Detroit focuses on electric, sporty vehicles
DETROIT --- More than any auto show in recent memory, the new cars rolled out at the Detroit auto show will redefine what we drive in the future.
At the show, which closes Sunday, small cars that push the previous limits on gas mileage, performance, quality and looks have taken the spotlight.
The show also features a fun gas-electric hybrid sports car, a just-plain-gorgeous convertible and an electric car that soon you'll be able to buy.
Most gas-electric hybrids look like tulip bulbs, slender and low in front and high and bulbous in the back in order to reduce wind drag, yet they usually don't handle or accelerate that well.
But Honda Motor Co. unveiled a hybrid that will bring fun to those who want to be green with the 2011 CR-Z, a sporty two-seater that goes on sale late this summer in the U.S.
The sleek hatchback comes with an electric motor plus a 122 horsepower, 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine. It has a six-speed manual transmission available, and unlike other hybrids, the driver can choose between sport, normal and economy driving modes.
What you gain in fun you lose in gas mileage. The new CR-Z will get 31 city mpg and 37 highway with the manual transmission.
Drivers will get 36 city mpg and 38 highway with a continuously variable automatic. That's below the Prius, which gets 51 city and 48 mpg highway.
Pricing will be announced later this year.
General Motors transformed its cheap and ugly Aveo subcompact into a muscular, well-equipped five-door hatchback that gets around 40 mpg on the highway.
The company unveiled the athletic-looking European-inspired Aveo RS. Technically it's just a concept vehicle, meaning GM hasn't decided to build it, but insiders say it almost certainly will be assembled in Michigan with the standard Aveos.
Designers lowered the grille and slapped on 19-inch tires and a spoiler for a tougher appearance. It has a 138 horsepower, 1.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine, and GM says it will be quick and agile.
Lesser-equipped Aveos will be in showrooms in 2011. GM won't say the price, but the base is expected to be competitive with the Honda Fit and others in the subcompact class, around $15,000.
AUDI R8 SPYDER:
OK, so they unveiled the convertible version of the legendary R8 sports car in Frankfurt, Germany, in September, but it's so gorgeous that it stood out from everything else in Detroit.
Outside, the all-wheel-drive Spyder looks like a cross between the sleek Audi TT Roadster and a Formula 1 racer.
Its brown-and-gold metallic paint is dazzling, and the white interior is simple yet elegant.
And it's not all good looks. Specifications for the convertible aren't out, but the R8 coupe powered by a 525 horsepower V-10 engine goes from zero to 60 in a breathtaking 3.7 seconds. Gas mileage isn't so great, up to 20 mpg on the highway.
The convertible is due in showrooms in July. No price was released, but it's likely to be north of $155,000.
The Focus pushes the compact car to a new level of appearance and quality.
Its body is sculpted and aerodynamic, and creases in the sheet metal give the impression of air flowing smoothly from front to back. It has expensive-looking headlamps and tail lights, and the silver paint on a display model is top-notch.
The new Focus, due in showrooms early in 2011 as a 2012 model, is powered by a new two-liter four-cylinder engine. Ford says it will have crisp handling, yet preserve a smooth ride. Gas mileage wasn't released, but Ford says it will be around 40 mpg on the highway.
Ford also didn't reveal the price, but says the Focus will be competitive with the Honda Civic, which has a base sticker of $16,405 with automatic transmission.
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