The 2012 Detroit motor show featured dozens of great debuts. Here are the stars of the show.
12 January 2012

Introducing more than 40 new or improved models, the Detroit motor show has given the industry the best possible start to 2012. New products and technology drive the motor industry forward, and carmakers have continued - even increased - their R&D.

The recognition of new models at motor shows is different though - intangible appeal is often more important than sales volumes, and these are the cars Autocar readers have been most interested in from Detroit.

Ford Mondeo

Gallery: Ford Mondeo

Scratch off the Ford Fusion badges, and the car pictured here is the all-new Ford Mondeo. It's the most important debut in Detroit for British buyers, not only because it will sell in the tens of thousands in the UK alone, but it is also the first to use the company's new design language.

The Mondeo is the fourth 'One Ford' car, which means it will sell, virtually unchanged, in all markets around the world. But unlike other 'world cars' that offer anodyne looks, the Mondeo is a truly handsome machine. A range of petrol and diesel engines will be available, including units from the acclaimed EcoBoost family, as well as a hybrid.

Honda NSX

Gallery: Honda NSX

Although officially a concept, a production version of the stunning Honda NSX supercar will go on sale within three years. It is the replacement for the much-missed supercar Honda launched in 1990, but the new car will use the latest technology.

It will retain the mid-engined layout of the old car, but will be constructed from aluminium and other lightweight materials, possibly carbonfibre-reinforced plastic. Power will come from a 3.5-litre V6 engine driving the rear wheels while one electric motor powers each front wheel.

Mercedes SL

Gallery: Mercedes SL

The Mercedes SL is among the most iconic roadsters, and the new model doesn’t stray far from the path. It retains the front engine, rear drive layout of all previous SLs, but is based on an all-new platform.

Mercedes say the new SL - codenamed R231 - is lighter, more efficient and offers more performance than the outgoing model, and features world-first audio and windscreen wiper technology. It also comes with the option of the electro-chromatic roof from the SLK.

Dodge Dart

Gallery: Dodge Dart

It's hard to underestimate the importance of the Dodge Dart. Based on a modified version of the Alfa Romeo Giulietta's platform, the Dart’s fuel economy was a key part of Fiat's deal to buy more shares in Chrysler. Engine options include Fiat-supplied turbocharged 1.4-litre MultiAir and two new 2.0-litre and 2.4-litre 'Tigershark' units, the latter supplied with a MultiAir head.

The Dart is unlikely to make it to the UK, but its four-door saloon styling will appeal to the American market. It carries Dodge's trademark 'crosshair' grille and 'race track' tail-lamps, as well as a dual exhaust system borrowed from the bigger Charger saloon.

Cadillac ATS

Gallery: Cadillac ATS

The Cadillac ATS marks the brand's latest - and most promising - assault on European sales. It will compete directly with the BMW 3-series, but will be hampered without a diesel engine in the line-up for launch. Previous attempts to crack Europe haven't worked, but the ingredients appear to be here for success.

Cadillac has developed the car at the Nurburgring and it features multi-link independent rear suspension, a multilink double-pivot MacPherson strut set-up at the front and Magnetic Ride Control real-time damping. It will be priced competitively against the 3-series, C-class and A4.

Porsche 911 Cabriolet

Gallery: Porsche 911 cabrio

With a sleeker look and an innovative roof, the Porsche 911 Cabriolet received its world debut in Detroit. The car's roof is constructed from a mix of fabric and composite plastics and is said to reduce buffeting at high speeds thanks to a tauter fit.

The cabrio is around 60kg lighter than its predecessor and is 18 per cent stiffer in order to retain the coupe model's dynamics. The cabrio will initially be offered with the same range of engines as the coupe, as well as the choice of manual or PDK dual clutch automatic gearboxes, both with seven speeds.

Chrysler 700C

Gallery: Chrysler 700c

The Chrysler 700c was one of the most extraordinary concepts in Detroit, not least because company officials knew very little about it. All that was revealed was that it wasn't the shape of the next Chrysler Voyager despite appearing to share the same underpinnings.

Although badged as a Chrysler, it shares many Lancia design cues, and could present the possibility of a luxury seven-seat MPV, particularly considering the exterior styling which gives the illusion of strongly separating the driver and rear passengers.

Audi Q3 Vail concept

Gallery: Audi Q3 Vail

The Audi Q3 Vail was debuted at Detroit to whet the appetite of American buyers ahead of its launch there later in the year. Although based on the production car, Audi has done its best to earn the car its concept handle. The Vail is powered by the 2.5-litre five-cylinder turbocharged engine as featured in the RS 3, and the styling is of a winter sports theme.

The name Vail is inspired by a Colorado mountain resort and the roof rack houses skis. The cabin includes chargable lights, warmed drink flasks and heated cushions and load floor mat – providing “a warm area to sit on when putting on or taking off your ski boots,’ according to Audi.

Lexus LF-LC

Gallery: Lexus LF-LC

The LF-LC isn't intended for production, even if it is described as "driver focused", but it does display a possible design direction for the brand. The concept has a one-piece glass roof that also serves as the windscreen and rear screen, a plunging 'waterfall' front grill and rear lights inspired by a jet fighter's afterburner.

However, the concept does preview some design elements set to appear on a future luxurious 2+2 coupe which the company is known to be working on. That model is likely to be based on the next-generation LS platform with a hybrid powertrain.

Maserati Kubang

Gallery: Maserati Kubang

The Maserati Kubang was unveiled at last September, but the big news from the show was that it will be built at Chrysler’s Jefferson North Assembly Plant in Detroit alongside the Jeep Grand Cherokee on which it is based.

The Italian marque has described the sleek sports luxury SUV as "the first tangible look at Maserati's future". The show provided the latest look at the car, which was first seen in concept form at Detroit’s 2003 show, and confirmed it will be powered by a Ferrari engine with power transmitted by an eight-speed automatic gearbox.

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