Posts Tagged ‘Jetta Hybrid’


Mazda: Mazda has struggled to compete against much larger rivals both in Japan, its home market, and in the US, it’s largest market. First, long-time partner and partial owner, Ford, divested its ownership interest in Mazda, ending some platform and engineering sharing agreements. Then the Great Recession hit, draining Mazda of precious resources needed for future product development.

Deep inside Mazda’s R&D facilities in Hiroshima, engineers worked non-stop to develop a new line of engines, transmissions and technologies that would lead the company into a much more cleaner and fuel efficient future.  Although Mazda lacks the hybrid technology of its larger competitors, it came up with a family of new engines and transmissions marketed under the unfortunate banner of “SkyActiv” technology.  The new drivetrains combine direct injection, variable valve timing, turbocharging, reduced friction, and smarter 6-speed transmissions to bring marquee fuel efficiency to its new models.

First up last year was the CX-5 small crossover that competes in one of the hottest market segments dominated by the likes of the Honda CR-V, Ford Escape and Toyota RAV4.  This year, Mazda is introducing the completely redesigned 2014 Mazda6 mid-size family sedan, that finally seems poised to capture consumers’ attention from perennial favorites like the Camry, Accord, Altima, Fusion, Optima and Sonata.  The sexy styling reminds me of Ford’s new Fusion – something that may not be as coincidental since the last-generation Ford Fusion and Mazda6 shared the same platform.

The standard engine for the 2014 Mazda6 will be Mazda’s SkyActiv-G 2.5L 16-valve turbocharged 4-cylinder gasoline engine good for 184 hp and 185 lb-ft of torque. Most will be sold with a six-speed automatic, although a six-speed manual will be available on lower trims. EPA figures haven’t been released  yet, but Mazda expects highway fuel economy to beat 35 mpg.

However, the most important  introduction will be the SkyActiv-D engine, a modern 2.2L 4-cylinder turbo-diesel engine that burns clean enough to need no additional NOx aftertreatments.  This promises the fuel economy of a hybrid without all the expensive batteries and dual electric-gas drivetrains.  Expect to see highway fuel economy better than 40 mpg and a substantial increase in city economy over the gasoline counterpart.

The 2014 Mazda6 with SkyActiv-D technology.  It should be available by mid-2013.

The 2014 Mazda6 with SkyActiv-D technology. It should be available by mid-2013.

The front of the 2014 Mazda6 sedan.

The front of the 2014 Mazda6 sedan.

The rear of the 2014 Mazda6 diesel sedan.

The rear of the 2014 Mazda6 diesel sedan. Mazda calls its new styling language “KODO” – Soul of Motion.

The interior of the 2014 Mazda6.

The interior of the 2014 Mazda6. The plastics look and feel class-leading and the switchgear feels precise and well-made.

 

Mercedes-Benz: The largest single market for Mercedes-Benz worldwide is Southern California (thank you Fletcher-Jones in Newport Beach), so you’d think Mercedes might introduce some important products here. You’d be wrong.  While I very much like the 2014 SLS AMG Black Series, it’s not like this is a volume car. It gets a few upgrades to the “standard” SLS AMG package, but the engine is the same 6.2L hand-built AMG V8 good for 622 hp and 468 lb-ft of torque.  The  AMG Speedshift dual clutch 7-speed sports transmission, is the same but slightly upgraded. For the extra $100,000+, the Black Series gets ceramic-composite brakes, adaptive performance suspension, lighter alloy wheels, special performance tires that wear out even faster than the standard tires. As you’d expect, it’s also the fastest SLS, leaping from a standstill to 60 mph in 3.5 seconds – performance you are sure to need while crawling on the 405 at 8:30 am.

Sure we will see a few of them in LA, but they will be owned by collectors with a dozen other exotic cars in their home garage or by misbehaving  scions of Saudi royalty.  The US price hasn’t been announced, however, in Germany it will be 249,900 euros, or around $322,846 at current exchange rates. Get in line now.

2014 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG Black Series

2014 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG Black Series

That rear wing is a sure giveaway that this 2014 SLS AMG is the Black Series, not the run-of-the-mill SLS Gullwing.

That rear wing is a sure giveaway that this 2014 SLS AMG is the Black Series, not the run-of-the-mill SLS Gullwing.

Mercedes showed one concept truck, the Ener-G-Force Concept Fuel Cell Vehicle. It’s said to foreshadow the styling on an upcoming “baby” G-class SUV, perhaps built on the new A-Class front drive architecture. But this is no baby. It’s quite big – bigger than the tank-like G-wagon (short for Geländewagen or cross-country vehicle) that Mercedes has been producing in substantially the same form since 1979.

The styling is quite flamboyant while fluidly-sculptural. I even like the designer LED headlights in the outline of a “G.”  Overhangs are practically non-existent and this thing looks like it could climb over a Range Rover or through the hills and craters of the moon. The built-in front winch is very slick.  Of course, a fuel-cell drivetrain is unlikely for any production car, at least in the near future, but it does hint at possibilities in the next couple of decades when the costs of fuel cells comes down and you can buy a hydrogen refill at every “gas” station. I have more pictures of this that I will include in another LA Auto Show post.

The Ener-G-Force Concept SUV from Mercedes-Benz.

The Ener-G-Force Concept SUV from Mercedes-Benz.

MINI: BMW’s British unit didn’t have any real news for Los Angeles.  It was the first show for the 2013 Paceman, a 2-door version of the widely-popular Countryman SUV that has been the backbone of MINI in the U.S. since its introduction.

2013 MINI Cooper S Paceman.

2013 MINI Cooper S Paceman.

For some reason, the marketeers at MINI thought they needed some “news” for Los Angeles and cooked up the a variant of the Clubman 3-door wagon called the Clubvan. Essentially it’s a Clubman without the rear seats that can be used as a mini panel van. This is from the Answer to the Question That No One Asked department.

2013 Mini Cooper S Clubvan.

2013 Mini Cooper S Clubvan.

Nissan: Not much new from our friends at Nissan. The 2013 Altima was introduced and went on sale months ago.  I’m not a fan of the evolution of the exterior; however, I was impressed with the look, feel, materials and quality of the interior. Now I just need to be motivated to test drive one.  Nissan insists on using continuously-variable transmissions (CVTs) and I’d much prefer a 6-speed automatic in this kind of car.  I think Altima’s interior is excellent – better than the new Accord, but the Honda name will sell more units.

2013 Nissan Altima

2013 Nissan Altima

2013 Nissan Altima interior.

2013 Nissan Altima interior.

Nissan completely redesigned the 2013 Pathfinder too. No longer is it a bulky truck, made for off-road duties but civilized enough for the more likely on-road family-hauling. The all-new Pathfinder – which shares almost everything with its more expensive cousin, the Infiniti JX – is a 7-passenger crossover with car-based rather than truck-based credentials.  This is the Pathfinder’s first major auto show, but, like the Altima, it was introduced a couple of months ago and is already on-sale at your local dealer.

2013 Nissan Pathfinder - front

2013 Nissan Pathfinder – front

2013 Nissan Pathfinder - Side. She's a big girl. Good thing you can get a "Bird's-Eye" camera system that shows you the outside from all angles.

2013 Nissan Pathfinder – Side. She’s a big girl. Good thing you can get a “Bird’s-Eye” camera system that shows you the outside from all angles.  It reminds me of the Chevy Traverse, which has been in the market for almost 5 years now.

The 2013 Nissan Pathfinder shares much in common with other Nissan products. There are lots of buttons here, but all seem logical and easy to grab.

The 2013 Nissan Pathfinder shares much in common with other Nissan products. There are lots of buttons here, but all seem logical and easy to grab. I’m never a fan of plastic-looking wood.

Nissan’s big reveal was an updated GT-R sports car. You’d be hard pressed to tell the difference between this 2014 model and the 2013 model.

2014 Nissan GT-R rear.

2014 Nissan GT-R rear. It’s still Godzilla in a suit. And still over $100,000.

2014 Nissan GT-R interior. Still nice. Still six digits.

2014 Nissan GT-R interior. The carbon fiber (yes, it’s real) is a nice touch for the GT-R.

Porsche: Although pictures had been leaked ahead of the LA Auto Show, the big news was the 2013 Porsche Cayman. The Cayman, the hardtop version of the Boxster, always appears several months after the introduction of a new Boxster, so it wasn’t as much of a surprise as it was just a treat to see in person. The Cayman starts at $52,600. The Cayman S starts at $63,800. Unfortunately, like every Porsche, you have to add at least $20,000 of options to make it the car you’d like it to be. Porsche can teach a doctorate level class in nickle and diming.

2013 Porsche Cayman

2013 Porsche Cayman

2013 Porsche Cayman.

2013 Porsche Cayman. Like the Boxster, the rear spoiler is integrated with the taillights and center stop light. The lines flow beautifully.

The interior of the 2013 Cayman is nearly identical to the Boxster - which is a good thing.

The interior of the 2013 Cayman is nearly identical to the Boxster – which is a good thing. This Cayman had the 6-speed manual shifter but the upgraded 2-tone leather interior and Porsche’s excellent navigation system.

The side scoops that are accentuated with the deep creases in Cayman's door sheet metal, is how the engine breathes.

The side scoops that are accentuated with the deep creases in Cayman’s door sheet metal, is how the engine breathes.

This screaming yellow Porsche is the Cayman S. It also took center stage with the “base” Cayman above. The engines and transmissions are identical to those found in the Boxster and Boxster S.

That big lump in the back of the 2013 Cayman S is the engine cover. Like the Boxster, the Cayman has a mid-mount engine which makes it the best handling Porsche. Just don't say that to the Germans at the show as they will always tell you that the 911 is the best. All the car magazines say otherwise.

That big lump in the back of the 2013 Cayman S is the engine cover. Like the Boxster, the Cayman has a mid-mount engine which makes it the best handling Porsche. Just don’t say that to the Germans at the show as they will always tell you that the 911 is the best. All the car magazines say otherwise.

You could call it the Convertible Cayman or just the Boxster.  I love this 2013 Boxster S this special silver color.

You could call it the Convertible Cayman or just the Boxster. I love this 2013 Boxster S in this special GT Silver Metallic color.

There was no sticker on this 2013 Boxster S; however with the PDK transmission, navigation, power seats, full leather, etc., there is probably another $25,000 in options added to the base $60,900.

There was no sticker on this 2013 Boxster S; however with the PDK transmission, navigation, power seats, full leather, etc., there is probably another $25,000 in options added to the base $60,900.

Another previously announced Porsche is the Cayenne Diesel, which starts at $55,750 (a relative bargain in the Porsche Universe). Power comes from a Porsche-tuned version of the VW Group’s 3.0-liter V6 turbo-diesel engine with a common-rail injection system. Its turbocharger features Variable Turbine Geometry (VTG). The EPA has rated the Cayenne Diesel at 20 mpg city, 29 mpg highway. That sure beats the Cayenne S with a V8 rated at 16 city, 22 highway.

Except for the diesel badge, the 2013 Cayenne Diesel looks almost exactly like the Cayenne V6.

Except for the small diesel badges on the front side fenders, the 2013 Cayenne Diesel looks almost exactly like the Cayenne V6.

2013 Cayenne Diesel

2013 Cayenne Diesel

Also making its North American debut is the 911 Carrera4, 4s and Cabriolet variants.

2013 Porsche 911 Carrera 4S Cabriolet

2013 Porsche 911 Carrera 4S Cabriolet

Except for a special torque split gauge, in the instrument panel, the interior of the 911 Carrera 4S is the same as the "regular" 911 Carrera.

Except for a special torque split gauge, in the instrument panel, the interior of the 911 Carrera 4S is the same as the “regular” 911 Carrera.

Range Rover:  Now that Land Rover has made Range Rover its own sub-brand,  the name Land Rover was almost non-existent at Press Preview. All emphasis was on the 2013 Range Rover which is trickling into dealerships as the LA Auto Show opens.

2013 Range Rover HSE

2013 Range Rover HSE

The split clam-shell that makes for a good picnic table hasn't changed for the new Rangy.  This black one is the top-of-the-line Range Rover Supercharged Autobiography.

The split clam-shell that makes for a good picnic table hasn’t changed for the new Rangy. This black one is the top-of-the-line Range Rover Supercharged Autobiography.

The instrument panel and dash of the 2013 Range Rover Supercharged Autobiography

The instrument panel and dash of the 2013 Range Rover Supercharged Autobiography. I don’t like the “magic” cylinder that rises out of the console to shift between Drive, Reverse and Park. It’s clumsy in practice and more gimmicky than useful.

The oddities of the last Range Rover have carried over to the new one. The memory seat buttons are on the arm rest where the window switches should be.

The oddities of the last Range Rover have carried over to the new one. The memory seat buttons are on the arm rest where the window switches should be.

The Range Rover's window switches are on top of the window sill, in a very awkward position. I know it's "tradition" but this one needs to be thrown out.

The Range Rover’s window switches are on top of the window sill, in a very awkward position. I know it’s “tradition” but this one needs to be thrown out.

Smart: The diminutive smart fortwo hasn’t been updated much since its introduction 3 years ago. Colors and options change and Mercedes says it’s updated the horrible automated manual transmission, but it still jerks around with little finesse.

The big news for the LA Auto Show was the 2013 fortwo ED (electric drive). Apparently there were so many bad reviews of the 2012 (and first) version of the car that the whole electric drive system has been revised and the battery range has been extended to around 68 miles. The coupe version starts at $25,750 (before the $7,500 federal tax credit) Smart also offers a 240 volt home charger for $1,300.

2013 smart fortwo ED (electric drive) coupe. Base price $25,750.

2013 smart fortwo ED (electric drive) cabriolet. Base price $28,750 (before federal tax credit).

The smart ED bicycle is a fantastic design. The reps told me that it will be sold in the U.S., but there is no specific launch date. It will be expensive, probably in the $3,500 range.

The smart ED bicycle is a fantastic design. The reps told me that it will be sold in the U.S., but there is no specific launch date. It will be expensive, probably in the $3,500 range.

Just for fun, smart showed a Jeremy Scott designed Special Edition of the fortwo. You won’t miss this one coming at you.

smart fortwo Jeremy Scott Concept

smart fortwo Jeremy Scott Special Edition. I think this thing is actually a driver that is used to promote both the smart brand and the Los Angeles-based designer.

Check out this interior of the smart fortwo Jeremy Scott Special Edition. No expense was spared here.

Check out this interior of the smart fortwo Jeremy Scott Special Edition. No expense was spared here.

Subaru:  I keep hoping that Subaru will find its way in the design and styling department, but each time a new model rolls out, I’m disappointed.  The media dutifully attended Subaru’s introduction of the 2014 Forester, but there wasn’t much buzz or hurried Tweets of the homely model that was unveiled this week.  The Forester is basically a tall Impreza wagon

2014 Subaru Forester - Front. Is it that different from the current model?

2014 Subaru Forester – Front. Is it that different from the current model?

Here's the 2014 Subaru Forester from the rear. Again, no new ground broken here.  I think that Subaru likes the formula for the Forester and is going to stick with it as long as customers keep buying it.

Here’s the 2014 Subaru Forester from the rear. Again, no new ground broken here. I think that Subaru likes the formula for the Forester and is going to stick with it as long as customers keep buying it.

The interior of the 2014 Subaru Forester is mostly lifted from the Impreza. The infotainment system is easy to use, but lags behind the competition.

The interior of the 2014 Subaru Forester is mostly lifted from the Impreza. The infotainment system is easy to use, but lags behind the competition.

Toyota:  When Toyota introduced the RAV4 in 1996, it was the first small SUV based on a car (the Corolla) platform. The small crossover segment is red hot. The Honda Civic, Ford Escape and RAV4 each sell more than 200,000 units a year. A few generations later and well over a million units sold, Toyota rolled out the 2013 RAV4 for its world premiere at the LA Auto Show.  The simple fact of the matter is that Toyota had to keep up with the competition. Ford has a new Escape that is selling very well. Honda redesigned its CR-V a year ago and it too is burning up the sales charts. As of September 2012, Honda had sold 100,000 more CR-Vs than the RAV4. The new little SUV aims to reverse that trend.

2013 Toyota RAV4 SUV. The looks are fresh, if not exciting.

2013 Toyota RAV4 SUV. The looks are fresh, if not exciting.

2013 Toyota RAV4 side-rear. Note that the spare tire has moved from the rear door to under the cargo floor. The rear tailgate is now hinged at the top like the competition.

2013 Toyota RAV4 side-rear. Note that the spare tire has moved from the rear door to under the cargo floor. The rear tailgate is now hinged at the top like the competition.

The 2013 RAV4's interior looks and feels upgraded. While there is still lots of cheap plastic, soft-touch and textured panels populate the areas you see/touch the most.

The 2013 RAV4’s interior looks and feels upgraded. While there is still lots of cheap plastic, soft-touch and textured panels populate the areas you see/touch the most.

The RAV4's dash has many horizontal layers that I think work. The center controls are easy to reach and mix both hard knobs and buttons with some functions on the touch screen.

The RAV4’s dash has many horizontal layers that I think work. The center controls are easy to reach and mix both hard knobs and buttons with some functions on the touch screen.

Volkswagen: VW finally introduced the convertible version of the Beetle. It will be on sale just in time for convertible season in sunny states like California. All the engine options are the same as on the Beetle – 2.5L 5-cylinder, 2.0L Turbo and 2.0L TDI. The top faithfully recreates almost the exact silhouette of the hardtop Beetle and it lays nearly flat; however you still have to cover it yourself with a piece of snap-in vinyl. Prices start at $24,495.

2013 VW Beetle Convertible. This one has the 2.0L turbo gasoline engine.

2013 VW Beetle Convertible. This one has the 2.0L turbo gasoline engine.

The 2013 VW Beetle Convertible has better rear visibility than the last version. However, the top still doesn't lay perfectly flat.

The 2013 VW Beetle Convertible has better rear visibility than the last version. However, the top still doesn’t lay perfectly flat.

The interior of the 2013 VW Beetle Convertible is pretty much the same a the hardtop version. The color-matching interior parts is a nice touch.

The interior of the 2013 VW Beetle Convertible is pretty much the same a the hardtop version. The color-matching interior parts is a nice touch.

VW also showed its first gasoline-electric hybrid car, the 2013 Jetta Hybrid. It starts at $24,995.  VW mates a 1.4L turbocharged and direct-injected TSI gasoline engine to an electric motor. The combination is good for 170 hp and 184 lb-ft of torque.   A 7-speed dual clutch transmission is standard. VW says the 2013 Jetta Hybrid will drive up to 44 mph in EV mode, zero to 60 in 9 seconds flat and deliver a combined 45 mpg.  It should be arriving in VW showrooms now.

2013 Jetta Hybrid

2013 Jetta Hybrid SEL Premium

The interior of the 2014 Jetta Hybrid looks like a nicely upgraded Jetta - much closer to the Jetta GLI. I hope it gets better fuel economy that the company's TDI models.

The interior of the 2013 Jetta Hybrid SEL Premium looks very nice. It should for around $32,000. At least you can get automatic climate control in this Jetta!

Volvo: Poor Volvo. Ever since Ford dumped Volvo to the Chinese, Volvo North America has been starved for new product. The best the company could muster at the show was a custom-built Concept S60 with Polestar performance upgrades. It has a 2.0L inline 6 cylinder turbo engine making an astounding 508 hp with a close-ratio 6-speed manual transmission. Power is routed to all wheels through a 4th generation Haldex XWD system. It can race from zero to 60 in 3.7 seconds and the top speed is 186 mph. The cost is said to be around $300,000.  Volvo is testing interest in a  performance version of the S60, but it would have to be much less than $300k to get me interested.

This is the Volvo S60 Polestar Concept Car. Would you buy one?

This is the Volvo S60 Polestar Concept Car. Would you buy one?

Volvo Concept S60 Polestar from the rear.

Volvo Concept S60 Polestar from the rear.

Advertisements

The 2012 North American International Auto Show in Detroit kicked off Monday with a slew of new, exciting products.

GM, Ford and Chrysler came on strong with some exciting new designs that are sure to be a hit in the market. Nissan and Porsche returned to the show after being absent during some of the dark years of the recession.  The all-new Mercedes-Benz SL made its world debut, VW showed off some cool green concepts and the all-new, all-important BMW 3-Series made its North  American debut.

I sifted through the deluge of information from Day 1 and below are the ones I found most interesting and/or important.

Acura:

Honda’s mild-luxury division is back in the chair for another round of hair and makeup.  The current TSX, a slightly restyled Euro Accord, is gone in favor of an all-new ILX sedan based on the new generation Honda Civic.  Acura thinks that the ILX will nail Gen Y who demand something better (and better-looking) than a Civic.  Priced under $30,000, the ILX will be available with three powertrains, just like the Civic:  A 2.0L 4-cylinder mated to an automatic (hopefully 6-speed); the hybrid system out of the Civic Hybrid – a 1.5L gas engine with Integrated Motor Assist, and the 2.4L 4-cylinder Civic Si engine with a 6-speed manual transmission. If you think it looks like the outgoing TSX, join the club.

2013 Acura ILX. I wish Acura would ditch the beak.

The 2013 Acura ILX looks a bit better from the rear, but not by much.

Not satisfied with one new product, Acura showed the all-new RDX, based on the new Honda CR-V. This time around, thankfully, Honda ditched the laggy turbo four, 5-speed automatic and expensive SH-AWD in favor of Honda’s 3.5L 273 hp V6, a six-speed automatic and the simpler and lighter AWD system found in the CR-V.  The Acura beak is still there, but to my eye, this “concept” (which is production ready) looks a bit dull and sad. I don’t see anything that will make it stand out in the crowd of smaller CUVs.

2013 Acura RDX - Concept - although we understand it's pretty close to the production version.

The interior of the 2013 Acura is handsome; however, it's not too much different from the outgoing TSX - which has a similar interior.

The real news is the long-awaited return of the Acura NSX super car.  This time around, Acura is aiming high. As high as the upcoming Porsche 918 Hybrid and the Audi R8.  The  NSX is to be designed in the US and built in Honda’s Ohio plant.  The details released are the stuff of boy-racer dreams.   It will have Honda’s first Sport Hybrid Super Handling All-Wheel Drive system.   A next-generation 3.5L V6 engine will add direct injection and be good for at least 308 hp and 266 lb-ft of torque. It will be mated to a dual-clutch automatic with a built-in electric motor driving the rear wheels.  In addition, a pair of electric motors at the front axle will drive the front wheels and also be capable of propelling the NSX in electric-only mode.  Also new is another wordy system: Bilateral Torque Adjustable Control – a.k.a. torque vectoring.   The entire system is melded together with silicon chips and highly-sophisticated software to produce all-wheel drive.   It should be amazing. Honda says is should go into production in 3-4 years.

Acura NSX Concept. I hope the eagle beak gets toned down in any production version.

Acura NSX Concept

Cadillac:

GM’s luxury division is finally dead serious about taking on the Audi A4, BMW 3-series and Mercedes C-class.  No more rebadged Chevrolets (Cimmaron)  and no Opel reskins (Catera).  The Cadillac ATS rides on an all-new, bespoke rear-drive platform and offers the choice of three engines as well as all-wheel drive:

  • Base engine is a 2.5L inline four with 200 hp and 188 lb-ft torque. The only transmission is a 6-speed automatic and it’s only available in RWD.
  • Optional 2.0L turbo four making 270 hp and 260 lb-ft torque.  Choices of a 6-speed manual or 6-speed automatic. AWD is optional, but only with the automatic transmission.
  • Optional 3.6L V6 with 318 hp (take that BMW 335i) and 276 lb-ft of torque. The only transmission is the 6-speed automatic and AWD is available.

Cadillac is using a sophisticated 5-link independent rear suspension with struts up front – this matches what the Germans have had for years. Cadillac claims a 50/50 front/rear weight distribution to match BMW’s long-held mantra. It’s also relatively svelte at around 3,400 lbs, which should help performance and fuel economy.  Electric power steering is sourced from ZF in Germany.  It will offer a vast array of electronic gadgets and nannies, including adaptive cruise control, lane-departure warning, blind-spot warning, heads-up display, and adaptive headlights.  Cadillac’s new CUE (Cadillac User Experience) is optional with an 8-inch display.  Prices haven’t yet been announced; however, you can bet it will closely match the new BMW 3-series, so maybe $32,000-$34,000 base. It should go on sale this summer.

2013 Cadillac ATS

2013 Cadillac ATS

The Cadillac ATS has a handsome, balanced interior. The leather looks nice and Cadillac swears the wood is real.

Chevrolet:

The Heartbeat of America had some interesting concept cars and one hot hatch.

The 2013 Chevy Sonic RS is more of a styling exercise than tuner car.  The RS starts with the 5-door Sonic with the optional 1.4L turbo four making 138 hp and 148 lb-ft of torque – so there is no engine upgrade or tweak.  It comes with a 6-speed manual or optional 6-speed automatic transmission. The exterior gets some new fascia, unique grille, rocker panels, a revised bumper and a spoiler. Inside, Chevy’s MyLink infotainment system will be standard with a 7 inch touch screen and Bluetooth. The Sonic RS does get a stiffer suspension and rear disc brakes, so it should handle and stop a bit better than the standard Sonic.  Pricing hasn’t been announced yet.

2013 Chevrolet Sonic RS

2013 Chevrolet Sonic RS

Chevrolet also debuted two concept cars in an attempt to attract more Gen Y buyers (a burgeoning demographic).

First up is the Code 130R. It’s a rear-drive (yah!) four-seat coupe that has some of the looks and about the size of the BMW 1-series coupe.  Car & Driver magazine reports that it sits on the same platform as the ATS, but this isn’t confirmed by GM.  Power comes from Chevy’s 1.4L turbo four, bumped to 150 hp and 148 lb-ft of torque. It is also fitted with GM’s mild-hybrid system called eAssist, currently in the Buick LaCrosse. It comes with either a 6-speed manual or 6-speed automatic transmission.  Frankly, I think it looks cartoonish – like it comes from the latest Cars animated film.  Chevy calls it a “heritage” look.  The rear looks like a squeezed Camaro.

Chevrolet Code 130R Coupe Concept

Chevrolet Code 130R Coupe

Next is Chevy’s Tru 140S Concept hatchback. It’s about the size of a Chevy Cruze and rides on the same platform. Like the Code 130R, it has a 1.4L turbo four making 150 hp and 148 lb-ft of torque. However, instead of the eAssist, it gets a start/stop system to save gas.  Transmission choices are also the same as the Code 130R – six speeds, automatic or manual. Chevy says it seats four people (albeit very tight).  While I’m not in Detroit and didn’t see it in person, the matte white paint is supposed to be sick.

Chevrolet Tru 140S Concept Hatchback. I love the headlights.

Chevrolet Tru 140S Concept Hatchback

Dodge:

I can’t resist the obvious metaphor: The 2013 Dodge Dart is right on target.  Starting at $15,995, this stellar new 4-door sedan (and only a sedan) based on the Alfa Romeo Giulietta, is a star among a sea of subcompact anonymity.  While it’s instantly recognizable as a Dodge by the cross-hair grille and mini-Charger-like taillights, you can see the Italian influences in the interior.

2013 Dodge Dart

2013 Dodge Dart - it definitely has the Charger's rear end.

Some dizzy designers at Dodge decided that the Dart should be easily customizable.  There are no less than twelve exterior colors and fourteen interior and trim colors.  The model levels will sound familiar to Dodge buyers:  SE, SXT, Rallye, Limited and coming a bit later, R/T.

The Dart's cockpit looks inviting. The large 8 inch touch-screen is also used in other Dodge products.

The Dart's seats look much nicer than a standard subcompact car. That's the Italian speaking.

There are three different engines and three transmissions:

  • The base engine is a “Tigershark” 2.0L inline 4-cylinder engine  making a respectable 160 hp and 145 lb-ft of torque. It can be had with either a six-speed manual or automatic.
  • Optional on the SE, SXT, Rallye and Limited is a 1.4L 4-cylinder turbocharged and intercooled engine similar to the unit found in the Fiat 500 Abarth.  It makes 160 hp and a whopping 184 lb-ft of torque, which makes all the difference given the engine has the same ponies as the Tigershark 2.0. It can be mated to Fiat’s all-new 6-speed dual clutch automatic as well as the regular 6-speed manual and automatic.
  • A few months after launch, an all-aluminum 2.4L  Tigershark 4-cylinder engine with a tantalizing 184 hp and 171 lb-ft of torque will be introduced. It’s available only on the R/T trim level. You get your choice of the 6-speed manual or automatic – no dual clutch option.

Dodge hasn’t released full pricing levels or fuel economy ratings. However, it’s likely that at least one of the powertrains will hit the seemingly-magical 40 mpg highway mark.

Ford:

In keeping with Ford’s “One Ford” mantra, the 2013 Ford Fusion is the Mondeo in the rest of the world. Like the Focus from last year, the same great car available only outside the US is now the same worldwide. Only the names are different.  The styling is forward and dynamic. It’s the new face of Ford and it bears more than a passing resemblance to the sensational Ford Evo concept shown in Frankfurt last year.

The Ford Evo concept car from the 2011 Frankfurt Auto Show

The Fusion is already a best-seller for Ford, with 248,067 units in 2011. By comparison, Honda sold 235,625 Accords, Toyota sold 308,510 Camrys and Hyundai sold 225,961 Sonatas.  In short, this mid-size sedan is the heart of the passenger car market in the US.

2013 Ford Fusion

2013 Ford Fusion

The new Fusion will be sold in three familiar trim levels: S, SEL and Titanium.  There are five (!) engine configurations, and none of them have more than four cylinders:

  • Base powertrain is a naturally-aspirated 2.5L  inline 4 with 170 hp and 170 lb-ft of torque. The only transmission is a 6-speed automatic. Fuel economy figures were not released by Ford.
  • Option 1: An EcoBoost 1.6L direct-inject turbo-charged engine with 179 hp and 172 lb-ft of torque. It’s available with either a 6-speed manual or automatic.  Fuel economy: 26 mpg city, 37 mpg  highway.
  • Option 2: An EcoBoost 2.0L direct-inject turbo-charged engine with 237 hp and 250 lb-ft of torque. The only transmission is Ford’s dual clutch 6-speed automatic.  Fuel economy: Ford says it will get 25% better fuel economy than the outgoing V6.
  • Hybrid powertrain: 2.0L Atkinson-cycle four-cylinder gas engine and a permanent-magnet AC synchronous motor. The pair is good for 185 hp and 130 lb-ft torque. The only transmission is an eCVT.  Lithium-ion batteries replace the old nickle-metal hydride batteries. Fuel economy: 47 mpg city, 44 mpg highway. (Take that, Camry and Sonata hybrid!)
  • Plug-in Hybrid powertrain: 1.6L Atkinson-cycle four-cylinder replaces the 2.0 unit in the non-plug-in hybrid. The combined electric motor and gas engine is good for 185 hp and 130 lb-ft of torque and it has the same eCVT transmission. However, with benefit of the plug-in EV range, Ford says the Fusion Energi will get 100 mpg-e (equivalent).

Ford is offering a slew of electronic nannies to help distinguish the Fusion from the competition. It will offer adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping system (to help the drowsy driver), blind-spot warning, active parking assist (it will parallel park the car for you) and Ford’s controversial MyFord Touch infotainment system with voice recognition and customizable screens.

2013 Ford Fusion interior. You can see that it's similar to the Focus, but larger and better equipped.

It’s a slick package that is sure to attract the attention of the millions of car buyers looking for a mid-size family sedan. The two hybrids will also be a hit with greenies and hypermilers.

Mercedes-Benz

Mercedes chose Detroit for the world debut of its sensational new SL. The styling is controversial and I’ve read lots of complaints about it, but the more I look at the pictures, the better I like it. And I think color has much to do with opinions – you know, like it in black, hate it in silver.

2013 Mercedes-Benz SL550

2013 Mercedes-Benz SL550

For those not steeped in Mercedes’ Byzantine nomenclature, SL = sport leicht, or sport and lightweight.  The SL lineage goes back to the ground-breaking 300SL Gullwing racer of the 1950s.  For much of the past two decades, the concept of “lightweight” has been more of a formality than a reality as the SL easily weight two tons.  For 2013, the all-new SL has an all-aluminum body and high-strength, lighter-weight steel in the frame.  Mercedes claims a 275 pound weight loss – as much as one healthy Texan.

2013_Mercedes-Benz SL550

Power comes from Mercedes’ new 4.7L twin-turbo direct-inject V8 also found in the larger CL coupe. It’s good for 429 hp and 516 lb-ft of torque. The only transmission is a revised Mercedes 7-speed automatic with a start/stop function to improve fuel economy (like anyone buying an SL really cares).  The 550SL should sprint to 60 mph in 4.5 seconds – about the same as the outgoing SL63 AMG.

Mercedes thinks there is lots of Magic in the new SL. Like the refreshed SLK from 2011, you can opt for the Magic Sky Control folding glass roof.  It’s like a gigantic skylight; however if you’re not in the mood for too much sun, you can press a button and the electrochromatic glass can be “dimmed” from opaque all the way to black. Neat trick and expensive.

The 2013 Mercedes-Benz SL550 with the Magic Sky Control electrochromatic glass roof.

The other Magic option is the Magic Vision Control.  MVC is really a high-tech windshield wiper system. The heated wipers can de-ice your windshield and when you need the washers, the nozzles are incorporated into the wiper arms.

The interior of the 2013 Mercedes SL550 looks like a comforable place for a long trip. I love the red leather.

Of course it has all of Mercedes’ electronic nannies and safety systems. Also the latest version of the company’s COMAND infotainment system complete with downloadable apps.  It goes on sale this spring (just in time for summer convertible weather) and although prices haven’t been announced, just figure it starts around $100,000.

Mercedes didn’t want to leave the green crowd out in the cold, so it introduced the E400 Hybrid.  The hybrid system in the 2013 E400 is an evolution of that found in the S400 Hybrid.  The E-class gets a 302 hp 3.5L direct-inject V6 coupled with a 27 hp electric motor sandwiched between the engine and the 7-speed automatic transmission.  The electric motor musters 118 lb-ft of torque on its own so the E400 can go up to 22 mpg or a whole half a mile on electric power alone.  Also, like the S400, the lithium-ion battery is placed in the engine bay so no trunk space is lost.  I’m not impressed with the fuel economy numbers of 24 city, 31 highway.  The 2012 E350 BlueTec diesel, on-sale now, gets 21 city, 32 highway — why pay the hybrid premium for the E400?

2013 Mercedes-Benz E400 Hybrid

Detail of the engine bay for the 2013 Mercedes-Benz E400 Hybrid

As if to rub salt in a wound, Mercedes also showed the 2013 E300 BlueTec Hybrid Concept. It will get substantially better fuel economy, but as usual, it’s not for the US market. WTF Mercedes?

Nissan

In the face of steadily-climbing fuel prices, Nissan served up a larger, non-truck-based 2013 Pathfinder SUV concept.  It should be no surprise that Nissan would get its own version of the new Infiniti JX35, a 7 passenger unibody SUV introduced last year. The Pathfinder concept shares the same chassis and probably the same drivetrain, although Nissan was short on details.  The Infiniti JX35 uses Nissan’s ubiquitous 3.5L V6 making 265 hp and 248 lb-ft of torque.  The Pathfinder numbers would likely be a bit less.  Also, like the JX, the engine will be coupled with Nissan’s despised CVT (continuously variable transmission).  I know so many people who wish Nissan would ditch the use of the whiny CVT in almost all its cars; but Nissan is sticking with it.

2013 Nissan Pathfinder Concept

Nissan Pathfinder Concept Interior.

The old Pathfinder is an 0ld school body-on-frame, truck-based SUV.  The Pathfinder Concept grows in practically all dimensions, but Nissan probably needs a big SUV that will hold a large family and not look like a tank (yeah, I’m talking about the Armada).  The concept is handsome, if not exciting. I like it better than the Infiniti JX.

Porsche:

I know you might be tired of Porsche grabbing all the headlines and magazine covers for its all-new 911 that goes on sale this February.  The accolades keep rolling in and I can’t wait to drive it.  The big “news” in Detroit is the world debut of the cabriolet versions of the 911 Carrera and 911 Carrera S.  Of course, the top is lighter and quieter and goes down in 13 seconds.  Here are a couple pictures to drool over.

2012 Porsche 911 Carrera Cabriolet in Guards Red

The new Porsche 911 Carrera Cabriolet's top in action

The interior of the new 911 Cabriolet is about as good as it gets. It's sublime.


Volkswagen:

VW still wants to achieve world domination by 2018, knocking out both GM and Toyota for total worldwide sales. A big part of that strategy is doubling sales in the US.  The new Jetta has been a hit, with sales up 44% for 2011 and it looks like VW will have the same success with the US/China-only Passat.

VW showed off two new “green” cars in Detroit.  The production-ready 2013 Jetta Hybrid is VW’s 2nd hybrid in the US market following the expensive Touareg Hybrid.  The gas-electric Jetta is powered by a new 1.4L turbocharged, direct-injected gas engine and it’s able to drive a whopping (not) 1.3 miles in EV mode.  VW is short on details like fuel economy ratings and price, but it’s expected to go on sale this November.

2013 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid

The second VW concept – and this time it’s really just testing the public’s temperature – is the e-Bugster, a highly-stylized Beetle with a chopped roof and lowered suspension. It’s powered by what VW calls Blue-e-Motion electric drive using a 85 kWh 114 hp electric motor and a single speed transmission.  It uses a compact lithium-ion battery pack behind the front seats.  The drivetrain is real and VW is planning to use it in an electric Golf to be sold in Europe and maybe later in the US.  If we do get a “Bugster” (1) it won’t look nearly this cool and (2) VW has to change the name – it’s just a tad too easy to replace the “s” with another “g.”

Volkswagen Blue-e-Motion Bugster concept

Great looks for this VW concept Bugster