Top 10 Most Significant Vehicles at the 2011 Detroit Auto Show


As one of the world's most prestigious events of its kind, the North American International Car Show — or Detroit auto show, as it's more popularly known — has long been a top venue for automobile manufacturers seeking to debut their newest creations. This year was no exception, with manufacturers like Audi, Ford, Hyundai and Mercedes-Benz pulling the sheets off new models that will be in dealerships near you over the next few months.

Lots of models were competing for the limelight at the 2011 show but the 10 listed below are the ones that struck us as being most likely to make a name for themselves in the years ahead. Our diverse picks include everything from luxury hybrids to compact minivans to fun-to-drive economy cars, and are listed in alphabetical order.

  1. 2012 Audi A6 Hybrid

    1. 2012 Audi A6 Hybrid

    The upcoming 2012 Audi A6 Hybrid promises to give luxury-car shoppers fuel efficiency with no compromises. Audi reports that the sedan goes from zero to 60 mph in a mere 7.3 seconds, all while delivering fuel economy of nearly 38 mpg on the highway. The car's powertrain is the same as that seen in the Q5 Hybrid, pairing a turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-4 engine with an electric motor; combined, the two send 241 horsepower through the A6 Hybrid's eight-speed automatic transmission. Sweetening the pot is this hybrid's head-turning sheet metal — its sinuous lines won the A6 an EyesOn Design Award at this year's Detroit show, for design excellence.

  2. 2011 BMW 1 Series M Coupe

    2. 2011 BMW 1 Series M Coupe:

    It ain't cheap; still, priced at $47,010, the 2011 BMW 1 Series M Coupe holds the distinction of being the most affordable model in the M family. For this not-insignificant price, you get a brawny 335-hp inline-6 mated to a six-speed manual gearbox. The result is whip-quick 0-60-mph acceleration of 4.7 seconds.

  3. 2012 Buick Verano

    3. 2012 Buick Verano

    With a wheelbase of just 105.7 inches, the 2012 Buick Verano is the smallest car in Buick's lineup, falling somewhere between the Audi A3 and A4 on the spectrum of premium compacts. Its hustle comes courtesy of a 2.4-liter inline-4 engine providing 177 hp and 170 pound-feet of torque. The engine is paired with a six-speed automatic transmission that sends power to the front wheels. Buick reports that this powertrain gets the Verano from 0-60 mph in 8.0 seconds, with an estimated 31 mpg highway rating. Pricing is expected to be in the low $20s.

  4. 2012 Chevrolet Sonic

    4. 2012 Chevrolet Sonic

    The pool of fun-to-drive economy cars keeps growing larger and the 2012 Chevrolet Sonic is the latest of the bunch. The car's suspension has been tuned by the same engineers who crafted the Corvette and its engines offer power that while not exactly Corvette-like does place them at the top of the segment. Two mills are available: a turbocharged 1.4-liter inline-4 rated at 138 hp and 148 lb-ft of torque, and a normally aspirated 1.8-liter inline-4 that delivers 135 hp and 123 lb-ft of torque. The 1.8-liter engine offers the choice of a five-speed manual or a six-speed automatic, while the 1.4-liter is paired only with a six-speed manual. The Sonic is available as both a sedan and a five-door hatchback, with the sedan offering class-leading trunk space.

  5. 2012 Ford C-Max

    5. 2012 Ford C-Max

    The 2012 Ford C-Max is a compact, seven-passenger wagon that's about the same length as a Ford Focus sedan, and is positioned as an alternative for those who want minivan functionality with better fuel economy and driving dynamics. The standard engine is a 2.5-liter four-cylinder; optional is a turbocharged 1.6-liter EcoBoost inline-4 that delivers the output of much larger conventional engines and with significantly better fuel economy. Both engines are paired with a six-speed automatic transmission. The C-Max features sliding doors, and it even has a power liftgate that can be activated hands-free as you sweep your leg under the rear bumper with the key fob in your pocket.

  6. 2012 Ford Focus Electric

    6. 2012 Ford Focus Electric

    Ford has announced that it plans to launch five new electric vehicles by 2013 and the 2012 Focus Electric is the first of these. According to Ford, the Focus Electric can be charged in half the time of the Nissan Leaf and has a mileage-equivalency rating that represents a one-mile-per-gallon improvement over the Chevrolet Volt's. This five-door hatchback offers new technology like MyFord Mobile, a smartphone app that allows owners to monitor state of charge and other functions while away from the vehicle. The car's electric motor allows for a top speed of 84 miles per hour.

  7. 2012 Hyundai Veloster

    7. 2012 Hyundai Veloster

    The 2012 Hyundai Veloster is Hyundai's replacement for the Tiburon sport coupe and it's equipped with a 138-horsepower, direct-injected 1.6-liter inline-4 that's expected to get up to 40 mpg on the highway. A six-speed manual transmission is standard but the car will also be available with an optional dual-clutch automated manual transmission; Hyundai says this transmission will deliver a 5-6 percent improvement in fuel efficiency over a traditional automatic and a 3-7 percent improvement in acceleration performance. Pricing is expected to start at about $17,500.

  8. 2012 Mercedes-Benz S350 Bluetech

    8. 2012 Mercedes-Benz S350 Bluetech

    Mercedes-Benz resurrects the big S-Class diesel with the 2012 Mercedes-Benz S350 Bluetech. Expected to cost about the same as the S400 Hybrid, the sedan is powered by a 3.0-liter V6 turbodiesel that makes 240 hp and a hearty 455 lb-ft of torque, with a seven-speed automatic transmission governing the proceedings. According to Mercedes, the sedan sprints from 0-60 mph in a mere 7.0 seconds.

  9. 2012 Toyota Prius V

    9. 2012 Toyota Prius V

    Toyota's Prius has been one of its top-selling models so it should come as no surprise that the manufacturer has announced plans to expand the Prius lineup. The 2012 Toyota Prius V (the V stands for versatility, says Toyota) is the first model rolled out as part of this expansion. Though it seats five like the standard Prius, the V is bigger in every way, offering more passenger room and 50 percent more cargo space. It shares its powertrain with the Prius and offers a net horsepower rating of 134, and is expected to deliver 42 mpg in city driving and 38 mpg on the highway.

  10. 2012 Volkswagen Passat

    10. 2012 Volkswagen Passat

    The big news for the Passat this year concerns its price, which is down to roughly $20,000 from the 2011 model's base price of $27,195. VW's 2.5-liter inline-5 serves as the base engine, and it's rated at 170 hp and mated to either a five-speed manual or six-speed automatic gearbox. A couple of optional engines are available: a 280-hp 3.6-liter V6 with a six-speed automated manual gearbox and a 140-hp 2.0 TDI paired with either a six-speed manual or six-speed, dual-clutch automated manual. The diesel engine promises 43 mpg in highway driving.

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