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2013 Detroit Auto Show: What It Means for Car Buyers

  • Detroit 2013 brings luxury and thrills.
  • Iconic names are updated.
  • New styles take hold.

Looking around the 2013 Detroit Auto Show, there seems to be a strong underlying trend: We’re in an era where automakers are trying to give shoppers what they want, and each has a different approach.

Check out some of the concepts and production models launched here: Mercedes-Benz CLA, MINI Paceman JCW, Hyundai HCD-14 Genesis, Honda Urban SUV concept. Then study current cars — such as the 2013 Audi A7, 2013 BMW X6, 2013 Mercedes-Benz CLS or the 2013 Nissan Juke — and the pattern becomes clear.

Take any of the above and draw a line along the profile, just about where the windows meet the body. Below that line is either a sedan or some kind of crossover SUV. Above it is the sloping, swooping roof of a coupe. That’s where the dual personality comes in.

Customers have either been requesting such vehicles in focus groups, or designers have decided we need a reasonable amount of practicality. But that practicality is compromised if there’s a stylistic payoff. You can’t have it all, but you can certainly try.

We’re also seeing a greater blurring of the lines between domestic and foreign cars. This is quite poignant considering that the show is at the heart of domestic car making. For years, Honda and Toyota have had factories in the United States. Hyundai and Kia are relative newcomers. But Volkswagen has recently built a new facility in Tennessee that produces models specifically for the North American market.

The VW CrossBlue SUV concept comes from that mindset and manages to contain conflicting traits: German/American, square yet sleek styling and a family vehicle that doesn’t seem like a glorified bus for young soccer players.

Elsewhere at the show, luxury is back in a big way. New entry-level offerings are the BMW 320i, Lexus IS and Infiniti Q50. Other debuts included the Cadillac ELR, Audi RS7, Porsche Cayenne Turbo S and the, um, 2014 Kia Cadenza. Yes, things are surely looking rosier when an erstwhile budget brand heads uptown.

The 2013 Cadillac ATS was named North American car of the year by a panel of journalists. The 2013 RAM 1500 pickup took truck of the year. RAM didn’t even get a minute to feel smug, because the new-generation 2014 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 was launched. Chevrolet had about five minutes to feel smug before the Ford Atlas concept — potential precursor of a new F-150 — grabbed the limelight.

Perhaps the show’s one down-to-earth note was struck by the 2014 Nissan Versa Note hatchback, starting at a comparatively reasonable $13,990 (plus destination charges) and supposedly capable of 40 miles per gallon.

A far more grandiose chord reverberated with the introduction of the 2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray. Due on sale toward the end of this year, the C7 could have a better power-to-weight ratio than a Porsche 911 or Audi R8.

The 2013 Detroit Auto Show has given us some genuinely exciting cars and trucks. On top of that, we’re getting vehicles that bring multiple aspects to the party. Excitement and more for our money — thanks very much, Motor City.

What it means to you: For the luxury buyer, this year’s Detroit show has been like a candy store. For the patriotic buyer, we’ve seen the Big Three firing on all cylinders. For the eco-conscious buyer, well, there’s always the next Los Angeles Auto Show.

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