There’s no doubt that 2010 has been a monumentally important year for the auto industry and one worth looking back on. From the Toyota recall crisis, to the success stories at Hyundai and Ford, to the launch of the Chevy Volt and Nissan Leaf, there have been no end of major news stories in the automotive sector.
However, 2011 is shaping up to be an equally exciting year, especially when it comes to the actual products, and so rather than a look back at the best of 2010, we thought it best to look ahead at the most anticipated cars that will debut over the next 12 months, starting in just a few weeks at the 2011 Detroit Auto Show.
10th: 2012 Honda Civic
Rumored to have a 1.5-liter 4-cylinder in base trim, the high-performance Si model could get an engine as large and as the powerful as the 2.4-liter 4-cylinder found in the Acura TSX.
Little else is know about the car, although knowing Honda it’s likely to come with a fully independent suspension, and set the benchmark for handling in its class once again. Honda will, however, really have to step up its game to compete with strong new contenders in the compact car segment like the Chevy Cruze, Hyundai Elantra and Ford Focus.
9th: Audi Quattro Coupe
Audi hasn’t officially made the call, but rumors indicate that the Quattro Coupe Concept will head into production in 2011.
Keeping true to the show car, it’s expected to stick close to the 3,000 lb curb weight and use the turbocharged 5-cylinder engine making close to 408-hp and 354 ft-lbs of torque.
Available in just limited numbers, it’s certain to come with a price tag that will make the S5 look like a bargain.
GALLERY: Audi Quattro Concept
8th: 2012 Mercedes-Benz C-Class Coupe
With the planned debut of the refreshed Mercedes C-Class for 2012 at the Detroit Auto Show, later in 2011 the German luxury automaker is expected to finally deliver a coupe version, designed to attract plenty of folks who have previously opted for the 2-door versions from BMW. Along with a coupe, a convertible is likely and there’s the exciting possibility of a C63 AMG or even a Black Series model.
Like the 2012 version of the sedan, the Coupe should be offered with a new direct-injection 1.8-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder that makes as solid 201-hp and 229 ft-lbs of torque to deliver a 0-60 mph time of 7.0 seconds. Wearing the C250 badge, a C350 model will also be offered with a new direct-injection version of the Mercedes V6 engine that produces 302-hp and 273 ft-lbs of torque.
Both a C63 AMG version and an ultra-high performance Black Series model could follow, with the former using the new Mercedes 4.7-liter twin-turbo V8 making 430-hp, while the Black Series could make use of AMG’s new 5.5-liter V8, delivering as much as 563-hp.
7th: Lamborghini Aventador LP700-4
It must be an exciting debut if we can’t wait for the reveal, even though every tiny specification about the newest Lamborghini has been leaked. Believed to be called the Aventador LP700-4, this replacement for the Murcielago will be a true supercar, boasting 690-hp from a 6.5-liter V12 engine. The big V12 will come mated to a new seven-speed ISR (Independent shifting rod) transmission that Lambo claims will shame dual-clutch units with its gear-shifting speed and combined with AWD will deliver a 0-60 mph time of just 2.9 seconds.
The LP700 will also set a new standard for Lamborghini by introducing the brand’s first full carbon chassis, meaning it will weight just 3,472 lbs.
And being a Lamborghini, not to mention the exotic Italian automaker’s flagship model, you can guarantee it will be an absolutely outrageous design.
6th: Porsche 918 Spider
If you need a refresh, the concept car is a plug-in hybrid that Porsche says can hit 62-mph in just 3.2 seconds and get 78-mpg. Porsche also claims a Nurburgring lap time of 7:30 is possible, meaning it’s faster than the faster than the famed Carrera GT.
The hybrid drivetrain works somewhat like a traditional two-mode hybrid, using a gasoline engine, electric motors (two of them) and a lithium-ion battery pack. What makes it so special, however, is that the gasoline engine is a 3.4-liter 500-hp V8 derived from the Porsche RS Spyder race car and the electric motors (one of each rear wheel) make a combined 218-hp. The gasoline engine powers the rear wheels, while the electric motors work on the front two wheels.
More recently, however, Porsche has let slip news of a major Detroit Auto Show debut that might not be the 918 Spider at all. That being said our 6th most anticipated car of 2011 could be a rumored 600-hp twin-turbo V8-powered AWD supercar Heck, it might even be a rumored 928 – essentially a Panamera Coupe.
GALLERY: Porsche 918 Spider Concept
5th: Volkswagen New Midsize Sedan
It might not sound all that exciting and chances are it won’t be, but if Volkswagen‘s plan for the U.S. market is going to succeed it all hinges on what VW is calling its New Midsize Sedan (NMS).
Like the car it will replace, the NMS will likely be called the Passat when it debuts at the Detroit Auto Show on January 10th. It will differ from the current model considerably, however, being much larger and priced much more in line with the competition. That being said, it’s almost certain to be much more basic and like the new Jetta, use significantly downgraded materials.
Seeing the strategy that Ford and Hyundai are taking of packing high-grade and high-tech features into reasonably priced, stylish cars, VW’s Toyota-like strategy doesn’t seem to be the right plan. It’s almost certain to increase sales for the automaker in the short term, but it might damage the German automaker’s long-standing reputation for more premium vehicles.
4th: BMW M5
It might not have the outright sex appeal of the new Lambo or Porsche supercars, but the BMW M5 has historically been the best example of how well German engineers can make a comfortable luxury sedan out-run most other automaker’s sports cars.
Based on the new 5 Series chassis and running a version of the twin-turbo 4.4-liter V8 found in the X5 M and X6 M, it’s expected to deliver even more grunt than the 555-hp those two uber-SUVs have on tap.
Perhaps more exciting, however, is what we don’t know about the M5. It is rumored to include a KERS-style hybrid system that charges up the batteries under breaking and then allows the driver to tap into an extra boost of electric power via a “push-to-pass” style button on the steering wheel.
The 2012 BMW M5 is rumored to debut at the 2011 Frankfurt Auto Show this coming Fall, although it could debut as early as March in Geneva.
3rd: Hyundai Veloster
There’s no denying Hyundai has been on a massive roll as of late. Ever since the introduction of the Genesis, Hyundai has followed through with the Genesis Coupe as well as a new Tucson, Sonata and Elantra that are all genuine rivals for the Japanese models that have dominated the industry over the past few decades.
While solid high-volume vehicles can do a lot to change perceptions, as Hyundai discovered with the Genesis, niche market cars do just as much. Ever since the demise of the Tiburon, Hyundai has lacked a model in its lineup that would draw younger consumers (and enthusiasts in particular) into its dealerships. The Veloster was designed to change all that.
Referred to as a modern version of the CRX by Hyundai Motor American CEO John Krafcik, the car will debut at the Detroit Auto Show with a 1.6-liter 4-cylinder engine making 138-hp an 124 ft-lbs of torque. Mated to a dual-clutch automatic transmission and using direct-injection this small sports coupe/hatch will also get over 40-mpg on the highway.
2nd: Chevy Camaro Z28
2010 was an incredible year for the Chevy Camaro, with the American muscle machine out-selling the Ford Mustang for the first time in decades. 2011, however, is shaping up to be even bigger with a Camaro Convertible set to pump-up sales further, while the launch of a high-performance Z28 model will capture headlines.
Rendered into reality by artist Jon Sibal (above) the Camaro Z28 is expected to shame the SS model’s 426-hp with an incredible 550-hp from supercharged 6.2-liter V8 – borrowed from the Cadillac CTS-V.
It won’t just be a powerful engine swap, however, with the Z28 also set to get larger wheels and grippier tires, bigger brakes, an upgraded suspension and some more aggressive bodywork. We also hope it comes with a significantly improved interior.
1st: Toyota FT-86 aka Scion FR-S
Undoubtedly the most anticipated vehicle debut for 2011 is the upcoming Toyota FT-86. Inspired by the legendary AE86 Corolla, this front-engine, rear drive coupe looks great, promises incredible handling and, best of all, was built to appeal to young car shoppers and enthusiasts on a budget.
Powered by a Subaru boxer 4-cylinder engine the FT-86 should deliver up to 200-hp in a well-balanced package.
According to more recent reports, when it does arrive here (possibly debuting at the New York Auto Show in April) it will be badged as a Scion. It’s also rumored to do-away with the FT-86 badge in favor of the name FR-S.
Much like how the new Passat could spark a new beginning for Volkswagen by appealing to the mass market, this little car could help Toyota by infusing some much needed enthusiasm into the brand and wipe clean a year’s worth of negative publicity.
But the biggest question will be if after spending decades building appliances, can Toyota build a true sports car?