Motor City Makeovers

in Events

SEMA News—March 2019


By David Hakim

Motor City Makeovers

As the domestic auto makers shift away from sedans and coupes, trucks and SUVs dominated the 2019 North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) held in the heart of Detroit. With less emphasis on autonomous vehicles at this year’s show, many of the manufacturers focused on trucks and SUVs that are powerful, highly capable and technically advanced. Many of them will make great raw material for aftermarket parts manufacturers.

Just as in the horsepower wars of the ’60s, some of today’s truck (and even SUV) buyers brag about horsepower and torque, but that eventually leads to discussions of towing capacity and even how much drywall and lumber the vehicles can haul. With sales of light- and medium-duty trucks once again booming due to lower gas and diesel prices, much of the Motor City show floor resembled a parking lot at Home Depot
or Lowe’s.

Still, don’t think that the OEMs have totally given up on building hot cars. The demand might be more limited, but there are still ravenous gearheads out there willing to plunk down their hard-earned paychecks on something that doesn’t have a bed or fall into a “utility” category. This year’s introductions saw the return of nostalgia-based, iconic performance-car nameplates such as the Toyota Supra and the Shelby Mustang.

The following is a snapshot of what the automakers unveiled at the 2019 NAIAS in Detroit.

’19 RAM

'19 RAM

The ’19 RAM 1500 has been out for more than six months and offers aftermarket companies endless possibilities, from street cruiser to off-road prowler. With the 5.7L Hemi under the RAM’s long hood, there are already performance parts that will bolt on and increase the power levels well past the factory’s 395hp rating.

The ’19 RAM Heavy Duty was center stage at NAIAS, claiming the crown as the most powerful and capable pickup in the segment. Equipped with the Cummins engine, the RAM HD is rated to tow up to 35,100 lbs., with never- before-seen earth-moving torque of 1,000 lb.-ft. at just 1,800 rpm and 400 horses at 2,800 rpm.

The new cylinder block is made from compacted graphite iron and is more than 60 lbs. lighter than the previous-generation engine. The RAM’s engineers also played with the exhaust manifold and developed an improved variable-geometry turbocharger with laminated heat shields. The new setup delivers boost of up to 33 psi.

All of the ’19 RAM trucks have completely redesigned interiors with new premium materials, colors and textures, including hand-wrapped leather instrument panels for unexpected luxury throughout the cabin. There are also more than 100 safety and security features, including adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking (AEB) and AEB with trailer brakes. Plus there’s a Uconnect 4C navigation system with a 12-in., fully configurable screen. The 17-speaker Harman Kardon sound system includes a thumping 750 watts and SiriusXM 360L. Apple CarPlay is an available option.

’19 RAM Power Wagon

A new RAM Power Wagon is coming in the second quarter of 2019, and it will carry a 410hp 6.4L Hemi V8 with cylinder deactivation and variable cam timing. The engine is capable of 429 lb.-ft. of torque.

Along with its loud-and-proud stripes, the Power Wagon receives a more aggressive grille and will also have a unique suspension with a factory lift, locking front and rear differentials, and a disconnecting sway bar. Also new to the Power Wagon this year is a 360-degree camera that includes forward-view gridlines in the display to help navigate obstacles. The integrated, front-mounted Warn Zeon-12 12,000-lb. winch is more maneuverable and is fitted with a new synthetic line that won’t kink or fray.

’20 Shelby GT500

'20 Shelby GT500

When the ’20 Shelby GT500 was dramatically lowered from its NAIAS stage, Blue Oval gearheads got a car that can play with the Dodge Challenger SRT Demon and Hellcat. Ford claims that it is the most powerful Ford production car ever, based on the GT500’s handbuilt, supercharged, 5.2L aluminum-alloy engine. The engineers and marketing folks were coy with the official power numbers at the show, saying only that the horsepower mark will be well north of 700. One trick piece tucked neatly into the V8 engine valley is an inverted 2.65L roots-type supercharger with an air-to-liquid intercooler.

Only one transmission will be offered in the ’20 Shelby GT500: a Tremec seven-speed, dual-clutch unit that can shift smoothly in less than 100 milliseconds, which is much faster than a human can do it with a manual gearbox. The transmission will incorporate a number of drive modes, including normal, slippery, sport, drag and track, and it features a line-lock and an rpm-selectable launch control through track apps.

The GT500’s other features include Michelin tires, Brembo brakes, revised suspension geometry, new electronic power steering, lighter-weight front and rear coil springs, and Ford’s next-generation active MagneRide, all of which will make the ’20 Shelby GT500 a legitimate track car. According to Ford spokesmen, the ’20 Shelby GT500 will be an honest 11-sec. quarter-miler. With drag radials and some aftermarket parts, it could be made into a low-10-sec. machine when it goes on sale later in 2019.

’19 Ranger

2019 Ranger

Midsize pickups are making a comeback, and Ford’s new Ranger is leading the convoy. Shown to the public for the first time at last year’s NAIAS, production began in October, and the Ranger is now hitting the dealer showrooms and filling a sweet spot among buyers with its best-in-class payload and towing.

With EPA-estimated fuel-economy ratings of 21 mpg city, 26 highway and 23 combined, the Ranger is the most fuel-efficient gas-powered midsize pickup in America, thanks in part to its 2.3L EcoBoost four-cylinder gasoline engine. Making 270 hp and 310 lb.-ft. of torque, the powerplant betters many V6 offerings in midsize truck segment.

The Ranger comes in at 7,500 lbs. of towing capacity with the 2.3L and available tow package and 1,860 lbs. of maximum payload.

’20 Explorer ST

2020 Explorer

Ford also introduced an all-new ’20 Explorer. It’s a complete redesign of the model it replaces, and the engineers made sure to incorporate smart new technologies such as Ford Co-Pilot360. That system includes myriad driver-assist technologies ranging from pre-collision assist with automatic emergency braking to a blind-spot information system with cross-traffic alert.

Powering the ’20 Explorer will be the 2.3L EcoBoost engine, and enthusiasts will be happy to know that an optional 3.0L turbocharged EcoBoost V6 will be available. The larger engine is slated to produce 365 hp and 380 lb.-ft. of torque on 93-octane gas.

In addition, a new Ford Explorer ST is coming soon to play with the likes of the Dodge Durango SRT, the Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT, the Porsche Cayenne, the Range Rover Sport HSE and other hot-rod SUVs. Motivating the Explorer ST (and borrowed from its Lincoln cousins) will be a 400hp, twin-turbocharged 3.0L V6 engine that churns out 415 lb.-ft. of torque.

The Explorer ST is a 143-mph people hauler, but also look for an even crazier trim level known as the ST Track Package coming soon. Both ST models will ride on 21-in. aluminum wheels and upgraded brakes with red-painted calipers.

’19 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2


The Chevrolet Colorado is another player in the midsize truck market. Now on the road for four years, the Colorado has a solid foothold in the segment and delivers surprisingly good performance for its owners.

The top dog in the line is the ZR2 package, which includes front and rear locking differentials, a 2-in.-lifted suspension, tapered front bumpers for increased tire clearance for rock crawling and off-roading, a more aggressive grille and hood, and 17x8-in. wheels with 31-in. Goodyear Wrangler tires. Chevrolet claims that the Colorado ZR2 is the most capable off-road truck in its class.

Powering the ZR2 is a standard 3.6L V6, and a 2.8L turbodiesel is also available. With many Colorados in more sedate trim, the demand for owners to upfit to more off-road capability through aftermarket parts is likely to be high in coming years.

’19 Chevrolet Silverado


While it was first shown in preproduction form at the 2018 NAIAS event, Chevy’s fullsize workhouse is all new for 2019. The Silverado boasts best-in-class towing and payload, but customers will once again be looking to add more power, more off-road ability and products to personalize their Silverados to fit their lifestyles.

The Silverado is available with a slew of engines, including the LS-series small-blocks that high-performance aftermarket companies have tons of goodies for. Chevy also offers numerous packages, including the new RST setup, which adds a street performance appearance, and the LT, which features body-color trim, full LED lighting (foglamps, headlamps and taillamps) and up to 22-in. wheels with all-season tires.

Those who deal with mud and trails can order the LT Trail Boss, which adds off-road equipment to the LT package and includes a 2-in. suspension lift and the Z71 off-road package. The Z71 grouping provides a locking rear differential, skidplates, Rancho shocks, 18-in. wheels and Goodyear Duratrac off-road tires.

’19 Subaru WRX STI S209


Subaru debuted its stunning, first-ever STI-infused S-line vehicle at Detroit as a limited edition. Those who thought Subaru was getting away from the tuner market can think again. The S209 will be a giant slayer, with an estimated 341 hp from the legendary EJ25 2.5L turbocharged Boxer engine. The S209 also received new bodywork that includes wide fenders, front canards and a rear wing.

The WRX STI S209 has a track-focused suspension and will roll on 19x9-in. BBS wheels and 265/35 Dunlop SP Sport Maxx GT600A tires. The two exterior-color/BBS wheel combinations are WR blue pearl with gray wheels and crystal white pearl with gold wheels. Brembo six-piston brakes with high-friction pads will haul the S209 down in a hurry.

Approximately 200 units of the STI S209 will be built and are earmarked exclusively for U.S. shores. The interior of the WRX STI S209 will have a serial-number badge on the center console and S209 badges fixed to the headrests of the Recaro seats.

Subaru will release pricing later this year.

’20 Toyota GR Supra


Along with Ford’s resurrection of the much-hallowed GT500 at the NAIAS in Detroit, Toyota took the wraps off its revered GR Supra nameplate. Toyota is finally back in the rear-wheel-drive sportscar market. The marque’s hardcore enthusiasts are jumping joy, and so should the aftermarket industry.

The ’20 GR Supra will share many components from the BMW parts bin, and that’s a good thing. The engine is a BMW B58 turbocharged, direct-injected, 3.0L inline six that puts out 335 hp and 365 lb.-ft. of torque, and the sole transmission is a ZF eight-speed automatic. Top speed is estimated at 155 mph, with 0–60 coming at 4.1 sec.

Toyota engineers tweaked the chassis and suspension to achieve a near 50/50 weight balance, keeping the scales just under 3,400 lbs. through the use of aluminum and composite materials. The initial run will have 19-in. wheels wrapped in 255/35ZR19 front and 275/35ZR19 rear Michelin Pilot Super Sport summer tires. Later Supra models will come standard with 18-in. wheels.

The ’20 Toyota Supra will be built at the BMW Magna Steyr assembly plant in Graz, Austria, and will be on sale later this year.

’20 Jeep Gladiator


Introduced late last year at the LA Auto Show, Jeep’s new Gladiator pickup has been the talk of the automotive press and off-road enthusiast community. The Gladiator shares numerous components with the Wrangler and has best-in-class towing and 4x4 payload—up to 7,650-lb. towing and a 1,600-lb. payload capacity. All Gladiators come with a 5-ft. steel bed and crew cab only.

The 3.6L Pentastar V6 engine will power the Gladiator, delivering 285 hp and 260 lb.-ft. of torque. The 260 hp 3.0L EcoDiesel engine will be available starting in 2020, and it will kick out 442 lb.-ft. of torque. The Gladiator’s transmission choices are a standard six-speed manual or an optional eight-speed automatic.

We can expect to see numerous Jeep Gladiators at this year’s SEMA Show, since it’s likely that Wrangler specialists will find direct crossover opportunities and quickly embrace the new truck.

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