Mountain Wheels: Colorado-branded content shines at Detroit’s final winter auto show |

Mountain Wheels: Colorado-branded content shines at Detroit’s final winter auto show

Heading off to the North American International Auto Show, you get a much different view of how important Detroit once was — and still is, in some ways — to the American auto business.

This year’s show, notable not only for the lack of drinking water (a major water main broke the night before the media days began), was also the final January date for what once was the granddaddy of American car shows. It’s moving to a summer date, partially to avoid the January weather, but also to keep more in line with shows in Chicago and New York, which have started to steal the spotlight.

Among the dozens of debuts, the massive show floor felt very light on the high-end European companies who’ve opted not to participate for the past couple of years — so much so that Fiat/Chrysler-owned Alfa Romeo was really the sole European luxury carmaker in the entire joint.

That was fortuitous as I got to roll around southeastern Michigan for about 36 hours in a Alfa Romeo Giulia Ti Sport, a vehicle whose iconoclastic European charms, one-of-a-kind styling and impressive power and handling helped me keep up with all the Chargers and Challengers doing 100 MPH on Michigan Avenue.

First, a quick recap of the action at Cobo Hall, the biggest but least obvious of which was a lot of meetings taking place between American car companies and legislators and Chinese investors, seeking to reconfigure the ever-changing automaking landscape. You may have also heard about the new alliance inked between Ford and Volkswagen, which promises to combine resources to produce both commercial and passenger vehicles.

Out on the show floor, there were more Colorado-themed products than one could imagine, the most obvious being the new Kia Telluride SUV and its city block-sized off-road diorama, displaying the new, boxy three-row machine in all of its beefy glory.

Telluride (especially in the aftermarket-part-laden version seen here) is the somewhat more intense-looking cousin to the Hyundai Palisade (maybe another Colorado reference there), with lines that blend Cadillac and Lincoln influences. We hope to drive it soon, maybe in Telluride.

The Telluride shared the floor with the new and extra-rugged Bison edition of the Chevy Colorado mid-sized pickup and a track-mounted GMC Sierra blazing Vail Resorts signage, all suggesting we Coloradans are living the dream, I guess.

Toyota’s much-anticipated Supra was probably the most Facebooked vehicle of the event, a new, sleek rendition of the long-absent Toyota sports car. It was created in concert with BMW and its new Z4 coupe, and promises to be a summertime champ.

Congrats go out to Ram and its 1500 pickup for nabbing the show’s Truck of the Year award, with the event also serving as a debut for the 2019 Ram Heavy Duty, a beast with 1,000 lb.-ft. of torque from its 6.7-liter Cummins turbodiesel and the ability to pull as much as 35,100 pounds.

Ford also pulled the shock-and-awe card with the debut of its ridiculously loud and fast 700-horsepower Mustang Shelby GT 500 — danger, Will Robinson — but kept things grounded with the release of its all-new Explorer SUV, also available in hybrid form and an intriguing-sounding, 400-horsepower ST edition.

Subaru devoted its showtime to the first full-blown Subaru Tecnica International S model sold in the U.S, an even more amped-up WRX STI called the S209, which will be available in limited numbers later this year – to the delight of racer dudes everywhere.

Before and after the show, I appreciated the time I got in the Alfa Romeo, still just one of three models the Italian carmaker offers in the U.S. (including the Stelvio SUV, now available in a RWD-only model, and the very sporty 4C Spider two-seater).

Giulia is about as exotic as you can get in the greater Chrysler family, and it’s still a steal, with my 280-horsepower four-cylinder turbo model starting at about $42,000, bumped up to $51,885 with all-wheel-drive, 19-inch wheels and upgraded leather and aluminum trim.

That turbo-powered engine is a screamer and a set of the biggest aluminum wheel paddle-shifters you’ll find this side of a real exotic come in handy for modulating the power — or keeping it buzzing while contending with the aforementioned Chargers.

For 2019, those optional 19-inch, five-holed wheels will come standard, and a special, blackened-out Nero Edizione or carbon fiber interior and exterior upgrades are also available, as is the intriguing Ice/Ice interior scheme, baby.

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