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2010 Detroit Auto Show Recap

Well, it’s mid-January again, and all you car nuts out there know exactly what that means – it’s Detroit Auto Show time! Because as the Detroit Tourism Board will tell you, there’s no better time to venture to America’s home-grown Thunderdome than when it’s cold enough to freeze mercury.

Still, so long as the heat in the Cobo Center works, journalists from across the globe will cram their North Face parkas and .357 Magnum Colt Pythons into overnight bags and journey to Motor City for one of the largest auto shows in the world. This year was a bittersweet one for the three home-team automakers: bitter for GM, who saw four divisions exorcised from its corporate ranks after tossing all its self-respect into Lake Michigan by declaring bankruptcy and taking federal bailout money; but sweet for Ford, who managed to avoid Chapter 11 and saw its first profitable quarter in nearly two years.

And Chrysler? Well, they’re owned by Fiat now. Actually, do they even count as one of the Big Three anymore?

Regardless of whether Chrysler considers their home in The Boot of Italy or The Mitten of Michigan, in the minds of most people, they still count as a good ol’ American boys. Unfortunately, Chrysler/Fiat considered new model revelations and press conferences excessive expenditures this year, and simply left their models out on the floor for perusal. (At least they showed up, unlike Porsche and Nissan. Uncool, guys.) Luckily, though, plenty of other new models and concepts came into the light at the show. Here are the best.

Audi e-tron concept

Astute readers of this blog may be thinking, “Didn’t I already see the e-tron?” And the short answer is, yes, you did. But not this one. Audi has, somewhat inexplicably, decided to use the exact same name for this smaller electric sports car concept as they used for their larger, R8-based version. The difference, you see, is that the R8-based original is just called “e-tron,” while this new concept is…the “e-tron.” Come on, Audi! You’re German – Germans make up new words all the time by smashing them together. Couldn’t you call it the “Smallersilverelectricsportscar?”

Regardless of what you call it, the baby e-tron will reportedly run from 0-60 in 5.9 seconds with a top speed of 124 mph, thanks to a pair of electric motors with a combined output of 204 horsepower. Of course, since the baby e-tron is just a concept, this could be entirely hypothetical; the show car may well be powered by a hamster on a wheel for all we know.

More importantly for car fans, the e-tron 2-seater’s design may be a preview of Audi’s rumored upcoming R4 sports car. There’s no way to know for sure, but Audi could do a lot worse than pattern the R4 on this aggressive-looking concept. Slap the S4’s 333-hp supercharged V6 in there and stack it up against the Porsche Cayman (Whoops! VW owns Porsche now) – er, BMW Z4, and they could have a winner on their hands.

2011 BMW 740i/740Li

This isn’t the first time BMW has sold a 740i in the States – two generations of 7-series ago, it was the mainstay of the lineup – but it is the first time since 1992 that Americans can order a six-cylinder engine in the car. The last version, the 735i, made do with a mere 208 horsepower; the new 740i packs BMW’s sublime turbocharged 3.0 liter inline six making 315 horsepower.

The 740i looks pretty much like any other 7, so feast your eyes on the 500-hp BMW Alpina B7.

Presumably, Bimmer is bringing the six-cylinder 7 our way in order to improve its fuel-economy standings; odds are, if you can afford the $71,025 base price, you’re probably not too concerned with saving cash at the pumps, and if you really wanted to be green, you’d buy a loaded Prius and pocket the extra $40,000. Still, for the handful of high-powered executives who don’t care about power (Do I see one standing in the back? No? Okay.), the 740 offers pretty much all the luxury features of its pricier brethren for a nice discount.

Buick Regal GS Concept

From the land of seemingly oxymoronical concepts comes this high-performance Buick. Okay, “high-performance” is a bit of an exaggeration – the all-wheel-drive GS runs with a turbocharged 2.0 liter four-cylinder making 260 horsepower, a mere 40 more than the current top-of-the-line Regal. But the GS has a six-speed stick shift! I don’t think there’s been a manual Buick since Clint Eastwood was a sex symbol.

Buick promises the GS achieves 60 in less than 6 seconds, which probably means 5.9. What they haven’t promised is a production version; however, it seems pretty likely, as it would give Buick a strong card to play against Acura and Lexus. Buick has made impressive strides in the last few years in making their cars more attractive and elevating their quality towards the levels of other luxury makes; adding high(er) performance models would be a logical next step. It’s probably safe to expect the GS in the showrooms by spring 2011.

2011 Cadillac CTS-V Coupe

It wasn’t long ago that the idea of a high-performance Caddy would have seemed just as paradoxical as a fun-to-drive Buick; however, since the first-generation CTS and the introduction of the V-Series line of kickass Caddies, the idea has latched onto the car enthusiast population like an alien face-hugger.

U.S.A.! U.S.A.! U.S.A.!

And the new CTS-V Coupe is probably the sweetest Cadillac yet.

Everything you love about the regular CTS-V, just in a sleeker two-door package. Same 556 horsepower supercharged V8, same choice of six-speed stick or auto – just two fewer doors. Sure, there’s less room in the back, but come on – how often do you use those rear doors anyway? Besides, chicks dig coupes. Just ask Batman.

Pricing will probably be a few grand more than the CTS-V sedan, so figure a base one will set you back around $67,000 when they land in showrooms this summer – a few grand more than its main competitor, the BMW M3. But the Caddy has 142 more horses. And, like George Thorogood, it’s American Made. So give it a little love.

Cadillac XTS Platinum Concept

The last ten years or so have been lean times for folks interested in full-sized American luxury cars. Mafia dons, Fortune 500 executives, and your Grandpa Larry have watched with sadness as their beloved Town Cars, Park Avenues and DeVilles drifted off into the ether, leaving them with a difficult choice – buy European (I ain’t buying no Nazi car!), downsize (I don’t feel safe in this thing!) or move into a luxury mega-SUV (I can’t see my grandson behind me in the driveway!).

Luckily, it looks like CEOs and coots alike will be able to breathe a sigh of relief soon. While technically a concept, the XTS is likely a very strong indicator of Cadillac’s upcoming full-sized sedan, slated to replace the STS and the DTS – both of which, remarkably, are still available at your local Caddy dealership.

In concept form, the XTS is powered by Cadillac’s 3.6 liter V6 direct injection V6 coupled to a plug-in hybrid system; combined, the car puts out 350 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque through a six-speed auto. It’s unclear from the press release how the electric and gasoline powertrains interact exactly, but we’d bet both can be used to drive the wheels – unlike the Chevy Volt, where the gas engine is used simply as a generator for the batteries and electric motor.

Hopefully, any production version of the XTS won’t differ significantly from the show car’s sleek lines, which (in our eyes) meld the CTS with the Mercedes-Benz S-class. Plan on a choice of V6 and V8 powerplants upon launch, with a hybrid option soon afterwards. As for when it lands in dealerships – summer or fall 2011 seems like a safe bet.

And on a side note, GM’s vice-chairman and Main Car Bro Bob Lutz announced Cadillac will indeed be producing its own version of the Chevrolet Volt, based on the Converj. It won’t be hitting the streets until sometime after 2012 (assuming we’re still alive by then! DUM DE DUM!), and will probably be pretty faithful to the concept – two doors and edgy styling over the Volt’s four doors and slightly bland looks. And it’ll probably cost more than $50,000. But I’d still buy one.


Chevrolet Aveo RS Concept

Like the looks of this Aveo RS? Then you’ll probably like the regular Aveo when it hits the ground next year. Just strip off the spoilers, the ground effects, and throw on some more conventional headlamps. With its sights locked squarely on the Honda Fit, the Aveo will take the bottom rung in Chevy’s lineup.

The concept has a turbocharged 1.4 liter inline four-cylinder engine under the hood pumping out 138 horsepower, and routing it to the front wheels through a six-speed manual. If they’re smart, Chevy will actually produce a high-performance version of the Aveo; we’ve been wishing Honda would do a Fit Si for years, and if the Chevy is anywhere near as fun to drive as the Fit, they could sell a boatload. Hell, we’d probably buy one.

2012 Ford Focus

Not to be outdone in the small-car department by their arch-foes at GM, Ford unveiled the next-generation Focus in Detroit – and as Peter Griffin would say, it seems freakin’ sweet. For the first time, the Focus sold here in the States will be nearly identical to the version sold in Europe, which should mean European-style (i.e. better) handling and materials when it lands here early next year.

Equipped with a 2.0 liter inline four-cylinder making 155 horsepower and 145 lb-ft of torque, the Focus comes with your choice of six-speed transmissions – manual or “dry-clutch automatic,” which is just a fancy term for the sort of dual-clutch gearbox found in everything from the Ferrari 458 Italia to the Volkswagen Golf. Ford also announced a electric-powered version, which should be coming our way in later 2011.

Coming in both five-door hatchback and four-door sedan forms, the new Focus boasts a bevy of cool features most people probably wouldn’t expect on a compact car, from an assisted parallel-parking system (complete with rearview camera) and an eight-inch dash-mounted touch screen. Pricing hasn’t been announced, but expect it to be pretty much in line with its competitors – the Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla, Nissan Sentra, and upcoming Chevy Cruze.

2011 Ford Mustang GT

Hot on the heels of upgrading the V6-powered Mustang to 315 horsepower, Ford is throwing a new 5.0 liter V8 under the hood of the ‘Stang GT, bumping power up to 412 horses. While still down a few ponies  to the Camaro SS and Challenger SRT8, the revised ‘Stang should be lighter than its fellow muscle cars, giving it an edge in the curves (and probably on the straights too).

Pricing is still unknown, but since the installation of the new V6 didn’t jack up the base Mustang’s price very much, expect to pay around the same amount for the 5.0 as the old 4.6 liter V8. (Anal-retentives, please not the emphasis placed on the word around. There, did it once more just to ensure you understood.)

GMC Granite Concept

As the first American entrant into the “funky box”category of small cars pioneered here by the Scion xB, the Granite raises the style bar a few notches higher. Up ’til now, the small boxes like the xB, Kia Soul and Nissan Cube had convenience in spades, but good looks weren’t part of the deal.

But the Granite manages to make boxy look badass. Running the same engine as the Aveo RS Concept in a more utilitarian package, performance isn’t really the name of the game here – 138 horses is adequate, nothing more, nothing less.

However, GMC insisted on extolling the Granite as a “flexible, functional social space…equally at home at the cabin or the club.” News flash, PR flaks – any place with more than one person is a social space.

2011 Honda CR-Z

Though we’ve already seen it in leaked brochure photos, it was nice to finally see Honda’s new sporty hybrid coupe in the metal for the first time at the show. Looking pretty much like what you’d expect the Insight to be had it remained a coupe,  the tiny Honda promises to be a pretty fun drive.

While we're not entirely sure this image isn't a computer graphic, rest assured, the real CR-Z is probably solid.

With a 1.5 liter inline four under the hood connected to Honda’s “Integrated Motor Assist” hybrid bits, the CR-Z (the “Crazy?”) puts down 122 horsepower and either 128 or 123 lb-ft of torque, depending on whether you choose the six-speed manual or the CVT. (The manual has the higher torque figure, because manuals are awesome that way.) Fuel economy is estimated at 31 mpg city/37 mpg highway for the stick, and 36/38 mpg for the CVT – so if you do a lot of city driving, it might be worth it to go auto. Maybe.

The CRaZy will go on sale here in the latter part of 2010, in two forms – base and EX. The base model will hardly be a stripper, as it will reportedly feature a six-speaker CD/USB stereo, automatic climate control, stability control, power everything, keyless entry and cruise control. Should you feel compelled to move to the EX, you’ll add a 360-watt seven-speaker stereo, xenon headlights, and Bluetooth, among other features. The base sounds pretty good to us, honestly. No details on price yet, but our fingers are crossed for the base model to land under $20,000.

2012 (?) Mercedes-Benz CLS

Sadly, the next-generation of Mercedes’s four-door “coupe” wasn’t really at the show. However, M-B did have a model showing off the basic shape of the new CLS. From the looks of it, it seems Mercedes was trying to replicate the shape of the car under a sheet; however, the guys at egmCarTech thought it looked more like Robert Patrick’s liquid-metal T-1000 oozing into the shape of a car, and quite frankly, we have to agree. But if the car is as pretty as the display implies, it won’t need to shape-shift to snare people’s attention.

Image courtesy Omar Rana - egmCarTech

Mini Beachcomber Concept

Do you miss the Mini Moke? (Hell, do you even know what the Mini Moke is?) Well, for those of you with a fondness for the old pseudo-off-roader still found carving up beaches on St. Barts, Mini has just the car for you.

Well, you can’t actually buy the Beachcomber. It’s more of a concept version of Mini’s upcoming small SUV, which will probably be called the “Countryman.” (We’re still pulling for the “Countrymouse,” but only if they rename the Cooper the “Citymouse.”) When the actual Mini-SUV hits the dirt roads, don’t expect to see the Beachcomber’s removable doors or spare-tire-like “backpack;” do expect the elevated ride-height, knobbier tires and available all-wheel-drive. Hopefully we’ll be seeing the production version sometime this year.

Volkswagen New Compact Coupe Hybrid Concept

No, we didn’t add the “new” to the name – Volkswagen did. Frankly, we’re not sure why, since so far as we remember, there wasn’t an Old Compact Coupe Hybrid Concept. But whatever they call it, we’re grateful, because the NCCHC promises to be a pretty sweet little ride.

Coming across like a Honda CR-Z Plus, the NCCHC packs a 1.5 liter turbocharged and supercharged inline four connected to enough hybrid pieces to provide a combined 177 horsepower and 45 miles per gallon. I believe the technical term for that is “win/win.”

While the car may be called a concept, it looks pretty damn production ready to us. Of course, VW’s thrown us curveballs before – remember the Nardo supercar concept? – but there’s a world of difference between producing a quarter-million-dollar supercar and an inexpensive hybrid sports car. Hell, just ask Honda – who canned the new NSX most of the way through its production cycle. Luckily, rumor has it the NCCHC will be heading stateside as a coupe version of the new Jetta – hopefully with hybrid powertrain intact.

All in all, it wasn’t a huge year for the Detroit show. No show-stopping concepts, no earth-shaking revelations – just a whole bunch of pretty exciting new cars. And to be frank, we’re okay with that. Given the last couple years in the automotive world, a little piece and quiet seems rather nice, doesn’t it?

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2009 Detroit Auto Show Review

Unfortunately, we weren’t able to send anyone to the 2009 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, so we weren’t able to give you firsthand information as automakers wheeled out their last, best hopes for salvation in this craptastic economy.

However, the automakers are (thankfully) more than enthusiastic about making sure the information disseminates through the media – which means we can hook you up with all the best of the auto show, even though we never left New York this weekend.

Luckily, with the recession forcing people to pinch pennies in proper pauper phashion phuck i pcant pstop – nnyaa! There. Anyway, automakers are trying to appeal more towards people’s wallets these days, which means they’re cranking out more cars within the range of us “common men.” (I say men because I tend to think women, for the most part, are much less “common” then us dudes. Which is funny, since there are more of them…never mind. I babble.)

So, we at CCO would like to present what we’ve not-so-humbly chosen as The Most Important Automotive Debuts You Can Afford (And A Few You Probably Can’t Yet). And the list, arranged by the DNA codons of their assistant designers:

Volkswagen Concept BlueSport: While this baby is still just a concept, a production version is planned for 2011. A compact roadster intended to face off against the Nissan 370Z and the Honda S2000, the concept is powered by a 2.0 liter turbodiesel with 180 horsepower through a six-speed DSG. VW claims 0-60 in 6.6 seconds, top speed of 140 miles an hour, and 55 miles per gallon (though not while testing the first two numbers.) If they can stick it on the market with those kind of specs for less than 30 grand, they’ve probably got a winner on their hands.

volkswagen_bluesport_concept_image_013 volkswagen_bluesport_concept_image_001

Chevrolet Spark: I saw them unveil this car first in concept form two years ago at the NY Auto Show as the Chevy Beat. They brought it out alongside two similar concept subcompacts, the Groove and the Traxx. GM even hired a group of hip-hop dancers to “serve” them to the media. This was the first time I’d ever been to an auto show unveiling, and I have to admit, it made me feel like I was gonna blow chunks all over the stage. “What the fuck” doesn’t do it justice. Anyway, GM announced it would be bringing the production Spark to the U.S. (before, they’d said it would be Europe-only, since Americans didn’t really like small, fuel-efficient cars before 2008). That’s all. I just wanted to share that anecdote with you.


2010 Lexus HS 250h: Lexus has brought out hybrids before, but this is the first time they – or any luxury manufacturer – have brought out an exclusively-hybrid model, as opposed to retrofitting an existing car with hybrid parts. Think of it as their Prius…but overpriced. It runs a 2.4 liter 4-cylinder (plus its electric motor) and pumps a total 187 horses through a CVT transmission; mileage and performance haven’t been released yet, but expect plenty of the former and not a whole lot of the latter.


Cadillac Converj: Yes, folks, even the holy Chevrolet Volt (“aaaaahhhhh“) is not immune from being rebadged and spun off by good ole GM. In this case, the compact electric-first-gas-second Sedan Of The Future is being shown also as a Coupe Of The Future. (A few years down the line: the Minivan Of the Later Future. Think about it.) With 161 horsepower and a top speed of 100 mph, this Caddy (of the Future!) won’t be winning many drag races (of the Future!), but at least it’ll go 40 miles on electric power, and recharges in eight hours from a household plug – but only three hours from a 240V outlet, so if you want a Volt or any of its derivatives (of the Future!), you might wanna talk to an electrician. And hey, it looks pretty good. But “Converj?” Were the marketing people “hijh?”

2009 Cadillac Converj Concept Computer Generated Image

Lincoln Concept C: Hoping to get a slice of the Mini Cooper business, Lincoln unveiled this compact concept as a luxury vehicle for “modern luxury buyers who live and work in large, urban areas.” Unfortunately, the Lincoln people apparently didn’t realize customers like the Mini for its looks too, because this thing is pretty ass-ugly. The front (featuring Lincoln’s new “like BMW, but fatter!” twin-kidney grill) isn’t that bad, but from the side…kinda pug fugly. Sorry, Lincoln, I’m just being honest here. If you want to sell Honda Civic-sized cars for $30,000 and up, they’d better at least look good.


2010 Honda Insight Hybrid: After several years playing with mothballs, the Insight name has been called up to active duty on this Prius competitor. While it doesn’t quite get mileage as good as the newest Prius (according to the EPA), 40/43 city/highway is good enough to feel proud of while parking at your next Greenpeace meeting. And it looks way, way better. Couple that with the long list of standard features (automatic climate control, paddle shifters, navigation system top the list), Honda’s propensity to make its cars more fun to drive than Toyota, and the fact that they’ve pledged to price the Insight less than the Civic Hybrid (i.e. under $23,650), and we may have a winner here.

2010 Honda Insight EX

2010 Ford Taurus: Holy shit, what is that good looking sedan, and what did it do with the Taurus? Yes, folks, the humble Ford Taurus – once a symbol of suburban blandness, then a melted jellybean of conformity, followed by a forgettable vehicle destined to toil forever in rental and government fleets, now looks…badass. Like, damn. This new Taurus is like that girl you knew growing up who was really plain looking, then she shows up to your 10 year reunion and she’s a bombshell. It’s been Sandra Bullock-ified. Unfortunately, like that now-gorgeous chick, the new Taurus clearly knows it’s hot shit. How else to explain this once-average, affordable car is now being marketed to the “premium luxury” segment? The cheapest model starts at $25,995, while the Limited begins moving at $31,995. For a Ford Taurus. Wow. 


2010 Fisker Karma Hybrid: Now, you’re probably wondering, “Who the hell is Fisker, and why should I give a crap?” Well, drop those trousers, you negative jerk, because you’re gonna want to give a deuce about this car. Fisker, a new company, wants to make luxury cars for the eco-conscientious rich guy. And if this Karma pulls off what it promises, it’ll be the happiest day for Leonardo DiCaprio since James Cameron gave him that part. The Karma takes a page from the Volt’s playbook, drawing power from an electric motor until juice runs out – when a four-cylinder engine kicks in to recharge the battery and power the motor. The electric motor is said to make 201 horsepower; the 2.4 liter gas engine makes 260, but those never touch the ground, so it’s kind of irrelevant. Fisker says it’ll do the 0-60 in 5.8 seconds and max out at 125 mph, which is pretty sweet for a car you plug in at night. Of course, the best part is how it looks – it wouldn’t be hard to imagine this design as the next Maserati Quattroporte. It goes for $87,900, but Uncle Sam will toss you some of that back as tax credits – net cost is about $80,400. 


2009 Mercedes-Benz McLaren SLR Sterling Moss: This car makes the list for simply being awesome – and showing incredible balls. The final 75 units of the SLR’s production run – a car widely panned by critics as being overly heavy and flawed for its $450,000 price tag – will all be Sterling Moss editions. It has no windshield. The engine is unchanged (not that a 5.4 liter supercharged V8 making 650 horses needed much changing). And it costs $1.04 million. Like I said, ballsy. But if you’re gonna name a car after a guy who once took a Mercedes 300SL over a bump at 170 mph and flew a hundred yards before landing it and driving several hundred more miles, it had better have balls.


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