The Best New Production Cars from the 2012 Detroit Auto Show


Without a doubt, automakers are truly building some of the finest vehicles in years. Words by Jay Traugott

After too many years of being good, but still short of being great, American automakers put the world on notice this week at the 2012 Detroit Auto Show. Struggling through a global financial meltdown and, for GM and Chrysler, bankruptcy, this year's show was a clear signal that Detroit is still alive and well. With new models coming from the Big Three that are designed to for the global arena, the editors of CarBuzz have chosen a list of the best new cars.

In no particular order, each was chosen because of its potential to become a leader in its respective segment. And in a very short time, we'll know for sure whether America has delivered the goods.

2013 Ford Fusion Unlike the outgoing model, the all-new Fusion was designed from day one as a global car. Outside of North America, it's known as the Mondeo, which has been one of Ford's best-selling sedans in Europe for many years. And in today's auto industry, best-in-class fuel economy is the name of the game. Powered by a 2.5-liter naturally-aspirated inline-four with 170hp, buyers can opt for the automaker's excellent 1.6-liter EcoBoost with 179hp or the range-topping 2.0-liter EcoBoost with 237hp. In another sign of the times, no V6 variant will be offered.

Each engine can be mated to a six-speed automatic, while the 1.6-liter has a six-speed manual option. All-wheel drive is also available on the 2.0 model. As with the previous Fusion, a hybrid variant will continue to be offered along with the Energi plug-in hybrid that can reportedly achieve more than 100 mpg. Along with its sleek profile and aggressive lines, it's fair to say the new Fusion will be yet another sales success for Ford.

2013 Dodge Dart: After the debacle that's now formerly known as the Caliber, Dodge certainly had their work cut out for them when laying the groundwork for the 2013 Dart. Besides having a historic nameplate, the Dart may well best represent post-bankruptcy Chrysler in their so far highly successful partnership with Fiat. With the chassis coming courtesy via the Alfa Romeo Giulietta, it promises to make the Dart something the Caliber never came close to becoming (it's called fun to drive).

Powered by a range of small, but powerful engines also courtesy of Fiat, transmission options include a six-speed dual-clutch, a six-speed manual or a six-speed slushbox. With its aggressive and sporty stance, the Dart is taking on the vital C-segment at full throttle, and will likely give competitors such as the Ford Focus and Hyundai Elantra a run for their money. Combined with a sporty interior composed of high-quality materials, the 2013 Dart may well end up setting the segment benchmark.

2013 Cadillac ATS: For us, this is the big one we've been waiting for. The 2013 Cadillac ATS may be the most important model the automaker has built in decades, as it's meant to be sold globally. Cadillac has disappointed us in the past with the likes of the Catera as their BMW 3-Series competitor, but this time looks to be very different. With a standard 2.5-liter naturally-aspirated four with 200hp, buyers can upgrade to either an all-new turbocharged 2.0-liter with 270hp or a direct-injected 3.6-liter V6 with 318hp. Transmission choices include a six-speed manual or an automatic.

Weighing less than 3,400 pounds, Cadillac claims the ATS has a nearly 50/50 weight distribution. Rear-wheel drive comes standard and all-wheel drive is also an option. Along with Cadillac's distinctive 'Art & Science' design language, the ATS may finally be the proper entry-level sport sedan Cadillac desperately needs in order to truly be a global competitor. Pricing starts off at around $35,000.

2013 Porsche 911 Cabriolet: Make no mistake about it, Porsche's long-standing philosophy of design and engineering evolution works beautifully. When the all-new 991 generation of the 911 coupe made its debut at the Frankfurt Auto Show in September, it was immediately clear that Porsche's definitive sports car has achieved yet another state of perfection. The latest Cabrio version is no different. It features a lightweight technology that, for the first time ever, allows for the infamous 911 roofline to be retained in full when the top is closed.

With the ability to be raised or lowered at speeds of up to 31 mph, clever German engineering also includes a new wind deflector which can be deployed in only a few seconds. Engine options remain the same as in the coupe, with a 3.4-liter flat-six with 350hp coming standard in the Carrera or an optional 3.8-liter with 400hp for the Carrera S.

2013 Mopar Dodge Charger Redline: Ok, we're fully aware that the Dodge Charger was new last year, but now that Mopar has gotten their hands on it, we felt its importance has gone to an even higher level. The Charger Redline by Mopar is composed of three stages, each of which will make any Baby Boomer or young gearhead shed tears of joy and pure happiness. Stage I features an aerodynamic carbon fiber body kit that includes a chin spoiler, tri-coat paint, a bold two-piece grille, and a three-piece carbon fiber rear spoiler.

Stage II tacks on performance parts like front-tower cross-brace and brace caps that allow for increased structural stability and improved handling dynamics. And most important of all, Stage III is pure power; a new high-output version of the automaker's Gen II Hemi V8 crate engine. It's a lot more powerful than the stock version, with a total of 590hp compared to the SRT8's 470hp output. The world has just become a better place.

2013 Mercedes-Benz SL: The sixth-generation Mercedes-Benz SL may look similar to the previous model, but a closer look will reveal plenty of design changes both inside and out. Along with the latest styling language from the German automaker, the new SL roadster comes equipped with something really cool. Called Magic Sky Control, the folding hardtop features state-of-the-art technology that features a transparent roof with variable opacity that can switch between light and dark.

With the simple push of a button when the top is closed, drivers and passengers can switch to a virtually transparent light setting that offers an open-air experience even in cold weather. Power comes from a new 4.6-liter V8 with over 400hp that's mated to a seven-speed automatic and can go from 0 to 60 mph in just 4.5 seconds. Along with 19-inch alloy wheels, owners will be treated to an exclusive leather interior with contrasting stitching and a Harmon/Kardon surround sound system. Priced at nearly $104,000, the new SL has once again set the benchmark as the ultimate luxury roadster.

Honorable Mention - 2013 Hyundai Genesis Coupe and Veloster Turbo: Hyundai has been on a roll lately. Besides effectively taking Honda's spot as the quirky Asian automaker, they've also been designing some of the most dramatic and eye-catching cars on the road. And with the refreshed 2013 Genesis Coupe, it's apparent that the South Korean automaker clearly knows how to improve previous issues while still retaining the car's overall appeal. Under the hood lies an improved 3.8-liter V6 with direct-injection that produces a total of 348hp and 296lb-ft of torque.

For comparison, the previous engine produced 306hp and 266lb-ft. Along with updated front- and rear-end styling, the Genesis Coupe is once again a solid competitor to the likes of Mustang and Camaro. In addition, Hyundai revealed their 2013 Veloster Turbo which comes equipped with a turbocharged 1.6-liter four pot with 201hp and 196lb-ft of torque. Simply put, this is the Veloster we've wanted from the get-go as the standard model only has 138hp. With a choice between a six-speed manual or dual-clutch transmission, Hyundai clearly has another winner on their hands.

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