Detroit Motor Show 2013 Preview

Last year's NAIAS saw some exciting reveals at the COBO Centre in Detroit, including the latest iteration of Honda's hybrid NSX successor, Lexus' popluar LF-LC and a host of small urban-centric cars including smart's For-Us concepts and the Tata eMO. There's still plenty to come, but here's what to look forward to at this year's event.

Cadillac ELR

Detroit will see the world debut for Cadillac’s ELR luxury range-extender. GM have come good on their promise of production in 2013 following the Converj concept, which was unveiled at this show in 2009 and accurately previewed the ELR. The ELR is GM’s crucial second album in the range-extender category and is anticipated to use the same technology as the Chevrolet Volt, although the packaging will be more opulent and true to Cadillac’s current design language. Sharing tech with the Volt means an electric-only range of around 40 miles, although this could be extended to more than 50, and an overall range of over 300 miles with the help of the onboard four-cylinder petrol engine generator.

An overall investment of $561 million proves GM’s commitment to this kind of vehicle, and success is never guaranteed in unpredictable electric vehicle market. Striking looks will certainly help.

Mercedes CLA

Designed to exhibit an interplay between convex and concave surfaces, the CLA – previewed by the Concept Style Coupé at last year’s Tokyo motor show - is set to polarize opinion. Whether the aggressive yet organic lines appeal to you or not, there’s no doubting that the CLA is a statement of intent. The front graphic borrows heavily from the latest A-Class, a car that had over 70,000 pre-orders, suggesting that Gorden Wagener and his team know exactly what they are doing, whilst the car's profile matches its brief to sit just below the C-Class in Mercedes’ now extensive range. The CLA represents the culmination of an adventurous design strategy that has its roots in the F700 diesel hybrid concept revealed at the 2008 Frankfurt motor show and shows no sign of showing down. However, there’s no word of an electric CLA yet.

BMW 4 Series Coupé Concept

Mercedes won’t have the rakish coupé show to themselves, though, as BMW will exhibit an all-new car in their lineup – the 4 Series. Although a concept, it looks nearly production ready and pleasingly like a junior 6 Series. Pioneers of the modern coupé form, BMW seems to have nailed it here, with a wheelbase that’s 2 inches longer than the previous 3 Series coupé. The 4 Series is also noticeably lower and wider than its forebear. Strong facial features and a supple shoulder line give the 4 Series a composed and focused stance that’s aided by a softly sloping roofline. The 4 Series will go on sale with the traditional range of BMW engines, including the company’s brilliant two-litre diesel powerplant, but it’s easy to ponder what a car this would be with the i8’s hybrid drivetrain.

Via Motors’ Electric Trio

Via Motors specialize in giving people what they want in an environmentally friendly package. If you go onto the Via Motors website for example, you can preorder a 402bhp range-extender truck capable of 40 miles zero emissions driving with a deposit of $1000. Detroit will see Via debut three new vehicles – a high-performance 4WD pick-up capable of producing 800bhp, a luxury 4WD SUV and a twelve-seater van designed with shuttle routes in mind. By electrifying top-selling vehicles, Via Motors aim to reduce emissions to benefits the communities in which the vehicle work. Furthermore, in the event of an emergency, the electric generator can be used to power an entire household. Whilst is hard not to associate huge trucks with five-litre V8 engines (and they’re certainly not lightweight at over 5,000 lbs), try to think of these vehicles as super-sized Chevy Volts.

Hyundai HCD-14 Concept

Hyundai will build on the svelte, 'Fluidic Sculpture', lines of the I-oniq SUV concept unveiled at last year's Geneva motor show with this: a four door coupé designed in the same mould as Mercedes' successful CLS and, latterly, BMW's 6-Series Gran Coupé. Creatively dubbed HCD-14, Hyundai describe the car as a "glimpse into future Hyundai premium vehicle design, advanced 3-D gesture-based technology controls, and spirited driving dynamics". Head- and rearlamps are connected with a strong but supple bone line, whilst the real contour occurs in a secondary, softer feature line that runs just below. Like the CLS, the HCD-14 has an unusually high belt line which gives the car an athletic, sporty character, both from the outside and, due to a smaller DLO, from a passenger's perspective as well. Whether it will share the three-cylinder, electric-hybrid drivetrain found in the I-oniq remains to be seen, but expect low CO2 emissions either way.

Nissan Resonance Crossover Concept

Following in the footsteps of the dihedral hydrogen-fuelled TeRRA SUV concept at Paris, and more recently the EXTREM concept revealed at Sao Paulo, the Resonance is the latest in string of Nissan crossover concepts. From this image, however, the Resonance seems to be the most mature and resolved design yet from Shiro Nakamura and his team, with a radically kinked belt line that's integrated with a rear LED light graphic that quickly draws the eye. There's a good chance that the Resonance will offer a preview for a Murano successor, as the current model has already enjoyed a four-year production run. In typical concept fashion the car does without door handles and wing mirrors – expect large mirrors and door handles that are anything but invisible on a production version. Not forgetting a huge B-pillar as well, naturally.

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