Detroit kicked off the auto show season this week, with dozens of snazzy models on display. For gear-heads, this is like watching “The Voice” or “American Idol,” except contestants range from sexy sport sedans to racy ragtops.
You’ll see many of these newbies at next week’s Washington auto show, though final pricing and mpg ratings may not be announced for a few months.
Here’s a sneak peak at some of the best contenders for 2014.
Sports car: Ford Mustang
Last year, Chevy unveiled its seventh-generation Corvette to much fanfare. Now it’s Ford’s turn with the sixth-gen Mustang, which turns 50 this year. The pony car keeps its muscle-car profile and upraised tush, along with a pair of menacing hood vents. But this Mustang is slightly smaller and evokes sleeker Aston Martin-like styling, especially in the grille and wraparound headlights. The retro cockpit is familiar to Stang fans, but now there’s ambient lighting that can be changed to different colors. And the latest SYNC infotainment system can access apps quickly and read emails, texts or social media posts aloud. Alas, the engine/transmission choices are carry-overs from the current model, though new eco-friendly and high-performance powerplants are expected later.
Sedan: Hyundai Genesis
The first Genesis was a hit, mixing Mercedes styling and Lexus handling with an affordable price. This second version ups the ante with a ritzier design, smoother ride and tasteful brushed-aluminum everywhere. But the big news is the Google Glass integration, which allows the driver to access service info, activate vehicle functions, send text messages, take photos/vids, get directions and more. Other tech features include lane-departure warning, automatic parking and a CO2-detection system that opens the air vents to prevent drowsy driving. If your hands are full, the trunk lid opens automatically when you stand next it for three seconds. But don’t worry — this only works if you have the key fob in your pocket, so others can’t open it accidentally.
Crossover: Audi Q3 crossover
Audi is muscling into the compact-crossover market with its all-new Q3, which joins the midsize Q5 and full-size Q7. The Q3 takes direct aim at the BMW X1 and is powered by a peppy four-cylinder turbo (with either front-wheel or all-wheel drive). As with all Audis, the Q3 has a high-end, high-quality cabin that’s full of the latest tech gear. It’s all very user-friendly and incredibly quiet inside, even on bumpy roads. Every Q3 comes standard with a panoramic sunroof, heated seats and LED lighting (both inside and out), with optional power liftgate.
Green machine: Honda Fit
Despite all the hybrid hoopla from other automakers, the completely redesigned Fit is still a good — er, well — fit for fuel-savvy drivers. It’s bigger than before, with a better engine, improved chassis and sporty six-speed manual transmission (an automatic gearbox is optional). There’s much more room, especially for rear-seat passengers. And along with sassier styling outside, the interior is more upscale. Rear-view camera and Bluetooth are both standard, while options include heated seats, push-button start and a tech-savvy touchscreen that lets users pinch, swipe and tap to operate the nav system.