DETROIT — U.S. road rage isn’t limited to drivers. It’s on their automobiles’ faces.
Visitors at the North American International Auto Show at Detroit’s Cobo Center, which opens to the public Saturday, can go stare at some among the more than 500 vehicle models on display that seem to be snarling, growling, scowling, or roaring, “Get outta my way or I’ll blow your doors off.”
Bill Fay, general manager of Toyota Motor Corp.’s Toyota Division, captured the trend when he introduced the Furia, a concept for the replacement to the automaker’s compact Corolla.
He said the name implies ferociousness, and its swept-back windshield and squinty-looking headlights help deliver the message. Whether its engine will follow through is an open question:
The debut car is a shell that Mr. Fay called “a clear message of where we’re going in the future.”
Fully able to make good on a threat to others’ doors is the Ferrari F12, a 6.3-liter V12 supercar. Head on, it resembles a grouper with its eyeballs on fire.
Bayerische Motoren Werke’s M6 sedan, which was given its global introduction in Detroit, seems ready to take a bite out of anything in its path.
Hyundai Motors’ Sonata (a 2.4-liter, 4-cylinder), Chrysler Group LLC's new Dodge Dart (2-liter, 4-cylinder), and Ford Fusion (available with an engine no larger than a 2.4-liter 4), don’t carry quite the same clout. But they’ve got the look: angry eyes and bared teeth.
At the opposite end of the facial-expression spectrum is Mazda Motor Corp.’s Mazda 3. Its smile gives the impression that it intends to kill its highway companions with kindness.
Another trend spotlighted at the show is embodied in the worldwide introduction of Lincoln’s MKC concept sport utility vehicle: luxury in smaller packages.
The MKC, when it reaches the market, although officials of Lincoln parent Ford Motor Co. were coy about the timing, will be about the same size as the compact Ford Escape SUV.
It will join a segment including BMW’s 1-Series, first sold in the United States in March, 2008, as a coupe and a convertible and as a compact SUV for the 2013 model year. Toyota’s Lexus luxury division sent its compact 250C into U.S. showrooms in 2008, and Sweden’s AB Volvo’s compact C30 made its U.S. showroom debut in the mid-2000s.
These cars, unlike an entry-level compact with luxury add-ons, are luxury vehicles first. They have leather or leatherette seats, navigation systems, premium wheels, and other comforts that are luxury expectations.
Just as competition in entry-level luxury is growing, so is it in superluxury high-performance sedans. The M6, to go on sale this year for the 2014 model year priced in what a BMW representative said will be the “mid 100-teens,” is aimed squarely at Porsche’s Panamera (from $91,350 to $175,000) and Daimler AG’s Mercedes-Benz S-Class AMG (around $140,000).
What constitutes a “concept” vehicle has changed. Most are, like the MKC and the Furia, much closer to the final product than were the unfettered three-dimensional rendering of ideas displayed in shows past. But two noteworthy examples of the latter are on view. One is Toyota’s FUN Vii, resembling a flying knife blade that the company describes as a tech-filled smart phone on wheels. Another is BMW’s gull-winged i8 plug-in hybrid sports car. For swooping, sculptured lines, the Acura NSX sports car from Honda Motor Co.’s luxury division is a head-turner, as is Cadillac’s ELR.
Toledo-made Jeeps have yielded center stage this year to the redesign of the Detroit-made Grand Cherokee. But a customized Wrangler Unlimited Sand Trooper fitted with huge off-road tires is a highlight of Chry-sler’s Mopar Garage exhibit.
For nostalgia fans, the Ford exhibit is the place to be. Its main entrance is flanked by a 2013 Fiesta subcompact and a 1903 Model A in the same lipstick red. Mingling with the crowd at the show will be actors portraying the young Henry Ford, in a shop apron and newsboy cap; the middle-aged Mr. Ford, in a black suit and bowler-type hat, and the silver-haired Mr. Ford in his later years.
Occupying pride of place at the exhibit is an F1 pickup from the 1948 model year, the one that gave birth to the legendary F-Series.
And harking back to the era of cars on walls are a John Cooper Works Paceman from Mini Cooper tackling a grade of more than 45 degrees and a Chevrolet Corvette positioned vertically like a butterfly in a shadow-box.