It's Friday once again, which means it’s time for another round of my Five For Friday: Five Thoughts about the Auto Industry for January 17, 2014. In a special Detroit Auto Show edition of this column, the Kia GT4 Stinger drops jaws, the Cadillac ATS Coupe raises eyebrows, the Chevrolet Corvette Z06 incinerates tarmac, Acura hews to the status quo, and Subaru may not have gone far enough with the WRX STI. Let’s look at my take on the most noteworthy and interesting automotive stories from the past week.
Any time an automaker births a rear-wheel drive compact sport coupe into the world, it's cause for celebration. When that company in question happens to be Kia - and promises that it will debut with a price tag of less than $25,000 - there's even more reason to get excited. The Kia GT4 Stinger, with its gorgeous sheet metal and its 315 horsepower, 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine, was one of the stars of the Detroit Auto Show this past week, and word from the Korean brand is that the vehicle will reach showrooms in very much the same form as it took the stage. The GT4 Stinger shows that Kia isn't content to merely design beautiful automobiles, but it's also willing to take a shot at the performance segment it has avoided for so many years.
At the other end of the two-door spectrum lies the 2015 Cadillac ATS Coupe, which arrived in Detroit bearing Cadillac's new wreathless logo and surprisingly conservative styling. Ok, so maybe it's not all that surprising that the ATS Coupe doesn't bear the same aggressive design as the CTS coupe that it essentially replaces in the Cadillac lineup, given that so many of its rivals (the BMW 3 Series especially) also avoid over-the-top flash. Some will be disappointed that the ATS Coupe looks essentially like the ATS sedan with a pair of doors removed, but it's bound to have a positive effect on sales as the car attempts to break the ice as Cadillac's first-ever compact two-door model.
The 2015 Chevrolet Corvette Z06 thundered onto the stage in Detroit sporting an unbelievable 6.2-liter supercharged engine producing 'more than' 625 horsepower and 625 lb-ft of torque according to GM's coy press release. Not only that, but the sports car comes with an aluminum-intensive chassis, a removable roof panel, an available eight-speed automatic transmission, and the kind of aero package that would take years off of your life if you encountered this beast in a dark alley. Quicker than last year's Corvette ZR1, and definitely them most potent 'Vette ever constructed, the new Z06 looks primed to destroyed whatever exotic lines up beside it on the starting grid of your local road course.
It's hard to think of a car company that has lost more of its identity than Acura, especially when compared against the great strides made by nearly every other premium brand on the market over the course of the last five years. Further proof of the crisis underway in Honda's luxury division was made available at the Detroit Auto Show, where the Acura TLX 'prototype' served as the centerpiece of the company's press conference.
The TLX is a mid-size sedan designed to replace both the TSX and the TL, and sadly a read through its specifications sheet and a glimpse of its design makes it feel like a merely another echo of the largely ignored cars it is intended to succeed. Acura hasn't deviated from its drivetrain playbook (four and six-cylinder mills borrowed from Honda, front and all-wheel drive) in well over a decade, and although there's a nine-speed auto tranny in the mix, there's very little about the TLX that suggests a compelling reason to select the car over any of its rivals.
The 2015 Subaru WRX STI also took to the show floor for the first time this week, and there were a few surprises in store for those journalists who had gathered in Detroit to chronicle the high performance sedan. Perhaps the biggest shock was the decision to maintain last year's 2.5-liter four-cylinder turbo motor instead of moving to a more powerful version of the modern direct-injected 2.0-liter mill found in the base WRX. The STI's relatively staid styling was also outside the boy-racer looks of past version of the car. It's almost a certainty that the 2015 Subaru WRX STI drives better and is quicker than the model it replaces, thanks in large part to the efforts of the automaker to design an entirely new chassis for the car - but those facts might be lost on a fan base that was expecting a bigger splash from Subaru.