Automakers used this year's Detroit Auto Show to launch a number of significant new cars and model upgrades, featuring the latest in cabin and powertrain tech. Ford and Dodge went head-to-head with new pickups, and we saw many exciting new sports cars.
In the world of supercars, the Corvette is a bargain, and Chevrolet just made it even better with the ZR1. The new Corvette uses a supercharged 6.2-liter V-8 putting out an astounding 620 horsepower and 595 ft-lbs or torque. Carbon fiber body parts keep the overall weight low.
The interior of the ZR1 falls a little short of what's found in the supercars with which it competes, but it does have a full set of cabin gadgets, including a navigation system and Bluetooth phone connectivity. A heads-up display projects speed, RPMs, and other data onto the windshield.
The Fisker Karma comes from a new company attempting to market a luxury sport hybrid. The car can travel 50 miles under electric power and gets to 60mph in 5.8 seconds using its gas engine and electric motor.
Mercedes-Benz gives its SLK-class a significant update for the 2008 model year, with two new engines, a supercharged four cylinder and a six cylinder. Both engines show increased horsepower and better fuel efficiency over their predecessors. A new option, direct-steer, increases the steering ratio as you turn the wheel, making for tighter steering without compromising direct line stability.
Mercedes-Benz adds Bluetooth cell phone and iPod integration to the SLK, and improves the navigation interface. Looking into the cockpit, we are relieved to see a different switchgear arrangement from prior models we've tested.
Audi has given its S treatment to most of the cars in its line-up, such as the S4, S5, and S6, but this is the first time we've seen it on the diminutive TT. Although the body looks the same as the TT, it uses aluminum panels around the front to save weight. Strangely, instead of beefing up the bigger 3.2-liter V-6 available on the TT, Audi uses a turbocharged 2-liter to give the TTS 272 horsepower.
The interior features standard leather/Alcantara seats, while the navigation system and Bose premium stereo are optional. Audi's magnetic ride suspension, which greatly enhances the car's performance, is standard.
We've been eager to drive the BMW 135i Coupe ever since we saw it at the 2007 Frankfurt Auto Show. In Detroit, BMW rolled out a convertible version to make it that much more desirable. The little 1-series uses the same twin turbo engine found in the 335i and 535i.
The Lancer Ralliart comes with all the wonderful powertrain and cabin tech we've been eagerly anticipating in the Lancer Evo X. The Ralliart version holds the road with the same all-wheel-drive system as the Evo X, gets power from the same turbocharged 2-liter engine, and shifts with the same dual clutch transmission. We would be happy in either car.
The Passat CC shows a new design direction for Volkswagen, with striking lines in a four-door coupe. The car comes to the U.S. with the choice of a 2-liter turbocharged four cylinder putting out 197 horsepower or a 3.6-liter V-6 making 276 horsepower.
The Passat CC impressed us with its hard drive-based navigation system and music server, a vast improvement over Volkswagen's current navigation system. It also features driving tech such as adaptive cruise control and a lane departure system which will actually return the car to its lane when it drifts.
The Genesis is Hyundai's first attempt at a V-8 powered rear-wheel-drive sedan for the U.S. Genesis shows that Hyundai is ready to compete in a class far above where it started. The newly developed Genesis engine is a 4.6-liter V-8 producing 375 horsepower.
Hyundai went upscale with the Genesis interior, and offers the first navigation system we've seen in a Hyundai. We are also intrigued by the control interface, a large metal knob with buttons on either side set behind the shifter.
Toyota showed off an all-new crossover at the Detroit Auto Show. The Venza, powered by either a four cylinder or a V-6, can be had with a variety of electronics, including a navigation system, Bluetooth cell phone integration, rear seat entertainment, and a premium JBL audio system.
Subaru gives its Forester a significant and much-needed update for the 2009 model year. As a Subaru, it still has all-wheel-drive, and is powered by a boxer-style engine. The Forester 2.5 XT adds a turbocharger for 224 horsepower.
BMW calls its new X6 a Sports Activity Coupe, but it fits the lines and function of a crossover. The X6 is being used to launch some new technologies, such as BMW's first direct injection engine, a 4.4-liter V-8 with twin turbochargers, and a variable steering system which increases the steering ratio the more the wheels are turned.
Ford gives its venerable and best-selling pickup truck a makeover for the 2009 model year, updating the look and adding many convenience features. The F-150 can be had with a variety of Ford's current engines, while the 2010 model year will see direct injection choices.
We're really impressed to see Ford step up its tech game with the F-150, using it to launch its next generation navigation system, which features an in-dash music server and Sirius Travel Link services. The truck can also be had with a Sony-branded stereo.
Not to be outdone by Ford, Dodge gave its Ram pickup a serious update, including a raft of tech options. The MyGig music server will be available in the Ram, as well as Sirius backseat TV. For the 2010 model year, Dodge will make a two-mode hybrid version available.