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

Obama: Alaskans Feel Signs of Climate Change

They're seeing bigger storm surges as sea ice melts, more wildfires, erosion of glaciers, shorelines More

Katrina Brought Enduring Changes to New Orleans

The city’s recovery is the result of the people and culture the city is famous for, as well as newcomers and start-up industries More

Magical Photo Slides Show Native Americans in Late 1800s

Walter McClintock spent 20 years photographing the Blackfoot Indians and their vanishing culture at the dawn of the modern age More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs

World Currencies

EUR
USD
0.8874
JPY
USD
120.83
GBP
USD
0.6497
CAD
USD
1.3271
INR
USD
66.162

Rates may not be current.