Weekend Roundup: 2012 Detroit Auto Show, Acura NSX Concept, 2013 Dodge Dart, 2013 Ford Fusion

Been away from your computer this week and missed all the automotive news? We’ve gathered a few of the top stories of the past week for your convenience.

2012 Detroit Auto Show Coverage

Press days may be over, but you can still check out our live coverage of the 2012 Detroit auto show. Debuts included everything from a pair of sporty Chevrolet concepts to the 2013 Buick Encore, and from the 2013 Hyundai Veloster Turbo to the Nissan Pathfinder Concept.

First Look: Acura NSX Concept

Acura used the Detroit show to reveal the NSX concept, a long-awaited return of the Japanese company’s legendary supercar. The wait isn’t quite over, as the real NSX won’t debut until at least 2015, but this aggressive concept gives serves to whet our appetite. The wide, low coupe wears Acura’s signature shield front grille, with wide rear haunches, and plenty of aggressive air intakes. Propulsion will come from a new hybrid drive system: a V-6 engine powers the rear wheels by way of a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission, while a pair of electric motors turns the front wheels. Total system power is a solid 400 hp.

First Look: 2013 Dodge Dart

Now under the stewardship of Italian automaker Fiat, Chrysler Group is resurrecting the Dodge Dart as a compact sedan based on the bones of Alfa Romeo’s Giulietta hatchback. The 2013 Dart brings a dash of style and sophistication to Dodge’s small-car lineup, effectively replacing the aging and poorly received Caliber hatchback. The new car is designed like a scaled-down Dodge Charger, aping that car’s full-width LED taillights and bold cross-hair grille. The interior is a high-quality affair with gentle curves rather than boxy lines, with options like soft Nappa leather available on higher trim levels. There are three engine choices: a 160-hp, 2.0-liter inline-four; a 184-hp, 2.4-liter inline-four; and a 160-hp, turbocharged 1.4-liter inline-four.

First Look: 2013 Ford Fusion

Ford’s new Fusion is a striking, swoopy sedan that looks vastly different from the current boxy model. The 2013 Fusion backs up its new good looks with a range of efficient powertrains, including a revised hybrid and all-new plug-in hybrid, called the Energi. There also are new available tech features like lane-keep assist, adaptive cruise control, engine stop-start, and knee airbags. Ford expects most buyers to gravitate toward the Fusion’s pair of EcoBoost engines, a 1.6-liter rated for 179 hp and a 2.0-liter version with 237 hp. The 1.6 features stop-start to boost city fuel economy as much as 10 percent, while the 2.0-liter engine can be paired with all-wheel drive and transmission paddle shifters.

First Look: 2013 Cadillac ATS

No longer simply a purveyor of stodgy luxury cars, Cadillac hopes to take on the best from Germany with the 2013 ATS sports sedan. The new car is slightly smaller than the CTS sedan, and also will be a bit cheaper. It is meant to have sportier, more engaging driving dynamics -- Cadillac even tuned the ATS on Germany’s famous Nürburgring. Its body is stiffer than that of the CTS, yet the ATS uses smaller and lighter suspension components designed to improve handling. Power comes from a choice of three engines: a 200-hp, 2.5-liter inline-four; a 270-hp, 2.0-liter turbo-four; and a 320-hp, 3.6-liter V-6. Those engines route power to the rear wheels through manual or automatic transmissions with six forward speeds.

First Look: Lincoln MKZ Concept

The glitzy MKZ concept car is supposed to show not just the future of Lincoln’s midsize sedan, but of the Ford luxury brand in general. The new MKZ concept moves Lincoln toward a future of more glamorous, upscale cars designed to reinvent the brand, attract new customers, and better distinguish between Ford and Lincoln products. This concept wears the new Lincoln split-wing grille seen on the 2013 MKS and MKT, as well as a giant panoramic glass roof. Inside, champagne-colored leather mixes with wood and aluminum trim pieces to create a classy, expensive appearance. The transmission shift lever has been replaced with five buttons on the left side of the center stack. Expect this concept car to inform the design of the next-generation Lincoln MKZ.

First Look: Honda Accord Coupe Concept

Honda has blessed the Accord with some more European styling touches -- at least in this coupe concept. The next-generation Accord will be slightly smaller than today’s Honda midsize offering, and flair on this concept car like a new grille, arching rocker panels, and new projector headlights preview changes for the next production model. The powertrain choices will remain a 2.4-liter inline-four and a 3.5-liter V-6, again with a front-wheel-drive setup. A continuously variable, automatic, and manual transmissions will all be offered. There also will be a new all-wheel-drive hybrid system with a 2.0-liter inline-four gasoline engine and two electric motors.

The Official Word on Mustangs, Four-Cylinders, and Independent Rear Suspensions

Rumors have swirled for months about the future of the Ford Mustang, but we were able to put many of them rest after speaking with Ford CEO Alan Mulally, marketing chief Jim Farley, and product development head Derrick Kuzak. As to whether the next generation of Ford’s pony car will receive a more advanced suspension setup, Kuzak pointed to Ford’s “commitment to product excellence.” The executives also explained that buyers might be more willing to accept a turbocharged four-cylinder Mustang given the success of four- and six-cylinder EcoBoost engines in vehicles like the Explorer and F-150. We also learned that the next Mustang, arriving in 2014 as a 2015 model, will adopt some of the “Kinetic 2.0” design language exhibited on the 2013 Ford Fusion.

Fiat Prices 2012 500 Abarth at $22,700, Includes Driving School With Purchase

Fiat’s feisty front-wheel-drive 500 Abarth will cost $22,700 (including destination) when it goes on sale later this year. That price brings a hotted-up version of the cutesy 500 hatchback with a 160-hp, turbocharged 1.4-liter MultiAir inline-four engine, limited-slip front differential, and five-speed manual transmission. The car also scores stronger brakes, firmer suspension, and a range of visual updates including racy wheels and a boost gauge with shift light. In addition, every buyer of the 500 Abarth gets a free day of driving instruction at the Abarth Driving Experience, which is run by professional drivers from the Richard Petty Driving Experience.

Renault-Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn on New Sentra and Altima, Electric Cars, Future Plans

Renault-Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn told a group of journalists at the Detroit auto show that Nissan will launch a range of strong new products to help grow its market share in the U.S. The 2013 Pathfinder, Altima, and Sentra all are scheduled to debut in 2012. As to green cars, Ghosn said that the 2013 Altima will once again offer a hybrid version, and that the Nissan Leaf electric car will see as many as 40,000 sales globally this year. Ghosn said his company will add production capacity in Mexico in the coming few weeks, but could not say which vehicles would be built there. Finally, Ghosn said Nissan expects mixed financial results for this year as car sales in Europe slow.

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