Ford performance is in high gear as demonstrated by two exciting cars introduced: Ford GT & Shelby GT350. Let’s start with the GT supercar. I’d say it’s been the darling of the automotive media since its introduction at the 2015 Detroit auto show for good reason. The exterior treatment is sleek and current, unlike the retro appearance of the ’05-’06 GTs that are more a throwback to the GT40s of the 1960s. The new GT celebrates 50 years since that legendary ’66 24 Hours of Le Mans when 3 Ford GT40s placed 1st, 2nd and 3rd. Back then, 427 big block V8s ruled the day. Today, it’s a 3.5 liter Ecoboost twin-supercharged 6-banger derived from a motor in the IMSA Daytona prototype racer. That car claimed the Rolex 24 victory at the 24 hour endurance event at Daytona International. This engine also chalked up a win at the 12 Hours of Sebring competition during the United SportsCar Championship in Florida. Horsepower in the 2016 GT is expected at over 600, with a twin-clutch 7-speed transmission and a price tag probably over $200,000. This car will compete with the Porsches, McLarens, Ferraris and Lamborghinis. Great news here is in the carbon fiber material which Ford expects to use in other cars at cheaper cost in the future. This car is expected to hit that prestigious 24 Hours of Le Mans again in 2016. As much as I like this car, I would have a few concerns if I were Ford. Will not having a V8 engine with a manual stick shift transmission hurt this car? I suppose time will tell. Meanwhile if I’m lucky, I’ll catch a glimpse of the Ford GT on the street around late ’16. Like the GT350, there’s no official word on pricing but around $200,000 is the rumor.
A sign of the times – backup camera
For now at least, the Shelby GT500 supercharged 662 hp beast has left the building. In some ways, the new Shelby GT350 takes its place but with the naturally aspirated 5.2 liter DOHC V8 with 500-plus horsepower/400-plus lb.-ft. torque.
Ford Shelby GT350
The big surprise here is the flat-plane crankshaft, where the 2 pairs of journals are 180 degrees apart. Usually reserved for exotic Ferraris, this is a high-revving engine that’s lighter but tends to vibrate at the lower torque range. I say this car’s real competitor is the new Camaro Z28. The GT350’s body is new S550 platform of the 2015 Mustang along with its independent rear suspension we’ve all heard much about. (Please note this is not the first time for IRS in the Mustang, as it was introduced with the 1999 SVT Cobra). Gears are shifted via the 6-speed manual Tremec gearbox, perhaps the best trans in the business. Likely available late 2015 as a 2016 model, this car sounds exciting. Price isn’t announced yet, but I’ll speculate near the Camaro Z28’s lower $70,000 range. I’m most excited about the 350R race version. It will be 130 lbs lighter, stripping away the rear seats, a/c system, stereo, carpeting, exhaust resonators, emergency tire components and backup camera. Sharp looking lightweight carbon fiber rims come standard. Now we’re getting serious! No official word is out on pricing.
Buick brings back the convertible after 25 years
The last drop-top from Buick was on the short-lived Reatta two-seater. 1990 saw 2132 Reatta convertibles. By 1991, the party was over. Poor sales put an end to the model, with convertible production at a mere 305 Reattas. Flash forward to model year 2016 and here comes the Cascada!
2016 Buick Cascada
It’s got a peppy direct-injected, supercharged 1.6 liter four-cylinder making 200 horsepower with 206 lb.-ft. torque. The transmission is a six-speed auto. Desirable features include heated leather wrapped steering wheel and seats, chrome accents, stainless steel exhaust tip, LED accents, and parking assist. I think Buick is finally on the right track for attracting a more youthful driver this time around. It’s got the look and style for open-air cruising done right. There’s no official price yet but expected release is January 2016.
A sport hybrid to the extreme
2016 Acura NSX
Acura is shaking things up with their 2016 NSX supercar. Here’s a twin-turbo 75 degree DOHC 3.5 liter six-banger with a nine-speed dual-clutch transmission.
The kicker here is 3 electric motors powering the beast. Two are in the front and one direct drive is in the back. Horsepower is pegged at roughly 550. With its style, color and aggressive stance, I simply couldn’t take my eyes off it spinning around the Chicago Auto show platform. Likely competitors include Audi R8 V10, Porche 911 Turbo and Ferrari 458 Italia. Price is expected in the $150,000 range with building in the fall.
2016 Lexus GSF
A new F-model 2016 Lexus GSF features the same engine in the wild-looking RCF performance sport coupe. Here’s a 5.0 liter naturally-aspirated V8 pumping out 467 horses and 389 lb.-ft. Three operating modes for the Torque Vectoring Differential (TVD) are standard, slalom and track. I’m a fan of that spindle grille, but some people love it and some hate it. Competition will come from the likes of Cadillac’s CTS-V (although more of a powerhouse) and BMW’s M5. Overall, it appears to be a nice balance of performance, refinement and four door room based on what I saw at the show. Release date and cost is to be announced.
Today’s horsepower king
Dodge undoubtedly shook up the muscle car world with its introduction of the 706 horsepower 2015 SRT Hellcat Challenger.
2015 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat
When the muscle car era hit full stride throughout the later 1960s through 1970, who would have imagined that a 706 hp vehicle with 645 ft.-lb. torque could exist and have a/c with a factory warranty? Well, welcome to 2015 and the new era of tire-shredding performance! When the 2013 Shelby GT500 came out with 662 hp/631 ft.-lb torque, it was the most powerful production V8 muscle car ever. This year, the 2015 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat takes that crown. Available now starting at $59,995, we’re talking 0-60 mph in the low 3 seconds range. Compared to those astronomically-priced European exotics, this car is a tremendous value with all that power. Additionally, the SRT Hellcat comes as a four-door 2015 Charger starting at $63,995. Same 707 hp here, only enough room for the whole family.
2015 Dodge Charger SRT four-door Hellcat
The Chicago Auto Show 2015 is open to the public February 14th-22nd at McCormick Place. This year celebrates the 107th edition of the show and is produced by the Chicago Automobile Trade Association (CATA). Further details at www.ChicagoAutoShow.com and on Twitter with hashtag #CAS15.