The Best of the 2011 Detroit Auto Show

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The Best of the 2011 Detroit Auto Show by Ben MartinThe North American International Auto show in Detroit is offering a more sober experience this year than in years past.  Even with the no-nonsense, get-down-to-business atmosphere, though, the show has some interesting highlights.

The North American Car of the Year was awarded to the Chevy Volt.  With a production goal of 60,000 cars a year, Chevrolet hopes the car makes as big a splash with consumers as it has with the judges this year.  The North American Truck of the Year award went to the Ford Explorer.

But the biggest buzz coming out of Detroit has not been about cars from the Big Three; European and Asian manufacturers have stolen the spotlight with vehicles all over the spectrum.

The EyesOn Design award is given to (arguably) the best-looking cars at the show.  Awarded in two categories and chosen be industry design executives, the cars must make their debut at the show to qualify.  This year, both winners came from the continent.  In the concept category, Porsche walked away a winner with the 918 RSR, a beautiful race car concept.  But our eyes were drawn more to the winner in the production category.  Maybe its because this is a car it is actually possible to own, or maybe it’s just because we already like the design characteristics of Volkswagen-owned Audi.  Yes, the 2011 Audi A6 is this year’s EyesOn Design production winner.  The mid-sized sedan offers a nice blend of performance and luxury, but more than that, it just looks great.  We’ll take one in Night Blue, please.

While Korean manufacturer Kia has made a splash with its minivan concept vehicle, the car we’ve heard most about this year is not one car at all, but the new expanded Prius line from Toyota.  After the pummeling the auto maker’s sales and reputation received in the wake of the safety recalls it has had to make in the past year, Toyota is focusing attention on a brand that does get positive feedback by expanding the Prius line from one hybrid car to three.  They’ll continue to offer the familiar hatchback, but Toyota is expanding the line in both directions with the larger Prius V and the new Prius C compact.  The compact is expected to be the most affordable and most fuel efficient car in the lineup.

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