News / Economy

Sexy Performance Meets 'Green' Ethic at Detroit Auto Show

The new Mercedes-Benz 2015 C-Class is displayed during a private preview for media at the Westin Book Cadillac Hotel in Detroit, Michigan, Jan. 12, 2014, on the eve of the 2014 North American International Auto Show.
The new Mercedes-Benz 2015 C-Class is displayed during a private preview for media at the Westin Book Cadillac Hotel in Detroit, Michigan, Jan. 12, 2014, on the eve of the 2014 North American International Auto Show.
Reuters
To look over the roster of racy new and future vehicles at the 2014 North American International Auto Show here, the initial impression is that U.S., European and Asian automakers want to turn back the clock to a time when performance and speed trumped concerns about energy and the environment.

So-called green cars - electric vehicles, hybrids and hydrogen fuel cells - are being heavily overshadowed at the Detroit show by sports cars, in a broad spectrum of sizes, shapes and price segments, from Ford Motor Company's redesigned 2015 Mustang to Kia Motors' zippy GT4 Stinger concept.

“Sex sells. Speed sells,” said Michael Tracy, principal at Michigan-based consultancy the Agile Group. “People don't talk about wanting to buy a Camaro because the base V6 gets great mileage.”

A hint of green

In fact, there is more than a hint of green lurking in even the sexiest sports cars at this year's Detroit auto show, which opens for media members this week. Take the new Mustang, which this fall will offer buyers the choice of a 420-horsepower 5.0-liter V8 - a throwback to the classic street cars of yesteryear - or an economical 2.3-liter four-cylinder EcoBoost engine that still cranks out an impressive 305 horsepower.

“We're seeing a new era of performance cars that are very safe, very fuel-efficient and more mainstream,” said industry consultant Lincoln Merrihew, of Millward Brown Digital.

The latest edition of Volkswagen AG's Golf R, which goes on sale in early 2015 in the United States, is a good example.

Under the familiar hatchback shell of the long-running Golf, VW has fitted a 290-horsepower turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine. VW said it is the most powerful Golf ever sold in the United States, but it also surpasses the fuel economy of the 2013 edition, with an EPA highway mileage rating of 31 miles per gallon. To help improve the car's stability and traction, all-wheel drive is standard.

Evolving definition

The definition of “performance” is evolving, from the old-school values of straight-line acceleration and cornering capability. As with the Mustang and the Golf, engines are getting smaller to improve efficiency, but devices such as turbochargers provide more power, so there is less tradeoff between going faster and going farther.

Perhaps the epitome of the modern sports car is Kia's GT4 Stinger, a compact, low-slung four-passenger model fitted with a 315-horsepower turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that hints at a future rear-wheel-drive performance model from the Korean manufacturer.

Makers of traditional sports cars are reducing weight, which further enhances both sides of the power versus economy equation.

Even the 2014 Chevrolet Camaro Z28, which goes on sale this spring, has benefited from General Motors Co's  “lightweighting” efforts. GM engineers shaved mass from the $75,000 muscle car by using a smaller battery and thinner rear glass, as well as eliminating the trunk carpet and the tire-inflator kit.

Lighter weight

BMW says its redesigned 2015 M3 sedan, which reaches U.S. dealers in early summer, has shed 175 pounds, in part by using more aluminum and carbon fiber-reinforced plastic in place of heavier steel and by switching from a normally aspirated 4.0-liter V8 to a twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter six-cylinder engine. The smaller engine makes more power and, with the weight reduction, enables faster acceleration, while boosting fuel economy by 25 percent and lowering emissions by the same amount.

Both the M3 and its two-door companion, the new 2015 M4 coupe, also provide an array of driver assistance systems, including a new Active Driving Assistant that warns of an impending collision with a pedestrian.

Enthusiasts will find many of the same safety systems and focus on efficiency in the latest supercars from Europe, Asia and the U.S., notably the 620-horsepower 2015 Chevrolet Corvette Z06, which goes into production late this year.

The fun factor

Chevy also aims to amp up the fun quotient for Corvette owners. Later this year, the 2015 Corvette will offer an optional Performance Data Recorder - essentially a built-in high-def videocam and microphone that will enable drivers to record up to 13 hours behind the wheel and play it all back on the car's in-dash touchscreen or upload it to Facebook and other social media sites.

Five years ago, during the depths of the U.S. auto industry's recession, “excess went out of fashion,” said consultant Merrihew, as auto companies parked their performance models to focus on greener technologies.

Now that the economy has rebounded and automakers are redefining performance as a combination of speed, safety and efficiency, “that stigma is starting to fade,” he said, “and performance cars are OK to buy again.”

You May Like

Karzai's Legacy: Missed Opportunities?

Afghanistan's president leaves behind a much different nation than the one he inherited, yet his legacy from 13 years in power is getting mixed reviews More

Secret Service Chief Under Fire for White House Security Breach

Julia Pierson faces tough questions from lawmakers after recent intrusion at White House, says: 'It is clear that our security plan was not executed properly' More

Frustrated, Liberian Students Want Ebola Fight Role

Thousands have volunteered to go to counties, rural villages to talk to people in their language about deadly virus More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihadi
X
Mahi Ramakrishnan
September 30, 2014 2:16 PM
Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Iran's Rouhani Skeptical on Syria Strikes

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani expressed skepticism Friday that U.S.-led airstrikes in Iraq and Syria could crush Islamic State militants. From New York, VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports the president was also hopeful that questions about Iran’s nuclear program could be resolved soon.
Video

Video US House Speaker: Congress Should Debate Authorization Against IS

As wave after wave of U.S. airstrikes target Islamic State militants, the speaker of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives says he would be willing to call Congress back into session to debate a formal, broad authorization for the use of military force. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington, where legislators left town 10 days ago for a seven-week recess.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Video

Video Ebola Robs Liberians of Chance to Say Good-Bye to Loved Ones

In Liberia, where Ebola has killed more than 1,500 people, authorities have worked hard to convince people to allow specialized burial teams to take away dead bodies. But these safety measures, while necessary, make it hard for people to say good bye to their loved ones. VOA's Anne Look reports on the tragedy from Liberia.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid

World Currencies

EUR
USD
0.7866
JPY
USD
109.25
GBP
USD
0.6139
CAD
USD
1.1120
INR
USD
61.428

Rates may not be current.