Automotive momentum on display in Detroit


Chevy Volt, Ford Explorer car and truck of year

DETROIT — The Chevrolet Volt sedan and Ford Explorer crossover were named 2011 North American car and truck of the year today by a panel of automotive journalists. The announcement came at the opening of the 2011 North American International Auto Show on Monday, Jan. 10.

The Volt, Nissan Leaf and Hyundai Sonata were finalists for 2011 North American Car of the Year, while the Explorer, Jeep Grand Cherokee, and Dodge Durango were Truck of the Year finalists.

The awards are judged by 49 automotive journalists from the United States and Canada — representing magazines, newspapers, Web sites, television and radio.

The criteria used to judge the winners include innovation, design, safety, handling, driver satisfaction and value for the dollar.

The Volt is an electric car with an internal combustion engine that generates electricity after the battery is nearly depleted, and the Leaf is an all-electric car. Both models went on sale in December. The Sonata is also available with a hybrid powertrain.

The new Explorer is a crossover based on a car platform, and the Grand Cherokee and Durango are SUVs.

On the show floor


The redesigned 2012 A6 DEBUTS in Detroit. The A6 takes styling cues from the redesigned A8 that went on sale in late 2010. Powered by a 3.0-liter supercharged V-6 engine, the A6 is among Audi’s most popular cars. The A6 goes on sale in the second half of 2011. 


The 2012 BMW 650i convertible (top photo) makes its debut. The second generation 6-Series car has new sheet metal. It goes on sale in the spring. A mildly freshened 2012 BMW 1-series seen here as a 128i, arrives as a coupe, convertible and all-new M coupe. They go on sale in the spring.


Buick introduces the 2012 Verano sedan, which will be the smallest vehicle in its lineup. Based on the Chevrolet Cruze with like dimensions and underpinnings, Buick calls it their first compact luxury sedan set to do battle with the Audi A3, the Lexus IS 250 and the Volvo S40.

Smaller than the Regal, pricing is also slated to be less than Regal, perhaps as low as $21,000. Verano is powered by a 2.4-liter four banger. A 2.0-liter turbo is expected in the 2012 calendar year.


Marking its fourth year at the Detroit Auto Show, Chinese automaker BYD Auto Co. plans to show a plug-in hybrid SUV concept, the S6DM able to travel 38-miles on electric power and over 300 miles with its 2-liter gas engine engaged. BYD will also unveil the all electric K9e-Bus with a range of 155 miles on full charge.


Chevrolet unveils the 2012 Sonic subcompact. The new world car which will replace the current Aveo, that retains the name outside of North America, will come in hatchback and sedan versions. It joins the Chevrolet Cruze and the upcoming Chevrolet minicar Spark in its small-car lineup.


The flagship of the new Chrysler debuts with extensive second generation changes, from sheetmetal to powertrains. The 300 ($27,995) and 300 Limited ($31,995) will feature the new Pentastar V6 with its 292 horses and 260 lb.-ft. of torque driving the rear wheels.

The king of the hill 300C has the 5.7-liter HEMI and will be available with RWD ($38,995) or All-Wheel-Drive ($41,995). Like other members of the Chrysler Group lineup it is the extensive upgrades to the interior that primarily emphasize the vast amount of changes.


Ford will unveil the production version of the seven-seat 2012 Ford C-Max, a small alternative to a standard minivan in the same footprint as the Mazda 5. The C-Max has rear sliding doors similar to full-sized minivans.

It shares the Focus platform which is scheduled to be the basis for at least 10 vehicles in the global market. The base engine is a 2.5-liter matched to a six speed automatic. The C-Max will also offer the first application of the 1.6-liter EcoBoost turbo inline 4 in North America, also with a six speed auto.

Ford will also do a teardown of an EcoBoost engine from a torture tested F-150 that did 150,000 miles on a dyno, then traveled the country performing a variety of heavy duty tasks, and finally competed in the Baja 1000 in Mexico. The teardown with take place on the show floor, Jan. 15, the first public day of the show.

The possible successor to the Ford Escape is on display at the Detroit auto show. It's called the Vertrek concept, a clear indication of the styling of Ford's next small sport utility.

The styling is a considerable departure from the squared-off, blocky exterior of the Escape. The Vertrek was designed at Ford's European design studio — the concept also previews the next-generation Kuga — Ford's European crossover.


GMC will show an off-road heavy-duty pickup “realistic” concept that suggests bold styling for the next-generation Sierra HD. The GMC Sierra All-Terrain HD concept, previewed by GMC at a December media event, has a wide track, brawny grille and extra ground clearance. GMC says the four-wheel drive concept hints at the future design direction of GMC trucks. A restyle of the Sierra HD is expected in 2014 or 2015.


Honda unveils a concept version of the redesigned 2012 Civic, which arrives in showrooms in spring. It is expected to be about the same size as the current model but have sportier styling and will be offered as both sedan and hatchback models.


Hyundai will unveil the production version of its Veloster sporty coupe. The Veloster is a two-door hatchback + with a front hinged hidden third door opening to the rear seat. Powered by a 1.6-liter gasoline direct-injection engine producing about 140 hp has a fuel economy rating estimated by the company at 40 mpg.

Hyundai CEO John Krafcik said the Veloster, scheduled to be released in 2011 as a 2012 model, will have the sporty driving dynamics of a Mini Cooper. 


Hyundai unveils the world debut of the Curb crossover concept, which the company bills as an evolution of the "fluidic sculpture" design language seen on the Sonata mid-sized and Elantra compact sedans. The Curb is smaller than the Tucson, approximately the same size as the Kia Soul. Some refer to it as “funky,” and in search of a young buyer much in the same vein as Nissan’s Juke, the aforementioned Soul, Mini and Scion.


The 2011 Compass crossover, which is being built now but has not been unveiled at an auto show debuts in Detroit. Jeep is moving the Compass upscale. The sticker price, $19,995 including shipping, is $4,000 higher than the 2010 model. The Compass adopts styling cues from the Grand Cherokee's front-end design. All sheet metal was replaced from the A-pillar forward, plus the grille, headlight treatments and front and rear fascias.


Gull-wing doors and 360-degree swiveling rear seats could make the Kia KV7 concept one of the show's more interesting designs. The crossover/minivan design that Kia calls “convention challenging” is slated for production, but will not have the gull-wing rear door when it reaches showrooms.


A four-cylinder engine will return to the brand with the debut of the mildly freshened 2012 C-class sedan. The car's changes include new front and rear bumpers and lights and an instrument panel with a high-resolution color display. 
Mercedes is adding two direct-injection engines — a turbocharged 1.8-liter four-cylinder with 201 hp and a 3.5-liter V-6 with 302 hp — as well as a redesigned seven-speed automatic to the C-class sedan.

New safety systems including Blind Spot Assist and Attention Assist are now available as is a new generation of infotainment and navigation telematics. The car goes on sale in July.


Mini introduces a two-door concept crossover called the Paceman. The concept has a larger tailgate than the Countryman, Mini's first four-door that goes on sale this year. It also has what Mini calls a "coupe tail" to give it an athletic appearance. 


The company will show the 918 coupe concept, a racing version of the 918 Spyder revealed at the 2010 Geneva auto show. Sources say it has a plug-in hybrid powertrain with a 600 hp V-8 and three electric motors. 



The newest entry into Toyota's Prius family will be a 2012 wagon. Because the current Prius is a shallow-raked hatchback, little physical change is expected for the wagon, other than a flattening and extension of the roofline.

According to filings with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, the 2012 production vehicle will be called Prius v. Perhaps more important with the Prius v unveiling is the technology, so far undisclosed, that's under the sheet metal. Toyota has been testing plug-in hybrid technology, as well as its version of a lithium ion battery. Also, Toyota is to unveil a concept version of a Prius-based vehicle. 


Volkswagen will show the production model of the new mid-sized sedan designed for the United States. The 2012 Passat will be built at VW's new factory in Chattanooga, Tenn. The new Passat, the largest ever, is the only midsize sedan that offers a clean diesel option in the segment — is expected to deliver 43 miles per gallon on the highway, with a range of approximately 800 miles.

The Passat offers three drivetrain options including the 2.0-liter TDI clean diesel; also available is a 170 hp 2.5-liter gasoline engine and a powerful 3.6-liter VR6 rated at 280 hp. Final pricing will be announced in the spring, but the Passat will start at around $20,000 when it arrives in dealer showrooms in the second half of this year. Premium standard features include automatic climate control and Bluetooth connectivity.


A crashed C30 Electric vehicle highlights the Volvo display as the company synonymous with safety shows how battery powered vehicles with electric motors can be protected in high impact occurrences. Volvo says that keeping the high voltage batteries and cables entirely intact after a collision is vital for the safety of first responders and passengers as this kind of power system becomes more popular.