A biweekly roundup of automotive news, good, bad and just plain weird:
Detroit. The Motor City. For a while this town was the heart of industrial America, producing both the wheeled iron that moved folks in their physical beings and the Motown sound that moved their souls. Then the bottom fell out.
These days, Detroit's on the rebound, and at this year's North American International Auto Show both the domestic and import manufacturers were launching some of their most important new models.
In this week's Braking News, the shiniest stuff to come out of NAIAS: The new Corvette Stingray
No better way to lead off the list than this, the seventh generation Corvette, once again to be called the Stingray. Chevy's had just six generations of 'Vette over the past six decades, so a new one is about as big a deal as you get from the General.
Certainly, GM's been treating the reveal like it was about to announce the Caramilk Secret. Annoyingly, details kept slipping out - a leaked schematic here, a 3D wire model of a front bumper there, a quick snap of an advance copy of Automobile magazine with the smoke-shrouded car on the cover.
Mostly though, GM kept the wraps on the new 'Vette right up until the unveiling, which was streamed live via
YouTube. Expectations couldn't have been higher.
Mostly, they've been met. The new 'Vette (designation "C7" among gearheads), is not quite a thing of beauty, but it is aggressive and menacing, and might just get mistaken for a modern Ferrari. No doubt the new 450 h.p. base model will go like a modern Ferrari as well - performance improvements are said to meet or exceed the current Grand Sport packages.
Biggest improvement? The much-sneered-at interior is much better, and should address the Corvette's cut-rate image, perhaps even winning new buyers. You're sure to see the C7 put up against all kinds of super-fast, super-expensive machinery over the next year of its life: look forward to seeing America's sportscar taking more than a few scalps.
The Ford Atlas concept
The most important car in Canada is actually a truck: the F150. As the best-selling piece of wheeled machinery in this country, the True North strong and free has a deep love for Ford pickups.
The same is true in the U.S., so immediately after the much-hyped launch of the C7 Corvette, Ford launched their own salvo in the form of a concept dubbed Atlas. As a return volley: point, set, match.
To be clear, this truck isn't the new F150 - it's just a preview. Even so, it's a fairly thin disguise for what the new rig is going to look like - even more square-jawed than the current truck, with LED lighting up front and a new, broad and bluff front end that looks ready to bash its way into yet further sales records (don't be fooled, it's also more aerodynamic).
Under the skin, more high-strength steel, and a host of new Ecoboost engines to provide grunt and greater efficiency. Expect the eventual debut of the new F150 to look pretty much like this. The Infiniti Q50
Infiniti took a lot of flak for their recent decision to abandon their current naming structure and return to the letter Q. Under the new program, you'll be able to get a Q50, Q60 or Q70 sedan, or pick an SUV from QX50 to QX80.
Confusing? Well, a little, but with German manufacturers abandoning the old numbers-equals-engine-displacement rules, Infiniti has little to lose by streamlining things for the average buyer. What's more, casting folks' minds back to the old Q45 and QX4 is no bad thing: both were excellent vehicles and paragons of the brand.
Kicking things off, the new Q50 is a sharp-looking machine, with more than a passing side-profile resemblance to the BMW 3 Series (always a target in the market segment). Inside, there's a new twin touchscreen interface and a new centre-stack.
Under the hood, Nissan/Infiniti's workhorse V-6 again takes centre-stage, and there will be a hybrid version to match. Anyone who's driven an M-series hybrid knows that Infiniti is very good at making hybrid cars very fast and fun-to-drive - in a smaller, nimbler chassis, this powertrain should be a blast.
The Nissan Note
It's hardly in the same league as some of the heavy machinery we've been discussing, but the new (Versa hatchback) Nissan Note is no less important. Having positioned its subcompact sedan as a very basic value purchase, Nissan had to do something a little different for the more-stylish hatchback model.
On first blush, the new Nissan is a success, with a small-yet-peppy 1.6-litre engine and conservative, clean-cut styling. Aerodynamic too, and similarly well put-together inside.
Being a Nissan, you can expect some fairly serious technology on the inside as available extras. Taking a gander at what's on offer from the redesigned Sentra (intelligent key, smart tire-pressure filling, inexpensive and clever navigation), the Note's bound to be a strong player in the small car segment. Watch for it.
Mazda Skyactiv-D Racecar
Racecars are brittle things, no? Spidery little rockets that require high-test fuel and lots of it. Well, here's Mazda with a diesel.
Based on their all-new Mazda6, this Grand-Am bound racer is packing four-cylinder turbodiesel power. Does that seem like a weird choice over a powerful, revvy gasoline engine? It's not.
Having had the opportunity to drive the Skyactiv-D in prototype form, it's not like a normal diesel engine; yes, there's prodigious torque, but it also loves to rev. With fewer pit stops owing to excellent economy, Mazda's racer should do well in competition. It'll also be an excellent shakedown for the street-car version, which is coming soon.
Watch this space for all the best and worst of automotive news, or submit your own auto oddities to email@example.com. Follow brendan on Twitter at @brendan_mcaleer
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