Event>> Detroit 2009 Show Round Up

The North American International Auto Show in takes place in Detroit this week. A number of manufactures including Nissan have pulled out, but despite this, there are some cool new production and concept cars.

First up, we have the Volkswagen Concept Blue Sport. Although a concept, the mid-engined rear wheel drive roadster looks production ready and looks like a baby Audi R8 with the fender creases. Maybe this was an Audi concept in a previous life. I wouldn’t be surprised.

The roadster is powered by a 2.0 TDi engine producing 180PS and 140mph. If it goes into production, lets up there is a ‘R’ version

The roadster is powered by a 2.0 TDi engine producing 180PS and 140mph. If it goes into production, lets up there is a ‘R’ version

We featured the Kia Soul on Speedhunters last year, when it was a concept. The Soul will shortly be on sale around the world, trying to take sales from the Nissan Cube and Scion. Kia showed off a cool little truck called the Soul’ster for Detroit. Just a concept, but you never know. A very well resolved design.

Another concept thats looks production ready.

Detroit also saw the worldwide debut of the new BMW Z4 roadster. The lines have been refined and the surfaces have a more classic look.

A folding retractable roof has been introduced. Normally, this results in a very tall trunk (boot!), so the roof can be stored, but it has been integrated very well. Production moves from Spartanburg, South Carolina to Europe, to allow for X3 production

Its the first BMW I really like, in quite a long time.  No coupe this time around.

Jaguar announced the new XF-R at the show. 510bhp from the Supercharged 5.0 Litre V8 engine and 0-60 in 4.7 seconds.  The ‘R’ benefits from new front and rear bumpers, subtle side skirts, hood air intakes and new 7 spoke wheels. Looks nice and aggressive. The XF has been a big success in Europe, a very good car, but I’d hardly seen any here in Vancouver.

Down south, a mildly modified Jaguar XF-R achieved 225mph at Bonneville Salt Flats back in November, being the record that Martin Brundle set in the XJ220 supercar in 1992. Check out the video, Rod posted earlier today.

Audi showed their new Sportsback concept. Based on the Audi A6 chassis, this car may lead to a production version. I’ve always been a fan of Audi’s and for me an Audi is a classic, well resolved, German design. Some of the latest Audi’s do seem to be moving away from this.

Take the Audi grille off. Does it still look like an Audi? Is that a good or bad thing? Discuss :)

We’ve already covered the Shelby GT500 launch a couple of weeks ago, but here are a couple of photos of the new car at Detroit. Interesting colour choice for the convertible

I like the front, but I find the rest, particularly at the rear, a little bit fussy.

Mercedes, in conjunction with McLaren Automotive, announced the final variant of the SLR recently. The ‘Mercedes McLaren SLR Stirling Moss’  is a bit of a strange concept to be honest. It doesn’t really look that much like a Mercedes. Still, I really like the concept and I like that a company like Mercedes is thinking a little outside of the box.

This marks the last Mercedes McLaren road-car. The companies have dissolved their roadcar partnership.

You can only own one if you already own a SLR! Although the car had its Motor Show debut in North America, it won’t be available there….Strange

The next Subaru Legacy was shown in Concept form at the show. Looking a little like a Lexus in side profile, the Legacy had some bold heavy styling at the front. It does appear that Subaru are searching for some design language at the moment. The headlamp lenses are quite unusual and should give the car some character, come production time against the Camry, Accord, and new Taurus.

Hybrid vehicles dominate the show. Its a reality that these are the future for day-to-day travel, so I thought I’d cover a few of the more interesting ones. None really wet my appetite, but its important to note the quick progress being made.

The Fisker Karma has been shown before, but I think its the first time it has graced Speedhunters. Fisker is a new company started by ex BMW and Aston Martin designer Henrik Fisker. The Karma is a hybrid which can reach 0-60 in 5.8 seconds and top 150mph.

The Karma has unusual proportions with a long hood, low roof and long wheelbase. The front has a Maserati-esque grille. Production is due in 2010.

Fisker also showed off a stunning convertible on a shortened wheelbase. Production starts in 2011.

European’s might recognise this car as a Lotus Europa. Dodge have worked with Lotus to show off an all-electric sports car, called the Circuit EV. The front bumper now has the familiar Dodge grille and the rear bumper has been tweaked, but otherwise its an all Lotus chassis.

Range is only 150miles. This is a problem, although I did read a post on a forum earlier that said ‘ How often do you go 150 miles in a day’ which was a good point. The public will need to be convinced.

If this goes into production it will be interesting to see how they price this compared to the Tesla. The Tesla roadster was engineered, developed, styled and partly built by Lotus on a modified Elise chassis, so they are related.

Honda have announced the new Insight. Shown as a concept at the Paris Motor Show, the production version is a little more conservative than the concept and its main rival, the Toyota Prius. Prius influence is obvious.

The Insight uses the Fit (Jazz in some markets) chassis, so should be a good drive. Autoblog managed to achieve an average of 63.4mpg (US) on an efficiency drive and 44mpg on a mountain drive, which is impressive.

Still, I think the future is Hydrogen power and for me the Honda FCX-Clarity is the future if they can get over the storage hurdles.

Not to be outdone, Toyota have released the third generation of the Prius Hybrid. Still recognisable as a Prius, but the form is better resolved than the outgoing model. Economy is improved a little despite a larger 1.8Litre engine

Toyota’s Luxury division has also added a new hybrid car. The HS250h it the first dedicated hybrid model and uses a 2.4 Litre engine. Styling is influenced by recent Lexi (sic!) with the high shoulder and the heavy front bumper.

Toyota isn’t done yet! The Toyota FT-EV is a battery electric concept based heavily on the Toyota iQ. The engine-less concept can travel just 50 miles and is for town work. A Production version will be launched in 2012. I think I’ll stick with the gas guzzler iQ!’

Its not surprising that, given the economic climate, the Detroit show was quieter than usual and featured so many Hybrid vehicles. Hopefully, in years ahead this will leave space for exciting petrol vehicles to continue while Joe-Public commutes on the highway in his or her Insight! Maybe thats a good compromise?

-Andy Blackmore

Additional Images:  Autoblog (Frisker Convertible, Jaguar XFR Racer)



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ahh, keep toyota designers away from subaru!!


Im liking the new mustangs, I can live with the rear, although the grabber blue and red stripe combo doesn't work to well, remember...ITS GRABBER BLUE!!! WOOOOOOOOOOO!!!


nice cars hope all of them come out


i like how it looks the kia look diffrent


About the comment on the VW BlueSport (BlueSport? BlueSlug? :D:D:D) Concept being possibly an Audi design to begin with, I don't think that's accurate. More likely than anything else is Porsche involvement, but I'm fairly certain that this is all VW work. In 2003 the Volkswagen Concept R definitely turned some heads, and was essentially the same as this. Then in 2005 the head of VAG said that there was almost definitely going to be a production version of the car. And I think that's what we're looking at here. Apparently this is a VERY sorted out concept car, and if you look underneath it, it's pretty much 100% done, not just some rolling shell.

Here's a link to the Concept R on wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Volkswagen_Concept_R


Again Audi/VW stuff, the Audi Sportback to me, with Audi grille removed of course ;) looks a lot like the new Passat CC, a four-door coupé in the same vein as the Mercedes-Benz CLS.


The new Legacy is a little strange to me, but then most Subaru models are strange lately. The greenhouse is very bulbous and tall, and the slats at the bottom of the 'grille' are interesting to say the least. I do like the wheelarches though!


The Frisker definitely looks cool for a four-door! very sleek!


The HS250h is fugly. lol I'm sorry it just doesn't 'jive' it looks like a Corolla, and I wouldn't pay Lexus prices for a Corolla


and lol i agree with Banzai-Banzai about the Prius/Insight/Whatever styling ;D


I love the look of the Fisker. Sexy car.



Latest Audis look amazing..


The Prius and Insight are vitually identical.....


Blueslug - The Designers at Audi VW get to design each others cars, so for example at the VW LA  (outside LA actually) studio, I know a guy who worked on the VW trike one year and an Audi 5dr hatch concept the next and then the iROC.


A couple of people who worked on Concept R also worked on Audi's.  I was just thinking that either some of the styling/form devlopment  started from an Audi design/project, but who knows.


It clearly is influenced by the Audi R8 and Audi TT on the side, fenders etc and its clearly close to production...and that can only be a good thing.


Agree, the Insight, Prius and HS250h all look odd. The Insight wins, just ;)  Wonder why its the case with hybrids?

I doubt there would be much Porsche involvement at all. can't say any more than that......


why do you keep typing fRisker? isn't it Fisker? or have I been wrong this whole time?


That Audi is pretty yucky! Too far off the ground to be called anything that contains "sports" in the name. It's a far cry to compare this oversized hatchback with the elegant lines of Mercedes' CLS!

I think Audi is loosing it and if not slapped at the proper moment (now), it might go into a "BMW-frenzy" and start building more SUV-like vehicles than normal cars.


I don't like the new Legacy concept at all, again, too tall to be "sporty"!


The Dodge EV is a nice surprise. I actually think it looks better than the vanilla Lotus Europe! Good job on that one Chrysler!


lexi is the plural for lexus. ask alan partridge


gary - A-ha:)


the blue badge on that HS250 completes the subaru look


The VW concept blue looks awsome to say the least,altough i was already dissing it in the back of my head cause i thot it was gonna be a FF,but when i saw that it's a rear wheel drive mid engine,damn,loving it,you can see a lot of cues from Audi on the design.

The Frisker Karma is a great looker with the hudge arches and wheels, but i loved even more the convertible, hehehe, awsome, with huge aftermarket mags,you can only imagine how it's gonna look.

The new subaru legacy,well,for now i would still stick with the current model witch looks great inside and out,this one just doesn't cut it yet,hope they refine it,maybe then it will win me over.

The Audi looks great,but i saw another in another pic that redline is around 5200 rpm or somethin,that sucks.

Ugly lexus the HS250h,hated it and i like the honda fit better than the insight,much cooler.


That VW roadster is another example of why Alter de Grilla should NOT be there...he seems to have an uncanny ability to *** up every brand id by stealing elements from other s and mashing them together. When he was at Fiat group, he was the same. And besides, he has a serious 70-s early 80-s design fixation. Ther Germans are pretty good at doing cars, they don-t need him to stick his fingers in! Rant over...

Besides, rumour has it that there is a tad bit of involvement in the roadster from Porsche as they want to make a premium runaround, stripped (but still with a more premium tag) a la 356. Boxster/Cayman is moving ever upwards and VW groupcan recover some RD costs by doing a number of varients and slightly fiddling the cost.

The Subaru was another example of bosses not knowing about brnad and unable to decide on clear design choices...Note to MD/CEO/CD of Subaru...TRUST YOUR DESIGNERS!!!

Priu-sight...same car, but is that really the most efficient volume for packaging and aerodynamics?

Dodge EV...Lotus are thanking their lucky stars that someone bought into that bloody aweful Proton project!

Jag XF - Hate it. So many good designers there, what happened?

Fisker Karma - ABSOLUTLY BRILLIANT. Plus the Sunset...star of the show.

Soul'ster. Know what I'm buying for my next runaround!

Lexus thing...yawn.

BMW Z4 - classical and very pretty, Andy you're right. Definitely a hit with the ladies, I can just see all the middle age wives and upper class hairdressers queing to get into the showroom now.

Overall, You can tell the show represents the mood of the industry, but there is still some out there who continue to lead...Mr Fisker is on that charge (bad pun I know) and when the Japanese wake up and realise that an electric and hybrid car can look that good, I think more people will start to want one. I just hope that means they'll get out their checkbooks. Andy, thanks again for the great post!


The Fisker models are amazing. Love them.

Andy, regarding hydrogen being the way of the future, I can only partially agree. Hydrogen for internal combustion can definitely help... but current hydrogen fuel cells are WAY too expensive.

The electrodes are made of platinum. Platinum is at $938/ounce... and they'll likely need about 10 lbs of the stuff for a proper fuel cell. That's $150,080, just for the raw material. That doesn't make for a very cost-effective generation method. That's also leaving out the aspect of the porous transport layer (PTL), which is super-thin, and even off-the-shelf is quite expensive.

These cars are still running in the 6-7 figure range, and will stay there for a long time... even though they are horribly inefficient.

Fuel cells do have their uses though... they are definitely well-suited to large-scale operations, like powering buildings, etc. It's just when they're made small enough to fit in a car, their efficiency dies off like mad.


What has Subaru done to the Legacy?! That is hideous! When I saw the current model Impreza, I knew that the Legacy's fate wouldn't be too pretty either.


lol@VW - Diesel Roadster = fail. With a nice N/A petrol engine it WOULD be quite nice though


Steel - have you driven a TDi lately? Its pretty good actually and magazine in Europe have placed the BMW TDi's ahead of their petrol counterparts in roadtests, not just for fuel economy. Although Diesel fuel isn't as clean in North America, which does limit some of the Diesel engines which could be sold here.

Still, I do take your point, it is a sports car :) - I'm sure there will be a petrol/gas version


Fisker Karma=most beautiful sedan any company from any country in this galaxy has ever designed and likely will ever be designed. And now the Sunset! OH! That's wonderful! At the complete opposite end of the spectrum is the new Legacy concept, ACK! The side/roofline looks like a Nissan Altima! GROSS. And then the frontend (qeue Alfred Hitchcock horror music) ARRRRGH! Anyway, can't decide whether I like the Soulster or not. The Soul looks like what I think the 2nd gen Scion XB should have looked like, but I think the Soulster reminds me too much of Honda Ridgeline/Ford Sport-trac/Subaru Baja and other car based trucklets; they only allude to being capable and rugged when, in reality they're on-road, suburban vehicles for people pretending they're tough and outdoorsy. Oh, and the Hs250 is a big mistake for Lexus, sure to dilute their brand image, I was hoping for better:( I like the new GT500, but the blue/red-stripe combo is horrid.


GM and Ford had alot of really interesting concept and production cars there, yet you omit them and include a few yawn inducing hybrids, and a couple E.V.s that will never see production.

Careful guys, your bias is showing!

This site is a joke!


completely disagree, Ford and GM weren't up to much. GM had EC cars which have been at two or three shows before and Ford had a off the ball Linclon concept, the new bland Ford Taurus.... and the Mustang, which if I am not mistaken , is pictured twice above.

Jowevere, you should have included the Caddy concept.


Wayne is right, I went to the show and I was very disappointed by GM stand, other than the Camaro. Seen the concepts before in magazines other than the Cadillac, which was cool.

All 3 domestic brands were disappointing, although the Mustang, that Lotus thing and the Chrysler 200C were cool.

I don't think Speedhunters i biased. They have covered the Camaro and Mustang recently, so not sure what you are on about Pokey. I even remember a Ford Flex on here WTF!

A Taurus isn't really something you'd see on a 'car culture' site anyway...( but I suppose neither is a Prius!)

Keep up the good work Andy and Speedhunters


Pokey, Wayne, bill_GM - No bias on this site, look at the search facility and you'll see countless posts for GM, Ford, Chrysler all the way to other brands such as Kia. On this post, we do comment on Ford.


In recent months, we've had posts containing info on the Cruze, Volt, Camaro, Focus, Mustang,GT500 and the Flex (I'd forgotten about that one Wayne!)


I will grant you that I should have included the Cadillac Converj,


it appears Audi are involved in the VW concept. Automotive News are reporting that an Audi version will be available