Cars are getting smaller and smarter, but sharp styling still turns heads
Cars and light trucks are shrinking and shedding weight to save fuel, but automakers aren't neglecting good looks and speed.
For instance, at the North American International Auto Show next week Audi is showing the RS7, a high-performance version of the A7. And Chevrolet will unveil a redesigned Corvette.
BMW has redesigned the 3-series coupe and has given it a new name, the 4 series.
And expect a high-performance SRT version of the Jeep Grand Cherokee.
Here is a roundup of world production and concept debuts along with other offerings planned for the show.
Acura will unveil a near-production version of the 2014 MDX mid-sized crossover, the brand's top seller. The car should give a clear idea of where Acura's Aero Sculpture design is headed. That design language takes over from the Keen Edge design that was criticized for its "beak" grille.
Audi plans to show two high-performance production models. Unconfirmed reports suggest one of the vehicles is the 2014 RS7, a performance version of the A7 sedan.
A concept of the upcoming 4 series, BMW's new name for the redesigned 3-series coupe, will be shown for the first time. The 2014 coupe is longer, wider and lower than its predecessor, with more curves in the body and roof line. The company is showing a high-performance M version of the 6-series Gran Coupe. BMW says the 2014 M6 Gran Coupe has the most powerful engine ever put into an M car, a 4.4-liter twin-turbo V-8 with 560 hp and 500 pounds-feet of torque. The car goes from 0 to 60 mph in 4.1 seconds.
Cadillac will unveil the 2014 ELR, the second vehicle featuring General Motors' Voltec plug-in hybrid powertrain, which debuted on the Chevrolet Volt. The coupe's sporty styling hews closely to the Converj concept that GM showed at the 2009 Detroit show.
Chevy will unwrap its seventh-generation Corvette, the C7. The 2014 model features evolutionary styling and lightweight materials such as hydroformed aluminum and carbon fiber. The sports car gets a new V-8 overhead-valve pushrod engine that also will be used in GM's pickups and SUVs.
Ford will give show-goers a sneak peek at its next-generation pickup with a vehicle called the 2015 F-150 Concept. Ford is looking to protect its best-seller in the face of hot competition from General Motors, which introduced the 2014 Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra last month.
Ford will introduce the Transit commercial van family. The 2014 Transit will replace the venerable E-series van. The North American Transit will be offered in three roof heights, including a low-roof version that will not be sold in Europe. The low-roof Transit, measuring 83.2 inches high, is virtually the same height as the outgoing E series. The Transit will offer two wheelbases and three engines, including a 3.5-liter EcoBoost four-cylinder, a 3.7-liter V-6 and a 3.2-liter Power Stroke five-cylinder diesel.
Honda will unveil a crossover concept based on a subcompact car, a model that would fit below the CR-V. That concept is presumed to be the prototype of a Fit-based crossover Honda plans to produce in Mexico starting in 2014.
Hyundai will reveal a luxury sedan concept. Details are scarce, but the design could suggest the next-generation Genesis sedan, which is due for a restyling for the 2014 model year.
Infiniti launches its global Q naming system when it unveils the 2014 Q50, a redesign of the current G37. Infiniti's larger M sedan will become the Q70. An early teaser glimpse of the G37 replacement showed little more than a cat's-eye headlight, but the Q50 promises significant changes in performance and technology. The G, Infiniti's best-seller, was last redesigned for 2007.
Jeep is expected to show a restyled and re-engineered 2014 Grand Cherokee, which goes on sale in the first half of the year. Jeep's flagship SUV is scheduled to get an eight-speed automatic transmission and a diesel option. Spy photos have shown new exterior styling and a new electronics package.
Expect Chrysler's Street & Racing Technology group to showcase its own restyled and re-engineered version of the Grand Cherokee SRT, with refined interior electronics and new styling.
Lexus will show its redesigned 2014 IS sedan. It shares a platform and 3.5-liter V-6 engine with the larger GS sedan, but the IS also has its own entry-level 2.5-liter V-6.
Lincoln plans a concept version of a compact crossover, the MKC. The vehicle, which will share a platform with the Ford Escape, probably will reach showrooms late this year. The production version of MKC is expected at the New York auto show in March. The MKC will feature some technology that the Escape doesn't have, including Lincoln Drive Control, a system that manages the engine, transmission, electric power steering, active noise control, traction control and other functions for optimum performance.
The 2014 CLA, a front-wheel-drive compact, is a new sedan with coupelike styling similar to that of the larger CLS. The CLA will have all-wheel drive. Mercedes also will show a restyled 2014 E class with revised sheet metal and radar-based collision warning system that can brake the car to reduce the severity of an impact.
Nissan will reveal a redesigned 2014 Versa hatchback, more than a year after putting the redesigned version of its Versa sedan in showrooms. The hatchback styling will further differentiate the two body styles. The hatchback will represent a more upscale subcompact model for the brand, making the Versa sedan Nissan's least-expensive vehicle.
Toyota will show a sedan concept code-named Furia. Because the Corolla is due for a redesign in fall, it's likely that the Furia hints at the design direction for Toyota's compact sedan. Judging from close-ups in a teaser video from Toyota, the Furia has taken many of its cues from the recent Scion FR-S sports coupe. But what is displayed onstage in Detroit likely will be dialed down by the time the Corolla reaches dealerships.
Dealer sources expect a seven-seat SUV concept -- a vehicle Volkswagen wants to add in the United States. Volkswagen also will show a Passat concept with a more powerful engine.
You can reach Charles Child at email@example.com.