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Detroit Auto Show Rolls Out Fast, Flashy and Practical

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From the next versions of beefy trucks to a raft of sports and performance models to the smallest gas misers, the North American International Auto Show is again providing a window into innovation among carmakers.

But overall, the press events for this year's edition of the USA's most prominent auto show have been long on technology. All automakers have been highlighting new developments in materials, connectivity and safety, as well as a continuing emphasis on fuel economy. These were among introductions, from production models to show car concepts on Monday:

2015 Honda Fit takes on the world

Honda hopes Fit Small can be huge. So thinks Honda, which used the auto show to unveil the all-new 2015 Fit.

The subcompact vehicle figures largely in Honda's lineup. The automaker expects the Fit to generate substantial sales and profit globally.

For this market, the next-generation Fit for North America will be built in Celaya, Mexico, starting next month and go on sale this spring. To date, all Fits have been imported from Japan and subject to a 2.5% import duty, an extra charge that will go away with NAFTA production.

"The Honda Fit is a small car with big aspirations. Faster, more fuel-efficient and more fun, it's a subcompact with larger-than-life capabilities," said John Mendel, sales chief for American Honda.

The U.S. was always running short with the 50,000 Fits it was allotted from Japan, and that number will now increase, Mendel said.

"For first time since launching the Fit, we will have the capacity we want," Mendel said.

He would not say how many of the 200,000 vehicles to be made in Mexico will go to the U.S. The plant will also supply Canada, Mexico and some exports.

It will also make a coming Fit-based small SUV.

The 2015 Fit is wider and has a longer wheelbase, which makes for more room inside, even though the car is a bit shorter.

With the new Fit comes the debut of a new direct-injected 1.5-liter engine that generates 130 horsepower -- 11 horsepower more than the outgoing engine -- and 114 pounds-feet of torque.

There are also two new transmissions: a 6-speed manual or a new continuously variable transmission.

The new Fit is expected to be rated at 33 mpg in the city and 41 on the highway for a combined 36 mpg.

2015 Hyundai Genesis has new all-wheel drive

After having proved to the world it can succeed with luxury cars, Hyundai revealed the next generation of its Genesis midsize premium sedan.

The 2015 model has about the same length as the model it replaces, but the wheelbase has been stretched another 2.9 inches. The new Genesis sedan comes with either rear- or all-wheel-drive.

The all-wheel-drive system, in addition to providing bad-weather traction, comes with Htrac, a system that shifts power around the wheels based on the kind of driving preferred. The "Sport" setting, for instance, adds more torque to the rear wheels.

The 2015 Genesis comes from either a 311-horsepower, 3.8-liter V-6 or 420-hp, 5-liter V-8. Both engines are paired with a eight-speed automatic transmission.

Available features include automatic braking, head-up display, 12-way power front seats, adaptive suspension, variable-ratio electric power steering and lane-departure warning.

VW shows hot Golf R, fun Beetle 'dune buggy'

Volkswagen had something for music lovers and performance addicts Monday at the auto show.

An impromptu music performance heralded the debut of the Dune, a dune buggy version of the Beetle.

For those with a heavy foot, VW offered the Golf R, a hopped-up version of its Golf.

The Dune is intended as pure fun. It's a wide, low concept version of the Beetle aimed at keeping the brand's youth orientation.

Will it be built as a production car? VW officials won't say, but they also add that it wouldn't be that expensive to give it a try. It would certainly have nostalgia value, given how famous old Beetles were as dune buggies

As for the Golf R, due in showrooms in the next few months, it's fun of a different sort. Its 2-liter turbo engine develops nearly 300 horsepower, and it is "a real sports car," says Michael Horn, the new head of VW in the U.S.

"The Golf R is really going to heat up the 'hot hatch,' segment," Horn said, referring to performance-oriented hatchbacks.

Toyota FT-1 concept hints at brand's future

It's only a concept, but the Toyota FT-1 may show cues for Toyota designs to come.

"This is the symbol of Toyota's design future," said Kevin Hunter, head of Toyota's California design studio where the FT was designed. FT stands for Future Toyota.

The car has similarities to the look of the Scion FR-S, the smaller sports car that Toyota developed for its youth-oriented line with Subaru, which sells it as the BRZ.

But FT-1 takes it to another level with show-car design features, such as deep sculpted scoops to route air to the rear wheels and out the back, a spoiler wing that rises high above the rear, and a serious sports car interior and head-up display.

Toyota made a point of stressing that the car extends Toyota's sports car heritage, most recently the Supra, no longer made, which was one of Toyota's cult favorites.

Is this a model for the much-rumored new Supra? Like the Furia concept that Toyota unveiled at this show last year, the FT-1 isn't a slam dunk for production.

Reaction to it is going to be gauged, and only then will a decision be made whether anything like it goes to production.

For now, the goal was, as Hunter put it, to "create a sexy halo car."

But Hunter said the car does demonstrates that Toyota is committed to being bolder in its car creations. "Toyota's design efforts are less reliant on consensus now," he says.

FT-1 took two years to create as a "dream mission," says Alex Shen, chief designer for the FT-1. "It gets your heart racing just to look at it."

Chevy unveils Corvette Z06 street-legal racer

General Motors unveiled the extra high-performance Corvette Z06, a fit-for-the-street race car boasting at least 625 horsepower.

The 2015 Corvette Z06 shares an aluminum frame with its high-profile sister, the Corvette Stingray, but it's distinguished by a 6.2-liter supercharged V-8 mated with a custom-made eight-speed automatic transmission.

The Z06 was GM's fastest car ever when engineers tested it at the Milford Proving Grounds, Corvette chief engineer Tadge Juechter told reporters.

It also holds the car tightly to the ground. Without enough ground force, a car traveling at high speed could become a wing and lift from the ground.

"It's got more down force than any vehicle GM has ever tested from any manufacturer," Juechter said. "We haven't tested them all, but we've tested quite a few of them."

Production of the Z06 will start "in earnest" in the first quarter of 2015 at GM's Bowling Green, Ky., Corvette assembly plant, Juechter said.

It will be offered with a seven-speed manual transmission or with an eight-speed automatic.

"This is an internally designed, all-new eight-speed transmission designed essentially to the requirements of this car," Juechter said.

The new transmission should improve the car's fuel economy by 5% over the previous model's six-speed, Juechter said.

The Z06 provides the framework for the Corvette Racing C7R, the official racing version of the vehicle.

Like the Stingray, the Z06 engine has direct-injection, cylinder deactivation technology and continuously variable valve timing. But it has 37% more horsepower and 40% more torque than the Stingray.

Porsche takes the roof off 911 for Targa

Porsche used the show here for the world premiere of the new 911 Targa 911 roadster.

"As temperatures rise, you will be able to open the roof," said Porsche CEO Matthias Müller as he unveiled the 911 Targa.

Müller said loyal 911 consumers should love the new Targa with its fully retractable roof and dynamic drive characteristics.

The Targa is one of the most popular versions of the 911, Müller said, accounting for almost 13% of sales.

Also on display at the Porsche stand is the new Macan compact crossover that was shown in November at the Los Angeles Auto Show.

The Macan, expected to start at $50,895, is 6.5 inches shorter than Porsche's Cayenne SUV. It will compete with sporty midsize crossovers such as the Audi Q5, BMW X3 and Cadillac SRX.

A 3.0-liter V6 generates 340 horsepower in the base Macan and 400 hp in the top turbo model. A seven-speed dual-clutch transmission and all-wheel-drive are standard.

The fastest model -- a turbo with the optional sports chrono package -- will accelerate to 60 mph in 4.4 seconds and reach a top speed of 164 mph.

Options will include niceties such as a panoramic sunroof, air suspension, leather interior, a 7-inch touch-screen, 18-way adaptive power sport seats and walnut or carbon-fiber trim.

GM's Chevy sweeps car, truck of year awards

The redesigned 2014 Chevrolet Silverado was named North American Truck of the Year on Monday, and GM's Chevy Corvette got North American Car of the Year.

It was a second car win for GM, which snagged the top spot last year with the Cadillac ATS. Chrysler Group won the truck trophy last year, with its updated Ram standard-duty pickup.

A jury of 49 auto journalists pick the winners from every new or significantly changed car and truck from the year.

The Corvette beat the other two car finalists -- the Cadillac CTS and the Mazda3.

The Silverado bested the Jeep Cherokee and Acura MDX.

Redesigned for the 2014 model year, the Chevrolet Silverado benefits from weight reduction and a lineup of new, more fuel-efficient engines, including a now-competitive V6.

Corvette was unveiled a year ago at last year's North American International Auto Show. GM designed the seventh-generation Corvette to rival Porsche 911 and other world-class sports cars. Yet, it retains an American feel.

And the new Corvette is both more nimble and more powerful than the one it replaces.

Contributing: Chris Woodyard, Fred Meier and James R. Healey of USA TODAY; Keith Barry of; and Brent Snavely, Alisa Priddle, Greg Gardner, Nathan Bomey and Mark Phelan of the Detroit Free Press


Copyright 2014 USA TODAY

Original headline: Large, small, practical, fancy roll onto stage

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