Detroit show: Land of the free, home of the pick-up

Despite talk of eco-cars the big draw is the new Ford F-150 pick-up


Detroit is, of course, an American car show so perhaps we’d better mention some of the Yankee metal on show there, even if these are cars that will likely never make an appearance (officially) on this side of the Atlantic.

The most significant all-American car (not really a car at all) to be introduced at the Detroit auto show is the new Ford F-150 pickup. For 37 years, the F-150 has been America’s most popular pickup and for 32 of those years, it was also the US’s best-selling vehicle of all. While pickups have a (justified) reputation for being simple to the point of crudity, this new F-150 has been designed not only to be lighter (by some 318kg) and more frugal, but also much more high-tech than before.

The key to frugality is the introduction of a new 2.7-litre EcoBoost turbo four cylinder engine, which Ford claims will offer unrivalled economy figures in the segment. New alloy parts which help trim the kerb weight will also help with that, but if you don’t fancy being cutting edge, more traditional 3.5-litre V6 and 5.0-litre V8 engines are also available.

On the high-tech front, the F-150 will be available with such items as active radiator grille shutters to improve both aerodynamics and engine warm-up, as well as an 8-inch TFT touchscreen infotainment system, integrated load ramps in the back, LED lights and active cruise control.

Those worrying that such high-tech is just “more things to go wrong” might be mollified to know that the F-150 has already competed (in disguise) in the gruelling Baja 1000 off-road rally.”More than ever before, customers want a truck that is a dependable partner, mobile office and a go-anywhere workshop,” said Raj Nair, Ford group vice president, Global Product Development. “To meet the needs of our truck customers, we created smart new features and a whole new approach to using advanced materials and engines to improve capability and efficiency.”

Across the hall, and somewhat lower down, two new version of America’s most famous supercars were being launched. The new seventh-generation Chevrolet Corvette has already been reaping plaudits for its design and dynamics, and that looks set to be repeated for this, the high-performance Z06 version. Closely related to the Le Mans and GT racing Corvette, the ZO6 will break with Corvette tradition and be offered with a new eight-speed automatic gearbox to cope with its monstrous 620hp power output.

There are no major mechanical changes to report on the Dodge Viper SRT - it keep its 640hp 8.4-litre V10 engine (and, sure, why wouldn’t you?) but there is a new Grand Touring version which is intended to plug the price gap between the ‘standard’ Viper and the more extreme GTS model. Most strikingly, it will be offered in this rather eye-scorching new Stryker Green paint finish - well, the Viper has never exactly been a shrinking violet. The GT model will also now get the trick traction control system which offers both ‘Full-Off’ and ‘Rain’ modes which was previously only the preserve of the range-topping GTS.

“We’re continuing to develop and build unique, low-volume, special-edition colours for the Viper that adds to the exclusivity of our American-built flagship supercar,” said Ralph Gilles, President and CEO, SRT Brand and Motorsports. “The application of the new Stryker Green exterior paint is a very detailed and intricate process, taking approximately eight hours to complete. The process first starts with a base colour coat followed by a green-tinted mid-coat and topped off with a clear finish.”

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