Motown Magic, part 1

These days the auto industry has its mojo back and is firing on all cylinders. And at this week’s Detroit Auto Show, it showed off its new swagger by pulling the wrap off an array of terrific new metal. 

   From a new small Cadillac, to a brand new version of Acura’s NSX supercar, to a super-sleek Lincoln sedan, Detroit was rockin’ with newfound excitement.

   After two days of walking the show, kickin’ tires and talking the talk during the media preview, here’s my pick of the 10 Best (one through five) of what’s new in the Motor City.


1  Lexus LF-LC

 Lexus LF-LC concept car - Detroit Auto Show - Howard Walker - The Wheel World

Yes, this wild two-plus-two sports coupe is a concept, but the word is that it shows the styling direction for a brand new version of the now-deceased Lexus SC430 due around 2015. Designed at Toyota’s Calty studio in California, it’s all razor-sharp edges, Dali-esque headlights and massive mesh grille. Few details were given about what’s under the hood, apart from it being a hybrid. But take away some of the extreme styling and this could be one sleek and sexy luxury sports coupe.


2  Acura NSX

 Acura NSX supercar - Detroit Auto Show 2012 - Howard Walker's top 10 from Detroit Auto Show

It was a sad day in 2005 when Honda pulled the plug on its NSX supercar. It wasn’t the fastest on the block, but this mid-engined two-seater was one of the finest handling sports cars ever built. Honda plans to re-capture some of that magic with an all-new NSX, badged, as before, as an Acura and scheduled to hit showrooms in 2013. Looking like a cross between an Audi R8 and a Ferrari 458 Italia, it’s powered by a mid-mounted 300-hp 3.5-liter V-6 driving the rear wheels. But twin 27-horse electric motors on each front wheel will give the NSX all-wheel drive. One extra surprise; Honda plans to build it at its Marysville, Ohio plant.


3  Mercedes-Benz SL

 Mercedes-Benz SL - The Wheel World's Top 10 from the Detroit Auto Show 2012

While the photos of this all-new SL went out a couple of weeks back, seeing it for the first time in the metal only reinforced my original thinking that this is one gorgeous hi-lux sports car. With its body now crafted from lightweight aluminum and a new 4.6-liter, turbocharged V-8 under the hood delivering a truly massive 516 lb-ft of torque, this new SL should be a feisty performer. I’m a fan too of the new styling, with front-end cues from Merc’s SLS supercar. It goes on sale this spring with pricing from $105,000.


4  Lincoln MKZ

 Licoln MKZ 2013 - The Wheel World's Top 10 from the Detroit Auto Show 2012

Lincoln has been on Prozac for the past decade, with a line-up of worthy but snoozy offerings. But that’s all about to change, with seven all-new models due between now and 2014. First up – by late 2012 – will be the production version of this striking MKZ concept. Penned by Lincoln’s new super-talented Aussie design chief Max Wolff, this super-svelte four-door sedan is going to grab the attention of the Lexus-Buick-Cadillac crowd. One very cool new feature will be a fully-opening glass roof panel – it slides back over the rear screen. But to enhance this bold new direction, how about we drop the instantly-forgettable Z, X, S, and T badging and get back to real names, like Continental, Zephyr and Mark?


5  BMW 3-Series

 2013 BMW 3-Series - Howard Walker's Top 10 Cars from the 2012 Detroit Auto Show

The best just keep getting better. Just when you thought the evergreen 3-Series maybe losing a little of its edge, along comes a new version to hold on to its crown. A little longer and wider to offer more space, it features a new turbocharged four-banger as its entry engine to replace the venerable inline-6. Mated with a new 8-speed auto, this 240-horse 2-liter not only offers better performance than the previous 328i, but delivers a remarkable 36mpg highway economy. Of course, for six-addicts there’s still the 335i turbo inline-6. As you’d expect, the new styling is evolution rather than revolution. But this is still one magnificent machine. Affordable too, with pricing from $35,795.


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