Stingy, techy models await Auto Show crowd

Not your father's Dodge Dart. The new model was created on an Alfa Romeo platform supplied by Fiat.
Not your father's Dodge Dart. The new model was created on an Alfa Romeo platform supplied by Fiat. (MICHAEL BRYANT / Staff Photographer)
Posted: January 28, 2012

Freshly minted green cars. Groundbreaking automobiles like the 2013 Ford Fusion. Indoor demonstration rides in Toyota hybrids. The dashing new Porsche 911.

These are among the innovative sights that will vie for the hearts and minds of the 250,000 car-crazed and perfectly normal people expected to attend the Philadelphia Auto Show that opens Saturday at the Convention Center. The annual extravaganza will feature hundreds of new cars and trucks, including more than a dozen soon-to-be-released vehicles on display for the first time in this region.

The Toyota test track lets visitors ride along with a Toyota driver who explains the vehicle's technology and operation. These cars debuting at the show will be in the showrooms later this year:

Dodge Dart. While Chrysler's marriage to Daimler didn't work out, its union with Fiat seems more symbiotic. In the first instance of this symbiosis, Fiat supplied an Alfa Romeo platform on which to base the new Dodge Dart. Chrysler will reciprocate by building a luxury SUV for Fiat's Maserati marque based on its Jeep Grand Cherokee.

The Dart will give Chrysler a competitive small car: "We've had no entry in the compact sedan segment for seven years," Chrysler spokeswoman Kathy Graham said at the Friday press previews.

Expected to get 40 m.p.g., the Dart will also give Chrysler its most fuel-efficient vehicle.

Ford Fusion. Completely redesigned for 2013, it is not only extremely stylish by family sedan standards, it's the first midsize sedan to offer a power-train trifecta: a gas engine, a hybrid and a plug-in hybrid. "It's a car that can set the future for us," said Ford marketing executive Jason Sprawka.

Toyota Prius c. At only 157 inches long, the c (as in "city") is the smallest Prius, and is aimed at a youthful, urban buyer. It will start at less than $19,000 and offer the highest EPA mileage estimate of any vehicle without a plug.

Ford Escape. Ford has completely redesigned America's top-selling SUV, making it much prettier and more economical in the process.

"It looks smaller, but it's really just sleeker," said Sprawka. "It's actually four inches longer."

For 2012, it offers a 1.6-liter EcoBoost engine that is more economical than the hybrid it replaces.

Ford C-MAX Energi. This is the small five-passenger minivan based on the Ford Focus platform. In addition to the Energi plug-in hybrid in the show, Ford will offer a C-MAX regular hybrid.

Chevrolet Spark. Chevy will field a car new to the U.S. market, the subcompact Spark. This cute, stubby five-door hatchback is the smallest car in the Chevy lineup. The 83-horsepower minicar promises good economy and lots of urban maneuverability.

Cadillac ATS. Caddy is getting into the compact luxury sedan business with a stylish competitor for cars like the BMW 3 series and the Mercedes-Benz C-Class. It is light and performance-minded with an engine offering up to 320 horsepower.

Cadillac XTS. This is a sleek, techy replacement for the DTS and STS large sedans. "We think the XTS will attract a lot of our old customers, and go head-to-head with [imports like] the Audi A6," said Kurt McNeil, vice president of Cadillac North America.

Porsche 911 Carrera S. This $96,400 coupe will come out next month, followed by the costlier Cabriolet and the cheaper base model. Basically new from the ground up, it will be lighter, longer, lower and more powerful. It will also boast the first 7-speed manual to be used in a pleasure car.


2012 Auto Show

Saturday through Feb. 5 at the Convention Center.

Tickets: $12 ages 13 and older; $6 ages 7-12 daily and for seniors 62 and older on weekdays; under age 6 admitted free.

Hours: Noon-10 p.m. weekdays, 9 a.m.-10 p.m. Saturdays, 9 a.m.-8 p.m. Sunday, 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Feb. 5.

Information: www.phillyautoshow.com


Contact columnist Al Haas at alhaasauto@aol.com.

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