For the last few years, the show has been hurt badly by the recession and many manufacturer’s have now opted out of taking part in this show. This year was no exception, as manufacturer’s like Mitsubishi, Suzuki, Ferrari, Lamborghini, Rolls Royce, Aston Martin, Lotus and Fisker were absent from this show.
Yes, some might point out that at the MGM Grand Casino, some exotics were present, but it was a one night only event and most people never got to see it.
So is this year’s show a complete write-off or is it still worth a visit? To answer that, I have compiled a list of 12 cars worth seeing at the 2012 (NAIAS) Detroit Auto Show.
1. Audi R8 GT Spyder: The R8 might not be the newest car at the auto show, but this gorgeous R8 GT Spyder is new for 2012. It features a 5.2-liter, V10 that produces 560-hp. Couple that with its amazing chassis and its quattro all-wheel drive system, you can bet this is going to be an amazing car to drive. Since only 333-examples of this GT Spyder model are planned for production, you might not ever get to see one on the road. But you can see it at this show.
2. BMW i8 Concept: If you have seen the new Mission Impossible (Ghost Protocol) movie, you’d have then seen the stunning BMW i8 in it. This car is more than just some meaningless concept car, BMW will actually put this into production in a few years time, featuring a plug-in hybrid powertrain. No word if the actual production car will look exactly like the concept, so if you want to see the movie car, you need to go to this show.
3. Subaru BRZ: For the first time in over a decade, Subaru is going to offer another sports coupe, the last one being the SVX. The BRZ might have a twin-sibling named the Scion FR-S, but since Subaru did most of the engineering work and the only engine offered is a Subaru boxer, four-cylinder unit, Subaru deserves most of the credit for this car. While this car will go on sale in a few months time, but if you want an early look, this show is your opportunity.
4. Lexus LFA: The LFA, like the R8, has also been around for a few years, but since only 500 are planned for total global production, it will never be a common sight. Also, it just looked truly stunning in bright red paint. I could tell you about its 4.8-liter, V10 engine that produces 552-hp, but then if you like this car, you have probably seen many YouTube videos featuring it. If you have never seen one in the flesh, you can see it at this show. While Lexus is promoting the (ugly) LF-LC concept at the NAIAS, trust me, the real star is the LFA.
5. Redbull RB7: Want to see the car that Sebastian Vettel drove to win his second Driver’s Championship in F1? You can at this year’s Detroit Auto Show. The Redbull RB7 is on display at the Infiniti booth. Why? Because Infiniti is this teams main sponsor and is using the global audience F1 attracts to market its brand. It is truly amazing to see one of these F1 cars up close, just to marvel at their aerodynamic complexity and technical brilliance. Love it.
6. Mazda MX5 Spyder: There are plenty of ideas copied by rival automakers, but not all copies are an embarrassment. The Mazda MX5 Spyder might have taken a lot of inspiration from the Porsche Boxster Spyder (mainly its light, roof arrangement), but the end result looks stunning. Will it go into production? Time will tell, but if enough people bug Mazda to produce it, I’m sure they will.
7. smart For-Us concept: The smart fortwo has not been the success its maker had hoped for, but this sub-brand of Mercedes-Benz is still in business and wants to broaden its range. So at the NAIAS, smart (yes, they write their name in lower-case) pulled out the For-Us concept, which is a pick-up truck for the urban jungle. This electric truck is aimed to appeal to young couples who like outdoor activities. Since it is electric, your range will be limited to just 140-km on a full charge. Not ideal, but still a neat concept which provides a glimpse into what future generations might be driving.
8. Mercedes-Benz SL550: I talked about the new SL-class a few weeks ago, but at the Detroit Auto Show, I got to see it in the flesh. I must say, it looks better in person, but I’m still not convinced on the styling. Still, a turbo-charged 4.7-liter, V8 convertible that produces 429-hp is always going to find an admiring audience.
9. Bentley Continental GT V8: Want even more class than what a Mercedes-Benz provides, then look no further than the Bentley Continental GT V8. While the GT coupe has been around since 2004, this is the first time a V8 is offered in this vehicle. And what a V8 it has also. It got a 4.0-liter, twin-turbo, V8 that produces 500-hp. Couple that with its eight-speed automatic gearbox and all-wheel drive, and you know it’ll be a great long distance cruiser. With its cylinder deactivation economy mode working, you can get fuel-economy in the 7.0-liters/100km range. Hard to believe, but this seems to be a Bentley that even a Greenpeace activist might consider buying, if he/she were to have nearly $150,000 to spend on a new car.
10. Mini Roadster: The car that took me from Toronto to Detroit for this year’s auto show was the new Mini Coupe, which proved to be a fun and economical way to cover the distance. At the show, Mini unveiled the convertible version of this same car called the Roadster. This two-seat convertible looks wonderful and will doubtless be even more fun to drive around than the Coupe I had. Power will come courtesy of three engines, a base 1.6-liter engine producing 121-hp, a turbo Cooper S version with 181-hp, and the top of the range John Cooper Works (JCW) edition which will offer 208-hp to this pint-sized, front-wheel drive, sports car! I can’t wait to get my hands on one of these.
11. Falcon F7: If you’ve never heard of Falcon Motorsports, I won’t blame you. This is a new company and since its distribution network is very small at the moment, it will be a very rare sight indeed. But as first products go, their F7 is a fantastic effort. First of all, it looks amazing. Both the exterior and interior have a very exotic look to it. So if you like turning heads, this will do that very well. Power comes courtesy of any current Corvette powerplant you’d want. So a base model will have the 6.2-liter V8, or you can have the 7.0-liter V8, or the 6.2-liter V8 with a super charger. Power figures will thus range from 440-hp to around 700-hp. The one at the show featured a tuned 7.0-liter motor that produces 612-hp. The car is on sale in the U.S.A. now with prices starting at $195,000. So if you’re looking for something unique, this might be the car for you.
12. Acura NSX concept: And at last, but certainly not least, I give you; the Acura NSX concept. One of the most loved sportscar ever made is the original Acura NSX. Ever since its demise in 2005, Honda/Acura fans have been waiting for the next NSX. Well it’s almost here. In Detroit, Acura showed the next NSX in concept form, and it looks spectacular. The design is crisp and clean and its powertrain is modern and advanced. It will use a mid-mounted 3.5-liter, V6 engine along with electric motors. Net result should be around 400-hp. Power will go to all-wheels through a seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox. All this sounds amazing, but if you want one, you’ll have to wait until the 2015 model year to get it. Worth the wait? Yes it is.
So here you go. If you were wondering going to this year’s Detroit Auto Show, maybe this list helped in making up your decision.