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2018 Detroit auto show round-up

Detroit, MI – The North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) in Detroit truly kicks off the year's auto festivities. There's so much history, pride and production that has taken place in the 'Motor City' over the years, that it's one of the shows not to miss.

For 2018, a few off-site reveals lightened the media days of the show, but there was still plenty to see, and most of the buzz came down to American-made trucks. The big American three showed off plenty of muscle with major pickup reveals and that was complemented by a plethora of various production SUVs and sedans that will be hitting the market at some point this year.

Here's a small glimpse of what was shown off at this year's auto show in Detroit.

Pickup trucks

We start at pickups as they are the true volume sellers for Chevrolet, Ford and Ram, and neither of the big three were holding back in Detroit.

Chevrolet and Ram came to the show with all-new full-size pickups in the Silverado and Ram 1500. Ford on the other hand, talked a bit about an upcoming hybrid powertrain and addition of a diesel to its top-selling F-150, but re-entered the mid-size space at the show with the North American rebirth of the Ranger.

Let's start with the 2019 Chevrolet Silverado. It comes with six different engine/transmission combinations featuring a new 5.3-litre and 6.2-litre V8 engines that come with an industry-first Dynamic Fuel Management system that shuts off a certain amount of cylinders for better fuel efficiency. In addition, a new inline-six turbo-diesel enters the fray paired to a 10-speed automatic transmission. The fuel-efficient message was clear in the new Silverado highlighted by the loss of 450 lbs. from its outgoing model.



As for the 2019 Ram 1500, it too takes on a fuel-efficient tone with its 3.7-litre Pentastar V6 and 5.7-litre Hemi V8, both utilizing a 48-volt eTorque mild-hybrid system with stop-start technology. Having that hybrid system in place boost torque numbers to 90 lb-ft more in the V6 and 130 in the V8.

The 2019 Ford Ranger was teased at last year's NAIAS, so it was only fitting to come back for its production reveal. The new version gets upsized in order to compete with the likes of the Chevrolet Colorado, GMC Canyon, Toyota Tacoma and Nissan Frontier. It's now re-entering a segment with slight growth and an opportunity for Ford to capitalize. Powering the new Ranger is a 2.3-litre EcoBoost turbo-four matched to a class-exclusive 10-speed automatic transmission with full numbers to be released shortly.

SUVs

For the most part, the crossover/SUV reveals were dominated by the luxury automakers.

Starting off with Acura, the luxury wing of Honda showed off one of its core vehicles, the 2019 Acura RDX Prototype. No longer does it resemble its mainstream brand with an exclusive all-new platform that takes on many stylings from the Precision Concept and Precision Cockpit shown off at previous auto shows. Its exterior is more bold and daring with cutting edge lines and a tight, more sleek grille. On the inside, a floating 10.2-inch display sets a clean and tech-centred tone that includes a new touchpad interface and operating system. It's powered by a 2.0-litre four-cylinder matched to a class-exclusive 10-speed automatic transmission.

Other big reveals were the 2018 BMW X2, 2019 Mercedes-Benz G-Class and the Lexus LF-1 Limitless Concept. Starting off with the BMW X2, the compact crossover will fill the only gap in BMW's X-division when it comes out in the spring. The G-Class gets fully re-done for the first time, even though it slightly resembles the same boxy, military-inspired look we've always loved with a lighter and tech-driven feel featuring a dual 12.3-inch widescreen display and driver safety assist systems. Rounding out the trio is the one crossover concept from Lexus. The LF-1 Limitless is one of the more beautiful vehicles at the show displaying the futuristic design language of the brand with a new take on its large spindle grille complemented by thin and sleek LED lights. In addition, fully autonomous features in 'Chauffeur Mode' allow the crossover to take over control of the vehicle.

Sedans

There was a time when sedans would kick this list off, but times are changing. The biggest splash came from a muscle car in the Ford Mustang GT. But it wasn't any GT, it was the limited edition 2019 Ford Mustang Bullitt, inspired by the 1968 classic movie starring Steve McQueen that came out 50 years ago. The Dark Highland Green colour featured in the movie was on display (it also comes in Shadow Black) and it can only be had with a six-speed manual gearbox with a white cue-ball shifter. Other features include a big dual exhaust, black five spokes and a Bullitt gas cap instead of any Ford badging. Under the hood is a 5.0-litre V8 that ups power to 475 hp and 420 lb-ft of torque.



The other more practical sedan choices were the 2019 Kia Forte and 2019 Volkswagen Jetta. The Forte and Jetta both increase in size and add some necessary design flair that had been lacking in both. The Forte takes on more of a coupe-like finish; while the Jetta, now in its seventh-generation, adopts more pronounced, sharper cues for that sportier touch.


A double win for Toyota at AJAC's Green Car of the Year

In its third annual Automobile Journalists Association of Canada's (AJAC) Canadian Green Car of the Year awards, Toyota pulled a rare clean sweep at a press conference at the 2017 Vancouver International Auto Show.

The Toyota Prius with Technology Package took top honours as the 2017 Canadian Green Car of the Year, besting the 2017 Kia Optima HEV and the 2017 Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid.

The 2017 Canadian Utility Vehicle of the Year award went to the 2017 Toyota Rav4 Hybrid taking victory over the other two finalists, the 2017 Subaru Forester and 2017 Mazda CX-9.

“Toyota is committed to maintaining its leadership position in designing, engineering and building environmentally-advanced vehicles that meet the many demands of today’s drivers,” said Cyril Dimitris, Vice-President, Toyota Canada Inc.

This was the second year that AJAC split the car and utility categories up. For 2016, the winners were the Chevrolet Volt and the Mazda CX-3; while in its inaugural year, the sole winner was the Kia Soul EV.

Subaru puts on daring display of its WRX STI

Subaru went to great lengths to garner attention with its latest daring stunt involving a modified WRX STI and the St. Moritz-Celerina Olympic bobsled track.

If you can piece it together – we're talking a bobsled run with a car on the world's oldest track.

Piloting the WRX STI was British rally champion Mark Higgins, who has been a stunt man for Daniel Craig in several James Bond films.

Subaru is known for its full-time symmetrical all-wheel-drive, but for this stunt, the WRX STI had to be fitted with a stiffer suspension and studded tires.

The video is something to behold with plenty of scary moments along the way. At one point, it looks like the car is about to flip, but Higgins keeps it together. It's an impressive feat for both Higgins and the WRX STI, but this is something you leave to the professionals, or at least the crazy ones.

Range Rover Velar newest addition to roster

In 1970 Land Rover launched the original Range Rover. Almost half a century later that spirit of innovation continues with the introduction of the fourth member of the Range Rover family, to be unveiled on March 1, 2017.

Elegant simplicity, a visually reductive approach and all-new consumer technologies are the hallmarks of the new Range Rover Velar.

Land Rover Chief Design Officer, Gerry McGovern, said: “We call the Velar the avant-garde Range Rover. It brings a new dimension of glamour, modernity and elegance to the brand. The Range Rover Velar changes everything.”

Refined for every occasion and for various terrains, the Range Rover Velar uses unique sustainable materials and advanced engineering to continue Land Rover’s drive to go Above and Beyond.

The origin of the Velar name (pronounced vel-ar) dates back to the first Range Rover prototypes of the Sixties: the pioneers of the luxury SUV landscape.

When development engineers needed to hide the true identity of the 26 pre-production Range Rover vehicles, they chose the name Velar, derived from the Latin ‘velare’ meaning to veil or cover.

Full details of the Range Rover Velar will be announced on March 1, 2017.

Smart brand to go all-electric

The Mercedes-Benz sub-brand Smart will stop selling gas-powered cars by September in both Canada and the United States.

It's a decision that can at first surprise, but given the environmentally-focused state of the industry, it just might make sense for how to utilize the niche brand. Currently, Smart only has two vehicles on offer in Canada – a regular fortwo and a fortwo cabrio, and both of those are available in gas or electric versions.

The report comes from Automotive News, which obtained a copy of a letter to Smart dealers from Mercedes-Benz USA CEO Dieter Exler.

"Developments within the micro-car segment present some challenges for the current smart product portfolio," Exler said. "The smart lineup will consist exclusively of the zero-emissions smart electric-drive coupe and cabrio in the U.S. and Canada."

For 2017 it will be business as usual with sales continuing of gas and electric cars, but that will cease in September, as all 2018 model year cars will be in electric form.

Ford reveals GT numbers...and it's good news

The long-awaited 2017 Ford GT supercar has been unveiled, talked about and even dissected at its Ontario-based Multimatic production site. However, the few things not disclosed were the performance numbers; at least until now. 

With production beginning, Ford finally revealed that the Ford GT will spew 647 hp at 6,250 rpm and peak torque numbers of 550 lb.-ft. at 5,900 rpm from its 3.5-litre EcoBoost V6 engine. These numbers mark the GT as the most powerful EcoBoost engine produced by Ford that can top out at a speed of 347 km/h.

The 2017 GT was always suspected to receive more than 600 hp, but it's nice to finally see something official. According to Ford, the GT set a 2:09.8 lap time at Calabogie Motorsports Park near Ottawa, bettering times of some close competitors in the McLaren 675LT and the Ferrari 458 Speciale. A strong power-to-weight ratio coupled with its advanced active suspension system to achieve those quick lap times.

“The Ford GT is all about performance,” said Raj Nair, Ford executive vice president, global product development and chief technical officer. “We achieved considerable weight savings with the carbon fibre architecture. We then reinvested some of that savings into where it counts most – performance, specifically, the active dynamics. The result is an even faster car.”

Now that we have all the numbers in place, it's time to get the first 250 vehicles produced for 2017 and out on the road for some real life testing. In total, there will be 1,000 units produced over a four year period at an approximate price of $450,000 USD.

Ford unleashes leaner and meaner Mustang

LOS ANGELES, CA – Today, Ford partnered with its ambassador of Service, Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson, to introduce the new Mustang – the world’s best-selling sports coupe and the company’s most advanced Mustang ever.

A host of improvements including new technology and design changes give owners ways to customize Mustang to their preferences, even better performance from more powerful engines and new MagneRide™ suspension technology. Customers have more ways than ever to personalize Mustang to make it their own, with three new paint colours, 12 distinct wheel choices and a customizable digital instrument cluster.

“The new Mustang is our best ever, based on more than 50 years as one of the iconic sports car in America and now, the world,” said Joe Hinrichs, president of The Americas. “Tapping Mustang’s enormous fan base, we’re bringing the new Mustang straight to the people – and introducing the new car across multiple social media channels, reaching millions.

Ford tapped Johnson to reveal the new Mustang to the world by giving one of the first models available to a deserving member of the military. A video of the debut was launched on Johnson’s social channels, including Youtube, Instagram and Facebook, where Mustang holds the title for the most-popular car with more than 8.4 million ‘likes.’

Technology for greater personalization

Mustang makes available Ford’s first 12-inch all-digital LCD screen in the dashboard. This all-new customizable instrument cluster can be easily personalized, offering three separate views. Customers can personalize the displays for normal, sport and track mode. All-new Mustang MyMode with memory function allows customers to save their favorite drive settings, including suspension and steering preferences.

The new Mustang is so customizable that even its engine note can be adjusted. Delivering an audible experience like never before, an all-new active valve exhaust system is optional on Mustang GT, with a fully variable soundtrack to match the entire acceleration range.



For the first time, Mustang benefits from a vast array of Ford driver-assist technology. Customers can feel more confident than ever behind the wheel with new features like Pre-Collision Assist with pedestrian detection, distance alert, lane-departure warning, lane-keeping assist and Driver Alert System.

Ford SYNC® Connect with FordPass™ is available on Mustang for the first time. When using the FordPass® app for smartphones, drivers can start, lock, unlock and locate their car for ultimate convenience.

Ultimate performance

Performance is at the core of Mustang DNA, offering drivers a unique thrill of acceleration and cornering for the ultimate fun-to-drive experience. On all models, new shock absorbers make for better ride control, a new cross-axis joint in the rear suspension leads to increased lateral stiffness, and innovative stabilizer bars bring sharper response and handling.

MagneRide damper technology is a new option with the Mustang Performance Package to optimize ride and handling in all situations.

The proven 2.3-litre EcoBoost four-cylinder engine continues to offer outstanding performance advantages versus the outgoing 3.7-litre V6. Using Ford’s transient overboost technology uniquely calibrated for Mustang, torque is increased for wide-open throttle acceleration.

Ford’s legendary 5.0-litre V8 engine has been thoroughly reworked. It is more powerful and revs higher than any Mustang GT before. This power increase was achieved with the first application for Mustang of Ford’s new dual-fuel, high-pressure direct injection and low-pressure port fuel injection on a V8 engine – delivering robust low-end torque, high-rpm power, and improved fuel efficiency.

The manual transmission for both engine options has been upgraded for optimal torque. For the V8, the manual transmission has been totally redesigned to include a twin-disc clutch and dual-mass flywheel to increase torque capability and deliver more efficient clutch modulation.

A new 10-speed automatic transmission, available with both EcoBoost and V8 engines, is the best automatic Mustang has ever offered. With a wide-ratio span and optimized gear spacing, this all-new gearbox helps deliver higher average power for acceleration – improving responsiveness and performance.

Compared to the previous six-speed, the new 10-speed transmission has quicker shift times, better low-speed tip-in response and significantly reduced friction losses. The all-new electronic control system includes unique tunes for different drive modes and features real-time adaptive shift scheduling to ensure the right gear at the right time. Steering wheel-mounted shift paddles allow drivers maximum manual control.



Energy in the design

Overall, the car’s exterior design is now more athletic, with a lower, remodeled hood and grille that deliver a leaner look and refined aerodynamics, upper and lower front grilles, and a new position for hood vents. For the first time the entire Mustang line will feature all-LED front lights including signature lighting, low-beams, turn signals, efficient projector high-beams and available fog lamps.

The rear of the car gets revised LED taillamps for a more technical look, plus a new bumper, fascia and available performance spoiler. Dual-tip exhaust is standard for EcoBoost® Mustang, while V8-powered Mustang GT gets a standard quad-tip exhaust.

With a dozen available alloy wheel designs and fresh exterior colour choices – including all-new signature Orange Fury – enthusiasts can order a Mustang with the look they’re after.

Improved touch points and visual cues with a more premium look and feel characterize the new cockpit. The center console adds a new hand-stitched wrap with contrast stitching and padded knee bolsters while door handles, rings and bezels are finished in aluminum. Restyled seating surfaces feature new patterns and colour choices, the instrument panel sports an updated Mustang badge and there’s a new key fob design. A heated steering wheel is optional.

Ford’s most advanced Mustang ever goes on sale in North America this fall.

Ford cancels $1.6B plant move to Mexico

FLAT ROCK, Mich. (AP) — Ford Motor Co. is canceling plans to build a new $1.6 billion factory in Mexico, and will invest at least some of the savings in new electric and autonomous vehicles to be built in the U.S.

The San Luis Potosi, Mexico, plant, which was announced last spring, was the subject of months of contention between the company and president-elect Donald Trump. Ford had planned to move production of its Ford Focus small car to the plant from Michigan.

Ford CEO Mark Fields said the company decided in recent weeks not to build the plant because of declining demand for small cars in the U.S. It will still move production of the Focus to Mexico, but that will go to an existing plant in Hermosillo. The Michigan plant that currently makes the Focus will get new products next year.

Fields said Ford will invest $700 million in the Flat Rock plant to make hybrid, electric and autonomous vehicles. It will also hire around 700 workers. In announcing the Michigan expansion, Fields noted Trump's promise to make the U.S. more competitive by lowering taxes and easing regulations.

"This is a vote of confidence for president-elect Trump in some and of the policies he may be pursuing," Fields said at the company's plant in Flat Rock Tuesday.

Trump has threatened to tax companies that move production to Mexico and ship products back to the U.S. under the North American Free Trade Agreement. Just hours before Ford's announcement, the president-elect sent out a tweet warning General Motors that imports of versions of the Cruze small car made in Mexico could be hit with a tax.

Among the new vehicles the Flat Rock plant will make is a fully electric SUV that will go 300 miles on a charge. That is due to go on sale in 2020. The plant also will make a hybrid autonomous vehicle that is scheduled to be released in 2021.

Ford also said Tuesday it will release a hybrid version of its best-seller, the F-150 pickup, in 2020.

Ford shares rose 3.3 percent to $12.53 around midday. GM shares gained less than 1 percent.

Chevrolet unveils 2018 Equinox

Call it the right balance. On the autumnal equinox today, Chevrolet introduced the all-new 2018 Equinox – a fresh and modern SUV sized and designed to meet the needs of the compact SUV customer.

“We’ve got the strongest truck business in the industry and we’ve reinvigorated our car lineup with Volt, Cruze and Malibu,” said Alan Batey, Global Chevrolet president. “We’re applying the same customer focus to grow our crossover/SUV business – starting with the Chevrolet Equinox.”

Today’s compact SUV customers make sure a vehicle meets all of their needs, from design, connectivity and safety perspectives. The Equinox delivers on all fronts, starting with its fresh new design and all-new propulsion systems.

Fresh, new design

The new Equinox’s expressive exterior has a lean, muscular skin echoing the global Chevrolet design cues and sculpted shapes seen in the Volt, Malibu and Cruze. Extensive aero development in the wind tunnel influenced the sleek shape.

It is a richer, more detailed design featuring chrome trim on all models and Malibu-inspired styling. Projector-beam headlamps are standard, along with LED daytime running lamps. At the rear, horizontal taillamps emphasize the Equinox’s wide stance, while uplevel models feature LED taillamps.

“Customers who previewed the vehicle early on had a strong emotional response to the sleek and sophisticated exterior design,” said John Cafaro, executive director, GM Design. “Those same themes are carried through to the interior, making the space beautifully intuitive.”

The interior takes advantage of the Equinox’s all-new architecture to offer a down-and-away instrument panel, while a low windshield base provides a commanding outward view. New elements such as available denim-style seat fabric blend high style with high-durability, while a new “kneeling” rear seat enhances functionality. With it, the bottom cushions tilt forward when the split-folding seatbacks are lowered, allowing a flat floor for easier loading.

Connectivity

The 2018 Equinox offers purposeful technology, helping to keep passengers safe, comfortable and connected.

Chevrolet’s latest connectivity technologies are front and centre, including 7- and 8-inch-diagonal MyLink infotainment systems designed to support Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, as well as an available OnStar 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot. (Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility is subject to their terms, privacy statements and data plan rates, as well as a compatible smartphone.)

Safety

The Equinox offers a comprehensive suite of available active safety technologies and adaptive crash-avoidance features that provide ease of use and peace of mind on the road.

Teen Driver is also offered, allowing parents to set controls and review in order to encourage driving habits, even when they are not in the vehicle.  

Available advanced active safety features to enhance driver awareness on the road include radar- and camera-based adaptive technologies that can provide alerts to potential crash threats, allowing the driver to react and make changes to avoid them, including:

-New Safety Alert Seat
-New Surround Vision
-New Forward Collision Alert with Following Distance Indicator
-New Low-Speed Forward Automatic Braking
-New Lane Keep Assist with Lane Departure Warning
-New Rear Seat Reminder
-Lane Change Alert with Side Blind Zone Alert 
-Rear Cross Traffic Alert.
-Turbocharged engines and more

A range of three turbocharged engines – including the segment’s first turbo-diesel in North America – provides customers more choices when it comes to performance, efficiency and capability in the all-new 2018 Chevrolet Equinox.

They include a 1.5L turbo, a 2.0L turbo – matched with GM’s new nine-speed automatic transmission – and a 1.6L turbo-diesel.

“With three choices, customers can select an engine that offers more of the attributes that are important to them: efficiency, performance and capability,” said Dan Nicholson, vice-president, Global Propulsion Systems. “The advantage for each is power of a larger engine and the efficiency of a smaller engine.”

The new Equinox is the first Chevrolet model in North America to use an all-turbocharged, multi-engine powertrain lineup. That includes the expected segment-exclusive 1.6L turbo-diesel that will offer customers excellent efficiency and capability.

“It is an all-new SUV from the ground up and one that takes on the industry’s biggest competitors with a stronger architecture, greater efficiency and more technology,” said Rick Spina, executive chief engineer. “And it looks great doing it.”

Additional vehicle highlights:

-Approximately 180 kilograms (400 lbs) lighter than the current model – a 10-percent weight reduction
-Switchable AWD system that enhances efficiency by disconnecting from the rear axle when not needed 
-Unique kneeling rear seat that enables a flat rear load floor and up to 1,798 litres (63.5 cu.ft. (of maximum cargo space
-Heated seats and a remote starter are standard on all trims in Canada.

Equinox sales have reached more than 2 million since its launch and it is Chevrolet’s second-best retail selling vehicle, after the Silverado.

The 2018 Equinox goes on sale in the first quarter of 2017 in North America. It rolls out to approximately 115 additional global markets later in the year.

Nissan Micra Cup and Project E.R.A.S.E. come together to stop street racing

 

I first learned about Project E.R.A.S.E. (Eliminating Racing Activity On Streets Everywhere) on a chilly late April afternoon at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park (CTMP). There were many officers present this day – a collaboration of seven police services with the Ministry of Transportation and the Ministry of the Environment – to spread the word towards eradicating street racing everywhere.

The message from the large number of officers on hand was clear, “Take it to the track, and leave it at the track.”

It totally makes sense, but it's one thing to say, and another thing to do. We try our best to spread the word, yet the statistics tell the story of 107 charges and six arrests related to street racing thus far in 2016.



After my initial Project E.R.A.S.E. story was published, I received a call from Didier Marsaud, Senior Manager, Corporate Communications at Nissan Canada. He had an idea in mind to showcase the project's message to keep racing on the track by inviting one of the officers as a special guest driver during the upcoming Nissan Micra Cup race weekend at CTMP.

In my mind, the plan was a good one, and one that continued a bigger, more visual push of that message with more marketing dollars behind it. I connected the two parties and voila, we have Staff Sergeant Chuck Kaizer of the Ontario Provincial Police, Highway Safety Division suiting up to compete in the No. 23 car at the upcoming Nissan Micra Cup races during Labour day weekend on September 3 and 4.



“By collaborating with the Micra Cup, we’re sending a clear message to Ontario drivers who feel dangerous driving on the public roadways is okay – racing does not belong on public roads - there’s a safe way to satisfy the ‘need for speed,’ and it’s more attainable than some might think,” said Staff Sergeant Kaizer.

Staff Sergeant Kaizer will be a part of a close to 30 car field that weekend, but regardless of his finish, he will be able to showcase the original message on that late April day at CTMP of how much fun it is to race on track without the potential of hurting any innocent bystanders. On top of that, he will be supplied an even playing field in the Micra Cup, as everyone races the same race-specced subcompact Nissan Micra priced at $22,900.

“We saw an incredible opportunity for the Nissan Micra Cup to collaborate with Project E.R.A.S.E., to help raise awareness of the dangers of street racing, while providing a safe, regulated alternative for those with a penchant for speed and competition,” said Joni Paiva, president of Nissan Canada Inc.

In that past article, I wrote about not having the answer to stop street racing and questioned whether the police services have the manpower to be fully effective. Well, all I know is that a collaboration between Nissan Canada, the Nissan Micra Cup and project E.R.A.S.E. is a great start towards making change, and if they can pool their marketing powers together, we can hope to start seeing some results.

Even if it's a small change, that could be someone's son, daughter, father, or mother who just had their lives saved. And that's a win for all in my book.

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