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With economists across the country peddling doom and gloom, we thought you deserved some good news.  

According to auto industry consultantcy Polk, U.S. auto sales are expected to show a third straight year of growth in 2012. That’s spectacular news both for automakers and consumers.

Here, we take a look at a few of the most exciting vehicles poised to hit dealerships in the months to come.

Mainstream Models

The second-generation Ford Fusion is debatably the most significant new mainstream model for 2013. A design collaboration between studios in Detroit, the U.K. and Germany, this elegant midsize sedan is the latest face of Ford’s global-car strategy, which has also given us the Focus and Fiesta Mark VI. Available with a four-cylinder Duratec or a four-cylinder EcoBoost, plus hybrid and plug-in hybrid powertrains, the new Fusion is gorgeous both outside and in.

The 2013 Audi A3 will be the last of these popular premium compacts offered as a five-door Sportback stateside (for a now at least). The 2014 incarnation, which is expected make its U.S. bow at the Los Angeles Auto Show in November, will initially only be available to American drivers as a sculpted, surprisingly sexy sedan. Audi is showing considerable faith in this bold move, predicting that the new A3 will become the German brand’s second most popular U.S. model (after the enduring A4).

And speaking of the A4, it’s looking better than ever in 2013. Already renowned for its athletic driving character and spacious interior, the sleek beast returns with a fresh look, a revised interior and a new electromechanical steering system for better agility and efficiency. The brand’s distinctive LEDs are now available to power the daytime running lights and taillights.

Due stateside in the spring, the new BMW 3-Series Sports Wagon will be based on the existing 328i sedan (there’s no word on a 335i wagon as yet). With an N20 turbo-charged four-cylinder engine propelling it from zero to 62 mph in six seconds flat, according to BMW, the new Sports Wagon, though slightly larger than its predecessor, won’t feel like a wagon from behind the wheel.

Also out of Germany (though expected to be built in Hungary), the Mercedes-Benz CLA compact sedan seems likely to arrive stateside next fall as a 2014 model. Essentially a smaller, more affordable version of the brand’s popular CLS-Class, the concept version revealed at the Beijing Auto Show in April is a sleek, coupe-like four-door with frameless windows.

Storied Italian marque Alfa Romeo has been absent from the U.S. since 1995. But the now-Fiat-owned brand looks set to come in from the cold next year with its Lotus-like 4C sports car. With a predicted 230 horsepower from a 1.8-liter direct-injection powerplant, the mid-engined 4C should leap from zero to 60 mph in under 4.5 seconds. Stateside prices are expected to start around $45,000.

Volvo weighs in with the new S60, which in the five-cylinder version boasts 250 turbocharged horses, 29 combined miles per gallon and a 0-to-60 time just north of 6.5 seconds. A new all-wheel-drive system offers improved traction and handling, putting the S60 right up there with the best the Germans have to offer. The svelte Swede also offers pedestrian-detection technology, which can bring the car to a complete stop if a person or a car crosses unexpectedly in front of you.

Family Haulers

For lovers of the adaptable practicality of SUVs and crossovers, there’s plenty to look forward to. Jeep ceased production of its compact Liberty in August in order to retool for its as-yet-unnamed replacement, due in May. The new Jeep is expected to be available in front- and all-wheel-drive versions, with a V-6 engine mated to a nine-speed automatic transmission. Engineers are shooting for fuel economy of around 31 mpg highway — a vast improvement over the outgoing AWD Liberty’s 21.

Due early next year, the Buick Encore is an all-new luxury crossover. It’ll be small, sharing architecture with the Chevrolet Sonic compact car, and efficient, with an expected EPA rating above 30 mpg from a 1.4-liter four-cylinder. But it’s constructed with premium materials and an ingenious use of space. The Encore looks like a best-of-all-worlds people- and cargo-carrier for today’s congested cities and insane gas prices.

The original Hyundai Santa Fe defied its critics by becoming a big stateside seller upon its release in 2000. Now the third generation of this mid-size crossover has arrived, available in a shorter five-seater Sport version and a three-row, long-wheelbase variant that replaces the Korean company’s Veracruz CUV. It’s the most eye-catching Santa Fe to date, featuring the “Storm Edge” design language soon to be common to all Hyundais. Yet this latest take is practical too, with expected fuel economy up to 33 mpg highway.

Competing with the Santa Fe will be Mazda’s all-new CX-5 family crossover, which made its North American debut at last year’s L.A. Auto Show. The CX-5 is the first vehicle to feature the full suite of Mazda’s Skyactiv Technology, which combines a lightweight platform with a range of efficient engines and transmissions to reduce both fuel consumption (up to 35 mpg highway) and emissions. An utterly contemporary, functional ride that’s easy on the eye, environment and wallet.

Working Class

Truck fans may find little to distinguish the full-size 2013 Ram 1500 aesthetically from its 2012 incarnation, but under the skin there have been significant developments. Its new Chrysler Pentastar V-6 not only produces 90 more horsepower than the outgoing base engine but, when mated to a new eight-speed transmission, it’s expected to bring a 20% boost in fuel economy. And, yes, it will still haul like a mule, with tow ratings up to 11,500 pounds.

Dream Weavers

The new generation of an American icon, the Chevrolet Corvette, is expected in dealerships as a 2014 model next fall. Spy shots suggest that the Corvette C7 will ride on a longer wheelbase than its predecessor, with a low, futuristic profile that will be a dramatic departure from its previous two incarnations. A smaller, lighter V-8 will likely be lurking under the hood, meaning a significant jump in the Corvette’s already impressive fuel efficiency. Early rumors of the C7 having a split rear window appear to have been exactly that.

For drivers with cash and gas to burn, a trio of upcoming supercars might prove tempting. Ferrari’s 2013 F12 Berlinetta will set you back an estimated $330,000. But for the price of a family home you’ll get the fastest (over 211 mph; zero to 60 mph in three seconds) and most powerful (731 horsepower) production Ferrari ever built — and that’s saying something.

After an absence of more than two years, the Dodge Viper, now renamed the SRT Viper, returns. Compared with the F12, its estimated starting price of $95,000 seems like a pittance. But you still get plenty of power from this V-10-powered beast, which now comes with legally mandated stability control but still shuns the automatic transmission. Its ride and interior may have been refined, but the snake remains a true track-ready sports car. If it weren’t for that price tag, you’d swear it was Italian.

The 2013 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT, available as a roadster or gull-winged coupe, replaces the celebrity-approved SLS AMG, which the likes of actor Eddie Murphy and tennis legend Boris Becker have owned. The GT seems more focused on performance than its already fearsomely able predecessors, with an extra 20 horses (now 583 horsepower from a 6.3-liter V-8), zero to 60 mph in an estimated 3.6 seconds, and a top speed nudging 200 mph. That’s a lot of thrills for a (predicted) quarter of a mil.

—Paul Rogers, Custom Publishing Writer

 


 

 

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