Design in Motion: The 2015 North American International Auto Show

The 2015 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, MI opened to the public on January 12 at 9am. For the average consumer, auto shows serve as a preview of new models before they hit showroom floors later in the year. However, there is much more to the multi-thousand dollar displays lining the floor than simply selling family sedans. Auto shows provide a worldwide stage for industry giants to publically showcase the future of their brand – design language, technology, aesthetics, and performance all take center stage, and this year was no exception.


The biggest story out of Detroit this year has been the surprise return of the Ford GT. Ford’s storied supercar will return in 2016 as an aggressive, aero-packed evolution of the original GT40 and its 2005-2006 spiritual successor. The body of the new GT takes styling cues from its predecessors, but gone is the “homage" effort of the 05-06 model, where technological advances were masked in an effort to keep body shape as faithful to the original as possible. Massive air channels along the body, slender mirrors, and enlarged side intakes give the new GT an elegant, almost Italian look. As Ford forges ahead into a bright post-recession future and embraces the success of its performance line (headed by the Focus ST, new Mustang, and now the GT supercar), Detroit may once again become the center of the automotive world.


While the Ford GT announcement shocked the world, the planned unveiling of the Acura NSX made waves of its own even without the element of surprise. The 2015 NSX is Acura’s first halo car since the original NSX was discontinued in 2005. A halo car represents the ideal manifestation of an automotive brand; their vision, their prestige, their design language, and their technological prowess are all made tangible. Internally, the car will be powered by a hybrid drivetrain producing over 550hp, placing the NSX firmly in Ferrari 458 and Audi R8 competition while also hinting at a future Acura focus on eco-friendly solutions across the entire line. Externally, smooth body lines, a front fascia composed almost entirely of air intakes, and a centrally-mounted trapezoidal exhaust are all design highlights. The NSX is also the first project led by Acura designer Michelle Christensen, Acura’s first female exterior designer – given the five-deep crowd around the NSX, many in attendance agree that Christensen boasts an incredible design talent.


Mercedes-Benz spared no expense in highlighting their newest flagship performance model, the Mercedes-AMG GT S. Gone is the grand touring, gullwing door-equipped SLS AMG; its spiritual successor (although not a replacement, as a Mercedes rep specifically enunciated) is a smaller, sleeker, less expensive, yet equally fast true sports car. The GT S model shown will retail for around $150k. What will that money get you? An impressive 0-60 time of 3.7 seconds, a luxurious yet sharply detailed interior, and a body style that reaches back into Mercedes’ prestigious racing history.  The front mid-engine layout of the GT S’ powerplant keeps the elegance of an antique long-nosed sports car while still allowing for the ridiculous performance offered by the latest in engine and suspension technology. An AMG-Mercedes spokesman revealed the car's nickname around the office to be the Porsche Killer. It’s easy to see why.


IMG_4872 While not brand new for the show, one of the most hypnotizing vehicles on display was Toyota’s FT-1 concept. The FT-1 (FT for “Future Toyota”) debuted last year. To many avid car fans, the FT-1 is considered one of the most unabashed, aggressive, and obscenely beautiful cars out there. Jutting wheel wells cover wide rear tires. Intricate aerodynamic shapes suggest that this car is so blindingly ahead of its time that it becomes difficult to imagine what the various splitters, diffusers, and channels are even capable of. A massive engine sits just in front of the cockpit, covered by a glass plate (a nod to similar transparent covers on mid-engine supercars) that exposes an engine Toyota won’t even spill numbers on a year after the concept was first shown. The interior of the concept is decked out in carbon and leather, and features a minimalist gauge cluster and steering wheel with nearly nothing to interrupt the lines of the dashboard or center console. Toyota representatives discussed with fans whether or not the outlandish FT-1 will even reach production in a state anywhere close its stunning concept form; while nothing can be confirmed at this time, the FT-1’s current position as a global centerpiece for Toyota’s vision and sporting heritage bodes well for an eventual FT-1 as the next step in Toyota’s performance evolution.

The North American International Auto Show runs from January 17-25 at the Cobo Center in Detroit, MI.

Tickets are $13 at the door for adults ages 12-65.



Photos courtesy of Alex Rakestraw.

SpotlightAlex Rakestraw