Next week's Detroit Auto Show promises to be the busiest and most influential in several years.

With the auto industry continuing to recover slowly from its 2008 meltdown and Chinese sales rising, both U.S. and overseas automakers will launch new models and show off gleaming concept cars.

And green cars will be right at the forefront.

The largest contingent will be standard gasoline cars with smaller, more efficient engines that deliver better gas mileage while providing about the same power as the larger, lazier engines they replace. Gasoline direct injection, turbocharging, and other technology advances make it happen.

There will be more clean-diesel cars as well, possibly including the first diesel passenger car from a U.S. maker.

And more hybrid models will be launched by automakers from all over the globe, in a dizzying array of styles, sizes, luxury levels, and drive arrangements.

Several of those hybrids will also plug into the electric grid to recharge larger battery packs that give them 10 to 50 miles of electric-only running.

And finally there will be battery-electric vehicles, without engines or range extenders, whose sole energy storage comes from wall electricity recharging lithium-ion battery packs.

Here's our first of two parts, a rundown of the important production cars that you'll hear about next week.

We'll follow up tomorrow with a roundup of the concept cars we're expecting as well.


Nissan EN-V 200 van - It's technically a concept at the moment, but as the electric version of the new New York taxi, the van is essentially a production model. Soon to be painted yellow in a city near you...

Via Motors Electric Truck - This isn't your typical electric car startup. WIth input from Bob Lutz and using tried-and-tested GM chassis, the Via Motors range-extended electric truck has a lot going for it, before your even consider Via's 100mpg claims. Your mileage will vary, but over short journeys, this baby's all-electric.


2014 Volvo XC60 Plug-In Hybrid- Volvo has teased us for a while now with plug-in Volvo V60s, combining an electric motor at the back with one of the company's clean diesel engines powering the front wheels, in a sleek wagon body. The XC60 uses a gasoline 2.0-liter unit instead of diesel, but the concept is the same. Volvo is claiming up to 50mpg.


2013 Toyota Prius C Compact Hybrid - Detroit will be full of hybrid vehicles, and perhaps the most important new arrival is the Prius C. Baby brother of the regular Prius, the Prius C promises to beat the regular Prius' 51mpg city rating. It also gets more youthful styling, and should go on sale in the summer.

2013 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid - You'll be familiar with the clean diesel Jetta TDI, but the Jetta hybrid should be even cleaner. Last year's hybrid concept was quoted at 45mpg, so the production version should beat 40mpg, to beat the TDI's 34mpg combined rating. A turbocharged 1.4-liter engine should offer good performance.

Mercedes-Benz E400 Hybrid and E300 BlueTec Hybrid - Mercedes-Benz is showing not one, but two hybrid E-Class at Detroit. The E400 is a 302-horsepower V6 with a single electric motor, and the E300 a 2.1-liter, turbocharged diesel attached to the same electric motor. The E400 should get 27mpg highway, the E300 as much as 40mpg.


2013 Chevrolet Cruze Diesel - Maybe we're taking liberties with this one a little. We'd like to see it, given that Chevy is promising a good mix of economy and performance - something it sees as being important for sales. Has the potential to topple the Cruze Eco's economy, too.


2013 Dodge Dart - One of the most anticipated vehicles at Detroit is the 2013 Dodge Dart, replacing the unloved Caliber. As much as 40mpg highway should be possible from the 1.4-liter, Fiat-sourced MultiAir turbocharged engine. While the Dart is an Alfa Romeo Giulietta under the skin, the outside appears to be much more Charger-influenced.

2013 Chevrolet Sonic RS- Little more than a sports kit for the economical little Sonic, the 138bhp car should at least live up to the sporty RS badging and sharp body trim. The Sonic RS also gets upgraded interior trim and some new colors.

2013 Ford Fusion - A new Fusion will be appearing at Detroit, with with a platform that will also form the basis of the next European Mondeo, and styling similar to the current Focus. The hybrid model will almost certainly continue, so expect to see a refreshed version of that, too.

2012 Lincoln MKZ concept - Sharing its platform with the new fusion, the MKZ will also appear at Detroit. If the next Fusion gets a hybrid drivetrain, you can bet the MKZ will too.

2013 Cadillac ATS - With a 270-horsepower, turbocharged four-cylinder, the ATS might not sound very "green", but considering the performance on offer its relatively small 2.0-liter capacity is likely to return surprising economy.


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