Sports cars sparkle amid SUVs in Detroit

2019 North American International Auto Show in Detroit_1548101459929.JPG.jpg52657342

DETROIT – While the trend in new car sales has become increasingly dominated by SUVs and crossovers, that isn’t stopping some manufacturers from showing off their sporty side.

Over the last week, many of the world’s carmakers gathered in Detroit to show off their latest creations. Some of the biggest announcements included the introduction of the all-new Ford Explorer, the new Cadillac XT6 SUV,¬†the new heavy-duty Ram 2500 and Ram 3500 pick-up trucks, the big Kia Telluride and an all-electric SUV concept from Infiniti.

It makes sense for manufacturers to focus on SUVs and crossovers. In 2018, SUVs, trucks and crossovers accounted for about 80 percent of sales for General Motors and Ford in the United States. Over at Fiat Chrysler, that number is around 90 percent, helped in large part by the strength of the Jeep brand.

Still, car makers want to show off their sporty side, so let’s take a closer look at a handful of heart-racing cars that made their way to Detroit.

Toyota Supra

This one has been a long time coming. The enthusiast community has known about the new 2020 Supra for a couple of years now and has enjoyed a flood of official and unofficial pictures of the car covered with various degrees of camouflage.

Finally, last Monday, we got to see the full car up close and learned more about its specifics. The car shares its inline 6-cylinder engine with the new BMW Z4, which was developed in conjunction with the Supra. However, the Toyota shares no sheet metal with the BMW.

The first new Supra in 21 years will go on sale this summer and will have a starting price of just below $50,000.

Subaru WRX STI S209

Over at the Subaru booth, the company showed off a more performance-oriented version of their WRX STI.

To be clear, the standard WRX STI is no slouch. But the new WRX STI S209 brings a little extra with an expected 341-horsepower version of the 2.5-liter flat-four engine in the standard STI. That’s a 31 horsepower boost, thanks to the S209’s larger turbo.

Subaru has sold similar high-performance versions of the WRX STI in Japan, starting with the S201 in 2000, through the S208 in 2018. The S209 is the first version to be sold exclusively in the United States and Subaru expects a limited run of only about 200 cars.

Lexus LC Convertible Concept

Though Lexus calls the LC Convertible Concept a “concept,” this thing looks really production-ready. And it makes sense to offer a drop-top version of the company’s flagship coupe as most buyers are likely as interested in comfort and style as they are about performance.

Though no specifics were revealed, we wouldn’t be surprised if a production version of the convertible would share the same five-liter V8 engine as the closed coupe. However, the ability to drop the top adds that extra bit of style that Lexus managers hope will lure more customers to the brand.

Lexus RC F and RC F Track Edition

Also at the Lexus booth were the more hard-core 2020 RC F and the RC F Track Edition. These cars replace the standard RC’s four- or six-cylinder engine options with a beefy five-liter V8 good for 472 horsepower and 395 pound-feet of torque.

The RC F Track Edition uses the same engine, but shaves about 175 pounds of weight, thanks to extensive use of carbon fiber body panels and other components. The Track Edition also has revised aerodynamic bits, like the giant wing on the back, to help improve airflow and downforce.

Lexus expects the Track edition to go from zero to 60 miles per hour in a little less than four seconds. The cost of that speed will be announced closer to when the cars go on sale.

Ford Mustang Shelby GT500

While Ford has publicly announced previously that it’s going to phase out most cars from its lineup (in favor of trucks, SUVs and crossovers), the company will keep the Mustang around. The top-of-the-line performance version of the car will debut for the 2020 model year as the Shelby GT500.

The company already makes the Shelby GT350 with its brutal 5.2-liter V8 engine good for 526 horsepower. However, as the numbers imply, the GT500 does more with that engine. Ford expects to crank out more than 700 horsepower out of the same engine thanks to a larger turbocharger and other updates. The exact power number will be determined closer to when the car goes on sale this fall.

Expect pricing for the GT500 to get a healthy boost, too. While Ford hasn’t disclosed pricing for the GT500 yet, the less-powerful GT350 has a starting price around $59,000, for comparison.

No-Shows

Perhaps equally significant were the auto manufacturers that skipped out on the 2019 North American International Auto Show altogether.

Notably absent from the show were Mazda, Mitsubishi, Volvo, BMW, Porsche and Audi. Tesla also wasn’t there, but these types of shows are typically hosted by the local automobile dealer’s association, and Tesla doesn’t follow the standard dealership model.

There’s no official word as to why those makers skipped the auto show, but having a booth at this type of show is expensive and may not be where the companies plan to spend their marketing dollars.

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