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The Audi SQ5 has been designed specifically for the following markets: United States, Canada, Russia, China, Japan, Singapore, South Korea, South Africa, Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, Chile and the Ukraine. In Germany and many other European markets, the SQ5 TDI takes its place as the sporty top model in its series.


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S:S:L’s 2012 NAIAS Coverage Begins Monday!

The 2012 North American International Auto Show (AKA the 2012 Detroit Auto Show) kicks off from Detroit's Cobo Hall this coming Monday and the S:S:L team will be there to cover it for you live.  The 2012 NAIAS marks the 24th year for the annual Detroit show and promises to be one of the better shows in recent years.  This year's show will feature 40+ exhibitors, including the return of Infiniti and Nissan to the show.

Here's what we know so far about notable reveals the 2012 NAIAS:
  • Acura - Acura has been quiet for the last couple of years at the NAIAS but promise to make this year count with three new vehicle reveals including an all-new compact sports sedan dubbed the ILX, a redesigned RDX crossover, and a concept version of the next generation Acura super car.  We hesitate to call it an NSX successor just yet, but we will see what Acura has up their sleeves on Monday.
  • Audi - Audi will be showing the refreshed A5/S5 and A4/S4 models for the first time on North American soil at the show, along with the 2012 A4 Allroad.  Rumor also has it that a Q3 based concept named Vail will make it's world debut in Detroit.
  • Bentley - Bentley will be debuting two new Continental V8 models which will be powered by the new 4.0 liter, twin-turbo engine found in Audi's new S-cars.
  • BMW - The new 3-series sedan will make its North American debut at the 2012 NAIAS.
  • Buick - Buick has been teasing the new compact Encore SUV bit by bit on Facebook for the last few weeks, but makes its first official appearance at the 2012 NAIAS.
  • Chevrolet - While nothing has been confirmed, there is a rumor that Chevy will have a surprise concept at their press conference and the blogosphere is convinced that it will be carrying the Chevelle nameplate.  We're hearing the concept will be some electric Cruze coupe type vehicle.  Chevy will also be debuting the turbocharged Sonic RS.
  • Chrysler -  The Chrysler Group will be revealing the all-new Dodge Dart compact, the Mopar tweaked Chrysler Super S, and the Dodge Charger Redline.  While the Dodge Dart is certainly the most important reveal for Chrysler at the show, the Charger Redline is what really piques our interest, featuring three available stages of Mopar tuning.
  • Ford - Ford will be revealing the next generation 2013 Fusion sedan, Escape CUV and possibly the 2013 Shelby Mustang GT500 convertible.  We hear that the new Fusion will bear a striking resemblance to the Evos concept car and will be loaded full of tech that hasn't been seen in a vehicle before.  Expect a heavy tie-in with the events going on in Vegas this week, as the new Fusion is the official car of the 2012 CES.
  • Honda - The 2013 Honda Accord Coupe Concept will make its debut at the 2012 NAIAS and will show the direction of the ninth-generation Accord which is set to go on sale in the fall of 2012.  Honda's concepts are usually nearly production ready so what you see is nearly what you'll be getting in showrooms in the fall.
  • Infiniti - Infiniti will have the JX Crossover on display as well as the ETHERA Concept which makes its North American debut.
  • Lincoln - Lincoln is scheduled to have their own press event, which leads us to believe they will be debuting the new MKS and possibly MKZ sedans.
  • Lexus - The 2012 NAIAS will be the stage for Lexus' new LF-LC Concept which shows the future of Lexus design and hints at the successor to the SC coupe.
  • Mercedes-Benz - MB will be showing off the new 2013 SL550 Convertible.
  • Nissan - Nissan will be showing off the all-new curvier and more aerodynamic (and less off-road worthy) Pathfinder CUV.
  • Porsche - Porsche will be popping the top on the new 911 with the world-debut of the 911 Carrera Cabrio.
  • Toyota - Toyota will debut the NS4 advanced plug-in hybrid vehicle concept as well as the North American debut of the Prius c hybrid.
  • Volkswagen - Volkswagen will be showing off some sort plug-in hybrid Jetta concept at this year's show.
  • Volvo - V stands for vaporware as Volvo will show off yet another plug-in hybrid concept, this time based on the XC60 SUV.  Volvo seems to pick one model every year to call a plug-in at the show followed by nothing ever coming of the concepts for production.
S:S:L's 2012 NAIAS coverage begins monday at 8:00 am from the Ford press conference and will go throughout the day Monday and Tuesday.  We'll be live on Twitter with live updates as well as uploading tons of high-resolution NAIAS photo galleries throughout the day.  Follow us on twitter @speedsportlife to go interactive with us as we cover the show.

Lexus LF-LC Concept to Debut At 2012 Detroit Auto Show

Lexus has released two additional images of their LF-LC Concept which will make it's world debut at the 2012 North American International Auto Show in Detroit next week.  Created by Lexus' Calty design studio, the 2+2 LF-LC concept could be a look into the future of a successor to the Lexus SC. Stay tuned for full coverage from the 2012 NAIAS coming live from the show floor next week!

Porsche To Unveil New 911 Cabrio at 2012 Detroit Auto Show

Porsche has confirmed that they will be unveiling the Cabrio version of the new 911 sports car for the first time at the 2012 North American International Auto Show in Detroit next week.  After a long absence from the Detroit show, Porsche rolled out the 918 RSR Concept last year and is keeping their word of Detroit being an important show for them with the unveiling of the new 911 Cabrio. We'll be reporting from the show floor next week with live pictures and thoughts of the new models as they reveal them.  Be sure to follow us on twitter for real-time updates from the 2012 Detroit Auto Show at http://www.twitter.com/speedsportlife .    

Nissan Teases All-New Pathfinder Ahead of 2012 Detroit Auto Show Debut

Nissan has released a very vague but telling teaser image of the new Pathfinder that will debut at the 2012 North American International Auto Show in Detroit next week.  While we can't see the details of the front or rear of the Pathfinder, it's obvious that the boxy shape will be replaced by a much more dramatically sculpted and aerodynamic shape. Make sure you follow us on Twitter for live-updates and photos from the 2012 NAIAS reveals!

Detroit Auto Show 2009 In Review: Rockers, suckers, snoozers.

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View 2009 Detroit Auto Show High-Resolution Photo Gallery
Story by Jack Baruth and Carl Modesette; photos by Zerin Dube, Carl Modesette, and Dave Everest Oh, what we wouldn't give to return to the fashionable ennui of last year's Detroit Auto Show! Back in those oh-so-innocent days, the floor was crowded, the giveaways flowed like water, and no manufacturer could foresee any problem worse than perhaps falling back a place in their particular front of the never-to-end horsepower wars. We didn't know the "Carpocalypse" was coming, didn't know that car sales would crater the way they have, couldn't begin to guess that within a year the domestics would be on their knees while Toyota and Honda experienced thirty-percent-plus volume drops. Oh well. That was then, this is now. The floor traffic was way down at Detroit this year, even if the increasing numbers of obnoxious soap-averse Eurotrash with monstrous rolling-tripod HD video cameras made the press previews feel a little... close at times. What's the point of using a twenty-grand rig to film three days of a show, knowing that you'll be boiling it down to a press-pass-contract-specified maximum five minutes of 320x240 Flash video? This was the worst-smelling NAIAS in history; the mulchy aroma of the "eco-drive" basement area mixed with the sweat-soaked polyester tops of the foreign press to create an aroma best described as "paint-peeling". Some of these dudes really should have been thrown in the ol' Silkwood shower. Still, there were times when, comfortably seated in the fixed buckets of a matte-blue Murcielago or relaxing with Audi-branded chocolate squares in a manufacturer lounge, it was possible to obtain a little perspective on the show. Forget the economy, the drama, the naked pleas for government assistance, and the relentless howl of anguished prima donna front-row photographers. It's still a show about cars, which means we're going to name the Rockers, Suckers, and Snoozers of the 2009 North American International Auto Show.
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Rocker: Ford Taurus. In our McLaughlin Group-like round table at the end of the day, I asked each member of our six-man crew to name the biggest hit of the show. The unanimous answer? The 2010 Ford Taurus. Not since the arrival of the 1986 Taurus has an American manufacturer delivered a genuinely desirable, completely competitive mid-sized sedan. Yeah, the Malibu's a great car, but very few people have ever suffered from "Malibu envy". Put this car in your driveway and the neighbors will notice. It combines style, power, comfort, space, and features to deliver the most impressive package in the segment. For that reason, it's also our Speed:Sport:Life "Car Of The Detroit Show". Every year, starting in, ahem, 2009, we give this particular accolade to the car which most amazes our staff. The award itself, a six-foot-tall, avant-garde sculpture of crystal, gold, and carbon fiber, will be handed to the Taurus designers as soon as we get some advertising revenue to pay for it. Don't hold your breath on that one... but potential sedan buyers should feel free to keep their wallets in their pockets until this big, bold Ford hits the showrooms.
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Sucker: Cadillac SRX. Remember the Cimarron? Did you ever think Cadillac would make that particular mistake -- rebadging a front-wheel-drive Chevrolet -- again? Guess what? They just did. This Equinox-with-fins is an affront to The Standard Of The World, plain and simple. It's ugly, it's embarrassing, and it if doesn't look exactly like an Equinox... don't forget that the Cimarron had twin headlamps while the Cavalier had singles. I'm sure that Cadillac dealers want this car, primarily to fight against the Lexus RX350, but considering that we're discussing the same group of people who developed a "Landau" top for the first-generation CTS, perhaps GM shouldn't be taking their advice. Can we end this paragraph with a pun on a James Bond movie? You bet. The SRX is "A Vue That Should Be Killed".
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Snoozer: Bentley Continental GTC Speed. Okay. First we had the Bentley Continental GT "Speed". About six months later, we got the Bentley Flying Spur "Speed". At Bentley's press conference, a Continental-GTC-shaped car was hidden under a sheet, and the sheet was removed to reveal... holy crabapple, they've made a Bentley Continental GTC "Speed"! Who'd have predicted that? Luckily, we had the usual press-preview speech to distract us, in which the British-accent talking head loftily assured everyone that Bentley was reducing emphasis on the "weak US market" to focus on those bastions of the free world, Russia and China. Here's an idea: try increasing your emphasis on building a car that doesn't look like "Xzibit" was given a 2004 Phaeton and a sack of chrome trim, and maybe the market won't slack up on you.
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Rocker: Audi R8 5.2 FSI. Back up in your, er, auto show with the resurrection! The Audi R8 earns "Rocker" status for the second straight year. Last year it was the outrageous diesel V12 concept model; this year it's the V-10 they should have made from Day One. The "standard" R8 is already perhaps our favorite car on the market, and an extra hundred-some horsepower won't diminish its appeal one bit. It wasn't easy to build this car; photos of V-10 prototypes meeting a self-immolatory end have circulated around the Web for some time now. Let's hope that the production R8 5.2 FSI sets the market alight without catching fire in the literal sense. Presumably Lamborghini fought the arrival of this car as long as they could, but in reality there's room for both the Gallardo and the super-R8 in the market. One is a stylish riposte to the overblown F430, while the other is aimed at the 997 Turbo customer who is ready for a step up.
Suckers: Nissan, Porsche, Pontiac. Skipping the Detroit Auto Show is a punk move. Skipping the show, finding out that your dealers are going to ante up themselves to have a presence there, and bullying them out of doing so? Wick-wick-wack. Nissan's excuse? They had no new product to show. We suspect that a lot of people in the region would have appreciated getting a look at the new 370Z, but what do we know? Plus, it's not like Nissan's short of cash. Sure, times are tough, but they're saving sooooo much money by voiding GT-R warranties. Or maybe they were so caught up in this crap about the 370Z being a "Cayman killer" that they wanted to emulate Porsche's show-skipping ways. Which reminds me: what was the Zuffenhausen Wrecking Krew's excuse for missing the show? Were they so busy stacking the money from their hedge-fund antics late last year that they just didn't have time? Remember, when you give red-state America the metaphorical finger, we tend to return the favor. Sometimes we talk about you on the Internet; sometimes we buy a new Audi S5 instead of a Porsche Cayman to sit next to our 911 and our Boxster at home. Just a random example, there. But what did Pontiac do? To find out, ask Lord Byron.
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Snoozers: The Koopz That Time Forgot. Dude! Remember the new Camaro? Wasn't that gonna be awesome? It sure was -- back in 2007. Now it's rivaling Tara Reid's implants for overexposure. What about that Hyundai Genesis Coupe that was gonna totally destroy the Mustang? It's coming, any day now. Really. Try to ignore the fact that it's huge, heavy, and won't have a V-8. Just think of it as offering Mitsubishi Eclipse performance for slightly more money. Plus it'll turn the rear wheels, you know. It just won't spin 'em. People! The coupe market is time-and-fashion-sensitive. If your competition -- in this case, the Ford Mustang -- is on its second generation before your product is ready, it's too late. When the Camaro tanks in the market, GM will lay it on everything from the economy to the people who assemble the dashboard, but the real blame only points back in their own direction.
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Rocker: Lamborghini. What do you expect? When the hottest model of the entire history of the world auto show steps off the platform to chat with (and unsubtly watch-check) our most notorious Associate Editor, it's perfectly reasonable to expect that we'll throw a little love in the direction of the raging bull. Come on. We're not made of stone. But put the ladies aside for a moment and focus on the cars. With the LP640 Murcielago and LP560 Gallardo, Audi's excitement division has created the coolest supercars in modern history. While Ferrari thrashes in a rosso corsa morass of failed F1 drivers, greedy dealers, and buffalo-butted metal-top pose-mobiles, Lamborghini has quietly cornered the market on pure desirability. Face it: if you show up at the hottest club in a resale-red 612 Scaglietti and are confronted with a matte-finished wedge of Murcielago muscle, you've just volunteered for beta-male status. And with the Gallardo, Lamborghini's just about done the impossible by making an Italian supercar that meets and beats the rest of the world in the uncompromising environment of the racetrack. The man who brings an LP560-4 to a trackday can run with any production car in the world; even against the mighty Viper ACR it would be a driver's race. We'll still take the twelve-cylinder car, though. Make it flat green, Reventon-style.
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Sucker: Lexus HS250h. "You put your Prius in my Corolla!" "No, you put your Corolla in my Prius!" Either way, who put this thing in the Lexus lineup? It makes the Cadillac SRX look like a credit to its brand. Not only does it not particularly look like "the world's first luxury-brand exclusive hybrid", it doesn't look like a hybrid, period. It looks like a Corolla. At the beginning of the press conference, the screen was briefly filled with a shot of the 1990 Lexus ES250. This HS250h (think they got the "H" in there enough times?) makes that old two-tone faux-hardtop look like a Jaguar XKE. A special "Sucker" mention goes to the new IS250 convertible, which looks exactly like a Camry Solara with an even uglier rump. What's happening at Lexus? Once upon a time, these guys could do no wrong. Sure, they were occasionally ridiculed for blatantly copying Mercedes-Benz, most famously by Automobile's Robert Cumberford, but trust us: if Robert had owned a crystal ball that could have shown him the current lineup, he'd have cooled it on his stop-the-copy criticism.
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Snoozer: Electric Cars. Here's the deal: Until somebody can fix the "battery problem", electric cars are going to remain useless vaporware. So you can quit showing 'em. That means you, Chrysler. We're looking in your direction as well, GM. The Chinese will be playing touch football on the moon before the Volt reaches production. The funny thing is that we drove an actual production electric car -- the Mitsubishi i-MIEV -- during the show. If that's the future, we'd rather choose Mad-Max style anarchy where we all wear crazy leather outfits and fight on top of moving tanker trucks. "Boring" doesn't begin to describe real electric cars, and fake ones are even worse.
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Rocker/Sucker/Snoozer: Toyota Prius. This car divided opinion among our staff like no other. Some liked it, citing the improved styling, neat gadgets, and increased performance in all regards. Others called it a soulless crapwagon which was greenwashing Toyota's image and blocking left lanes in maddening fashion. The rest of us just don't care. Regardless, you have to respect Toyota's suppository-like egg-mobile. It's the first genuinely iconic Japanese shape since... well, ever. "You can recognize it at 100 yards" was Toyota's pitch, and that's good, because the people who drive these things are a menace, even at that distance. And yet "those people" have made the Prius the car with the highest owner loyalty in the market. You don't have to love it to understand why it's been successful. That success is deserved, and this new one is going to continue along the same lines. Like it, loathe it, you really can't ignore it. Like rats with the cheapest possible shoes on all four of their tiny little paws, the assembled journalistic hordes had mostly abandoned the sinking S.S. NAIAS by Monday afternoon. We could hear our footsteps on the carpets as we paced through, taking hundreds of photos for the comprehensive Speed:Sport:Life galleries. Will we remember 2009 as the year Detroit finally sank beneath the waves, or as a mere anomaly in history? It's too soon to tell. Take our advice, though: if you can make it there during the public days, don't miss your chance. This may be the last year that Detroit functions above the regional-auto-show level. It will be a shame, should that happen. Some major part of American automotive history is buried there beneath the hum of the People Mover and the diminishing roar of the crowd.

Lord Byron — Pontiac (Was) Car.

Here to Stay

By Byron Hurd GM's press conference on Sunday was not the most depressing of the day's events (See: Chrysler), but it certainly wasn't the most inspiring either. Wagoner's communications team set him up with a healthy four hundred words that had nothing to do with GM's financial trouble. Now that's a solid corporate communications strategy when everything is business as usual, but when you've just been floated a loan by some 300 million of your peers, a little humility may be in order. (See: Chrysler -- sensing a pattern?). But while ChryCo's conference may have been the most depressing of the bunch, it was the non-event that was Pontiac's presence at NAIAS that depressed, disturbed, and frankly offended me as both an enthusiast and as "member" of the press. If you've ever shown up to a party where you're surrounded by dozens of people who were your friends just days before and suddenly don't want to talk to you, look at you, acknowledge you, or even share the same hundred-square foot area of their apartment, then you know what it's like to be Pontiac. You don't know what you did (or didn't do), but suddenly you're the fattest, pinkest, most foul-smelling elephant ever to be under the table. Let me put it like this: If you wanted to see Pontiac's thrilling new G3 (Aveo clone), you could. In fact, you could open it up and monkey around inside to your heart's content. Likewise with the G5, G6 folding hard-top, and Solstice GXP (soft-top). Also present were the G8 GXP and Solstice GXP hard-top, but neither were available for hands-on inspection. And to cap it all off, not only were Pontiac's most successful volume car (The vanilla G6 Sedan/Coupe) and most prominent new offering (G8 GT/V6) missing completely from the floor, but the entirety of Pontiac's exhibit was crammed into a corner several football fields away from the GM Podium. Even Saab managed prominent placement on GM's red carpet, cozied up next to Cadillac.

Here to Stay

In fact, due to Pontiac's location near the loading area, their floor space was practically eliminated during GM's press conference so they could parade the likes of the Opel Insignia and Chevrolet Cruze down the red carpet. Nothing will give your brand team confidence like pulling the rug out from under them (pun intended) so you can showcase a collection of production concepts that may not even see U.S. soil in this decade, if at all. Contrast this with Ford's message. If you take a walk through the FoMoCo exhibit, you'll be bombarded with current and near-term domestic product, and teased ever-so-lightly by those planned for the slightly-more-distant future. Ask a Ford PR rep how soon a given product will be in shrowrooms and not only will they provide you with an answer, but nine times out of ten they'll tell you it's due within the year, if not the current month. Volt? Camaro? Cruze? Saturn Aura/Insignia thing? Beat? Volt? Oh, you see, there's been a delay. It's somebody else's fault. Make no mistake -- change comes slowly in the auto industry. Even a rush-to-production project can take well over a year from the time the first production-ready concept is shown. This isn't a case of unreasonable expectations. To be frank, this is a time when everybody deserves some honesty, and GM is stringing their failing brands (and their followers) along without any real direction. GM seems content to watch their B/P/C dealer channel starve to death rather than eat the expense of doing it the decent way. At least Ransom E. Olds had some dignity in death. If I were Pontiac/Buick/GMC General Manager Jim Bunnell, I'd be frantically updating my resume. Only a week ago there was plenty of e-speculation as to the circumstances surrounding the reported demise of the G8 ST. As of today, it is painfully obvious. Pontiac is not simply being right-sized; it's being kicked to the curb. It was shameful to the point where I was nearly fuming. It's a dead brand walking, and this is a hell of a way to announce it. If Pontiac still exists as a new car brand in two years, it will be nothing short of a miracle.

2009 NAIAS Photo Gallery – 550+ High-Resolution Photos

Click to View Cadillac Converj & Sport Wagon Gallery
Photos by Zerin Dube and Carl Modesette The Speed:Sport:Life 2009 North American International Auto Show Photo Gallery is live! 550+ of the best photos of the show that you will find on the web. We've taken the time to painstakingly color correct and enhance each photo to make sure you feel like you were there. All photos are viewable as large as 1200x800. We'll have the 2009 Rockers, Suckers and Snoozers for you tomorrow, but for now we hope you enjoy the gallery. Full index of photo galleries after the jump!

Click to View Audi Booth Gallery

Click to View Audi R8 V10 and Sportback Concept Gallery

Click to View Bentley Booth Gallery

Click to View BMW Booth Gallery

Click to View BMW's Press Conference Gallery

Click to View Buick LaCrosse Gallery

Click to View Cadillac Converj & Sport Wagon Gallery

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2009 NAIAS Day 2 Wrap-Up: What, did you think we were gonna cover the Prius?

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Story by Jack Baruth Photos by Zerin Dube

Today saw the introduction of what was justifiably called "the most important product introduction of the 2009 North American International Auto Show", the mostly-new, .25 coefficient of drag, Toyota Prius... Oh, the hell with that. You don't wanna hear about the Pious Pod. You want pictures of beautiful women, exotic supercars, Nurburgring-veteran Vipers, bad-assed turbocharged Lincolns, and a half-million-dollar pair of Mercedes super-SLs... and we will deliver.

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Let's start with the Ecoboost Lincoln MKS. Want proof that Ford has the hottest hand in the business right now? Here it is: Lincoln just put a three-hundred-and-fifty-five horsepower, twin-turbocharged V6 in their biggest sedan -- but they're selling it to the Press As A Whole as a fuel-economy move! And they called it "Ecoboost!" And people are eating it up! Not everybody is a fan of the swoopy MKS, but here at Speed:Sport:Life, we're solidly in the big Linc's corner. Adding eighty more horsepower, a flat torque curve, and a little exterior jewelry just makes it better. We're talking about a car which is bigger, faster, and lighter than the infamous "Ronin"-era Audi S8, available this spring at your local Lincoln dealer for the price of a loaded BMW 328xi. Sure, we knew it was coming, but the people in New Orleans knew that Katrina was coming, too. Trust us, the MKS is going to hit the ES350/Infiniti G35x market with hurricane force.

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Lincoln also debuted the MKT. What's an MKT? Well, it's basically a Flex relative with outrageous styling, three rows of seats, a spacious, airy interior, and Ecoboost availability. Not only does it have a fair amount of cargo space when in five-passenger mode, the MKT is capable of towing, as well -- we're predicting a 4500-lb rating -- so those of us who are pulling our race cars on an open trailer might find the MKT a very luxurious way to get to the track. It certainly offers a more reasonable package than a 'Slade or 'Gator, both in terms of space utilization and fuel economy.

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On the way over to the General Motors press conference, which will be covered by "Lord" Byron Hurd later this evening, we stopped to see a very special Viper. Late last year, a small team of Chrysler engineers decided to take a shot at the Nurburgring "record" with a production-spec Viper ACR. Their time of 7:22 beat the vaunted racey-tire GT-R "prototype" and smacked up the Corvette ZR1. We don't believe in 'Ring records, but there's no denying that the ACR went awfully damn fast. This Viper's important to us. Not only do we love the Viper, there's something fantastic about the skunkworks, low-budget nature of the SRT guys' effort. So today, we requested some up-close and personal time behind the crowd barriers with the 'Ring ACR. What's it like inside? Entirely stock, with the exception of a Racetech seat which looked to be a 4009 W model or similar. To sit in the car and know that it is probably the fastest trackday production car in history... it was powerful. If you go to the show yourself, stop by and pay your respects.

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If you're smart, you'll also stop by to see the future of low-end cars, courtesty of the Chinese carmakers BYD and Brilliance. BYD showed a small hybrid sedan which looked pretty much like an old Corolla with a battery pack... mainly because it was an old Corolla with a battery pack. The interior was a straight rehash of said Corolla, with the only difference being some plastics which probably wouldn't quite meet US-market standards for "outgassing". The dashboard was almost shiny enough to be used as a vanity mirror by the rather concerned-looking Japanese and Korean engineers who were crawling all over the car. Just as Toyota and Honda begin to feel the hot breath of Hyundai down their necks, surely Hyundai and Kia are starting to seriously worry about whether they can climb upmarket quickly enough to escape BYD and Brilliance. After all, the Chinese have proven to be the Michael Schumachers of races to the bottom; the US auto market is unlikely to stay an exception to this rule forever.

BYD Dash

Speaking of cut-price products... Our friends from Maserati held a conference of their own this year. Last year they issued a stinging critique of the "mass wealthy" while promising that Maserati, as a brand, would be moving sharply upmarket, led by their sleek new Gran Turismo. This year the men from Ferrari's budget brand had some good news to report. 2008 was a record sales year, due to strong interest in the Gran Turismo (according to Maserati) and the dealers' willingness to pretty much call every number in the phone book offering five-figure discounts on the massive backlog of unwanted Quattroportes that clogged lots coast-to-coast (according to, ahem, reality).

For 2009, Maserati is offering the 4.7-liter engine for Gran Turismo customers who are tired of being dropped in a straight line by such mass-wealthy luminaries as the Audi S5 and the Dodge Challenger SRT-8. This improved engine will also be featured in Quattroporte inventory-clearance sales throughout the entire year, so stay close to your phone for a super lease deal on these "uniquely Maserati" vehicles, complete with "uniquely Buick" portholes.

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In lieu of haranguing the assembled press with poorly-amplified, faux-aristocratic dialogue, Lamborghini decided to capture the show's attention by running a "fashion show" this afternoon. This fashion show consisted of impossibly beautiful women wearing impossibly tacky Lamborghini-branded clothing while parading in front of three matte-finish mid-engine monsters. There was also one dude who was modeling. You didn't need to face the Lambo pavilion to know when the guy was out on stage: the locust-swarm noise of shutter clicking slowed to a dim buzz whenever Italy's answer to Derek Zoolander was striking a pose. Trust us, though: nobody stopped facing the stage until the show was over. What was the clothing like? Let's put it this way: to wear some of the ladies' pants, you'll need to make an appointment with your local waxing provider. Hot stuff, and we have an unparalleled selection of photos for your enjoyment.

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MIEV Small
Photo Blurred Due To Extreme Speed

Our day concluded with an exclusive, high-speed, on-the-bleeding-edge limit of Mitsubishi's new electric kei car. The "i MIEV" seats four uncomfortably and offers cargo room for one backpack. On the plus side, it will probably be the first genuine mass-market all-electric car offered for consumer purchase. Up to two thousand units will be sold in Japan during the second half of the year. Not "trialed", not leased, sold, at a price of approximately thirty grand each. This is serious business, people. While GM continues to drag the Volt (now featuring batteries by LG) up and down auto-show carpets, Mitsubishi is gonna sell some cars. They won't make money, they won't change the world, but they are gonna make the sales. If we end up in an electric future, this is really where it begins. We drove the MIEV at speeds up to 20 km/h around a mulchy-smelling basement, and there was nothing exclusive about it, but something tells me that in years to come we'll remember this as being the most important drive we took.

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In the here and now, however, we'd cheerfully burn every electric and hybrid car in this country to the ground just to spend some on-track time with a pair of very special Mercedes SL models. The "Black Series" SL65 has been incompetently doddled around a safety-chicaned racetrack by some of our friends in the blogosphere lately; we're envious of anybody who has a chance to steer this 661-horse monster, even if they suck and blow as drivers. Next to the Black Series we found an SL63 IWC Edition in a stunning matte-finished white. Is it an auto-show stunt? Nope. You'll be able to buy it. There aren't words for how fantastic it looks. $480,000 will buy you the pair. Or it would buy us the pair. Anybody feeling generous?

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