Motoring: Cars from the 2011 Detroit Auto Show
1. Lincoln MKX: We start with the vehicle that got me there, the 2011 Lincoln MKX. This is the second-generation model of this vehicle, and it is a big improvement over the old model. I like the new styling, and the interior looks very space age with soft touch buttons; however, those new buttons are a pain to use at times, and I wished the car had normal buttons. Plus, while my test vehicle was very well equipped, the heated seats didn't work — not good for a cold week in January. Thankfully, the heated steering wheel did work. The new 3.5-litre, V6 engine is very good. It produces 305 hp and it's mated to a wonderful sixspeed automatic gearbox. Its allwheel drive system is also quite good, but its handling ability lacks due to very numb steering. At $46,500, it is good value.
2. Lexus LFA: Lexus has been showing the LFA in production guise for a year now, but since the car actually just went into production this week, we will mention it here. After all, this is the most exciting car to ever come out of Toyota and Lexus combined. It has a carbon-fiber body, a V10 engine that produces about 550 hp and a six-speed paddle-shift gearbox, so it's very light and very fast. At a base price of $410,000, it is also very expensive, but since only 500 examples will be ever produced, you will own a rare collector piece if you can afford it.
3. Subaru Impreza Concept: The current Subaru Impreza is a very accomplished vehicle, but it is getting on a bit in years. In Detroit, Subaru showed a concept version of the next generation Impreza. At first glance, it looks good, which is not something most can say about the current model. Mechanical details are not really known for the new model, but expect tweaked versions of the existing model. It'll probably be on sale sometime next year.
4. BMW 650i Convertible: One of the highlights of this year's show was the first public unveiling of the new BMW 650i Convertible. The new model gets a gorgeous new body that immediately makes the last model look completely dated, and it gets the same 4.4-litre, twin-turbo V8 found in the current 550i model. That means 400 hp, and it drives the rear-wheels via an eight-speed automatic gearbox. I like it a lot and I hope to bring you a full road test later in the year.
5. Range Rover Evoque: Range Rover is visibly improving since Indian car firm Tata Motors bought the company. The new Evoque is clear proof of that. This new model is sharp and chic, and if it drives as well as it looks, it will be fantastic. Look for it in showrooms later this year with prices starting at around $50,000.
6. BMW 1-series M Coupe: Another BMW worth waiting for is the M-version of the 1-series coupe, which is already one of my favourite cars of all time. This new model gets a tweaked suspension, a tweaked motor that produces 340 hp and some tweaked styling. It looks like it will be an amazing car for both the road and track. I can't wait to get my hands on this model.
7. Chrysler 300: The Brampton-built Chrysler 300 gets a full makeover for 2012 model, and while the changes on the skin look subtle, the improvements inside are huge. The new model will be slightly cheaper, so that's more good news. There will be V6 and V8 engines on offer, and later there will even be a hybrid version.
8. Mini Paceman: The Mini brand is evolving. The cars might not be "mini" in size anymore, but the character has not been lost. The familiar Mini look is still there and they should still be fun to drive. Following the release of the Countryman, the new Paceman was shown to the crowds in Detroit. This new model shares its platform with the Countryman, but wrapped in a sleeker two-door body. Expect this to hit showrooms next year.
9. Hyundai Veloster: One of the biggest surprises was the unveiling of the latest coupe from Hyundai, called the Veloster. This car is part coupe, part hatchback and part family car. While on one side it has one door like all other coupes, on the passenger side you get two doors. Plus, it's a practical hatchback. Forget two-in-one, this car is a three-in-one. Plus it has new tech like Hyundai's first dualclutch gearbox. Look for this exciting coupe in showrooms later this year.
10. Porsche 918 RSR: Racecars don't normally excite me, but this is no ordinary racecar. The Porsche 918 RSR is a hybrid racing machine that produces around 767 hp. Combine that with Porsche's legendary handling and reliability and this will cause many sleepless nights for its competition. There is more good news, too: the 918 will have a road going version also. If you want to spend nearly $1 million on a car, this might just be it for you.
11. Peraves MonoTracer: Now onto to the best vehicle from this years show, the Peraves MonoTracer from Switzerland. This is a hybrid vehicle in two ways. Like most normal hybrids, it has a gas and electric engine, which gives this vehicle an incredible economy figure of just 1.1- litres/100km. No wonder it won the X-Prize competition last year. This hybrid combines the safety and all-weather comfort of a car, but it rides on two wheels. To ensure you don't drop the vehicle, stabilizer wheels pop out at the touch of a button when you slow down or come to a stop. The idea is not new, since the Swiss have been playing around with such a vehicle since the early 1990s. I am glad it is still around and improving, and I hope this vehicle will one day become a common sight.
That is it from this year's show. Hope you enjoyed the coverage. Normal service will resume next week.