THIS YEAR’S extravaganza in Michigan sees muscle cars fighting it out for glory, an unexpected innovation from Chevrolet that adds spark (and range) to the electric market and old favourites in new guises. Driving zooms round the highlights.
THE YEAR was 1966, the race was the Le Mans 24 hours (reputed to be the world’s toughest endurance event) and the favourite was Ferrari. The Italian car maker had little reason to imagine it wouldn’t walk away with the trophy once again — but those upstarts from Ford wiped the floor with a new car specially bred to break Ferrari’s hegemony. The first, second and third places all went to a GT40, a result that sealed the racing car’s reputation as a giant-beater.
Next year will be the 50th anniversary of that landmark victory, and it is hard to think of a more appropriate way to celebrate than by building a new GT, returning to Le Mans and racing wheel to wheel with Ferrari for 24 hours.
Will it happen? Well, at last week’s Detroit motor show, Ford opened up the possibility by revealing a new GT supercar. Bristling with carbon fibre and active aerodynamics, packing a twin-turbo V6 EcoBoost engine with 600bhp and using race-car-style pushrod suspension, it comes with the promise of one of the best power-to-weight ratios of any supercar on the road.
The new car is the second time Ford has reprised its famous racer. In 2005-6 it built 4,000 GTs — a car greeted by enthusiasts with open arms. Jeremy Clarkson bought one, although his was an unhappy experience: the car was plagued by a faulty alarm system and Clarkson, despite loving its looks, handed it back to Ford: read about it here.
Ford will hope that the new version will be more reliable. It features a seven-speed dual clutch transmission and a launch control system, along with carbon-ceramic brakes and a digital dashboard.
To be built in Charlotte, North Carolina, the car will go on sale in 2016 and — like the GT before it— is likely to be offered in limited numbers to Britain. It will be priced to compete with the Ferrari 458 Italia and Lamborghini Huracan, which both cost around £180,000.
A computer-generated image of the new supercar decked out in the Gulf Ford GT40 livery from Le Mans 1968
What isn’t known is whether Ford will return to Le Mans. Raj Nair, Ford vice-president and chief technical officer, would only say that the company has “always been good at linking in race programmes with the road — racing is a key innovation tool”. It sounds suspiciously like corporate speak for “Hell, yeah! We’re gonna kick Ferrari’s butt.”
FORD GT 50th Anniversary Edition specifications
Price: £180,000 (estimated)
Engine: EcoBoost 3.5-litre twin-turbo V6
Top speed: 200mph (estimated)
Acceleration: 0-60mph in 3sec (estimated)
Release date: Early 2016 in Britain
Price £100,000 (estimated)
This year’s Detroit motor show has the feel of a gladiatorial contest in a Roman amphitheatre: a frenzy of power and muscle in every direction. Car manufacturers have let loose their engine tuners and uncaged new high-powered models frothing at the grilles with a surfeit of horsepower. It’s just as well that fuel prices are plunging. Or maybe the car industry foresaw the oil price collapse.
You just needed to shuffle a few feet from Ford’s GT stand to the one next door to see another brand-new turbocharged V6-powered supercar. Honda’s NSX is presented as a technical marvel, blending aluminium, high-strength steel and carbon fibre in its construction, and with a 550bhp hybrid powertrain that combines the engine with an electric motor to power the rear wheels.
Two more motors drive the front wheels and can distribute different amounts of torque to left and right to increase grip and stability in corners, a setup known as torque vectoring.
On sale Late this year
Mercedes-AMG GLE 63 S coupé
Price £90,000 (estimated)
With more power than a Ferrari 458 Italia, this new 577bhp V8 SUV from Mercedes is undoubtedly a performance car — it’s just on stilts. The high-riding GLE 63 is said to provide dynamic handling that defies its high centre of gravity thanks to sports suspension and electronic assistance systems.
We don’t yet know whether it’s effective, or if the ride quality will suffer in comparison with existing, lower-powered GLE models. We do know that you’ll need to fasten your seatbelt: the turbocharged 4×4 will accelerate from 0-62mph in 4.2 seconds and can reach a limited top speed of 155mph, guzzling a gallon of petrol every 23.7 miles. Those figures will give the rival BMW X6 M a run for its money.
On sale June
Porsche 911 Targa 4 GTS
Many regard the GTS package as the best of the current Porsche 911 range. It signifies cars that are more powerful than the standard Carrera models, but not as intimidating as the Turbo and GT3 versions. Now Targa buyers have the option of GTS trim, which increases engine power by 30bhp to 424hp over the Targa 4S, which is £8,000 cheaper.
Other upgrades include lowered, electronically controlled suspension, 20in black wheels and a sports exhaust. The changes are claimed to make the four-wheel-drive car more fun to drive but improve acceleration by only 0.1 seconds. Fitted with a paddle shift gearbox, it goes from 0-62mph in 4.3 seconds. Unchanged is the stylish Targa roof and nifty folding mechanism.
On sale March
Price from £59,425
Outside, the changes are minuscule (the grille now has nine bars instead of 10) but the interior of the updated BMW 6-series range — including coupé, convertible and gran coupé — has received more attention. It was less than four years old but, thanks to continually improving smartphone displays, the dashboard screen was already looking dated. It has been replaced with a sleeker version.
Standard kit has also been improved. Every 6-series now comes with a built-in Sim card, allowing drivers to reserve hotel rooms and search for businesses and services from the car. Power is unchanged but none of the models — from the 309bhp 640d to the 552bhp M6 — is laggardly. The entry-level model is more than £1,000 cheaper than its predecessor.
On sale March 1
Price £20,000 (estimated)
It might be a significant departure from the show’s power-mad script, but Chevrolet’s new electric concept car created a buzz at Detroit. The Bolt can cover 200 miles on a single charge — double that of most rivals — for $30,000 (£20,000) after government tax incentives.
Company officials said the five-seat hatchback could be on sale in America by 2017, although the hi-tech interior is likely to be toned down for production. Tesla shares fell almost 3% after the announcement: it hopes to launch its own small family car with a 200-mile range — the Model 3 — for around the same price at around the same time. It’s not clear whether British buyers will benefit, though. Chevrolet stopped selling cars here last year, but the Bolt could be sold under the badge of its sister company Vauxhall.
On sale Unknown
- Click here for more information on the Chevy Bolt
- Browse the used Chevrolets for sale on driving.co.uk
Price £35,000 (estimated)
An SUV made by Jaguar has the same discordant ring as a cardigan made by Superdry, but an announcement from the company at Detroit confirmed that a new model would go on sale next year called F-Pace. The name is taken from the Jaguar maxim coined by Sir William Lyons, the founder, who summed up his vision of sleekness and desirability with the slogan “Grace, pace and space”.
Priced to compete with Audi’s Q5 and BMW’s X3, it will look similar to the C-X17 prototype car and be offered with four-wheel drive so it can claim genuine off-road abilities.
On sale 2016
- Click here for more information on the Jaguar F-Pace
- Browse the used Jaguars for sale on driving.co.uk