These are some of the most exciting automotive debuts of the year–and the place to see them is the Detroit Auto Show. Vehicles are listed in alphabetical order.
1. BMW 1-Series M Coupe
The Scoop: Detroit witnesses the official debut of the long-awaited 1-Series M Coupe, with sales starting later in the spring. BMW used a new twin-turbocharged, all-aluminum, 3.0-liter inline-6 engine that gets 335 horsepower and 332 lb-ft of torque. It comes with a 6-speed manual transmission. Zero to 60 mph time is 4.7 seconds, with a top speed limited to 155 mph. The production run is limited to 2,700 units.
2. BMW 6-Series Convertible
The Scoop: The 2012 version of the 6-Series Convertible will be one of the highlights of the show. It’ll be a BMW 650i Convertible with a V8 dual-turbo engine and direct fuel injection that gives 400 horsepower and comes with either a six-speed manual transmission or an eight-speed automatic sports transmission. It goes on sale in the U.S. later this year.
Pricing: $86,000 (estimated)
3. Ford C-Max
The Scoop: The C-MAX is part of Ford’s global small vehicle strategy to deliver 10 models–2 million vehicles annually–from a single C-vehicle platform by 2012. It also has Ford’s first application of the 1.6-liter EcoBoost I-4 engine in its North American C-class vehicles. The aluminum engine combines direct injection, turbocharging and twin independent variable camshaft timing for fuel economy 20% better than naturally aspirated, larger-displacement gasoline engines with a similar power output. C-MAX also has a power-operated rear liftgate, five seats in the main cabin and two smaller seats in the third row, twin sliding doors, active park assist with a special system that will automatically parallel-park the car.
Pricing: $19,000 (estimated)
4. Hyundai Veolster
The Scoop: This production vehicle is a sporty 2+2 coupe with a strong technology component. It’s targeted to younger buyers and will likely be cheaper, more fuel efficient and trendier than the performance-oriented Genesis coupe.
5. Mercedes-Benz SLS E-Cell
The Scoop: This is the electric version of the popular SLS AMG Gullwing that went on sale last year. Its four motors (a pair at each axle integrated with reduction gears to drive all four wheels at the same time) combine to provide 526 horsepower and 649 lb-ft of torque and a 0-60 time of 4 seconds. The production model will be on sale in 2013. And watch out: The car in Detroit will be painted a screaming “AMG Lumilectric Mango” yellow.
6. MINI Paceman Concept
The Scoop: The Paceman is a coupe, like the MINI Cooper, but it’s based on the four-door MINI Countryman. That leaves us with something that sits higher than the Cooper and that will probably be trimmed to a higher degree than that coupe. The concept comes with an all-wheel-drive system and a John Cooper Works-tuned turbocharged 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 211 horsepower. It’ll come to market late 2012.
7. Porsche Supercar
The Scoop: This is the first time in four years that Porsche will have a booth at the Detroit show (they stopped going in 2007 to focus more on efforts at the Los Angeles shindig). The Stuttgart-based manufacturer has said it’ll bring something “spectacular ” to show but is staying mum about what–they won’t even say whether it’s a hybrid racer or something more extreme. Smart money is saying it will be a close-to-production version of something akin to the 918 Spyder plug-in hybrid, which Porsche has said will be road-ready in 2013. [Note: The car shown is the Porsche 918 Spyder.]
8. Toyota Prius MPV
The Scoop: Photos of this have been leaked already, but Toyota has been strict about saving the debut of this three-row, seven-passenger hybrid for Detroit. The van will use a 1.8-liter hybrid engine (the same used in the five-door hatch version) with a total output of 138 horsepower. [Note: The car shown is the Toyota FT-CH Dedicated Hybrid Concept].
Pricing: $25,000 (estimated)
9. Tesla Model S
The Scoop: Tesla will focus primarily on “vehicle engineering ” this year in Detroit, it says, and the S will play a main part of that. The California-based carmaker says it already has 3,000 buyers lined up for the electric sedan, which is set to be delivered in 2012. The car has room for five adults and can come with a 160-mile, 220-mile, or 300-mile battery pack. Tesla says the car will go from 0-60 in 5.6 seconds, with a top speed of 120 miles per hour.
Pricing: $56,400 (minus a $7,500 federal tax credit)
10. Venturi America
The Scoop: This 300-horsepower, rear-wheel-drive electric buggy-coupe debuted at the Paris Motor Show last fall and will be on the stand again in Detroit. While the car is still in a concept stage, the fact that Venturi recently launched Venturi North America in Columbus, Ohio, at least means the company hopes to develop its presence more in the states. The car uses a 54 kWh battery pack made of lithium ion polymer batteries that provide a cruising range of 186 miles. It comes with an on-board charger that will refuel with a standard electrical outlet or a specialized high-volt charger.