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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 Sun, Jan 25, 2009

By: The LACar Editorial Staff

IT'S RHYTHM AND BLUES IN MOTOWN The 2009 North American International Auto Show Words by Christopher Merlo Pictures by Mark Dapoz The 2009 North American International Auto Show still reigns as the top automotive event of the year. With a total of 30 or more world debuts there is no questioning its importance to both domestic and foreign manufacturers as well as the media. Before we cover the new models at this year's NAIAS, there are a number of trends worth noting:

  • Low-key is the sign of the times. Most press introductions were understated affairs low on razzle-dazzle along with an absence of overblown claims. These are sobering times in the auto industry and nobody is screaming victory.
  • No-shows are also a sign of the times. Like last year, Porsche sat out the show. Also MIA were Ferrari, Land Rover, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Rolls Royce and Suzuki. In addition, Acura, Aston Martin, Honda, Mazda and Mercedes-Benz did not hold press conferences. (Mercedes-Benz conducted an offsite press conference the evening before the official start of the media days.)
  • One door closes and another opens. The departure of a number of automakers from the show freed space for those waiting to establish a presence - and dare we say legitimacy - on the main floor. This year marked the first time Chinese automakers displayed on the main floor: both Brilliance Auto and BYD Auto.
  • Small is big. Again. This is a trend we've noted in at the last few Detroit shows. A number of manufacturers showed small car concepts and production intent models.
  • On that same note, the talk of the show was both hybrid and electric, with manufacturers boasting about fuel economy performance and cruising range on a single electric charge or single tank of gasoline.
  • While Chrysler and General Motors talked a lot about being responsible automakers, thanks to the oversight of their new "partner" (U.S. government), their cross town competitor Ford talked about both sides of the performance equation. Ford unveiled the high-horsepower, V8- equipped Mustang Shelby GT500 as well as its strategy for electrification.

Now for the fun stuff... AUDI SPORTBACK CONCEPT

Audi's dazzling Sportback concept 4-door 'coupe' Wow! A prelude of what's to come on the Audi A7: four doors and yet a coupe-like roofline. We say bring it on. The car furthers Audi's commitment to its Sportback design, which it first brought to production with the A3 Sportback 2010 BENTLEY CONTINENTAL GTC SPEED

Bentley Continental GTC Speed A high-performance version of the GTC, this two-door 2+2 convertible is the final addition to the Bentley Speed line, which is the high-performance part of the company's models line-up. Propelled by a 600-horsepower version of Bentley's 12-cylinder twin-turbo engine, this is Bentley's most powerful convertible ever, with more horsepower than the company's 2003 LeMans sports car. The Speed accelerates from zero to 60 mph in 4.5 seconds, zero to 100 mph in 10.6 seconds, and has a top speed of 200 mph. The Speed will go on sale later this year. 2009 BMW Z4 ROADSTER

BMW Z4 Roadster A worldwide debut, the all-new Z4 is the company's first roadster with a retractable hardtop. Available in two versions of BMW's famous inline 6-cylinder engine: a 255-horsepower variant and a twin-turbocharged unit that puts out 300 horsepower. 2010 BUICK LACROSSE SEDAN

Buick's new version of its LaCrosse The new Lacrosse reprises Buick's signature design cues, including a "waterfall" grille and "portholes." It's powered by two different V6 engines, offers a new six-speed automatic transmission, and introduces a new all-wheel-drive system. CADILLAC CONVERJ CONCEPT

Cadillac's striking Converj concept A stunning design, this luxury coupe is all the more intriguing because it is electric powered. Using an adaptation of GM's all-electric drive train, the Voltec system that powers the much-anticipated Chevrolet Volt, and backed up by a range-extending small engine, Converj would cover up to 40 miles without consuming gas or emitting emissions.

A wagon version of the Cadillac CTS 2010 CADILLAC SRX CROSSOVER

Cadillac's next-generation SRX Sporting dramatic wedge styling and the hard edges of what is becoming Cadillac's signature look, the all-new SRX crossover is sure to signal a new attitude and departure from the outgoing model. 2010 CHEVROLET EQUINOX CROSSOVER

Chevrolet's newest Equinox The '10 Equinox will achieve 30 miles a gallon on the highway and utilize a six-speed automatic transmission to ensure that drivers have a "range of at least 500 miles" for distance driving. CHEVROLET ORLANDO CONCEPT

Chevrolet Orlando concept This seven-passenger compact multipurpose vehicle is based on the recently introduced Cruze compact sedan. With configurable, theater-style seating - that fold flat into the floor - the Orlando sports a 2.0L turbo diesel engine that puts out 250 horsepower and 235 pound-feet of torque. CHEVROLET SPARK CONCEPT

Chevrolet Spark concept The microcar Spark is based on the Chevrolet Beat concept that GM introduced last year and will be sold around the world, beginning in Europe next year and coming to North America in 2011 CHRYSLER 200C EV SEDAN CONCEPT

Chrysler's 200C EV concept was a bright spot for the automaker Chrysler delivered a surprise with this all-electric, high-style 200C that hints at the company's future design direction. Powered by Chrysler's new ENVI all-electric powertrain technology, the 200C EV features organic materials in the interior design and a host of new electronic features including "audio tagging" for the purchase of digital music and a "virtual chaperone" for teen drivers that limits vehicle and notifies parents if their kids are driving erratically. DODGE CIRCUIT EV CONCEPT

Dodge Circuit EV concept Yet another "study" on bringing Chrysler's new ENVI all-electric powertrain technology to a small, sporty vehicle. No doubt, it's a far cry from the gas-powered, high-performance image of the likes of the Dodge Viper. But when the order of the day is answering critics in Congress with examples of responsible "rides" well here's the answer. FISKER KARMA SUNSET PLUG-IN HYBRID CONCEPT

Fisker Karma S concept Last year former Aston Martin designer Henrik Fisker unveiled the Fisker Karma Plug-in Hybrid Concept. We thought it was one of the highlights of the show. Well, guess what? The concept is now a reality, going on sale in November and priced right at $87,900. But there's more in the form of this great looking convertible with retractable hardtop. Thumbs up.

Henrik Fisker shows off the production model Karma 2010 FORD MUSTANG SHELBY GT500

The next-generation Shelby GT500 Ford took the occasion of Carroll Shelby's 89th birthday to roll out the most powerful Mustang ever, the Shelby GT500. Carroll rode shotgun for the grand entrance and what a powerful entrance it was thanks to the supercharged, inter-cooled 5.4L V8 that delivers 540 horsepower and 510 pound-feet of torque. 2010 FORD TAURUS

Ford's newest Taurus A premium flagship is how Ford describes the new Taurus sedan. Developed in just 24 months, the all-new Taurus is completely redesigned inside and out, with a more athletic appearance and dramatic styling. Loaded with features one would expect to find in a premium-priced model, Ford is showing it's serious on reclaiming its features to become a more athletic, personal car versus the family one it replaces. 2009 HONDA INSIGHT 5-DOOR HYBRID

Honda's Prius-beater Insight Honda unveiled its Prius fighter in a most quiet way. Yes, this hybrid runs quietly, but the expected hoopla around its world debut was decidedly low key. No press conference. No picture op unveiling. A curious strategy given that Toyota chose NAIAS for the world debut of its hybrid super-seller, the Prius. Employing Honda's fourth-generation hybrid power system, the new Insight caught a lot of flack for its Prius-like styling. Hey, they say imitation is the best form of flattery - and so the Insight goes from two doors to four and seats five. JEEP

Jeep Patriot EV concept KIA SOUL'STER CONCEPT

Kia's neat Soulster concept The great looking Soul'ster concept is an open-air derivative of the new Soul sport wagon that goes on sale in the U.S. in the spring. This two-door, four-seat, open-air minimalist design comes with a canvas roof for fun-in-the-sun adventure. 2010 LEXUS HS 250h

Lexus' new HS 250h dedicated hybrid-electric car The aerodynamic, compact, all-new Lexus HS 250h is the luxury brand's first dedicated hybrid model. Powered by Lexus' first four-cylinder engine, the 2.4L Atkinson-cycle engine generates 187 horsepower while running on regular 87 octane gasoline. Lexus projects that the HS 250h will be 30 percent more efficient than any other Lexus and will have the best combined mpg of any luxury vehicle in the United States. It goes on sale in late summer. LINCOLN C CONCEPT

Lincoln's C concept Us Yanks have never been big on small luxury cars. Lincoln seems to think the time is right to shift the paradigm thanks to a younger generation that is big on big ticket mobile (read "small") technologies and a "less is better" attitude towards consumption. Based on Ford's global C-car platform, it is powered by Ford's new 1.6L, four-cylinder EcoBoost engine and teamed with a six-speed, dual-clutch transmission. Lincoln claims it will get up to 43 miles to the gallon. 2010 LINCOLN MKT CROSSOVER

The Lincoln MKT Last year Lincoln "teased" us with the MKT Concept. This year, it's the real thing: Lincoln's first full-size, seven-passenger, three-row crossover. Heralding Lincoln's new design language - most notably the grille - the swooped back design is a clear improvement over the current, but smaller, MKX crossover. The MKT is loaded with advanced technology features including adaptive cruise control with forward warning system and Collision Mitigation, a blind spot information system, cross traffic alert and active park assist - which Lincoln claims is more intuitive and easier to operate than the Lexus auto park system. With the optional 3.5L V6 EcoBoost, Ford's new propulsion system that combines a turbocharger with direct injection, the MKT will offer V8 performance to the tune of 355 horsepower and 350 foot-pounds with V6 fuel economy. Thumbs up. 2009 MASERATI QUATTROPORTE SPORT GT S SEDAN

Maserati's Quattroporte Sport GT S Try repeating the car's name 10 times as you cruise at a top speed of 177 miles per hour. We say it can't be done. That is the repetition without losing focus and the thrill of the moment. However, achieving and sustaining a land speed of 177 is no problem thanks to the powerful 4.7L V8 that puts out 433 horses and 361 foot-pounds. And by all means, you have to stay focused on controlling this well-proportioned beauty as you accelerate from zero to 60 in 5.1 seconds. Let's face it, you don't have to be a verbal contortionist or even speak Italian to appreciate the universal language of beauty and speed. MERCEDES-BENZ CONCEPT BLUEZERO MODELS

Mercedes Concept BlueZero E-Cell Mercedes-Benz Concept Zero offers three ways to go with one vehicle. This is the concept design for its next-generation B-class. The three ways to go include: electric battery, fuel cell or electric battery with a range extending gasoline engine. Whichever way you go, the Concept Zero will get you there in an eco-friendly and surprising stylish, compact manner. Thumbs up. 2010 MERCEDES-BENZ SLR McLAREN STIRLING MOSS ROADSTER

The Mercedes SLR McLaren Stirling Moss Worth the price of admission to the show was the opportunity to see this exotic super car. First, it will not be available in the U.S. Second, only 75 copies will be available at well above $1 million. And oh! There is one more qualifier: only current SLR owners can buy. But hey, it costs nearly nothing to look. And look we did. This beauty is the pinnacle and final chapter in the SLR line. Powered by a supercharged, 641-horsepower V8, it'll jump to 60 in 3.5 seconds and keep going until its top speed of 218 miles per hour. The Stirling Moss is a tribute to the legendary 300 SLR race car with which Stirling Moss won the Mille Miglia in 1955, setting a record that remains to this day. 2010 MINI COOPER CONVERTIBLE

The new MINI convertible Following the launch last year of the second-generation Mini hardtop and Clubman models, Mini took the wraps off the new convertible model in unique yellow. With a folding top, drivers can use the standard timer to keep track of how much time they've spent driving with the top down. Engine choices for the Mini Cooper Convertible include a .6L 4-cylinder that produces 118 horsepower or a turbocharged version of the 1.6L that generates 172 horsepower. SUBARU LEGACY CONCEPT

Subaru's Legacy concept Painted in "Ultimate Silver" to heighten its machined looks, the Legacy all-wheel-wheel-drive concept hints at the design direction of the upcoming production model. With flowing and dynamic lines and pronounced flared wheel arches, the concept is bigger than the current Legacy. TOYOTA FT-EV CONCEPT

Toyota's FT-EV electric city car concept A quizzical subcompact to say the least, with its floral and bird graphics complemented by what appears to be an electrical schematic. This four-seat, urban commuter is based on the Toyota IQ currently sold in Japan. As the name implies, the FT-EV is battery powered. 2010 TOYOTA PRIUS 5-DOOR

The next-generation Toyota Prius One of the most-anticipated debuts at this year's show was the world-premier of the third-generation Toyota Prius. It lives up to its billing and raises the bar in the highly competitive hybrid market. Toyota sold 160,000 Prius models in 2008. And with the new model reaching for the magical 50 mpg mark, Toyota expects to push sales above 180,000 in its first calendar year. There's a lot to like here. The interior is more spacious, and the clean, simple design of the IP is a knock out. VOLKSWAGEN BLUESPORT ROADSTER CONCEPT

Bluesport: Will VW finally bring a sports car to production? Last year Volkswagen wowed the media with the highly attractive CC. This year, in keeping with the "small is good" theme of the show, VW unveiled a concept th and maximum fun to drive." Powered by a clean-diesel, 180-horsepower, 2.0L mid-engine, Bluesport goes from zero to 60 mph in 6.2 seconds. Thumbs up. VOLVO S60 SEDAN CONCEPT

Volvo's dazzling S60 concept With an exterior inspired by the "curves" of the Swedish coastline and an interior that captures the look and feel of a Scandinavian living room, this sleek and dynamic concept offers a glimpse of what the new S60 is going to look like when it arrives in 2010. It's a new design language for Volvo and a clear departure from the brand's traditional boxiness. A few more scenes from The Big Show

Volkswagen's pre-recession-like exhibit

GM's own Great Wall

GM supplied their own protesters this time

The China-based company BYD was there

The view from down below

For more information on the NAIAS, click here. 

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