Detroit Auto Show: Sleek and sexy autos set to debut – Los Angeles Times

Posted: Saturday, January 11, 2014

At next week’s Detroit auto show, half a dozen automakers will be rolling out low-volume, high-performance or specialty vehicles meant to generate buzz for their brands.

A Corvette Stingray not fast enough? The Corvette Z06 is on the way, likely with ludicrous levels of horsepower and torque.

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Subaru’s WRX wannabe rally racer still too bland? The WRX STI adds a boy-racer body and a retuned chassis to match its already prodigious power.

BMW, Cadillac, Lexus and Porsche will be rolling out their own high-end versions of existing models. Such specialty cars bring an aura of sex appeal and excitement to their makers in a way mass-marketed vehicles can’t.

“Nobody gets excited about cookie-cutter cars,” said Dave Sullivan, an analyst at AutoPacific. “It’s the ‘limited edition’ something that gets people talking.”

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The Detroit gathering — officially the North American International Auto Show — is the perfect place to start conversations.

This is one of the largest auto shows in the world, and automakers are keen to take advantage of the global audience. Because these brands often focus their attention on green cars at November’s Los Angeles Auto Show, it leaves a bumper crop of go-fast models for January.

And an improving economy means that more consumers are willing to spend on something to raise their pulse and draw attention, Sullivan said.

These cars still make up only a fraction of overall sales for their makers. Previously, the high-performance Z06 and ZR1 editions of the Corvette accounted for about 10% of the sports car’s total sales, Chevy said. Subaru’s STI sold just under 4,500 copies in 2013, compared with about 60,000 for the base Impreza and 13,500 for the WRX

But the attention that top-end models attract makes them worth the effort for automakers.

Few Detroit debuts are as highly anticipated as the 2015 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray Z06. The car is an asphalt-warping version of the already expeditious seventh-generation Corvette Stingray, which Chevy unveiled at its hometown show last year.

Final details on the car’s powertrain will be released during the Corvette news conference Monday. But Chevy unquestionably has been more aggressive in raising the bar for this new generation of its iconic sports car.

“We’re always trying to make performance more accessible,” said Tadge Juechter, Chevy’s chief engineer on the Corvette.

The base model ‘Vette — with 455 horsepower — packs as much punch as previous limited-edition models. The new Z06 could move into a realm previously occupied by the Corvette ZR1. That car, built from 2009 to 2013, was the fastest production model GM ever built. It used a 6.2-liter supercharged V-8 that produced 638 horsepower and 604 pound-feet of torque.

The ZR1 also pushed the Corvette marque past the $100,000 point for the first time. Yet even if the new Z06 steps into ZR1 performance territory, don’t expect the price to do the same. Chevy was keen on offering a wide range of Corvettes in the previous generation, and the Z06’s positionwon’t change.

Also on the debut docket is Subaru’s next-generation WRX STI. The STI picks up where the slightly more pedestrian WRX leaves off (that model was unveiled at the 2013 Los Angeles Auto Show in November). Both versions are turbocharged sedans loosely based on Subaru’s compact Impreza sedan and hatchback.

For the next-generation all-wheel-drive STI model, expect power to remain close to its predecessor’s numbers. That car squeezes 305 horsepower and 290 pound-feet of torque from a 2.5-liter, turbocharged boxer engine.

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