Top 12 consumer car debuts at 2012 U.S. auto showsTue, 18 Dec 2012
The 2012 calendar year brought a lot of excitement in the automotive industry. Sales numbers show a gradual recovery, and pending federal fuel-efficiency requirements have fueled a slew of mainstream green technologies that don't dampen driving dynamics.
Among the glitz of auto shows, some of our most memorable reveals from the year include such high-profile machines as the 2013 SRT Viper and Acura NSX concept. But let's talk about the cars we can actually afford to own.
Looking back on the year, here are the 12 most significant consumer cars revealed at 2012 U.S. auto shows.
1. Acura RLX: Acura showed the 2014 RLX, its new flagship sedan, at the Los Angeles Auto Show last month. Highlights include a sleek exterior, luxurious interior with two center full-color screens and a V6 engine that delivers 310 hp with front-wheel drive, or 370 hp with the impressive Sport Hybrid Super Handling AWD system. If this is the new Acura, they have piqued our interest.
2. Dodge Dart: The brand revived this 1970s nameplate for the 2013 model year, and this time around it features a swoopy design and sporty driving dynamics. The Dart offers multiple powertrains -- a 160-hp 2.0-liter, 160-hp turbo 1.4-liter or a 184-hp 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine, plus three different transmissions, so there's lots to choose from. The Dart is the first pure Fiat/Chrysler collaboration, and its combination of value and personality made it our Most Significant vehicle at the Detroit auto show in January.
3. Ford Fusion: A sophisticated new design and a variety of fuel-efficient engine options earned the new Ford Fusion the Autoweek Editors' Choice Award for Best in Show at the Detroit auto show. Engine options include two EcoBoost turbo four-cylinders, a hybrid and a plug-in hybrid. With these new technologies, the Ford Fusion successfully keeps efficient driving fun.
4. Ford Transit Connect Wagon: Ford revives its version of the minivan with the 2014 Ford Transit Connect Wagon. This people-mover can be configured in five- or seven-passenger layouts, and can be outfitted with a 1.6-liter EcoBoost four-cylinder engine that Ford says will return at least 30 mpg. It was revealed at the LA Auto Show and is expected to go on sale in the fall of 2013.
5. Hyundai Elantra: Hyundai expanded the Elantra small-sedan line up for 2013, adding a sporty coupe and functional hatchback. The Elantra is one of Hyundai's strongest-selling vehicles, and adding these sport-influenced options only added to its appeal. The Elantras were revealed at the Chicago auto show in February.
6. Hyundai Santa Fe: Hyundai hopes to attract families with the redesigned 2013 Santa Fe crossovers, now offering a three-row variant and a two-row version called the Santa Fe Sport. The SUVs were revealed at the New York auto show in April, complete with stain- and odor-resistant seat fabric, reclining and heated rear seats, and rear sunshades. The Santa Fe goes on sale in January, and the Sport is on sale now.
7. Nissan Altima: The second-best-selling car in the U.S., the Nissan Altima's new look and publicized “NASA-inspired” seats caught our attention this year at the New York auto show -- the safety, technology upgrades and a fuel-efficiency boost had us appreciating the complete package. Although the Altima has some tough competition among redesigned midsize sedans, its premium features and projected 38 mpg highway set it apart.
8. Ram 1500: In the pickup-truck wars, Ram proved that fuel economy is a new priority. During the New York auto show, the 2013 Ram 1500 showed off its mileage-boosting 3.6-liter V6 and eight-speed automatic transmission. The interior also becomes more refined, complete with a rotary knob to operate the transmission.
9 and 10. Scion FR-S/Subaru BRZ: In what at first seemed like a mismatched engineering effort, the Scion FR-S and Subaru BRZ partnership resulted in a significant return to the era of inexpensive, rear-wheel-drive sports coupes.
11. Toyota Avalon: Toyota redesigned the Avalon for 2013 with an emphasis on attracting younger buyers -- in came swoopy styling, more safety and more technology features. We had a first glance at the Avalon at the New York auto show, and after a recent test drive we find the upgrades worthy of more attention . . . though perhaps not quite at the level of “bitchin,' ” as one enthusiastic Toyota stylist described them.
12. Toyota RAV4: Toyota took to the drawing room for the redesigned 2013 RAV4, and the result is a sleeker look along with four-cylinder power across the board. During the LA Auto Show reveal, Toyota said the 2013 RAV4 is expected to return 24 mpg in the city and 31 mpg on the highway.
By Angie Fisher