It's been a busy media preview at the Detroit auto show with the launch of a number of new production cars, and now it's time to assess the hits and the flops. All the models below will hit showrooms sometime in the next year — although we have to wait longer on the new Focus — and some are vitally important to their respective automakers. Let us know what your favorite new production car was in the comments.
2012 Ford Focus
Mike Hanley: Winner
The new global Focus doesn't go on sale in the U.S. for another year or so, but from what I saw of it at the show, it definitely looks worth the wait. Stylish design, good fuel economy and high-tech features come together in this small car, positioning it to steal market share from the competition; it's already stolen the Detroit auto show.
Joe Wiesenfelder: Winner
Now we’re talking. Great-looking car with an interesting interior. This is the reaction Chevy wishes its Cruze had garnered. I can see this going head-to-head with the Civic, Mazda3 and even the Volkswagen Golf.
Kelsey Mays: Winner
Three for three. Everything the other guys said, although the smorgasbord of available features, from a backup camera to a self-parking system, has me concerned that loaded versions could top $30,000. That’s not small-car territory anymore. Europeans have paid top dollar — er, euro — for well-equipped compacts for some time, so perhaps this just moves us in that direction.
David Thomas: Winner
Most of the public thinks Ford has big winners with the new Fusion, Mustang and Taurus. But I’ve found faults with all of them. Not this new Focus. Car shoppers will find it hard to hold up any competitor to the Focus and decide not to go with Ford’s new compact.
2011 Honda CR-Z Loser
The CR-Z hybrid's promise of an entertaining driving experience is dampened by its underwhelming gas mileage estimates of 36/38 mpg city/highway with the automatic transmission and 31/37 mpg with the manual. I expected greater efficiency, and I think eco-conscious hybrid shoppers will, too. Plus, its grille looks like a trout's mouth.
A surprisingly low price or excellent performance could redeem this model, but hybrids must be — above all else — highly efficient. The Prius makes up half of the hybrid market because its mileage is tops, its price is low, and it’s functional. Two seats and lower mileage aren’t what Honda needs to supplement its already struggling Insight. They’d be better off if it weren’t a hybrid.
The CR-Z’s sharp headlights and stylish cockpit make me want to like it, but the numbers just don’t add up. Honda let slip during the media frenzy that it will start slightly above the Insight – so perhaps the low $20,000s. Two seats and sub-Insight mileage don’t help the CR-Z’s case, either.
I like everything about this car, from the interior to the usable cargo area to the exterior design. I just don’t see shoppers paying hybrid money for a car — no matter its performance — that rings in mileage in the 30s. Joe might be right; they could drop in the Fit’s engine and have an affordable, sexy runabout with mileage in the 30s.
2011 Lincoln MKX Winner
Lincoln updated its MKX midsize crossover in all the right ways, giving it a classy new grille that brings its look in line with other Lincoln models, a premium cabin with Ford's high-tech MyLincoln Touch interface, and a more powerful V-6 engine. It's what the MKX needed, and anything less would have risked its competitiveness in the luxury segment.
MyLincoln Touch is getting a lot of attention, but if you put that aside, the restyling and interior upgrades make the MKX itself a winner. I always liked the MKX; maybe the upgrades will make buyers like it more.
Finally, Lincoln has something capable of taking on the ubiquitous Lexus RX 350. I’m not smitten by the MKX’s styling, but its new dashboard is something to behold. Ford has proven it’s the real deal on the non-luxury front. The MKX is proof that the guys in Dearborn can compete — and possibly win — on the upscale front, too.
It’s all about the interior in the luxury game. Or near luxury as the case may be here. The Lexus RX isn’t the most enthralling-looking SUV; it just has a plush interior at the right price. Same can now be said for the MKX, which previously had a cabin that wasn’t a big step up from Ford.
2011 Audi A8 Loser
The 2011 A8 is a handsome car — even with its massive grille — but its close resemblance to Audi's outgoing flagship sedan limited its visual impact on the auto show floor. The interior is quite nice, too, but MMI remains something of a chore to use, whereas competing knob-based systems like BMW's iDrive have advanced.
I didn’t get a chance to try out the MMI, which leaves me with the impression that it’s a nice-looking car with a gorgeous interior. On the downside, Mike’s right. It doesn’t stand out versus the previous generation — or the other Audis, which are becoming too similar looking. It was just too lush for me to call a loser.
In a world where CEOs are downsizing their cars simply to look less ostentatious, I think the new A8 hits an appropriate mark. Both inside and out, it has a restrained elegance. I spent plenty of time poking around the new MMI system, and while it still isn’t as intuitive as Mercedes’ Comand system, it’s a substantive improvement over Audi’s current MMI. Short of a touch-screen — which German automakers have largely eschewed — Audi’s touch-pad is the easiest way to input navigation addresses.
I’m not sure what the other guys were looking at. The A8 was a stunner, with that gigantic grille and unbelievable interior. The wood trim alone should send BMW’s 7 Series running away in shame. So what I’m saying is, when this comes into the test fleet, I call dibs!
2011 Cadillac CTS-V Coupe Loser
I wasn't a fan of the CTS coupe's styling when it debuted at the LA auto show a little over a month ago, and the addition of a V series model doesn't change that impression. Despite its 556-horsepower supercharged V-8, I think this car got less buzz than the regular CTS coupe did when it was unveiled.
I don’t want to call the CTS-V coupe a loser because I like the V series and the CTS lineup, and I don’t find the coupe body style offensive. The V series treatment is sure to catch some showgoers’ eyes, but to most it will look like just another CTS coupe. But it does 0-60 mph in 3.9 seconds …
Like the other guys said, the CTS-V coupe is sure to impress on the racetrack, but its controversial styling doesn’t do it for me.
It’ll be blistering fast I’m sure, but unlike high-performance Audis, BMWs and Mercedes, I can’t stand the treatments Cadillac gives its V series of cars. The grilles are just gaudy. I want a blacked-out or black chrome version of the regular grille and that’s it. Otherwise, there is too much flash even for all this power.
2011 Mercedes-Benz E-Class Cabriolet Winner
It's cold outside in Detroit, but the E-Class Cabriolet will get you thinking about summer. The soft-top convertible keeps the elegant roofline of the E-Class coupe, and it also looks good with the top down. The E-Class in general is a car best suited for leisurely cruising, which makes a convertible the perfect addition to the lineup.
The blue E350 Cabriolet looks really good, top up or down, and the new Aircap feature that diminishes wind turbulence in the cabin is a clever innovation. Because convertible buyers are typically more casual drivers, I think they’ll find the Cabriolet more satisfying than sport enthusiasts will the E-Class coupe we reviewed.
Like Mike said, an E-Class convertible fulfills the mission of the current E-Class: driving comfort, pure and simple. Aircap has the makings of a panacea for convertible-hair. If it works as advertised, competitors will need introduce their own versions quick.
It’s a nice convertible and all, but it’s not for me. I can see my parents enjoying a drive down A1A in this car, but I see myself falling asleep at the wheel. The new E-Class’ styling leaves me flat overall, and the convertible is the least interesting of the lineup.
2010 Hyundai Santa Fe Loser
The fuel economy improvements provided by the Santa Fe's new powertrains are welcome news for consumers, but overall this crossover didn't make a big impact at the show. Only the most ardent Hyundai fans will be able to point out its exterior and interior changes.
Tough crowd! If you visit the Hyundai display, your attention will go to the aggressively styled new Sonata and Tucson. The reworked Santa Fe is, well, present. But I suspect the tweaked styling, new drivetrains and features will make it a winner in the market.
Hyundai had a chance to do a lot more with the Santa Fe, not least of which was to give it a nose that matched its siblings’. I’m disappointed to see the automaker didn’t. Eliminating the third-row seat could move a few more buyers over to the slow-selling Veracruz, but I continue to question why Hyundai has three crossovers — the Tucson, Santa Fe and Veracruz — in a space where others have two.
Sure, there were a few nips and tucks done inside and out, but the more efficient engine options will resonate with customers. Other automakers take note: No one opted for the previous Santa Fe’s optional third row, so none is offered for 2010. That’s a smart move.