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It might be time to drive the dream

The Honda executive presenting the new Acura NSX supercar never stood a chance.

The Honda executive presenting the new Acura NSX supercar never stood a chance.

During the media days that preceded the 2012 North American International Auto Show, which wrapped up Jan. 21, he “kindly” invited the Detroit audience of journalists onto the stage for a look. Well, ask and ye shall receive: a flash mob of assorted scribes and photographers stampeded their way to their quarry with cameras blazing.

“I really thought the presenter was going to be trampled,” said a nearby Honda public-relations type. This type of excitement is a rare sight at any auto show, and within three years the NSX concept will transform into a production hybrid halo car for Honda’s premium division.

Before the unveiling, at the opposite end of Detroit’s Cobo Hall, Mark Templin, general manager of Toyota’s upscale Lexus division, had warmed up the press with the flashy LF-LC hybrid sports-car concept, which is rumoured to be production-bound.

Sandwiched between these exotic automotive bookmarks were two more sports cars that share the same basic architecture and powerplants. Both the rear-wheel-drive Subaru BRZ and the FR-S that Toyota will market under the Scion label will go on sale later this year.

And providing a sidebar to all this sporty action was Hyundai’s 2013 Genesis Coupe and Veloster hatchback. The Genesis features new looks and significantly added power for both the base 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder and the 3.8-litre V-6. Both powerplants also receive new eight-speed automatic transmissions to augment the standard manual transmissions. Meanwhile, the 2013 Veloster can be had with a turbocharged version of its 1.6-litre engine that bumps the power to 201 ponies from 138.

The predominantly special-interest machinery provides a clear indication that the global community of automakers is feeling decidedly bullish about the future and is enthusiastically releasing plenty of new stuff, from ultra-green electrics to pricey exotics and everything in between.

Filling that “in-between” area is the traditional four-door sedan, which represents the sweet spot for car companies where volume sales drive revenues and the competition.

In this arena, Ford’s 2013 Fusion sedan is very big news indeed. It’s clearly influenced by the Aston Martin Rapide, Audi A7 and other high-end four-door “coupe” designs, but still it manages to look singularly spectacular.

The Fusion will be offered in front- and all-wheel-drive and with a choice of manual and automatic transmissions. There will be two turbocharged four-cylinder gasoline engines and one non-turbo four-cylinder engine, in addition to gas-electric hybrid and plug-in hybrid models. No other brand comes close to matching the Fusion for powertrain variety.

For added luxury, the equally elegant 2013 Lincoln MKZ will provide similar looks in a more upscale package. The MKZ and Fusion traditionally share the same platform.

Another premium offering is the 2013 Cadillac ATS sedan that’s a step down in size from the CTS. Available engines include a 200-horsepower four-cylinder, a 270-horsepower turbocharged four-cylinder and a 318-horsepower V-6. The ATS is touted as being a competitor to the BMW Series sedan, which is certainly a tall order.

If the Detroit show is any indication, however, this year there will be very few new trucks or tall wagons running the circuit, which is really no surprise based on recent trends that have both buyers and automakers thinking about size, fuel economy and bang for the buck.

Still, it’s rare to see the kind of stage-trampling excitement that the NSX concept garnered, which, coupled with a healthy year for the auto industry and slight economic improvement, could mean that more people are thinking about driving the dream.

 
 
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