The Volt's hardware is moving upmarket, but this is no Cimarron. The body is essentially the Converj concept modified to make it legal, yet the transition manages to maintain the original's striking lines. A retuned suspension and drivetrain will give the ELR improved performance over the Volt while losing only one mile of electric driving range. With the introduction of this car, Cadillac will have a truly unique vehicle in the luxury market and GM will be able to expand the Voltec drivetrain sales to make it more profitable.
4. Lincoln MKC
Now that the Premier Auto Group is gone, Ford is concentrating on reviving the Lincoln brand, starting with this Escape-based crossover. While there have been several concepts holding the same promise, this CUV is definitely headed for production.
This change starts by making the MKC much longer and wider than its platform-mates so that its underpinnings can't be easily determined. The new split wing grill gets
and heavy use of horizontal lines keep the MKC from looking slab shaped. Inside, unique touches like chrome air vents and a panoramic sunroof help bring the car up to luxury standards.
When it goes into production, it will compete head-to-head with the BMW X1 and Land Rover Evoque, but it won't be mistaken for a restyled Ford.
3. Ford Atlas
The reaction to the upcoming Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra was mixed, making it a great time for Ford to bring out a concept presaging the look of the next F-150. The styling merges elements of the current truck and the Super Duty, including a semi-like grill protruding from the front clip. While not revolutionary, the truck's looks were far better received than GM's efforts.
The main draw of this concept is its features: Some things like the automatic wheel shutters and adjustable chin spoiler may not make it to production, but a 360 degree camera system and a parking assist that can line up the truck with a trailer hitch would be welcome and probable additions. The Atlas' built-in ramp system, cargo cradle for long loads and motorized side steps are also production possibilities.
The company says the production version will get a next generation Ecoboost engine with a start/stop system, and there have been persistent rumors that it will weigh 700 lbs. less than the current model thanks to heavy use of aluminum.
2. Mercedes-Benz CLA
Weirdly, one of the biggest debuts wasn't actually at the car show: The CLA is going to make its public debut at the Geneva Auto Show and Mercedes-Benz fashion week, but the press were given a sneak peak at a hotel outside of the Detroit show.
We might not be getting the new A Class, but Americans will be able to buy Mercedes' first serious entry into the sport compact market. Although about the same size as the current C class, it's all wheel drive architecture and transverse-mounted engine will give it very distinct driving characteristics.
The four door coupe body is more than just attractive: It has a 0.23 coefficient of drag which will make it the most aerodynamic mass produced vehicle ever sold when it hits the market this fall. With a 200 hp turbocharged four cylinder under the hood, it should have very respectable performance. Expect a 300 hp AMG version to follow a year or so after the CLA reaches showrooms later this year.
1. C7 Corvette
The bankruptcy of GM put off the redesign of the Corvette for years, while the restructuring brought about a massive improvement in design quality. This made expectations for the seventh generation Corvette exceedingly high, and its debut at the Detroit Auto Show by far the most anticipated.
The primary goal of the new design was to finally banish the car's plasticy styling and cheap interior. The new design breaks with tradition, adding the first rear quarter windows used on a Corvette along with numerous vents to help move air through and around the vehicle. While the front clip may have some resemblance to the Viper and Ferarri 599, that's not necessarily a bad thing. Inside, a unique dash and high grade materials finally makes the driver's view look like what one would expect from a car with the Corvette's performance.
A new direct injection V8 provides 450 hp and 450 lb-ft. of torque while improving on fuel economy thanks to the first cylinder deactivation system that can work with an manual transmission. Speaking of which, the manual is still a traditional clutch unit, but now the engine can automatically match revs for both upshifting and downshifting for a DSG-like experience without the added weight.
An aluminum frame is now standard across the board, while the design will also allow GM to swap out the car's distinctive fiberglass pieces with carbon fiber to reduce weight on performance versions.