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2012 Detroit Auto Show

14th January 2012

5000 international journalists in town? Check. Dozens of world premiers? Check. All of the cars spiffed up and ready for their debuts? Check. Must be time for a cold snap and some snow! Welcome to the 2012 North American International Auto Show, or as we call it here at The Slandy Report, The Detroit Auto Show. Read on for all of the must-see cars and trucks this year!

General Motors
Cadillac ATS
– Caddy finally has a legitimate small car that can rival the best of the world – at least on paper. On sale this summer, the ATS features 3 engine choices (2.5L I-4 with 202HP, 2.0L I-4 Turbo with 270HP and a 3.6L V6 with 320HP), auto and manual (only with the turbo) trannies and RWD or AWD. It is designed to compete with the BMW 3-Series and other small luxury cars (Audi A4 and Mercedes-Benz C-Class). It’s almost the exact same size as the new 3-Series sedan (see below), so a showdown appears imminent.
Chevrolet Sonic RS– you might think that the Sonic RS means that it’s the hot-rod of the lineup, and that’s probabbly what Chevy wants you to think. Sadly, though, it’s mostly just an appearance package, albeit a nice one. It has an upgraded interior, including sport seats, thicker sport steering wheel and aluminum pedals. It also includes four-wheel discs, stiffer suspension and a retuned exhaust, a unique front fascia with a new grille and fog lamps, a new spoiler and rocker moldings, a chrome exhaust tip, and unique wheels.
Chevrolet Tru 140S and Code 130R Concepts– these are both coupes that Chevrolet design crafted over 12 months of interviews and research with Millennials (age 11 to 30) to find out what they want in (or even if they want) a Chevrolet. They both have a 1.4L Turbo with eAssist (mild hybrid). Tru 140S is a front wheel drive that looks way too much like a Mitsubishi Eclipse, but is not unattractive. The Code 130R is more interesting, with cues from Camaro and Malibu, but incorporates them into a new, unique look. It is rear wheel drive. Both are concepts, meaning they are not slated for production anytime soon. Curious, then, that the General chose to list certain features as “optional” in the press material.
2013 Chevrolet Malibu – a minor update visually, but it makes a nice improvement. The rear takes on a Camaro-like presence. The interior of the top of the line LTZ model is particularly nice.
2013 Chevrolet Spark – despite the small stature and weird colors, this is not a toy car. It really works. It’s even bigger than a Fiat 500. Cute. Electric version is also in the works.
Chevrolet MiRay concept – sleek sports car. It has a mid-engine, 1.4L Turbo motor, plus 2 electric motors. Batman’s Chevrolet.
2013 Buick Encore – very small new crossover with a 1.4L Turbo and a 6-speed auto tranny. Front or all-wheel drive. Expected to get 30MPG on the highway. It’s the Enclave’s little brother.
2013 Cadillac XTS – shown here before, this is now the actual production version. Great lines, and has a presence that will command attention on the road. Powered by a 3.6L V6 and comes in front or all-wheel drive.

Chrysler/Fiat
2013 Dodge Dart– all-new entry based on the award-winning Alfa Romeo Giulietta, the Dart combines world-class European architecture with Dodge’s design and attitude. Dodge hasn’t had an entry in the compact car segment for a while, so the Dart is a welcome addition. In addition to great style, the Dart should be a great drive as well. 3 I-4 engine choices (2.0L with 160 HP and 145 lb-ft of torque, 1.4L Turbo with 160/184 and a 2.4L with 184/171), 3 transmissions (6-speed manual, 6-speed auto and 6-speed dual dry clutch), 12 exterior colors, 14 interior trim combos, 6 wheel choices. It will have the 8.4″ touch screen from other Chrysler products and a smart phone app like other products are starting to have. I think Dodge has a winner on its hands – if it can execute the launch flawlessly. Customers are still skeptical of Chrysler, and they won’t need much reason to reject the Dart if there are any problems.
Chrysler 700C Concept – preview of next-gen minivan? Chrysler says no, it’s just a styling exercise. It certainly is interesting to look at. Complex lines. Looks part Mercedes-Benz R-Class from the back. It definitely doesn’t look like any minivan I’ve seen.
Ram is showing a Red Wings edition of its 1500 pickup. Limited appeal, for sure, but Go Wings!
Fiat 500 Abarth – this scorpion-laced version of the little 500 is “small but wicked”. It has a 170HP turbo version of the 500’s basic 1.4L engine. The nice lady showing it off does justice to the other nice lady in the commercial/video for the Abarth. Google it. Trust me.
Maserati Kubang – not the best name in the world, and you might think, “Why does Maserati want to sell an SUV?” The answer might be, “Well, Porsche is selling one, why can’t Maserati?” and that’s good enough for me. The Kubang is actually built on the mechanicals of the Jeep Grand Cherokee, but powered by a Ferrari engine. The looks are all Maserati, which is to say, awesome.

Ford
2013 Ford Fusion– the Fusion has consistently been one of Ford’s best selling vehicles since its introduction in 2005, and the 2013 should only enhance its appeal. It looks great and ups the ante in the midsize segment with class-leading powertrains and fuel economy. Ford dropped the V6 option, so all of the engines are of the 4-cylinder variety. This saves weight in the structure, which allows more efficient architecture and allows other components to be smaller and lighter (like the brakes). This follows the example from the Hyundai Sonata. The base engine is a 2.5L (170HP/170 torque), and is joined by 1.6L EcoBoost (179/172/26 city/37 highway) and 2.0 EcoBoost (237/250) engines, a hybrid (185/130/47 city/44 highway) and the Fusion Energi plug-in hybrid (>100 MPGe – better than the plug-in Toyota Prius and Chevy Volt). A manual will continue to be available, but only with the 1.6 Turbo. AWD will also continue, but only with the 2.0 Turbo. On sale late fall, and will be sold in other markets around the world as the new Mondeo.
2013 Ford Escape– already shown in LA, the Escape is all-new with a look previewed last year by the Vertrek concept. It’s an attractive, but somewhat busy design, and it looks more like something from Hyundai or Kia than from Ford. It has the same gas engines as the new Fusion, so no V6 here either. It also has Ford’s “hands-free liftgate” feature, which opens the liftgate by waving your foot under the rear bumper. Pretty cool.
2013 Focus ST – 247HP in a small package from the 2.0L EcoBoost. Has a big, bold black grille. Nice.
C-Max – “regular” hybrid or plug-in (“Energi”) hybrid versions. It’s like a tall Focus wagon. The plug-in has a special quick charging system. The battery takes up some of the cargo area in both versions, forcing the load floor to be higher by 8″-9″ in the Energi and ~4″ in the hybrid.
Lincoln MKZ “Concept” – not really a concept. Sources tell me that it is 80-85% production intent, including the glass roof. Nice update. The Lincoln display area is very cool as well, separated from the rest of the show by a big fence/wall. Very striking.

Volkswagen
2013 Jetta Hybrid– this is VW’s first hybrid, making VW among the last to offer this technology. Combined fuel economy is estimated at 45MPG. It has a 1.4L Turbo and a 7-speed dual clutch transmission. On sale late this year.
Audi allroad – returning to the US after an 8 year absence, the allroad is now based on the A4 (previous version was based on the A6). It has a turbo 2.0L making 211HP and 258 lb-ft torque.
Audi Q3 – Audi announced that they will sell the Q3 in the US when production begins for Europe in late 2013 (should be between July and September). It had not been slated for the US. Audi is showing it as a concept called the Q3 Vail, which is designed for winter sports enthusiasts.
E-Bugster concept – this is a 2-seat, electric Beetle with a lower, flattened roof. Very cool.

Nissan
Pathfinder Concept – Nissan is showing a concept of where the Pathfinder is going. It’s an attractive vehicle, but it’s going right to the heart of the SUV market – car-based and fuel-efficient, but only partly off-road capable. The list of truly capable off-road vehicles is shrinking, and the late ones to leave might find themselves losing their current customers, but getting lost in the shuffle for new ones. The back end reminds me of the Mazda CX-9. Not a good scenario for Nissan. On sale this fall.
2013 Infiniti JX – on sale this spring, the JX is a 3-row, 7-passenger crossover. It has great styling, and is a close relative of the Pathfinder.
Infiniti Etherea Concept – a front-drive compact 4-door hybrid hatchback that looks like it could get a speeding ticket without moving.
QX – not new, but I just had to mention that this is one of the most ridiculous vehicles on the planet. Fugly.

Mercedes-Benz
2013 SL – next gen of M-Bs venerable roadster. Despite a smaller V8 engine and larger size, it has more horsepower (429), more torque (516) and accelerates to 60 faster (4.5 seconds). Includes the wave the foot feature like the Escape, but also will close the trunk as well. The SL550 will be available this spring.
2013 E-Class Hybrids – the E300 is a 2.1L Diesel, combined with an electric motor. Total power is 230Hp and 553 lb-ft of torque. The E400 is a 3.5L gas engine with the same electric motor. Total is 333HP/457lb-ft.
Maybach 57 – nothing new to see here, but check it out while you still can. M-B has announced that Maybach is being discontinued after this model year. There just aren’t that many people willing to part with the better part of $400K anymore. It doesn’t help that it’s (just) a bigger, more expensive M-B S-Class, and that a Rolls is way more desirable. Oh well.
smart for-us concept – electric pickup from the most ironically-named automotive brand in history. Once again, answering the question nobody asked.

Toyota
Lexus LF-LC Concept – really hot new concept, it is a hybrid, but Lexus isn’t giving any specs.
FCV-R Concept – very cool looking fuel cell-powered 4-door.
NSA4 Concept – a midsize hybrid, this might preview the next generation Camry. If so, Camry might go from vanilla to chocolate chip cookie dough. Mmmmm, cookie dough…
“New” Camry – yawn.
Prius – so many Prii, so little time, or gas for that matter. The lineup now includes Prius, Prius Plug-In, Prius v and Prius c. The c is the news here, it’s smaller (think c = “compact”), and gets 53 city MPG and 46 highway. That’s no better overall than the “regular” Prius, which gets 51/48. But it’s less than $19,000, so it’s got that going for it, which is nice.
Scion FR-S – co-developed with Subaru (which will sell its version as the RBZ), this is a hot little sports car. It has a 2.0L, 200HP boxer engine. It’s rear wheel drive and comes with a 6-speed manual, as god intended.

Honda
Honda Accord Coupe Concept – nice freshening of the Accord Coupe, but it doesn’t break any new ground. Powertrains are revised with more horsepower and fuel economy. The big news is the addition of a plug-in hybrid model. Honda says the electric motor can power the car for up to 15 miles of city driving at speeds as high as 62 mph. The battery can be fully recharged in four hours using a 120-volt outlet or in 90 minutes with a 240-volt charger.
2013 Acura ILX – this is a new Civic-based sedan that will eventually replace the TSX in Acura’s lineup. It will have 3 powertrains: 2.0L I-4, 2.4L I-4 and a hybrid (Acura’s first). Nice looking car, but when is Acura going to dump the guillotine grille? They need a new look, and fast. On sale this spring.
2013 Acura RDX – updated and nice looking, the big news here is the bigger engine. While most automakers are downsizing their engines and adding turbo power to make up the power, Acura goes in the opposite direction by dropping the turbo 4 and moving to a 3.5L V6. It nows gets 273HP, up 33 from last year. Also on sale this spring.
Acura NSX Concept – the NSX is back! With sleek new styling and enough technology to make Bill Gates jealous, this new generation NSX could get a speeding ticket standing still. It sports a mid-engine V6 AND electric-driven AWD system. Expected for sale in 3 years. Get in line now.
Acura Display – besides the 3 cars above, the Acura display just looks like the collected rejects from a bad orthodontist nightmare because of all of the buck-toothed grilles, or maybe they belong on The Island of Misfit Toys. Hard to say.

BMW
3-Series – yet another new version of the venerable 3-Series, but don’t expect it to look very different from the current model. When it goes on sale next month, it will be longer and wider with many fuel savings technologies included (lighter curb weight, improved automatic transmission, start-stop and regenerative braking). The 328i and 335i will both have twin turbo engines, with 240 and 300 HP, respectively. Prices start at $35,795. In yet more proof of The Slandy Report’s influence, BMW is now showing an actual manual tranny on the floor, but only 1. They also announced that the new M5 will indeed have a proper manual again. Yeah!
i3 Concept – cool-looking small electric that weighs only 2756 lbs.
i8 Concept – another cool-looking concept. This one has a mid-engine 3-cylinder turbo, PLUS electric motors in the front and back. Total power is 350HP and 406 lb-ft of torque. 0-62 mph in 4.6 seconds.
Mini Roadster – yet another variation of the basic Mini Cooper, Roadster is a 2-seat convertible that will come in the standard 3 versions: Cooper, Cooper S and John Cooper Works. Goes on sale in February.

Hyundai
2013 Veloster Turbo – so what happens with you slap a turbocharger on the pedestrian 1.6L Veloster engine? a. 201HP   b. 195 lb-ft torque or c. All of the above? C!! It also gets a revised, more aggressive front end. On sale this summer.

Others
Volvo Concept You – very cool-looking car. Name sucks.
Tesla Model S – shown before, but this is the production version of the all-electric sedan. Can go up to 300 miles on a charge. Has a rear-facing 3rd row for kids – with 5-point belts. It also has 3 other things of note: Biggest. Touch screen. Ever. (17″!)
Mazda CX-5 – new small crossover that becomes the little brother to the CX-7 and CX-9.First model to show the new design language for Mazda. Interesting that the info from Mazda really emphasizes that it was developed only by Mazda. Maybe they are afraid that people will think it was developed by Ford, which was the case with the Tribute, which the CX-5 replaces in Mazda’s lineup. Powered by a 2.0L motor, it makes 155HP and 150 lb-ft torque. A manual (!) tranny is standard, and in front-drive models, gets 35MPG on the highway. Best in Class figures for all powertrain combos.
Subaru BRZ – see Scion FR-S. It’s basically the same car.

The 2012 Slandy Awards
Slandy Best in Show Production – Dodge Dart. It might not be the most desirable of the nominees, but it gets the nod because of its extreme importance to its company’s future (see below). And it’s damn good too.
Slandy Best in Show Concept – Chevrolet Code 130R Concept
Honorable Mention (in no particular order) – Ford Fusion, Infiniti JX35, Chevrolet MiRay, Buick Encore, Cadillac ATS, Lexus LF-LC, Dodge Dart, BMW i8, Mercedes-Benz SL, Scion FR-S/Subaru BRZ
WATT – Infiniti QX, Nissan Quest. These have got to be 2 of the fugliest vehicles on the planet. Coincidentally from the same company. Or maybe not coincidentally.
Bet the Farm Award – Dodge Dart. Though this looks like a winner (see above), it might very well kill Chrysler and the alliance with Fiat if the launch isn’t flawless AND if it doesn’t sell very well. With several future models based on this new platform, it would be hard to overstate the importance of this product to Chrysler and Fiat.

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