News Column

Automakers Gear up for Detroit Auto Show

January 9, 2014

James R. Healey, Chris Woodyard and Fred Meier, USA TODAY

dodge dart
2014 Dodge Dart SE in Pitch Black (Chrysler Group)

The 25th annual Detroit auto show -- officially the North American International Auto Show -- gets underway this weekend with pre-show events and with press days Monday and Tuesday at which automakers will unveil their shiniest new hardware.

But some makers have moved to get a jump on the competition by putting out some details and images this week -- getting some buzz ahead of media coverage that may well be big-footed by such heavyweights as the new Ford full-size pickup.

High-mileage VW Passat

One of those makers was Volkswagen, which revealed a couple of coming show introductions, including an interesting "BlueMotion" version of its Tennessee-built Passat midsize sedan.

This gasoline Passat could deliver diesel-like mileage of 42 miles per gallon in highway driving, VW says. The current Passat diesel with automatic is rated 40 mpg on the highway; with manual, 43.

The key piece of the Passat BlueMotion -- which VW says for now is just a concept car for the show -- is a new 1.4-liter, four-cylinder gasoline engine that features direct injection and turbocharging, the same combination used by Ford Motor's EcoBoost engine family.

The VW engine is rated 150 horsepower, and besides being smaller than the 1.8- and 2-liter gasoline engines VW typically uses, the 1.4 has these fuel-saving features:

•Cylinder deactivation. It'll shut off the middle two cylinders under light loads. VW says it comes into play mainly in city driving.

•Automatic stop/start. The engine shuts off at long stoplights and other lengthy pauses, then restarts when the driver lifts his or her foot from the brake.

•Coasting. Similar to a system on the VW Jetta hybrid, it uncouples the engine from the transmission when the driver's foot is off the gas, letting the car roll with less drag.

The concept is otherwise the same as the current Passat, save for its new Reef Blue Metallic color, so there's no reason a production model could not come soon. Inside, the seats are two-tone with blue dividing lines that have been in VW's BlueMotion family of high-mpg vehicles since 2006.

Lexus amps up RC coupe

We suspect they were having some fun at Lexus when they picked a name for the new sporty coupe meant to break the monotony of everyday driving.

It's RC, as in those little radio-controlled cars that every kid demands. Couldn't be more appropriate, given that the car's about fun. At Detroit, the brand will show an F, of course, which could stand for more fun, but also denotes that the car is the latest in Lexus' F performance lineup.

The V-8 F model has wider wheels and tires than the civilian version of the car that made its debut at the Tokyo Motor Show in November. It also has an active rear wing, air scoops, cooling ducts and optional carbon fiber pieces to make it lighter and feel more racy.

The front has the Lexus signature "spindle" Vader nose. The rear spoiler deploys at about 50 miles per hour and retracts when at 25 mph. Also back there is an odd arrangement of twin-twin tailpipes Lexus calls a "stacked trapezoidal quad-outlet."

VW's hottest Golf R

Volkswagen also let it be known that it will show the most powerful Golf R performance model ever at Detroit, even though the car won't be available in the U.S., in four-door form only, until a year from now.

The hot hatchback's 2-liter turbocharged four-cylinder is rated 290 horsepower and 280 pounds-feet of torque, and is expected to get a rating of 31 mpg on the highway, up from 27 mpg for the 2013 Golf R on sale now.

The R will continue to use all-wheel drive, necessary to turn that much power into traction rather than tire smoke in a small, light car such as the VW Golf.

The automatic-transmission model is quicker than the manual. Using the European standard of 0 to 100 kilometers per hour (62 mpg), the six-speed manual takes 5.3 seconds; the six-speed dual-clutch automatic takes 4.9 seconds.

VW will announce pricing closer to launch -- the current Golf R starts at $34,990.

Stylish Volvo concept

Volvo is turning out some beautiful concept cars, and the latest is the Concept XC Coupe, a design Volvo says was "inspired by the design of modern sports equipment." We're not quite sure whether that means a rock-climbing wall or a soccer ball, but it appears to point to the car's connection to the sports, and thus the youth, market.

The Concept XC Coupe is distinguished by its large 21-inch wheels, tall roofline, substantial stance and interesting taillights and front end.

If this concept were to make it into production -- and we suspect it will, albeit with the show features toned down -- it would fall somewhere in a fairly busy line of Volvo crossovers that includes XC60, XC70 and XC90.

Dodge Dart goes car noir

The blackout continues at Dodge, with the Dart the latest vehicle in the brand's lineup to get a Blacktop package, a list of design items that are, as the name implies, centered around a sinister black look.

The Blacktop compact has gloss-black wheels, a gloss-black Dodge split-cross-hair grille and surrounds, darkened headlamp bezels and more, and it will be unveiled at the show. The sporty interior comes in black, too, with splashes of red accents, including LED lighting around the dash.

Though the overall Blacktop treatment might sound a bit severe, Dodge has spread it over nearly the entire line, including Charger, Challenger, Avenger, Journey and Grand Caravan. Add Durango, and it would be a clean sweep.

"The Blacktops have become a signature of sorts for the Dodge Brand," said Tim Kuniskis, brand CEO. "We're adding to our line-up of vehicles that offer the more aggressive look that has become so popular."

The 2014 Dart Blacktop will be priced at $295 for the package, which is based on the Dart SXT trim with the Rallye Appearance Group.

The Blacktop paint colors available: Redline Red, Header Orange, Blue Streak, Granite Crystal Metallic, Billet Silver and Bright White.

And, of course, Pitch Black.

Copyright 2014 USA TODAY

Original headline: Automakers get jump on the buzz

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Source: Copyright 2014 USA TODAY

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