WHEELS MAGAZINE: Detroit 2012 Motor Show wrap-up

The America Car is back, more globally relevant than at any time since, well, since the Ford Model A of the early 1930s.

For far too long the Detroit show has been dominated by the domestic manufacturer’s trucks: pick-ups, SUVs and MPVs. These high profit centres for GM, Ford and Chrysler rendered cars a mere distraction in Detroit. Cars sales lists were dominated by the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord. For 2012 the car makes a welcome return. Lead by Ford’s handsome Fusion – visually identical to next year’s new Mondeo – the Cadillac ATS, Lincoln’s exquisite MKZ concept and the Dodge Dart, the Americans delivered a series of sleek, bold and significant sedans that truly look competitive.

The Dodge Dart, a rebodied Alfa Giulietta, will (like China) be sold in Australia as a Fiat, probably next year. The new 2013 Dodge Dart is the first evidence of what a serious Chrysler-Fiat collaboration can produce. Built on a Giuletta platform with wider tracks and a longer wheelbase, the three-box four-door sedan replaces the Alfa’s hatchback, while the curvy styling looks more premium than the Japanese competition. With factory support via Chrysler Australia, this may be a sleeper.

Chris Hamilton, the Pom responsible for the exterior design of the all-new, Fusion and Mondeo, says, "We wanted to create something that will be different with a sophisticated feel and elegance, to set our car apart from Camry and Accord ... We wanted to create a beautiful-looking car. That's always been our number-one objective." Fusion ditches its Mazda 6-based platform to join the Mondeo on a heavily reworked version of the previous Mondeo's platform. In the US, Fusion is sedan-only but Australia (and Europe) will get a wagon and hatchback.

So important was the new Cadillac ATS that it was one of the few programmes not to be stopped during GM’s bankruptcy. Not hard to know why: the ATS is GM’s direct competitor for the BMW 3-series and is set, at last, to make Cadillac a global brand, even if that doesn’t necessarily include Australia.

The benchmark was the E46 BMW 3-Sereis in terms of size and package (the rear seat is just as tight) and will eventually offer a range of four and six cylinder petrol and diesel engines. It’s all-new architecture can apparently be stretched (for the next Camaro) or shrunk for a 1-series rival. Development work largely took place in Germany. Coupe, wagon and convertible versions are in the pipeline after the sedan is launched mid-year in the US.

Chevrolet, inspired by performance legends like the BMW 2002 Tii and the Nissan 200SX, surprised everybody with the daring Code 130R, a four-seat coupe that’s based on the new Alpha rear-wheel drive platform that underpins the Caddy ATS.

GM has set the three-box Code 130R, powered by GM’s direct injection 1.4 litre turbo four, in direct competition to proceed to production with the TRU 140S, a front drive, baby-Lamborghini-crossed-with-a- Lotus, coupe. GM insiders say it may build one or other. Our vote’s for the Code.

Supercar fans headed for the Lexus and Honda stands. Lexus to see the LF-LC coupe, perhaps the first genuinely beautiful Lexus, a hybrid planned for a new Lexus rear drive platform that seems destined for production. Forget the previous NS-X concepts, the new model places the V6 (3.5 or 3.7-litres) engine amidships driving the rear wheels through a seven-speed dual clutch gearbox, while the front wheels are powered by two electric motors, each assigned a wheel, the system set to accelerate the outer wheel in a corner.

Expect to see the Audi R8-like proportioned new NS-X in 2015.

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