.0-liter turbo-diesel V-8 built by Cummins. Nissan's betting big on buyers who want big-time torque (555 lb-ft of it in this case, alongside 310 horses) but don't want to step up to a heavy-duty pickup.

Nissan wasn't the only automaker showing off compression ignition on the show floor, however. Land Rover introduced the Range Rover and Range Rover Sport powered by the JLR Td6, a torquey powerplant promising up to 28 mpg in the posh SUVs. Hyundai got in on the game, too, sneaking an oil-burner under the hood of the charmingly wacky Santa Cruz concept. And there were more-familiar diesel-powered faces, as well, including Volkswagen's Golf TDI SportWagen and Ram's EcoDiesel 1500. Someday, anthropologists may refer to the 2015 Detroit show as a turning point in Americans' acceptance of diesel technology.

No Signs of Forced Entry, But Ford Clearly Stole the Show

Just two hours into the show, with only a handful of cars debuted, Ford ushered a horde of journalists and industry insiders into Joe Louis Arena-home of the Red Wings and adjacent to Cobo Center-dimmed the lights, and blew us all away.

Ford might as well have turned out the lights in the entirety of Cobo, because after introducing the wicked F-150 Raptor, sliding the flat-crank-V-8-powered GT350R across the stage, and after dropping jaws with the mid-engine GT hypercar, what was left to see? Even at a show positively packed with important and impressive debuts-including the new Acura NSX and the stunningly beautiful Buick Avenir concept-everything paled in comparison to the Blue Oval's power trio. While the rest of the automakers file a police report for this theft, we're already wondering what next year's event will hold and whether anyone can top Ford's utterly dominant Detroit showing. A mid-engine Corvette, perhaps?

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