The Ten Most Impressive Debuts At The 2009 Detroit Motor Show

2010 Buick LaCrosse

Buick keeps telling us it’s going after Lexus, but the Enclave is the closest the company has come to a serious effort. Now, the chase intensifies with the introduction of the new LaCrosse. Styled after last year’s Invicta concept, which was penned jointly by studios in the U.S. and China—the latter being Buick’s biggest market—the 2010 LaCrosse resembles a Lexus in profile and proves that semi derivative Chinese designs spiced with American input can actually be pretty good looking.

Cadillac Converj Concept

It seems as though the nearer the Chevrolet Volt gets to production,the higher its price climbs. GM officials claim a higher potential price had nothing to do with the creation of the Cadillac Converj concept—which is built on the Volt’s platform and uses the same drivetrain technology—but the premium brand could charge more for the same mechanicals and offer GM a way to at least lose less money per unit sold, and maybe even turn a profit.

2010 Cadillac SRX

We’re going to miss the old SRX, which was built on a rear-drive platform shared with the last-generation CTS; it took second place in our last luxury sport-ute comparo despite being one of the oldest vehicles present. The 2010 SRX poses a familiar risk for GM and will test whether or not consumers are willing to pay a premium for a Cadillac version of a vehicle that is available for significantly less in Saturn or Chevrolet form, as the Vue and the Equinox are built on the same platform.

2010 Chevrolet Equinox

It’s small, versatile, and spacious—compared to a grocery bag—but the current Chevrolet Equinox isn’t very nice. With cheapy plastics and panel gaps so large you could misplace your children in them, the Equinox was a paragon of GM’s cost-cutting
interiors. The 2010 Equinox not only gets contemporary and dressier sheetmetal, but interior cues from the new Malibu and materials from a factory that probably doesn’t employ overheated children make for a stylish abode. Direct-injection powerplants promise competitive power, too.

Chrysler 200C EV Concept

When the Sebring debuted in 2006, the automotive world let out a horrified gasp so large the National Weather Service registered it as a rogue weather system. Cars like the 200C concept are exactly the sorts of products Chrysler needs to build if it wants to stay in business. Chrysler has a flotilla of EV concepts in limbo right now, but has nothing in its current or future stable that looks this good, and we expect something very similar to this to replace the sheetmetal on the Sebring soon.

2010 Ford Taurus

The first-ever Taurus set the world on fire, but the only burning inspired by the current model is ulcerous inflammations in the guts of Ford execs and salespeople. Somehow, a high h-point coupled with ultra-bland styling failed to ignite any passion in the buying public. Ford will remedy that in 2010 with this thoroughly refreshed model, which finally returns some real style to the nameplate. The nose is
downright handsome, the rear streamlined and elegant. And this Taurus is likely to usher in a new era of SHO performance with a 355-hp twin-turbo V-6 and all-wheel drive.

2009 Honda Insight

The Insight started the mass-produced hybrid craze in 1999 but disappeared when other, more user-friendly hybrids appeared, hung it from a locker by its underwear, and stole all the little tin can’s market share. Now the Insight name is back, albeit attached to a more-mature, complete car with more luxury than just a single speaker and an AM radio, but unfortunately without super-trendy fender skirts. As a bonus, when it appears on the market, it should be the cheapest hybrid vehicle available in the U.S.

Lincoln C Concept

One of a few real surprises at this year’s show, the C Concept is the first look at what a future small Lincoln could look like. Although the company is traditionally known for its big luxo-barges, its biggest seller in 2008 was the mid-size MKZ, with
30,117 units moved. Could Lincoln take another step downmarket? BMW and Mini have made small premium, and Lincoln execs tell us the C fits on the Volvo C30’s platform, hinting that it could see production.

2010 Lincoln MKT

While fuel prices have recovered from their spike last summer, sales of gimungous status symbols like the Lincoln Navigator have not. This new six- or seven-passenger crossover should staunch some of the family-hauling flow from Lincoln showrooms, while the available 355-hp twin-turbo V-6 will satisfy the power hungry. You won’t be able to tow your boat with the MKT as you can with the body-on-frame Navigator, but the crossover will ride much more like a Lincoln should.

2010 Toyota Prius

No other hybrid is as celebrated—or loathed—as the Toyota Prius (Pious?), and the new model gets more powerful and pious by way of a 98-hp inline-four that, although 22-hp more powerful than the outgoing car, still manages to improve on its fuel economy. Expect a combined fuel-economy rating of 50 mpg, compared to 46 for the current car. With environmental responsibility now separate from fuel economy as a motivator in new-car decisions—but equally potent—the Prius will remain a hot seller and easy soapbox regardless of gas prices, and the competition will only get better.


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