What a difference a year makes. The mood at the 2010 North American International Auto Show matched the Great Depression in terms of glumness. The 2011 version of the same show was a 180-degree swing. Optimism prevailed; some of the manufacturers who had dropped out of the show when the economy headed towards ground zero returned with a vengeance, and those yet to return have made plans to do so next year. According to the Detroit Auto Dealers Association, registration for journalists was up about 15 percent.
If anything, the 2011 version of the show had too much going for it in the relatively short time allowed. There were almost two dozen individual events, beginning with a Porsche breakfast at 6 a.m. and its press conference that began at 6:30 a.m. (Porsche was a holdout the last few years but came storming back for this year’s event.) The last conference of the day was from Chevrolet at 7:30 p.m. In addition, several manufacturers held parties after that (some even during the last few press conference time slots). There was a second day but the only OEM to hold a slot was Volvo. All the other time periods were held by suppliers. If grumbling—and even more grumbling—mean anything, this was the first and last year to hold a front-loaded, (basically) one-day press event. Even one of the political reporters from one of Detroit’s major dailies wrote a column discussing the chaos endured by the city and journalists alike facing such an impossibly busy itinerary.
Among some of the highlights from this year’s press event:
Porsche 918 RSR Concept
The words “hybrid” and “racing” rarely are seen in the same sentence, but don’t tell that to the engineers and designers in Stuttgart. At this year’s NAIAS, Porsche unveiled its two-seater mid-engine coupe that highlights the company’s continuing development work in the field of hybrid technology. It transplanted the technology derived from its 2010 911 GT3 R Hybrid into the 918 RSR, the motorsports version of the 918.
There’s a wealth of technology built into the new vehicle but the bottom line in racing still is power, and the 918 has it to burn (no pun intended). Its V8 engine produces 563 horsepower at 10,300 rpm and the electric motors on the two front wheels each contribute 75 kW to the peak drive power of 767 hp. This additional power, which is generated during braking, is stored in an optimized flywheel accumulator. It’s mated to a six-speed constant-mesh transmission with longitudinally-mounted shafts and straight-toothed spur gears, operated by using two shift paddles behind the racing steering wheel.
Proving once again there’s a reason for the Korean juggernaut, Hyundai unveiled its all-new revolutionary 2012 Veloster three-door coupe. Veloster’s unique design takes its inspiration from a high-performance sport bike. Distinctive black A-pillars give the glass a motorcycle helmet visor appearance. It contains Hyundai’s signature hexagonal front grille, hood scoop detailing and unique Hyundai-signature LED position lights. The rear view has a distinctive glass hatch, dual centered chrome exhaust tops and black lower fascia that complements the front fascia.
The 2012 Veloster has a unique third door on the passenger side for easy rear-seat access, Hyundai’s Blue Link telematics system, Pandora Internet radio with 7-inch touch-screen display and a new 1.6L direct-injected four-cylinder engine mated to Hyundai’s first dual-clutch transmission. It’s expected to get up to 40 mpg on the highway. It comes with advanced technology features that are generally found exclusively on high-end vehicles.
Proving once again it’s hard to keep a good brand down, Buick introduced its all-new compact luxury sedan (and the brand’s third new model in the past two years), the 2012 Verano. Going on sale the fourth quarter of 2011, the Verano is defined by five elements: Sculpted design, luxurious interior, quiet tuning, refined and responsive performance and purposeful technology. Unique to Verano are translucent blue projector-beam headlamps.
Verano is powered by an Ecotec 2.4L four-cylinder engine with dual-overhead cams, variable valve timing and E85 capability. It produces an estimated 177 horsepower and 170 pound-feet of torque. It’s mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. Estimated highway mileage is 31 mpg.
Verano joins Buick’s Enclave crossover, LaCrosse sedan and Regal sport sedan. Buick’s sales continue to climb in North America and it remains a best-selling brand in China.
Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG E-Cell
The Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG E-Cell is an exciting super sports car featuring an advanced zero-emissions powertrain. With a power output of 525 horsepower and 649 pound-feet of torque, the electric-drive SLS is part of the “AMG Performance 2015” strategy for the continual reduction of fuel consumption and emissions.
The ground-breaking driving system in this prototype boasts some outstanding features such as powerful traction that’s provided by four synchronous electric motors. Each motor achieves a maximum 12,000 rpm and are positioned close to the wheels, thus reducing unsprung masses compared with wheel-hub motors.
It will propel from 0-60 in 3.9 seconds – almost matching the awesome performance of the 563 horsepower SLS AMG with a 6.3L V8 that goes 0-60 in 3.7 seconds.
BMW 1 Series
BMW has awarded its coveted “M Badge” to the 1 Series Coupe after company M engineers and test drivers achieved the exceptional power delivery and the signature, near-perfect driving behavior of a BMW M car. The 2011 BMW 1 Series M Coupe is one of the BMW’s most performance-oriented vehicles in recent years. It sports a twin-turbocharged, all-aluminum, 3.0L, 335 horsepower, inline-6 that’s bolted to a close-ratio 6-speed manual transmission.
It will be available at authorized BMW Centers this spring in limited quantities and with a limited range of options.
The 2012 BMW 1 Series has a new design of the front fascia on the Coupe and Convertible that includes BMW’s innovative Air Curtain that counters turbulence near the wheel arches that reduces the aerodynamic resistance of the vehicle. New exterior design accents have been incorporated into the headlight and tail light clusters.
Power comes from a 3.0L, 230 horsepower inline-6 on the 128i; and BMW’s newest 3.0L inline-6 quipped with a single, twin-scroll turbocharger high-pressure direct injection Valvetronic throttle-less intake engine producing 300 horsepower and 300 pound-feet of torque on the 135i.
It takes the 2012 1 Series Convertible’s top 22 seconds to drop – even at moving speeds up to 25 mph.
BMW 6 Series Convertible
BMW’s new 650i Convertible offers the most advanced chassis technology as well as the most innovative comfort, infotainment and safety features. A sweeping hood, aft-set passenger compartment, long wheelbase and muscular profile embody the hallmark proportions associated with a BMW Convertible, as is the driver-oriented cockpit.
It’s powered by a 4.4L V-8 that develops a maximum 400 horsepower and peak torque of 450 pound-feet. It has an 8-speed Sport Automatic transmission. The driver can choose to select gears manually via shift paddles on the standard Sport leather steering wheel. The 650i also is available with a six-speed manual.
The vehicle will go on sale this spring as a 2012 model.
The all-new 2011 Chrysler 300 Sedan made its world premiere at the North American International Auto Show. While unmistakably a Chrysler 300, the design has been refined for a more tailored appearance. Dramatic front-fender forms rise above the sculptured hood and are echoed by rear-quarter forms, which rise above the deck lid and travel down the vertical taillamps. Furthermore, the windshield has been raked back 3 inches, while rolled-framed doors with thinner pillars improve outward visibility by 15 percent. The interior has been redone using more quality materials and a tightened fit.
There are four models in the 300 line – Chrysler 300, 300 Limited, 300C and 300C AWD. The two beginning models feature the company’s newest powertrain – a 3.6L Pentastar V-6, delivering 292 horsepower (an increase of 63 percent) and 260 pound-feet of torque (up 36 percent). It replaces the 3.5L V-6.
The 300C models receive the 5.7L HEMI® V-8 that delivers 363 horsepower. It will go from 0-60 in less than 6 seconds yet achieves a highway rating of 25 mpg. The engine includes Chrysler’s innovative Fuel Saver Technology that allows seamless transition between four-cylinder mode when less power is needed – and V-8 mode when more power is demanded. When running in a four-cylinder mode the engine delivers up to 20 percent higher fuel efficiency.
The all-new 2011 Chrysler 300 offers more than 70 advanced safety and security features.
Ford Vertrek Concept
Ford unveiled its Vertrek concept vehicle at the auto show. It takes its inspiration from the European Ford Kuga crossover and is the forerunner of a future global compact SUV. It has a comparable interior cargo volume to the Ford Escape but is sleeker and sportier. Vertrek features a lower trapezoidal grille, slimmer headlamp and taillamp treatment, faster roofline, rising beltline, muscular-surfacing hood, wheel arches and a panoramic roof.
Based on the reception of the Ford Fiesta and all-new Focus, a need for the next generation of compact utility vehicles should work well.
For the fourth time in the past three years, an Audi model has won a prestigious EyesOn Design Award, which recognizes the best automotive design on display at the North American International Auto Show. This year’s winner was the redesigned Audi A6.
A long hood joined with a low, sweeping roofline and prominent lines on the flanks creates a dynamic overall appearance. The design gives it the familial appearance of its A4 and A8 siblings. Optional LED headlights emphasize the striking expression at the front. Much of the body of the new A6 consists of aluminum and high-tech steels.
Interior-wise, Audi has “classed up” an already classy environment. Front seats are now available with ventilation and massage functions. Ambient lighting (in the lighting package) provides small points of light throughout the interior.
The 2012 A6 will initially offer three models: a FWD with a 2.0L four-cylinder engine and continuously variable transmission (CVT); a 3.0L V6 mated to an eight-speed automatic; and a gasoline-electric hybrid.
The FWD hybrid mates the eight-speed transmission and 2.0L engine to a 45-hosepower electric motor. A 1.3kWh lithium-ion battery replaces part of the trunk. Audi says the A6 hybrid will reach 62 mph and have a range of nearly two miles at 37 mph in electric-only mode.
The new Audi A6 goes on sale in the U.S. this fall as a 2012 model.