The big news from this week's Detroit Motor Show was the unveiling of the new Ford Mondeo, known as the Fusion in America.
Like the latest Focus - the New Zealand Motoring Writers' Guild car of the year for 2011 - the Mondeo is a global model and is expected in New Zealand in 2013.
It's promising better handling and more luxury than ever. A plug-in hybrid variant, says Ford, will return fuel use of about 2 litres/100km.
Lexus signalled its intentions to produce a BMW 6-Series-rivalling model with the LF-LC Concept and its parent company Toyota pulled the wraps off the NS4 Concept, described as "an advanced plug-in hybrid" that previews how the next Prius could look.
Honda's new NSX supercar will use a 300kW V6 hybrid powertrain, with a mid-mounted petrol engine and two electric motors at the front, as well as a development of the Super-Handling-All-Wheel-Drive-System (SH-AWD).
Volkswagen revealed the two-seater all-electric E-Bugster, which is based on the upcoming second-generation New Beetle.
Elsewhere, Mercedes-Benz unveiled the all-new SL, while Nissan showed off its new Pathfinder, which shares its car-like monocoque platform with the Infiniti JX luxury SUV.
Ford has confirmed plans to build hatchback and wagon versions of its new Mondeo. The hatchback gets an even more rakish roofline than the new sedan. All cars get a new multilink rear suspension set-up designed to improve stability and ride comfort. The car will also feature the same Torque Vectoring control system seen on the new Focus ST, which will brake the wheel closest to the inside of a corner to improve cornering stability.
Ford's automatic adaptive suspension system will feature on top specification models. Powertrains will be turbodiesel and EcoBoost petrol units, with normal and plug-in hybrids.
The car is officially described as an exercise to explore the future of Lexus design, but Ian Cartabiano, design manager at Lexus' studio in Newport Beach, California, has other ideas: "It's taller and longer than the LFA and a genuine two-plus-two, so is more of a GT coupe than a supercar. We see it as an Aston Martin competitor more than a BMW 6-Series rival."
The LF-LC is stuffed with technology, including two 30cm LCD screens; one that functions as the instrument panel and another sitting on top of the dash. There's a control panel below - a bit like an angled iPad - which allows the driver to execute more complicated commands.
Instead of toggles to control the windows and mirrors, there are touch pads on the door panels.
The new NSX debuts seven years after its mid-engined V6-powered predecessor ended production. It will initially appear as an Acura (Honda's luxury brand for the North American market), but a Honda-badged version will feature at the Geneva motor show in March.
The NSX uses a 230kW 3.5-litre V6 engine with a 30kW electric motor to drive the rear wheels through Honda's first seven-speed dual-clutch transmission, while two independent 20kW-plus motors are positioned at the front axle, each with adjustable torque control that delivers negative or positive torque to the front wheels during cornering. It also gets a version of Honda's SH-AWD system.
The initials stand for "super light" - and have never been more appropriate. For the first time in a production model, Mercedes-Benz has produced an all-aluminium bodyshell. It weighs 110kg less than the steel body from the outgoing car. Other measures, such as aluminium suspension components, take the total saving to 125kg in the SL 500 and 140kg in the SL 350. This improves rigidity, agility and efficiency.
Two engines, both with stop-start as standard, will be available. The SL 500 features a new 320kW 4.7-litre V8, while the SL 350 gets a 225kW 3.5-litre V6. Smaller than the 5.5-litre engine it replaces, the new V8 is about 12 per cent gruntier, yet fuel returns have improved by 22 per cent to 9.4 litres/100km. The V6 engine is almost 30 per cent more economical, at 6.8 litres/100km.
The NS4 previews both the styling direction and the petrol-electric technology of the company's fourth-generation Prius hybrid, due to go on sale worldwide in 2015. The design is as aerodynamic as possible.
There are no wing mirror, just slender posts with rear-view mounted cameras. The high-definition picture they produce is displayed on an extra-wide panoramic screen that sits across the top of the dashboard.
New glass technologies offer better heat insulation and a clearer view of the road ahead. And the front and rear windscreens are covered in a hydrophobic coating that makes them resistant to rain and misting.
Toyota wants to exceed the fuel efficiency of the current plug-in Prius, so expect 1.8 litres/100km and 40g/km CO2 emissions.
Based on the Mini Cabriolet, the Roadster is lower, shorter and narrower. It uses a manually operated lightweight fabric roof to keep weight to a minimum. Mini claims this means the Roadster has the lowest centre of gravity cross the range.
The Roadster features extra bracing front and rear for better handling, while a forward-biased weight distribution helps boost traction. This will be useful in the John Cooper Works model, which has a 1.6-litre turbo with 155kW.
The Cooper S will use the same engine but it will provide 135kW, while the Cooper will use a naturally aspirated version with 90kW. A 2-litre diesel with 105kW that's capable of 4.1 litres/100km will be offered in the Mini Cooper SD.
The two-seater concept is a speedster that's 90mm lower and 30mm wider than the standard Beetle and it previews the new Beetle Cabriolet, due later this year. The electric powertrain uses the same components as the Golf Blue-e-motion, on sale next year.
While the Golf slots its batteries beneath the floorpan, the E-Bugster houses the 80kg electric module under the bonnet, which produces 85kW. Topping up the batteries from empty takes 35 minutes from a fast-charging station, or seven hours from a standard socket.
Said Klaus Bischoff, head of design for VW: "A two-seater speedster would be a great way of expanding the Beetle range. There's space in the line-up for it, so why not."
The fourth-generation Pathfinder does away with the Navara-based platform of the current model for a car-like monocoque construction shared with Nissan's Infiniti. The change will improve fuel use and make it less agricultural in its ride and handling, bringing it more into line with the likes of the Toyota Highlander and Ford Territory. It is expected to arrive in New Zealand and Australia late next year.
Nothing yet about the powertrain line-up, although some markets are likely to get a 198kW/390Nm 4-litre petrol V6 and a 177kW/550Nm 3-litre diesel V6.