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Held from 11 to 24 January, the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) gathered a convoy of exotic cars in Detroit for its yearly showcase. The stellar line up this year included debuts by BMW, Acura and Henrik Fisker amongst others. While concepts cars were one a plenty and intrigued visitors and members of the press, the hype of the audience was soon shifted to cars that were already in production, on the roads, or simply waiting for flag off.
After completing our daily rounds and interviews with industry experts, we stood to admire each vehicle in detail, not just for its beauty, but for the beast it hid under its hood. Here are eight of the finest automobiles that graced the red carpets of NAIAS.
Japan’s assault on the high-end sports car market is a worthy successor to the original NSX, last seen in 2005. Weight-saving construction and hybrid technology is the future of performance and the NSX (US$200,000, S$280,000) remains the flagship of Honda’s stable. Its mid-mounted, 3.5-litre, twin-turbo V6 is accompanied by three electric motors, delivering a combined 573hp. The NSX features a 9-speed, dual-clutch automatic transmission and all-wheel drive.
2. Rapide S
Aston’s timeless design — introduced in 2003 with the DB9 — has endured well over a decade and remains a classic among contemporary automobiles. The Rapide S (US$240,000, S$335,000) is Aston’s take on a true GT sedan, transforming an iconic and distinctly British shape into the most beautiful four-door around. The healthy 6-litre V12 makes 550hp and delivers a sports-car experience while accommodating four in leather-ensconced comfort.
The plug-in hybrid-electric i8 (US$150,000, S$209,000) is BMW’s proof-of-concept that a hybrid can also have a stunning shape while being a genuine competitor among real-world sports cars. A turbocharged 3-cylinder gasoline engine and two electric motors make a combined 357hp. Wild swan-wing doors and two occasional rear seats make the i8 a packaging marvel, with exemplary handling and overall performance typical of every BMW.
4. CTS-V Sedan
This performance sedan is poised to take on the high-powered European competition from Germany’s big three. With a 6.2-litre, supercharged V8 engine that develops 640hp, Brembo brakes, optional Recaro seats and a top speed of 200mph, this CTS-V Sedan (US$84,000, S$117,000), is a serious machine with performance as sharp as its styling. Superb handling is a trademark of the latest Cadillac, as is a cutting-edge design language that emulates no one else’s and may, in retrospect, be regarded as the most ambitious of its generation.
With more than 60 years building heritage and fans, America’s sports car is the equal of any exotic in performance, technology, and great looks. Proof that Detroit can build a world-class product, the Z06 (US$115,000, S$160,000) is a beefed-up Corvette with a 650hp, 6.2-litre, supercharged V8 and 650ft-lbs of torque. Lingenfelter Performance Engineering turns it into a 720hp, 730ft-lb monster, a good argument that there’s no such thing as too much power.
6. Aventador LP 750-4 Superveloce Roadster
Simply the most audacious Italian supercar on the planet, this is Lamborghini’s fiercest bull (US$600,000, S$839,000) and an engineering marvel, with a sophisticated carbon-fibre platform, snarling 6.5-litre V12 engine, and Lamborghini’s capable all-wheel drive. Its 740hp gets it to 90km/h in a scarce 2.9 seconds, while the no-frills cockpit and a removable top makes the roadster the thrill-ride of our Detroit stable.
7. GT S
On the heels of the outgoing AMG SLS (US$180,000, S$252,000), Mercedes’ latest two-seater is a full-bore assault on the sports car segment, with superb handling and serious performance credentials in a smaller, sportier new package. A hand-built, 4-litre, twin-turbo charged V8 engine makes 503hp and is pushed rearward for optimum weight distribution and superb handling dynamics. Mercedes’ interior, as is to be expected, kicks luxury up a notch.
The Dawn (US$400,000, S$559,000) is the most personal and seductive Rolls-Royce ever, a convertible inspired by the post-war Silver Dawn and designed to bring the outside in while offering ultimate luxury and a ride that put “wafting" in the Oxford Dictionary. The 6.6-litre, twin-turbocharged V12 engine makes 563hp, effortlessly. The spacious interior seats four in unbridled comfort, amidst leather, wood, and jewel-like trim of unparalleled beauty.