Slick Alfas, Massive Titans, Cool Minivans, and Smart(er) Super Duties
With so much to absorb at the Houston Auto Show I decided to cover what I think you, the reader, will find most interesting. What follows is a highlight reel of what you can expect to see sitting in dealership showrooms in the not-too-distant future.
For my fellow millennials who do not remember a time when Italian auto makers Fiat and Alfa Romeo were being sold in the United States, there was an optimistic tone in the air when Alfa Romeo introduced their 2017 Giulia Quadrifoglio. Fiat and Alfa Romeo want to move on and redeem themselves from their “Fix It Again, Tony” days and the 2017 Giulia looks to be the car that “puts Alfa Romeo back on the map.” In high-performance spec, the Giulia Quadrifoglio is a 4-door sports sedan equipped with carbon fiber racing seats, and is propelled by a twin turbo V6 cranking out over 500 horsepower bolted to a manual 6-speed transmission. The Giulia’s Black Magic Woman headlights are aimed directly at its M3/AMG rivals. Setting a lap time of under 8 minutes at Germany’s Nurburgring track means it has a real shot at being perceived as an M3 with slicked-back hair. And while a ‘cooking’ four cylinder engine option is planned, it will happen – but only on Alfa’s calendar. (And they use a different calendar than anyone else…ed.)
I have never been excited about minivans, except when taking my mom’s Kia Sedona up to 120 mph(!) at 18. However, when Chrysler presented the 2017 Pacifica even a young single guy like me had to do a double take. It looks great – and with its available hybrid model the new Pacifica has a range of 30 miles using just its electric motor; dropping off the kids at school or soccer practice could mean using no fuel at all. Notably, the Pacifica is not a Town and Country or Caravan with a facelift. Instead, it is a brand new design from the wheels up. One thing that caught my eye was the steering wheel, the first steering wheel on a modern car that not only grabbed my attention but I actually found pretty. And the Pacifica does have a V6 option for those that want the extra power. One journalist asked, jokingly, if a Hellcat version would be in the works as well. I wouldn’t hold my breath on that, but the imagination does wonder how it would turn out.
Texas and trucks go together like steak and potatoes. Ford was on stage to introduce their new 2017 Super Duty series. With headlights that reminded me of Tron, Ford says it is “the most capable Super Duty ever.” Pickup trucks used to be seen as simple machines used to haul and tow the labor of the day; now they are 8,000-pound smart tablets on wheels. The 2017 Super Duty is designed to make the job easier for its owner by working smarter as well as harder.
Super Duties can be equipped with seven cameras to make sure you never lose sight of a fender or bumper on the road; one can even be attached to the back of a trailer so you can see what the trailer sees when backing it up. That is the kind of feature that can make someone go “Why didn’t I think of that?” Endlessly.
The relaunch of the Nissan Titan is something a lot of us have been looking forward to. And in the finished product it seems like Nissan wanted to capture the best from each competitor and make a ‘greatest hits’ pickup truck. Offering the size of a Silverado, a power plant brand best known in a Ram, looks that resemble a Ford and the presence of Toyota’s Tundra, the Titan seems to offer something for everyone. For those that have seen only magazine or online reviews of the new Titan, know the truck looks better – and much larger – in person. I’m not the tallest guy around, but getting out of the Titan required me to cushion the fall by bending my knees. I predict the Nissan Titian will have the same effect on a Nissan showroom as the Toyota Tundra did when it debuted it’s new, larger body design.