Detroit Motor Show: the preview

Detroit Motor Show: the preview

Published on January 6, 2012

The Cobo Center opens its doors wide to the media on January 9 for the 2012 Detroit Auto Show. Here's a preview:


Honda's luxury US division will use the North American International Auto Show to debut a new ILX concept saloon. The Honda Civic-based four-door saloon will be available with either a 2.0- or 2.4-litre four pot or the Civic Hybrid's powertrain (in America only).

A near-production ready second-generation RDX crossover will also be displayed that noticeably, in an automotive world dominated by downsizing, will swap the turbocharged four-cylinder engine of old for a more fuel efficient V6.

The big news from Acura however will be the unveiling of a new NSX Concept. Destined to wear a Honda badge when it appears on these shores (in tiny numbers), the new NSX is expected to be powered by a hybrid powertrain. It is said to comprise of a 3.5-litre, 400hp mid-mounted V6 petrol engine and a pair of 20kW electric motors on the rear wheels offering torque vectoring capabilities. The NSX concept is also set to gain Honda's latest Super-Handling-All-Wheel-Drive system (SH-AWD). Dear God let them make this one...


Bentley will unveil a pair of new 'entry-level' models in the form of the V8-powered Continental GT coupé and GTC convertible. The new cars will use 4.0-litre twin-turbocharged units developed in conjunction with parent company Audi delivering 500hp and 600Nm, yet, thanks to a cylinder deactivation system  and standard stop-start, this is said to be 40 per cent more fuel efficient and cleaner than Bentley's W12 engines. Owners will still experience sub-five second 0-100km/h times and have a top speed the far side of 290km/h, but will need to visit the petrol station less often with over 800 kilometres on a tank achievable. 


Replace the blue hedgehog inspired nameplate with that of Aveo and say hello to Chevy's Suzuki Swift Sport competitor. The Aveo RS will be powered by a turbocharged 1.4-litre Ecotec engine that produces about 140hp and should be good for a 0-100km/h time of 8.5 seconds and a top speed of 190km/h. No news on Chevrolet's re-entry to Ireland though.


Dodge will unveil a new compact car at NAIAS dubbed the Dart. Based on the Alfa Romeo Giulietta platform the Dart will be powered by a choice of two new 'Tigershark' engines - 2.0- and 2.4-litre 16v units - and a 1.4-litre turbocharged MultiAir engine already used throughout the Fiat/Alfa Romeo range. While the car's architecture's may be Italian the styling of the Dart will be unmistakably American with a black split-crosshair grille mimicking that of the  Dodge Charger, as too will the full-width LED 'racetrack' tail lamps and dual exhaust system. 


Since Hyundai first launched the Veloster coupé we have been patiently waiting for a performance version and it looks like it will finally arrive in Detroit. A turbocharged version of the oddly-doored coupé was officially announced at SEMA and is expected to be powered by Hyundai's new 200hp, 1.6-litre four-cylinder engine. The Veloster's big brother - the Genesis coupé - is expected to receive some cosmetic surgery and a power upgrade for its 2.0-litre turbo four-cylinder and 3.8-litre V6 engines.


Honda has remained very tight lipped about the Accord concept that's on the way, but what we do know is that the styling is expected to extend to the rest of a resurgent Accord range that will come on stream over the next two years. A new plug-in hybrid system is also expected.


The Lexus LF-LC is officially a design concept that is said to point the way towards the styling of future Lexus models but with a large coupé shaped gap in the manufacturer's line-up we expect the 2+2 sports coupé to make production in some form. The latest rumblings regarding the LF-LC's powertrain would point towards a hybrid solution with opinion divided between the V8 from the LS 600h and the GS 450h's V6. The Lexus LX (essentially an $80,000 Toyota Land Cruiser) will receive a midlife makeover in time for Detroit with new sheet metal, changes to the front and rear end and infotainment upgrade for the cabin. Unlikely to help with woeful sales in the US though.


Ford wants to revive the fortunes of Lincoln, a brand that at one time would not have seemed out of place alongside the like of Bentley and Rolls-Royce, and is hoping the MKZ concept saloon will be the first in the right direction. Based on the underpinnings of the Ford Mondeo the MKZ is expected to hit the market in early 2013 with a choice of V6 or four-cylinder hybrid powertrains. The MKZ will be the first of an expected seven new vehicles from Ford's luxury division over the next two years.


We have already seen Maserati's entry into the Porsche Cayenne dominated performance SUV segment but Detroit will provide the first opportunity for American buyers to lay eyes on the Kubang SUV. Officially still a concept, the Jeep Grand Cherokee based Kubang is expected to reach production complete with a Ferrari built engine. Which is nice.


Mercedes-Benz will use the Detroit Auto Show to debut two new hybrid vehicles. The E 300 Bluetec Hybrid is the Stuttgart firm's answer to the BMW 5 Series ActiceHybrid. Power will be provided by the 200hp diesel unit used in the E 250 CDI and a 20kW electric motor that produces 250Nm of torque. The E 300 Bluetec is expected to go on sale in Europe in 2012.

Meanwhile the E 400 Hybrid is not expected to see service in Europe, as its 3.5-litre V6 petrol engine is more suited to the land of cheap(er) fuel. The petrol unit will be joined by an electric motor and a 0.8kWh lithium ion battery to give the E 400 Hybrid a total of 320hp and over 540Nm of torque.

Hybrids aside, Mercedes-Benz is also expected to debut the all new SL model in Detroit. The sixth generation car has more acronyms than you can shake a stick at and thanks to the extensive use of aluminium is up to 30 per cent lighter than its predecessor. This has obvious benefits for both performance and efficiency with the 306hp 3.5-litre V6 SL 350 returning 41.5mpg (6.8 litres/100km) yet still able to hit 100km/h in 5.9 seconds. The 435hp 4.7-litre V8 powered SL 500 can manage the same sprint in 4.6 seconds yet is 22 per cent more efficient than before.


Having got an elephant to sit on the car to make the Coupé model MINI is set to break out the can opener to create a new Roadster version. The manually operated rag-top will become the sixth car in the MINI line-up and the first ever drop-top two-seater in the brand's history. The Roadster will come with the same power outputs as its Coupé sibling so sign us up for a 211hp John Cooper Works version please.


The coupé version of the new 991-generation 911 was only officially unveiled at the IAA a few months ago but Porsche is already speeding ahead with the Cabriolet version expected to debut at NAIAS. The new car will feature an innovative fabric covered metal folding roof that will allow the cabrio to retain the distinctive 911 profile yet carry on the long tradition of Porsche rag tops.


The FR-S is a badge engineered Toyota GT 86 for the American market. So expect the same 200hp Subaru engineered Boxer engine, lightweight, rear-wheel drive coupé.


The US is the undisputed home of the pick-up truck so a 'foreign' manufacturer unveiling a concept purely designed to appeal to American fans would appear to make sense. That is of course unless that manufacturer is best known for micro-sized city cars. The Smart for-us is slightly larger than the fortwo on which it is based and shares the 75hp electric motor but adds large wheels and minimal overhangs to the pick-up style body. Consign to the 'will never happen' bin and move on. 


When Toyota first released (limited) details of the NS4 plug-in hybrid it barely raised an eyebrow in the office, but if the latest rumours are to be believed we may have to rethink our initial indifference. Buoyed by the success of the GT 86 it would appear that Toyota is raiding the history books and the NS4 *might* turn into a next generation Supra. Fingers are crossed throughout the car loving world!


Big news on the Volvo stand will be a plug-in hybrid XC60. Volvo is also expected to show a version of the V60 Plug-In Hybrid specifically designed to appeal to the US market. That means it will ditch the 2.4-litre D5 turbo diesel for an as yet unnamed petrol engine. Whatever the engine the V60 will feature an electric rear axle power unit known as ERAD (Electric Rear Axle Drive). Featuring a 70 horsepower electric motor, the system is good for 200Nm of torque.


Volkswagen will finally enter the world of hybrid with the new Jetta hybrid model that features a 1.4-litre turbocharged petrol engine mated to a lithium ion powered electric motor. No official word on performance or fuel economy but it is known that VW has used the Honda Civic hybrid as a benchmark for the Jetta.

Volkswagen is also expected to remove the covers from a new EV concept in Detroit. Surprisingly details are almost non-existent but it would appear that the second largest car manufacturer will flex its muscles with an all-new car that may or may not make production. And that's about all we know for the moment...