No one has ever accused the auto industry of rushing madly into the future. For every superclean electro-diesel-charged concept at an event like Detroit’s North American International Auto Show, there are approximately 15 Hemis. Still, the show floor always contains plenty of clues about how technology is changing the way we drive. And based on what we saw this week in Detroit, we can be sure that plug-in cars are still very much alive, self-driving vehicles are inevitable, and a German luxury sedan will soon break the sound barrier. Here are nine highlights. And for more coverage of the Detroit auto show, go
2014 Cadillac ELR
The long, long-awaited Cadillac follow-on to the Chevrolet Volt finally sees daylight. So far, the specs sound nearly identical to the Volt’s–it’s a plug-in hybrid (or as GM insists, an extended-range electric vehicle) with a 16.5 kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery, a 1.4-liter gas engine, 35 miles of electric-only driving range, and 300 miles on a full battery and fuel tank combined. It’s schedule to go into production late this year and start shipping in 2014, although unfortunately, some GM-watchers doubt the company’s commitment to the car.
2014 Corvette Stingray
No one can resist the seventh-generation Vette—not even dedicated electric car fans. The base version of the surprisingly Euro-looking Chevy comes with a naturally aspirated 6.2-liter V8.
Audi’s four-door fastback, the A7, could be Germany’s sportiest, most comfortable, and most all-around dialed-in luxury sedan. Now the A7 is getting the RS treatment, with a 553-hp twin-turbo V8 and all manner of sport-tuned gadgetry. It’ll run from 0 to 60 in 3.9 seconds. Choose the Dynamic Plus package, and top speed is 190 mph.
Honda Urban SUV Concept
Honda gave a shiny glimpse of a future Fit-based crossover SUV with its prosaically named “Urban SUV Concept.”
2014 Infiniti Q50
Under the skin of this attractive but unassuming new Infiniti is a big step toward autonomous driving—steer-by-wire.
2014 Mercedes E63 AMG S-Model
Presenting one terrifyingly powerful mid-size sedan, the Mercedes E63 AMG S-Model. 577 hp. 186 mph top speed. All-wheel drive. 0-60 in about 3.5 seconds. You know, just sensible luxury transportation for lawyers and accountants.
Nissan Resonance Concept
Another Japanese automaker, another strong hint at the design of a new generation of crossover SUVs.
Volkswagen Crossblue Concept
This six-seat plug-in strikes us as a great idea—ideal for families who want or need SUV room but like the idea of making short trips using no petroleum whatsoever. Alas. After talking to a VW rep on the show floor, we’re a) pretty sure we’ll see a production VW SUV much like this in the future, but b) pretty sure it will have a much more conventional powertrain than the diesel plug-in-hybrid putatively contained in this concept vehicle.