Stars and stumblers
2014 DETROIT AUTO SHOW

One reporter's take on what worked, and what didn't, at the Detroit show

The big story, with huge implications for Ford and the industry, was the aluminum F-150.
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West Coast Editor Mark Rechtin, who walked the floor of the Detroit auto show gathering first impressions of new cars and concepts, is convinced that this was a show of missed opportunities, of early embargoes spoiling surprises, and of vehicles that should have been much better than they are. Here's his take on the winners, losers and everything in between.

Winners

Toyota FT-1

With Ford leaking the Mustang early, the FT-1 concept supercar was the show's "wow" vehicle. Executives said there are no plans to build the swoopy, sinewy brute, but Toyota and BMW signed a deal last year to create such a vehicle, so it's pretty easy to connect the dots.

Ford F-150

The most important vehicle here. There's already gossip about whether body shops will be able to repair dents in the truck's aluminum panels. But from a styling perspective, it's a home run. A suite of new, fuel-efficient engines means Ford remains the king of the hill, the job site and the roadhouse parking lot.

BMW M4

Often imitated, never equaled. This generation drops the V-8 powerplant for a direct-injection, twin-turbo inline-six that cranks out 431 hp. The muscular coupe's stance looks ready to charge over its front axle.

Honda's new Fit.

Honda Fit

A packaging marvel. A 6-foot passenger can comfortably fit behind a 6-foot driver in this subcompact hatchback. "Magic" second-row seats fold into the floor to create more cargo room than many larger cars. Imaginative and brilliant.

Chevrolet Corvette Z06

This is a winner if only because there is "at least" 625 hp under the hood, which is tire-smokingly ridiculous. But for looks, the Stingray version is cooler.

The new C class: still a Mercedes.

Mercedes-Benz C class

A bit anonymous on the outside, perhaps to attain the slippery 0.24 drag coefficient. But it's unmistakably a Mercedes. The optional interior materials are gorgeous. Telematics -- including semi-autonomous driving -- trickle down from the S class.

In between

Lexus RC-F

The 5.0-liter V-8 may have the horsepower edge over the M4, making more than 460 ponies. But the RC-F weighs 650 pounds more than its Bavarian opponent. That's a lot of holiday overeating.

After sticking with Hyundai's circular "H" badge for the original U.S. market Genesis, the redesigned model will come wearing the winged badge that graces every Genesis sold in South Korea.

Hyundai Genesis

The shouting front fascia borrows liberally from the Audi styling studio. The rest of the sheet metal, sadly, is defanged from the awesome concept unveiled last year. The vanilla interior falls short of the exterior styling's promise, although the back seats feel like falling into your favorite sofa.

Acura TLX

Not different enough from its Honda Accord roots. Smart-tech features could save it, including an eight-speed dual-clutch transmission connected to the base 183-hp four-cylinder or a nine-speed automatic combined with a 278-hp V-6.

Porsche 911 Targa

Porsche 911 Targa

Tech geeks will love the mechanical articulation required to stow the Targa roof on top of the boxer engine. I didn't like the brushed-metal "basket handle" with the 1970s editions, and I like it even less in this iteration.

GMC Canyon

Brawny from a design standpoint. But the mid-sized pickup's size isn't distanced enough from the full-sized Silverado/Sierra, and the Canyon's pricing ladder may collide with its full-sized brethren. Could be trouble on the showroom floor.

Nissan Sport Sedan concept.

Photo credit: Victor Galvan

Kia GT4 Stinger Kia doesn't have much heritage, so it turned to a '70s-era Lotus Europa. The bread-van styling was hip back then, but I'm not sure it carries over. Does this come with an eight-track playing T-Rex?

Nissan Sport Sedan Concept

For supposedly presaging the next Maxima, this car doesn't have a single character line that reads "Nissan." With its angry-space-slug grille, it could be the next Infiniti concept, which would be good because ...

The Chrysler 200.

Losers

Infiniti Q30 Concept

and Q50 Eau Rouge

Infiniti is trying to dictate its own design language, anything that doesn't scream derivative-German. But the subtle side scalloping and swoops don't connect to the angry, angular front visages. Does this styling connect with anyone emotionally?

Chrysler 200C

It's a great Chrysler, but that's not good enough in the heated mid-sized sedan segment. Exterior styling is unremarkable. Interior touches such as the floating center stack and console are innovative. But the fast roofline means the back seat is a claustrophobe's nightmare. Chrysler can't commit deal-breakers such as this.

VW Dune

This is no Baja Bug. Flare out the wheel track on the cute Beetle and it makes the suspension setup appear fragile, not macho. And if it's desert-themed, why are there snow skis mounted to the roof?

Cadillac ATS Coupe

A missed opportunity. The ghastly grille work leads to uninspired side body panels. If you thought the back seat was cramped in the sedan, the coupe is completely inaccessible.

Volvo XC Coupe

and Audi Allroad Shooting Brake

This is why automakers shouldn't listen to journalists at auto shows. We are the only Americans who would ever buy these muscular two-door hatchbacks. They are sleek, sexy and make zero business sense in this market. One of each, please.

You can reach Mark Rechtin at mrechtin@crain.com. -- Follow Mark on Twitter


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