After a couple of relatively sombre years, the buzz seems to be back at the Detroit auto show. Which is all good, because downtown Detroit in January is not where you want to be sans buzz.

Buzz enablers included rising sales for most manufacturers in 2011, a large number of major product debuts, and the vehicles themselves — many featured really bold, expressive, in-your-face designs.

Here are six Detroit debutants we found particularly fetching, intriguing, and/or significant to the marketplace.

Ford Fusion

Ford determined that customers in the midsize sedan market were more than ready for “something different.”

 

The 2013 Fusion is certainly that — a stretched out cabin area gives the car more flowing lines, better aerodynamics and lots of interior room. The new fascia design is heralded as the “new face of Ford” and features a high-mounted grille with lots of chrome, flush-mounted Ford emblem, sculpted hood and incredibly thin headlights — only 100 mm at the deepest points.

The new Fusion will be available with three different four-cylinder engines and two hybrid powertrains (regular and plug-in).

The Fusion will also be North America’s first mainstream vehicle available with a stop-start feature, which will automatically stop and start the engine in stop and go traffic.



VW E-Bugster Concept


The E-Bugster is a combination of “E” for electric, “Bug” as per the Beetle’s North American nickname, and “speedster,” which typically describes an open-top two-seater.

E-Bugster has the typical “chopped down” speedster profile, via shallow windows and low top-up roofline — but it’s not a convertible.

The gritty looking concept is not slated for production, but its electric drive unit, dubbed Blue-e-Motion will be found in future products, like the Golf Blue-e-Motion.

Lexus LF-LC Concept

The Lexus LF-LC is a concept for a future 2+2 sport coupe hybrid.

I can’t see Lexus going this wild with a production vehicle, but we can only hope.

The front end is just crazy. There is a glass roof, and a lightweight pillar enables glass-to-glass treatment also on the car’s profile, a look apparently inspired by modern architecture.

There’s a big LED screen inside as you would expect, but also one on each door to open and close the windows, adjust mirrors, and get your music in motion.

Cadillac ATS

One of the biggest selling premium vehicles in North America, BMW 3 Series, just got another competitor — the 2013 Cadillac ATS.

GM said it took a while to get this done, because the vehicle called for its own, unique, lightweight rear-drive platform, and some production facilities to make it all happen.

ATS is one of the lightest vehicles in its class (3,400 pounds/1,542 kilograms), via extensive use of precious metals.

Base engine is a 200-hp 2-5-litre “four.” Optional engines include the 318-hp 3.6-litre V-6, and an all-new and over-achieving 2.0-litre turbo “four” good for 270 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque.

Inside ATS you’ll find Cadillac’s new “interface” called CUE, which features the world’s first automotive “capacitive” display (enabling finger flicking commands et la iPad).

Acura NSX Concept

Fans of Acura’s departed mid-engine supercar, NSX, have been praying for its resurrection and their prayers were answered this week in Detroit.

Acura confirmed that the new NSX will arrive in about three years, and that the company’s American R&D arm would develop it. It will also be built in the U.S.

When the styling concept of this new beast was revealed at the show by Honda president, Takanobu Ito, it garnered actual cheers from the press-day crowd — a rare event considering the jaded nature of most auto writers. Ito actually led the engineering team that created the first NSX.

Look for some kind of hybrid powertrain, a very advanced all-wheel drive system, and for it to compete where it counts — on the racetrack.

Dodge Dart

The all-new 2013 Dodge Dart is the first Chrysler Group vehicle built on a Fiat Group architecture. So Chrysler finally gets the compact it was missing in its lineup. The architecture was borrowed from the Alfa Romeo Giulietta, but then lengthened and widened to meet North American wants, needs, and girths.

Outside, you’ll find Dodge’s classic “floating crosshair” grille, and inside you’ll find lots of touchscreen technology.

Four-cylinder engine choices include 160-hp 2.0-litre, 160-hp 1.4-litre featuring Multi-Air and turbo, and 184-hp Multi-Air 2.4-litre. Transmission choices include 6-speed manual, 6-speed automatic, or 6-speed “dual clutch” automatic.

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