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Corvette brings muscle back to Detroit

The Corvette Z06, which won car of the year in Detroit.

A fleet of 50 Corvette Stingrays formed an escort convoy for the Z06, the “big nasty” track version of the General Motors prize-winning sportscar, in an echo of the glory days of the Detroit motor show. Helicopter footage of the convoy, which started 30km away at GM's technical centre in Warren, was beamed to a screen in the shape of Chevrolet's bow-tie badge to a huge waiting crowd at the Cobo centre in downtown Detroit.

Just a few hours earlier, the Corvette had given GM a clean sweep of the North American vehicle awards after the Chevrolet Silverado pick-up was named Truck of the Year. “I can't tell you how honoured we are to win both car and truck of the year,” GM product chief Mark Reuss told the crowd as the Z06 arrived on stage. 

He said the Z06, which packs a supercharged 6.2-litre V8 under the bonnet and has already blitzed GM's test track record, was the “big nasty” and “the most amazing Corvette we've ever built”. 

“It's a world class supercar to rival any exotic,” he said. Traditional sportscars that press enthusiasts' buttons took Detroit motor show by storm on the opening day, with Asian brands joining the party. Toyota sprang one of the show's few surprises with the FT1, a design study for a “sexy halo sportscar” that was first developed in virtual reality as part of the Gran Turismo computer racing game.

The idea came from Toyota's California design studio and it won over company boss Akio Toyoda, who drives race-cars in his spare time and is on a mission to put excitement into the brand. The FT1 has yet to be approved for production but wowed the Detroit crowd with its curvaceous surfaces, “slingshot” cockpit and visible -- but unspecified -- internal combustion engine.

Studio chief Alex Shun said it had been a two-year “labour of love” that revived Toyota's heritage of producing sportscars, such as the Supra. Pure driving pleasure was also the target at Kia with its GT4 Stinger, a front-engine, rear-drive, 2+2 designed as a tribute to “traditional sportscar values”.

Its six designers, all dressed in black suits and ties in the manner of characters from the film Reservoir Dogs, played to the stand's movie theme after Hollywood trivia questions had amused the waiting crowd.
Porsche was another to win over the cynical motor show audience with its 911 Targa and a “world first” folding roof system.

The entire rear panel and domed glass lift up and back to give the roof panels room to fold behind the cabin. Porsche chief Matthias Mueller said the Targa version of the 911 dated back to 1965 and the latest edition harked back to styling elements of the original.

Most luxury brands, including Porsche, boasted record sales in 2013 and expect a repeat this year. BMW remains the luxury leader with 1.65 million buyers last year and it made a double pitch for the enthusiast dollar with two models from its M performance division. The M3 sedan and M4 adopt a turbocharged inline six-cylinder engine instead of the previous V8 but have more power, at 317kW, and are 25 per cent more fuel efficient.




Philip King
Contributing Journalist
Philip King is a former CarsGuide contributor, and currently is Motoring Editor at The Australian newspaper. He is an automotive expert with decades of experience, and specialises in industry news.
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