Annnnnnd we are back. February’s been a busy month for our weekly automotive news and, being a short month, we’ve slowed down the frequency of our podcasts a bit. Why? Because news stories move at a slower rate when subjected to cold temperatures. I mean, that’s just science. So let’s get down to some February headlines before we resume the weekly updates from this point on.
Kicking things off, the 111th Chicago Auto Show ran from February 9th to 18th at McCormick Place in the windy city taking up over a million square feet of exhibition space. But as the show approached, the industry looked on curiously, interested in whether the show would prove impactful as with December’s L.A. Auto Show and January’s Consumer Electronics Show, or lackluster as with January’s Detroit Auto Show. And by all accounts it was more of the former, with no shortage of things to talk about — so let’s get down to it.
Ford got the party started with their reveal of the 2020 Ford Super-Duty, complete with redesigned front facia and the option of a new 7.3-liter V8 engine, mated to a 10-speed transmission (with performance specs yet to be confirmed). Also available with a 6.2-liter V8 good for 385 horsepower or the 6.7-liter turbocharged diesel, good for 450 horsepower the Super-Duty features a wide-range of tech and comfort-based amenities across its six trim levels. And new tech options include a Pro Trailering system, and the include of 4G LTE Wi-Fi.
Which segues perfectly into Chevy’s unveiling of their new HD redesign. Stripped of its bowtie badging the bold and unapologetic Silverado comes with either a 401 horsepower 6.6-liter V8 that delivers 464 lb-ft of torque, or the optional 445 hp turbodiesel V8 that offers a thundering 910 lb-ft of torque. Still overshadowed by the RAM HD in terms of torque rating, the Silverado returns the shaming with a 35,500 tow rating (when properly equipped).
Switching gears, industry insiders have been sprinkling speculation in heavy doses, implying that the 2020 Dodge Charger will be receiving a wide-body option as its stablemate, the Challenger, had received in 2018. Expected to come hand-in-hand with the R/t Scat Pack or SRT Hellcat variants, the option would 3.5-inches of width. This, of course, would predate the full redesign (and implementation of electric-assisted performance engines) expected for 2021.
Depending on who’s counting, the Toyota Land Cruiser has been around for the better part of 7 decades. But Toyota has decided to draw a hard line and offer up the 2020 Heritage Edition as a 60th anniversary tribute to the iconic SUV’s legacy. Sitting on bronze 18-inch BBS wheels, the shadowy 5-seating beast feels purpose-built, designed for overloading more than passenger convenience. The opened grille enjoys blacked accents while retro badging helps to further its unique aesthetic, and a 5.7-liter V8 partners with an eight-speed automatic transmission to deliver 381 horses through the full-time four-wheel drive system. But be warned: only 1200 Heritage Edition Land Cruisers will be built.
And speaking of Toyota,, one of the most widely-publicized teases leading up to Chicago was in anticipation of their 2020 Tacoma reveal. But despite the intense heat of that anticipation, many have gone on to describe the refresh as ‘mild’, at best. A new grille and tweaked lighting design prove most prevalent, but it would be hard to argue that the impact of the reveal was and appropriate response to the high-level of anticipation. That said, the inclusion of the TRD Sport and Off-Road models helped to spice up the reveals, especially with the latter’s inclusion of a Multi-Terrain Monitor empowering the driver with greater visibility of what lies beneath.
And Nissan sets out to prove that they’re not resting on their laurels by gifting a smart makeover to their ever-popular subcompact Rogue sport crossover. Boasting a restyled front fascia, complete with Vmotion grille and outward-sweeping headlamps, the Rogue Sport feels fully refreshed. And this is only furthered by two bold new metallic colors, in Nitro Lime and Monarch Orange. No changes have been made to the 2.0-liter I4 engine, but Nissan has upped their preventative measures by making their Safety Shield 360 suite available on all trim levels.
And of course Mazda is celebrating the 30th anniversary of the MX-5 Miata in 2019 and, looking to the future, the future appears to be…orange? Intended to evoke the “breaking dawn of an exciting new day”, the racing orange MX-5 boasted no significant mechanical changes from current model year offerings. However, Mazda’s decision to adapt and enhance the Club trim aesthetic, complete with BBS/Brembo/Recaro/ Bilstein performance features spoke of confidence. With all 500 production models due for the US, sold, the reveal might not mean anything of note to the masses. But it certainly provided a zesty and fired up visual, almost uncharacteristic of KIA’s soul red branding, and generated some legitimate excitement.
But moving away from the events of the Chicago Auto Show, let’s look at some of the other headlines that have popped up in recent weeks.
Ford has announced that they’ve enlisted the aid of outside consultants to investigate fuel economy, out of concern that they had presented false information to regulators and consumers alike. Eager to differentiate the scenario from Volkswagen’s so-called Diesel-gate, Ford was quick to clarify that defeat devices were not to blame from the disparity of information. That said, this is not the first time Ford has been involved in the discussion of inaccurate fuel economy claims. In fact, previous issues have arisen twice before in the last decade alone. The EPA has yet to get involved, pending the findings of the independent counsel, but updates will inevitably come.
And as if Chevy wasn’t already feeling the burn of excess inventory, it’s widely believed that the anticipated release of the mid-engine C8 Corvette is sabotaging sales of the C7, equating to a 232-day supply of over 9000 unsold vehicles. Having peaked in sales back in 2016, the C7 could prove more enticing if GM were to offer rebates, or specialized incentives to spur purchases. Otherwise, the majority of enthusiasts will be far more likely to hold out for the C8.
And in other GM news, the 2020 GMC Acadia all be gaining another engine configuration, in the form of 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder paired to a nine-speed automatic transmission capable of 230hp. This will be offered in addition to the base 2.5-liter four-cylinder which delivers 193 hp and the 3.6-liter V6 which churns out 310 horse.
Toyota is currently enjoying a few new checks in the Win column, courtesy of Consumer Reports 2019 Top Picks. Recognition includes a “Best Subcompact Car” win for the Yaris, a “Best Large Car” for the Avalon Hybrid, “Best Hybrid/Electric Car” for the Prius and “Best Midsized Car” for the Camry Hybrid.
In proving that innovation makes for strange bedfellows, rivals BMW and Daimler have joined forces in a $1 Billion strategy to develop ride-sharing and parking services, which they are calling a “global game changer”. Not entirely dissimilar from the Ford/Volkswagen partnership, the goal is to challenge the likes of Uber, Lyft and Google who are looking to redefine the transportation industry to fit their own designs.
And Audi has revealed a plan to reduce costs by $17 billion, including the streamlining of both their powertrain configurations as well as their management team.
One of our favorite headlines in recent weeks surrounds Volkswagen’s decision to resurrect – of all things – the iconic Dune Buggy as an EV concept car. Known as the Meyers Manx, the polished version of old school water pumpers helped to birth the first generation of recreational off-roaders. The newly realized version is build upon VW’s highly-highly-publicized MEB platform, and while time will tell if this revived concept ever sees the light of day in terms of the production line, it will be exciting to see the reveal at the upcoming Geneva Auto Show.
Which will also present the unveiling of Hyundai’s Tucson N, a 340 hp variant of the classic Tucson with a modified suspension, and “motorsport-influenced details inside and out”. In fact, Hyundai claims that the sportier design will be indicative of their what’s to come for the South Korean brand.
And, of course, the 89th Annual Geneva Auto Show is coming up on March 7th. While we still have just under a couple of weeks until those headlines begin rolling in, we’re already seeing some exciting teases. I mean, even KIA and Mitsubishi have us waiting with bated breath – and if that’s not a strong indication – we don’t know what is. Factor in genuine anticipation over the Audi Q4 e-Tron concept and 110th anniversary edition of the Bugatti Chiron Sport and it’s hard not to appreciate what we might see in Geneva.
We’ll see you back in few days, as we wrap up February headlines. In the meantime, have a great one.