Friday, 13 January 2012

12 Cars We Can't Wait to Drive

12 Cars We Can't Wait to Drive

For those with even just a passing interest in autos, the annual North American International Auto Show in Detroit can induce serious sensory overload. For true car guys, it's like being a kid with ADHD and a severe sugar jones in a giant candy store — your head is spinning from all the tasty sheet metal, so much so that you can't decide on which vehicle you want to look at first, let alone drive first. To provide some focus, here are our picks for the 12 most drive-worthy machines on display here in the Motor City.

The original NSX was the everyman's supercar. The car, sold in the U.S. from 1990 to 2005, wasn't overly powerful, but handled like it was on rails thanks to a low curb weight, ideal weight balance and a low center of gravity. The all-new NSX, which is due out within the next three years, will rely on technology to achieve the same — or, hopefully, better — results in the twisties. The concept's midmounted V6 engine is connected to a dual-clutch automatic transmission with a built-in electric motor that sends power to the rear wheels. An additional pair of electric motors sits at the front axle to provide all-wheel drive. This new setup can shuttle torque from left to right just like in Acuras equipped with current SH-AWD, although in the NSX it's done electrically

The Audi S4 doesn't get an appreciably new look for the 2013 model year, but it does retain the traits that have makes it one of our favorite sport sedans. It's still well-balanced, and handling is still aided by lightweight aluminum suspension components and the Audi drive select system, which includes adjustable shock absorbers. The 333-horsepower 3.0-liter supercharged V6 engine offers plenty of willing power and decent fuel economy. Our only concern is the new electric-assist steering. Let's hope it has as much road feel as, or more than, the outgoing hydraulic system.
When an automaker is serious about developing a car with world-class handling, it sends a group of engineers to test that vehicle on Germany's famed Nurburgring road circuit. Cadillac did just that with the 2013 ATS compact sedan. Designed to compete with the BMW 3-Series, the ATS has true sport sedan credentials: low mass (it will be the lightest car in the class), extensive use of high-strength steel, rear- or all-wheel drive, Magnetic Ride Control suspension and Brembo brakes. We are looking forward to both the turbocharged 2.0-liter 270-horsepower four-cylinder and the 3.6-liter 318-horsepower V6 engines
The Chevrolet Sonic was one of the pleasant surprises of 2011. Its solid structure gives the car a dynamic character unmatched in its segment. The 1.4-liter turbocharged engine, while a bit underpowered in the Chevy Cruze, is right at home in the lighter Sonic. The RS is a sportier version of the likable subcompact. With a lower stance and stiffer suspension, the RS will be even more agile than the base car. Revised gearing should make it slightly quicker, and some exterior modifications make it look a little meaner. We'll go so far as to say the Sonic RS could be the poor man's GTI.
It's not too often we look forward to driving a mass-market compact car. They're usually pretty vanilla. The 2013 Dodge Dart is a clear exception to that rule. With its Alfa Romeo Giulietta roots and extensive use of high-strength steel, the Dart should have a nimble European driving character. We want to see how much Chrysler Group has improved the 2.0- and 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engines, and we are intrigued by the new turbocharged 1.4-liter four sourced from Fiat. Perhaps most impressive, though, is the interior. With extensive use of soft-touch materials, the Dart's cabin looks worthy of a luxury car.
Midsize sedans are the best-selling cars in America. With the release of the 2013 Fusion, Ford may vault to the top of that important class. The looks are sure to attract buyers. With its sweeping lines and Aston Martin-like grille, it will be one of the prettier cars on the road. The Fusion will also boast class-leading fuel economy for both its turbocharged 1.6-liter 4-cylinder base engine and its hybrid model, and it will offer a highly efficient, plug-in hybrid Energi model, too. Ford also promises improved handling, safety technology worthy of a luxury car, and a richer interior environment.
Honda has underwhelmed us with dull styling in recent years. But if the Accord Coupe Concept is true to form, the automaker might be back on track. It's the most aggressively styled and best-looking Accord in years. Though this car is only a concept, Honda promises improved power from its 2.4-liter 4-cylinder and 3.5-liter V6 engines, as well as class-leading fuel economy and an available plug-in hybrid. A shorter wheelbase may give the car a sportier feel, but Honda says it will lose no space inside. Interior materials are still a matter of speculation, but let's hope Honda ramps up the quality in light of improved new offerings from Ford and Chevy.
The more the merrier, we always say, especially when it comes to power. The extra ponies are even more welcome when they come under the hood of a rear-wheel drive sports car like the Hyundai Genesis Coupe. Although we don't necessarily like the 2013 edition's styling changes, the modifications made to turbocharged 2.0-liter engine increase the power output by 64 horses without sacrificing fuel economy. Hyundai also gave its already powerful 3.8-liter V6 a boost by increasing its output by 42 ponies to 348 horsepower. Hyundai says the increased power will help the Genesis Coupe 3.8 reach 60 mph in the low five-second range and on to a top speed of 149 mph.
Though the LF-LC is just a concept, the hybrid sports coupe signals a new design direction for Lexus. If the luxury car brand gets positive response here in Detroit, it might be inspired to build the car, which would be super. Ideally, we'd like it to possess the handling prowess of the automaker's celebrated LF-A, come in a rear-wheel drive platform and have the turbocharged V6 hybrid powertrain pump out between 450 and 500 horsepower. Now that would be a world-class sports car.
In Mercedes parlance, SL stands for Super Lightweight. But the SL roadster hasn't stuck to that philosophy in recent years. The 2013 SL550 gets back to those roots. With a body and structure rendered in almost all aluminum, the new SL is 242 pounds lighter than its predecessor, the equivalent of a good-sized middle linebacker. That should translate into improved handling for this grand tourer, as well as make the new turbocharged 4.4-liter V8 engine's 429 horses all that more effective. Add in Mercedes' responsive Direct Steer variable steering ratio and available active body control, and the new SL should be sportier than ever.
Hybrids aren't usually the objects of passion for auto enthusiasts. They are, after all, usually underpowered and bland in the handling department. But we appreciate the compatible technologies involved in the E300 BlueTec Hybrid. Diesel engines offer great highway fuel economy and hybrids do the same for city efficiency, so combining the two is only natural. Mercedes has said the E300 BlueTec Hybrid will be offered only in Europe, at least initially, so U.S. fuel-economy numbers aren't available, but we expect 50-plus mpg. Hopefully, Mercedes will see fit to bring this efficient car to these shores in the future. It'll offer Prius-level efficiency in a fun-to-drive luxury package.

The last generation of the Porsche 911 was a model of precision and agility. With its longer wheelbase, wider track and lighter weight, the all-new 911, code name 991, is even better. We've driven the coupe and it is more refined, more efficient, more luxurious and even more agile than the outgoing model, which was outstanding. The 2012 Cabriolet, shown here, gets a lighter top thanks to a new design that incorporates magnesium bows. Give us the 400-horsepower 911 Carrera S Cabriolet with the 7-speed manual transmission, a winding road and a clear summer day, and we'll be in automotive heaven.

No comments:

Post a Comment