THE DETROIT STORY
2012 North American Int'l Auto Show
This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!
Published on Sat, Jan 21, 2012
By: The LACar Editorial Staff
Just a few years ago, they were left for dead. Talk of bankruptcy and bailouts filled the air, and the talk applied as much to Detroit as it did to its auto industry. Today, the talk is about a come-back city with the come-back industry. Auto sales are booming. Attendance at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit is the best in five years. Chris Merlo and Mark Dapoz were there to witness the historic resurrection of the American car industry. Words by Christopher Merlo Pictures by Mark Dapoz BACK IN THE BLACK The domestic automakers are once again profitable, the Germans are growing and the Koreans are surging which all makes for an upbeat mood at the 2012 North American International Auto Show. Continuing our tradition, here is a brief summary of some of the trends and general observations at this year’s show and press events. • Automakers continue their relentless push to round out their portfolios with small cars and entry-level luxury vehicles all in pursuit of the youth market and first-time buyers. • Detroit continues to be the auto show to premier concepts and production cars and crossovers. There was not a single new truck introduction. • Both Toyota and Honda are refocusing their brands. • The automaker without a hybrid in its lineup is now the exception. Plus, automakers are now beginning to move into second- and third-generation hybrid designs. • Makers continue to trumpet their achievements in fuel economy and how they are achieving improved numbers be it lightweight construction, engine refinements, electrification and so forth. • Connectivity solutions for “hands-free” phone operation while driving are the norm. • As manufactures continue to hammer away at attracting new buyers and retaining customers especially in the compact, midsize, crossover and entry luxury segments they are placing greater emphasis on design to distinguish their “appliances” from the competition. Indeed, many automakers in their press conferences stressed the need to provide a driving experience that emotionally connects with the driver while others emphasized customization to “make it yours”. That’s a brief overview, now here’s a quick look and review of the stars of the show.
2013 Acura RDX Crossover – World Debut Looking to reinvigorate its brand, Acura took to the world stage of NAIAS to introduce three models. First up, the second-generation of the five-passenger RDX luxury crossover. They called it a prototype that puts it just a notch above concept on the road to showrooms. Powered by a 3.5L V6 mated to a six-speed automatic transmission for 273 hp (33 more than the outgoing model) and improved fuel economy of 20 mpg in the city and 28 on the highway. The front-wheel-drive RDX will also be available with an optional new AWD system. In showrooms this spring.
2013 Acura ILX Concept – World Debut This is a directional peek at an all-new sedan targeted at the highly competitive and growing luxury compact segment. Acura talks about it as the gateway to the brand. The sedan will offer 3 powertrains including a 2.0L and 2.4L and a 1.5L hybrid, Acura’s first. Scheduled to launch this spring and priced below $30,000.
Acura NSX Concept – World Debut To call this one of the most highly anticipated debuts of this year’s show is an understatement. What with the prestige, heritage and shear panache of having developed and marketed the first Japanese supercar that many claim challenged the Italian exotics, you’d be surprised if we all weren’t clamoring to get a first look. In fact, when you consider that this revered pinnacle of the Acura brand ended production in 2005, it’s been a long time in coming for enthusiasts. Acura did not disappoint both on the design and the unexpected. After all, this is 2012 and what automaker would conscientiously introduce a supercar that was not environmentally correct? Given the economy, what could be more politically correct than creating jobs in the States? Acura and the new NSX hit on all counts and then some. Number one: it is a hybrid with a mid-engine V6. Number two: it is more than a concept; it is going into production within 3 years and will be sold globally. And it will be developed by Acura R&D here in the U.S. with plans for assembly in Ohio. Once again, Acura (Honda) will have a stunning platform to showcase its technology and automotive acumen. In fact, (hint) don’t be surprised to see to see the NSX enter the motorsports arena.
2013 Audi S4 Both the A4 and S4 (pictured) receive a minor refresh for 2013. The sportier and high-performance Quattro all-wheel-drive S4 comes standard with a 3.0L 333 hp engine paired with a six-speed manual transmission.
Audi Q3 Vail Crossover Concept – World Debut Audi seeks inspiration from the mecca of winter sports with the debut of the Q3 Vail crossover. This compact SUV clearly puts Audi into the fray of what is becoming a popular market – the premium entry-level crossover segment. Sporting an “Energy Red” exterior, the all-wheel-drive Q3 is powered by a 2.5L five-cylinder, 314 hp turbocharged engine paired with a seven-speed transmission. Audi confirmed that this is more than a concept; the Q3 goes into production at the end 2013.
2013 Bentley Continental GT and GTC V8 – World Debut This debut is simply the addition of a new 4.0L twin turbo V8 engine to its Continental lineup.
BMW 3-Series Sedan and ActiveHybrid 3 BMW’s best-selling model, and making its North American debut is the sixth generation of the 3-Series coming to showrooms this February. Introduced in Germany last October, the new 3 is also joined by the hybrid model that combines a six-cylinder gas engine and an electric drive capable of delivering 335 hp and 37 mpg.
2013 Buick Encore Crossover – World Debut As noted, every automaker is fixated on the entry level of its vehicle lineup. Enter the new five-passenger Buick Encore, designed to compete in the compact, premium crossover segment. Built on a dedicated platform, Encore features signature Buick design cues – waterfall grille, chrome accents and portholes on the hood. A1.4L turbo engine paired with 6-speed automatic transmission delivers 140 hp and 148 lb.-ft. of torque. Encore goes on sale in early 2013.
2013 Chevrolet Sonic RS Last year Chevy introduced its new entry in the subcompact segment, the Sonic. With a focus on attracting young and first-time buyers Chevy ups the fun factor with this RS equipped with a 1.4L Turbo that kicks out 138 hp and 148 lb. feet of torque. A unique grill, fog lamps and RS styling features round out the package.
Chevrolet Concepts – World Debuts Chevrolet continues its mission to attract young buyers to its showrooms with these two concepts. Automakers will frequently use concepts to test the market and evaluate consumer reaction. In this case, Chevrolet is using these concepts to test two very different looks. Chevrolet Tru 140s is based on the front-wheel-drive architecture of the Cruze and offers a fast, sleek design with loads of style evoking the look of exotic Italian cars.
Chevrolet Code 130r is a rear-wheel-drive coupe that conjures the muscle cars of the past.
2013 Dodge Dart -- World Debut Dodge (and the new Chrysler Group) is itching to get back into the performance game in the highly competitive compact car segment – the largest and most contested in the U.S. market. Dodge is resurrecting the Dart nameplate for this European Alfa Romeo Giulietta platform modified for the U.S. market. Look for the car to hit the market in the later half of the year. Available with a choice of three all-new engines matched to three transmissions including a 6-speed manual. Also loaded with an array of technologies. Dodge is putting an emphasis on customization – a bow to the youth market – by offering a slew of MOPAR accessories, five models and twelve colors. Dodge is shooting for 41 mpg and pricing that begins south of $16K.
2013 Ford Fusion -- World Debut Wow! Ford raises the bar in the midsized segment with the all-new Fusion. Only days old this newborn is already winning buzz and awards. Indeed, the world debut of the new Fusion opened the media days at NAIAS and sent the message that the domestic automakers are back in stride and playing for keeps. There is a lot to like here and Ford is playing the big chips in what is the most important segment in the car market. And it’s not just the stunning looks and overall finesse of the new Fusion that is sparking the conversation. Consider the fact that like the Taurus this car will be a showcase for numerous Ford technologies including MyFord Touch connectivity; lane-departure warning; two EcoBoost engines (turbo); and choice of three driving configurations: conventional fuel, hybrid and plug-in hybrid rated at 37, 47 and 100 mpg respectively. Available in showrooms this fall.
2013 Honda Accord Coupe Concept – World Debut After 30 years of production in the U.S., Honda is about to bring the 9th generation Accord to market. This is a sneak peek at what’s to come. Certainly the chips are high given the fact that Honda is looking to make a comeback after a very tough 2011. The athletic and aggressive styling of this concept certainly delivers but keep in mind that the Accord faces off against some pretty highly rated midsized sedans – think Sonata, Optima and Fusion. So the stakes are high and the bar is constantly being raised in this hotly contested segment. Design aside, and that’s not to marginalize its significance when all things such as quality, reliability and value are equal. So, not unexpectedly Honda is playing its trump card and counting on its strengths, After all, one might consider Honda more of an engine powerhouse than a design house. The new Accord will feature three all-new powertrains. It will be the first Honda in the U.S. to receive the new Earth Dreams 2.4L-liter, 16-valve DOHC i-VTEC® four-cylinder engine. The engine will be paired to a 6-speed manual transmission or a new Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT). Output is rated at 181 hp and 177 lb.-ft. of torque. Next is a re-engineered 3.5L 24-valve, SOHC, i-VTEC V-6 engine, paired to a new 6-speed automatic transmission or an available 6-speed manual transmission. Expect increased horsepower and torque compared to the current V6. And finally, the 2013 Accord will feature the first application of a new two-motor plug-in hybrid system. The coupe and sedan go on sale this fall. The Accord Plug-In Hybrid will launch next winter.
2013 Hyundai Veloster Turbo – World Debut Just a year after introducing the exciting Veloster sport coupe, Hyundai turns up the fun-to-drive factor with this turbo version. Going head to head against the likes of the Volkswagen GTI, Honda Civic Si and Mini Cooper S, it is powered by a 1.6L Turbo mated to a six-speed manual or automatic. The engine puts out an impressive 201 hp giving Veloster a number of best-in-class claims including output per liter (125+ hp), weight to power ratio and fuel economy (38 mpg). The “turbo” package includes a number of exterior styling cues including a really cool (and affordable) matte finish. Arriving in showrooms this summer.
2013 Hyundai Genesis Coupe Turbo – World Debut That’s right. Hyundai took the wraps off two turbo models. The second, a midcyle freshening of the rear-wheel-drive Genesis coupe. The redesigned front fascia, grille, headlights, hood and wheels give it a more aggressive look. The 2.0L turbo can be paired with an 8-speed transmission (manual or automatic) and delivers 274 hp and 275 lb.- ft. of torque. There is of course a non-turbo version available that is powered by a 3.8-liter V6 engine rated at 348 hp and 295 lb.-ft. of torque.
Lexus LF-LC 2+2 Sport Coupe Concept – World Debut There’s no denying that Lexus is putting on the bling to overcome its staid design image. Complements of its Caltech Design Center, this exuberant, sleek design – from the opposing Ls of the front grill, the glass roof and on to the jet-fighter, after-burner inspired rear tail lamps – exudes confidence while hinting at the brand’s new design directions. Plus, the front-engine, rear-wheel drive LF-LC features the Lexus Hybrid Drive system.
Lincoln MKZ Sedan Concept – World Debut Sweeping, fluid lines. A sleek silhouette. This is the look of Lincoln’s design future as well as a strong hint at the production MKZ arriving in dealerships later this year. The new design retains what has become a Lincoln design signature, the split-wing grille. A panoramic glass roof spans uninterrupted from the windshield to the top of the backlight bathing the four-passenger interior in natural light. The concept is built on an all-new midsize platform configurable for front and all-wheel drive powertrain options.
Maserati Kubang SUV Concept This is destined to be a first, an Italian luxury SUV built in the U.S. In fact, it will be assembled alongside the Jeep Grand Cherokee in Detroit. But its Italian origins are unmistakable – designed by Maserati and powered by an engine built by Ferrari. The Kubang expands the Maserati lineup into the highly competitive sport luxury SUV segment.
2013 Mercedes SL Roadster – World Debut On display next to the original 300 SL Mercedes is celebrating 60 years of roadster heritage with the debut of the new SL. And oh how far MB has come in 60 years and what a moniker for the times – SL stands for “Super Lightweight”. Weighing over 300 pounds less than the previous model and claiming a 30 percent better fuel economy, MB claims the new standard V8 matches the performance of the previous V12. The Roadster is available in coupe and convertible body styles.
2013 Mercedes E-Class Hybrids – World Debuts Mercedes continues to expand its family of low-emission vehicles with the gasoline-powered E400 Hybrid Sedan targeting 27 mpg and diesel-powered E300 BlueTec Hybrid. Coming to showrooms in early summer.
2012 Mini Roadster – World Debut Mini welcomed a sixth member to its growing line up – the open-top two-seater roadster. Available in three models: the 121 hp base Cooper, the 181 hp Cooper S and the 208 hp John Cooper Works.
Nissan Pathfinder Concept – World Debut Nissan returned to the Detroit show this year in stealth mode. No press conference. No reveals. No hoopla. They simply displayed the new Pathfinder Concept and directed the media to their website for info. This is the directional look of the upcoming fourth-generation, 7-passenger Pathfinder built on a unibody platform. Powered by a V6 mated to a next-generation Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT), the SUV goes on sale this fall.
2012 Porsche 911 Carrera Cabriolet and Carrera S Cabriolet – World Debut Porsche unveiled the seventh generation of its 911 and specifically the Cabriolet editions of its famed sports car. Here again Porsche joins the overall industry trend of lightweight construction with the new models weighing 132 pounds less than their predecessors. The innovative and lightweight convertible top opens or closes at the push of a button in 13 seconds at speeds up to 30 mph. The Carrera comes standard with a 3.4L six with an output of 350 hp mated to a seven-speed transmission. The S gets a 3.8L capable of producing 400 hp.
2013 Scion FR-S Coupe The FR-S Coupe, the fifth vehicle to join the Scion lineup harkens back to Toyota’s performance heritage. Inspired by the exterior styling of the Toyota 2000GT; the powertrain configuration and layout of the Sports 800; and overall fun-to-drive of the Corolla GT-S. The FR-S features the world’s only flat boxer engine in a front-engine, rear-wheel drive configuration – like the Sports 800. Its 2.0L engine, a joint development between Toyota and Subaru, delivers 200 hp and 151 lb.-ft. of torque. That’s an impressive 100 hp per liter. The engine mates with either a 6-speed manual or automatic transmission. Thanks to the use of lightweight materials the car weighs just over 2,700 pounds – guaranteeing a true driving adrenaline rush.
Smart For-Us Pickup Concept – World Debut Emphasizing its focus on urban transportation, the zero-emission Smart For-Us concept seeks to redefine the pickup for city dwellers. With room for two people and a docking/charging stations in the cargo area for Smart ebikes, this concept explores multiple modes of mobility.
2012 Toyota Prius c Hatchback – World Debut At last year’s Detroit auto show, Toyota introduced the family of Prius hybrid electric vehicles including the Prius c Concept. The concept is now going into production as the fourth car in the Prius line up and it will be in dealerships this year. Toyota’s strategy is to position the c as the entry-level car packaged and priced to appeal to first-time and young buyers. By the way, the “c” stands for city and it is specifically designed to be nimble and highly maneuverable in the urban environment thanks to a stance that is lower and a length that is 19 inches shorter than the Prius v. Toyota claims it will get an impressive 53 mpg and all for a price that starts under $19,000. Wow! That’s less than the first generation Prius launched 12 years ago. The c is powered by a 1.5L gas engine and a 144-volt nickel-metal hydride battery for a total output of 99 hp.
Toyota NS4 Hybrid Concept – World Debut Separate from the Prius family, Toyota is testing this all-new midsize plug-in hybrid for rollout in the 2015 time frame. The hardtop also signals Toyota’s new design direction. But what really distinguishes the car is the emphasis on connectivity. First, conventional mirrors have been replaced with cameras that provide the driver with a panoramic view on a dedicated, dash-mounted screen. Plus, there’s a multi-touch screen with the look and feel of smartphone to control vehicle functions as well as cloud-based telematics. There are also a number of groundbreaking safety technologies including Toyota’s next-generation pre-collision system. Finally, Toyota’s goal is to use the NS4 to develop and test its next-generation hybrid drive system.
Volkswagen E-Bugster Concept That’s “E” for electric, “Bug” for the Beetle and “Ster” for speedster. Last year VW introduced the all-new Beetle and now comes a study in a zero-emissions motoring via a 114 hp electric engine powered by a lithium-ion battery. With a range of up to 100 miles on a single charge, the Bugster’s unique design – lowered or “chopped” roof line, 20-inch wheels and LED daytime running lights – makes it stand out on the road.
2013 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid – World Debut VW unveiled the most fuel-efficient Jetta in its lineup. Powering the all-new model is a high-tech turbocharged gasoline engine mated to a zero-emissions electric motor. The new Jetta Hybrid delivers an estimated combined fuel economy of 45 mpg. In addition, the Jetta Hybrid can be driven in pure electric mode at speeds of up to 44 mph and for up to 1.2 miles. Available in November.
Volvo XC60 Plug-In Hybrid Concept – World Debut Volvo is claiming that this hybrid concept is three cars in one. With the push of button the driver can choose pure electric, hybrid or power mode (enhanced performance combining both the electric and gasoline motors). Driving range is up to 35 miles in all-electric mode and in hybrid mode it’ll get over 100 mpg. The electric motor produces 70 hp and when combined with the 280 hp from the all-new, four-cylinder turbocharged gasoline engine there’s a total of 350 hp at the driver’s command.