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10 Cars Worth Waiting For in 2011

DETROIT -- The first international auto show of 2011 offers something for everyone in the market for a new car. Whether you're looking for the latest in plug-in supercars or mass-produced hypermilers, you're likely to find it within Cobo Hall, the convention center located in the cold, barren tundra that is downtown Detroit.

The reality of the ongoing recession may have stalled car sales in the U.S. market, but Americans still purchased or leased more than 11 million vehicles last year, and by most indications, the economy still has plenty room to grow in 2011. With gas prices on the rise, the spotlights and flashbulbs again turn to electrics, hybrids, and electric-hybrids. This year, the Toyota Prius finally gets plug-in electric capability, Mercedes-Benz showcases its version of an electric sports car, and Porsche promises to bring a car that's "spectacular."

Others are noteworthy for their designs. The upcoming Chrysler 300, a revamped version of Chrysler's iconic rear-wheel-drive sedan, is arguably the most important result of parent company Fiat's work, and its reception in Detroit should prove a bellwether for sales. Ford will introduce a seven-passenger mini-minivan for the masses. Check out the following list of the most significant new models, or click "Next" below to read about them all.


2011 BMW 1-Series M Coupe

Meet Munich's miniaturized version of the M3.

10 Cars Worth Waiting For in 2011

2011 BMW 135i M Coupe

BMW's 135i coupe gets extra horsepower, a stiffer suspension, and wider, more aggressive bodywork. The 335-hp M Coupe is meant to evoke Munich's original, first-generation M3 — a raw, racing-inspired enthusiast's special. Like that car, the 1 M will be expensive, sold in limited numbers (the U.S. allotment is said to be less than 1,000 cars) and offered in just a handful of colors. Call it a wolf in wolf's clothing, or maybe BMW's gift to driving enthusiasts.

Price: $45,000 (est.)
On Sale: Spring


2011 Chrysler 300

New styling inside and out for Chrysler's iconic rear-wheel-drive sedan.

2011 Chrysler 300

2011 Chrysler 300

Chrysler has had a rough couple of years. Auburn Hills filed for bankruptcy in 2009 and emerged controlled by Fiat, the Italian company that left America in 1983 because it couldn't grasp what Americans wanted in a car. The 2011 300, a revamped version of Chrysler's iconic rear-wheel-drive sedan, is arguably the most important result of Fiat's work, and its Detroit reception should prove a bellwether for sales. Mechanicals are shared with the previous 300, but styling, interior, and suspension tuning are new.

Price: $28,000 (est.)
On Sale: Spring


2012 Ford C-Max

Ford's miniature minivan is the size of a compact sedan, with seven seats.

Like Chrysler, Ford is in the process of reinventing itself. Most of its recent new products boast a hefty European influence, and the C-Max people-mover is no exception. This is a seven-passenger mini-minivan — at just 178 inches long, it's roughly the size of a compact sedan — that offers a standard six-speed automatic and an available hands-free liftgate. As a bonus, the C-Max shares a platform with the excellent 2012 Ford Focus, so it should be more entertaining than the average kid-wagon.

Price: $20,000 (est.)
On Sale: Fall 2011


2012 Honda Civic Concept

Honda hints at what the new Civic will look like.

2012 Honda Civic Concept

2012 Honda Civic Concept

As in years past, Honda has been cagey about what it's bringing to Detroit. The few details that have emerged — including the sketch seen here — confirm a concept version of the next Civic, an evolution of the styling used on the brand's CR-Z hybrid. Everything else is speculation, but expect a return of the legendary Civic hatchback and a focus on efficient, four-cylinder power.

Price: Starting at less than $20,000 (est.)



2012 Hyundai Veloster

The replacement for the Hyundai Tiburon sports coupe.

Hyundai Veloster Concept

Hyundai Veloster Concept

Remember the Hyundai Tiburon? The past two years have seen a complete modernization of Hyundai's lineup, but the brand's small, efficient sports coupe was cancelled in 2008. The Tiburon's replacement doesn't have an official name yet, but Hyundai claims the car will offer four seats and resemble the Veloster concept shown here. Power comes from a 1.6-liter, 140-hp, direct-injected four. Bet on front-wheel drive and a footprint similar to that of the Honda CR-Z.

Price: $18,000 (est.)
On Sale: Fall 2011

Mercedes-Benz SLS E-Cell Prototype

A greener alternative to the luxury sports car.

Mercedes-Benz SLS E-Cell Concept

Mercedes-Benz SLS E-Cell Concept

The E-Cell isn't a new car — it was unveiled this past summer — but its appearance in Detroit shows that Mercedes-Benz is serious about electric speed. This is a battery-powered version of Mercedes's SLS supercar, one that uses four electric motors to produce 526 hp and 649 ft-lbs of torque. According to reports, the E-Cell charges to 60 mph in around four seconds. No word on how long it takes for your retinas to recover from the yellow paint.

Price: $220,000 (est.)
On Sale: 2013



Mini Paceman Concept

Mini shows a two-door version of the Countryman SUV.

Mini Paceman Concept

Mini Paceman Concept

seems determined to offer a car for every budget and every conceivable — or inconceivable — purpose. The Paceman concept, a two-door version of the Countryman SUV, sports all-wheel drive, 19-inch wheels, and a 211-hp turbo four-cylinder engine borrowed from Mini's John Cooper Works lineup. It also reportedly shares the Countryman's wheelbase, weight, and length, prompting questions as to its necessity. Production hasn't been confirmed, but don't bet against it.

Price: $23,000 (est.)
On Sale: 2012 (est.) 


Porsche "Spectacular" Concept

Porsche proudly promises something that should be at least pretty good if it lives up to half its own hype.

Porsche 918 Hybrid

Porsche 918 Hybrid

Porsche will appear in Detroit for the first time since 2008, when it left to focus its efforts on Los Angeles's warmer, glossier car expo. Stuttgart has said little about its Detroit offering except to announce, with typical German pomp, that it'll be "spectacular." Figure on the so-called spectacle centering around a production version of the 918 Spyder plug-in hybrid or an entry-level, Volkswagen-derived, four-cylinder sports car. Or maybe just a brass band and lederhosen. (With Porsche, anything's possible.)

Price: N/A
On Sale: 2012 (est.)


Toyota Prius "Family"

Figuratively speaking, the Toyota Prius now comes in three distinct shades of green.

Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid

Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid

Much like Chrysler, Toyota hasn't had an easy year. Excessive recalls and the Prius scandal dampened the public's enthusiasm for the Big T's products, but even relatively cheap gas hasn't softened the company's commitment to hybrids. Toyota will unveil three new Prius models in Detroit, including a production plug-in hybrid that will likely achieve triple-digit mileage, and a people-mover with 50 percent more cargo capacity than the current Prius. Recent troubles aside, Toyota wants to turn its green cars into a Lexus-like sub-brand. This is the first step.

Price: Less than $30,000 (est.)


2012 Volkswagen New Midsize Sedan

Volkswagen introduces the replacement for the Passat.

Volkswagen Passat

Volkswagen Passat

For better or worse, Volkswagen wants to be Toyota. In the past few years, the German brand has announced wildly ambitious sales goals and heavily de-contented its base models, all in the name of competing with the Japanese juggernaut. The replacement for the current Passat should follow the mold set by the 2011 Jetta — larger and significantly cheaper than its predecessor — while targeting Honda Accord and Toyota Camry buyers. It's an admirable goal, but we can't help wondering if quality will suffer in the process.

Price: $20,000 (est.)
On Sale: Spring 2011