The Detroit motor show took place recently, and CNET UK was on hand to pick the wheat from the automotive chaff. We almost didn't bother -- the place was so overrun by Buicks, Lincolns and the other road-going disasters our American cousins refer to as 'cars' that we almost turned round and went home.
Luckily, amongst the plethora of US ve-hicles lay an assortment of Europe's finest. Mercedes-Benz, Jaguar, Volkswagen, Volvo and more had a number of top offerings, ranging from high-performance tarmac shredders to eco-friendly jam jars that spit in the face of our crippling recession.
Over the following few pages, we'll tell you about the brand-new 225mph Jaguar XFR, the new and stunning Mercedes-Benz McLaren SLR Stirling Moss edition, the Volkswagen BlueSport, two new Audi R8s, one of which is a diesel, a Volkswagen BlueSport Roadster, and the curvy new Volvo S60 concept. Yes, we said 'curvy'. And Volvo. In the same sentence.
Click away, petrolheads.
Update: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that the TT, rather than the R8, had a 0-60mph time of 3.9 seconds.
We love Jags about as much as we love our own mums, so you can imagine how we reacted when we saw the XFR -- a new, high-performance version of the existing XF.
The big news is that the car has a new, super-charged 5-litre V8 engine that goes from 0-60mph in 4.7 seconds, and produces 510 horsepower -- 106hp more than the existing XF. If that doesn't sound like a lot, consider this: at a secret speed trial at the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah, an XFR prototype recorded a whopping 225.675mph.
There's plenty of tech inside, too. You get a circular dial-shifter, which looks like a big volume knob, for controlling the six-speed auto gearbox, plus computer-controlled suspension. There's all manner of cabin tech, too, like a touch-screen user interface, Freeview digital television, vents that rotate automatically, a blind-spot warning system and radar-guided adaptive cruise control.
While we're on the subject, the flagship Jaguar XKR, which we reviewed last year, will also benefit from the same engine, suspension, tuning and transmission as the XFR.
The XFR should be available later this year for £59,900, while the XKR should set you back £78,400.
Bad news: Mercedes is axing its SLR line. Good news: it's going out with a bang by releasing a special model named after British racing legend Sir Stirling Moss.
This is our favourite car from the show by some margin. Just look at the thing -- it's almost as if a 1955 Mercedes-Benz SLR 300 racer from the 1950s mated with a great white shark, then drank, smoked and ate cat litter all throughout the pregnancy.
Powered by a 650hp supercharged V8, the car is expected to do the 0-60mph sprint in less than 3.5 seconds, reach a top speed of 218mph, and stop with the aid of a retractable airbrake -- like on a bleedin' plane. Our only concern is the fact it doesn't appear to have a roof, or a windscreen, so you'd better enjoy the taste of bugs.
Is it a bird? Is it a plane? Or is it the most sexy-looking skateboard on the planet?
The Mercedes-Benz McLaren SLR Stirling Moss will hit the streets this June. Be quick, though -- it's limited to a production run of just 75.
Audi showed a few of its automotive wares in Detroit too, the best of which was probably the new R8.
Audi has bumped the 4.2-litre unit from the current model in favour of a 5.2-litre V10 that produces 518hp, a 0-60mph time of 3.9 seconds and a top speed of 196mph. That, friends, is unspeakably quick.
While we're on the subject of R8s, we're also waiting anxiously for the R8 V12 TDI concept car -- a diesel-powered (yes, diesel) supercar.
This one has a 6-litre V12 that develops 500hp and a whopping 738lb-ft of torque at only 1,750rpm, for a 0-60mph time of 4.2 seconds and a potential top speed of 205mph.
For those still in doubt, let's not forget the engine in the V12 TDI is closely related to the engine in the Audi R10 -- a two-time Le Mans winner -- and already fulfills the Euro 6 emissions standard that is likely to take effect in 2014, so it's kind to the environment, too.
The Volkswagen BlueSport Roadster definitely had a few heads turning in Detroit. Our first impression was that it was merely an Audi TT-cum-Lotus Elise with a Mazda nose, but that's hardly a bad thing.
What has us really excited is the mid-mounted 2-litre diesel engine, which produces 178hp, and 58lb-ft torque, which is good for a 0-60mph time of 6.6 seconds and a 140mph top speed.
That might not be all that impressive, until you realise it also has fuel consumption of 35-40mpg combined.
Many younger drivers still aren't convinced about Volvo -- not unless they've an unhealthy obsession with all things box-shaped. However, with its new S60 Concept vehicle, the company has stumbled on a miraculous new cure for youth apathy: curves.
The S60 looks about as aerodynamically efficient -- and sexy -- as anything we've seen from Volvo. It's not all about looks, though -- it'll come with a shedload of useful hi-tech gadgetry, including a head-up display, adaptive cruise control and the auto-braking 'City Safety' feature that detects errant pedestrians -- a feature we tested for ourselves with the Volvo XC60 4x4.
We think it's gorgeous. Here's hoping Volvo actually creates this thing sometime soon.