Chevy Bolt: Chevrolet's new electric-car concept (different, confusingly, from Chevy's other eco-friendly Volt) is not as sleek or as sporty as Tesla's all-electric Model S. But when it debuts in 2017, it will drive just as far (more than 200 miles) on one charge and will cost less than half the price, at about $30,000 (after the $7,500 federal tax credit). Tesla's future Model 3 could deliver the same for just as cheap (or cheaper), but Elon Musk's space-age carmaker is known for delays. The days of a cheap, mainstream, green car you don't have to worry about dying during your commute could finally be on their way.
Verizon Vehicle: It's not a car. It just makes your old one much better. For the 200 million vehicles nationwide built since 1996 without those fancy new-car Internet gadgets, Verizon offers a system in two parts -- a small plug-in for your car's diagnostic port and a radar-detector-esque Bluetooth speaker to clip onto your visor -- that will do a lot of neat things: watch for mechanical problems, dispatch tow trucks, call in a live mechanic, send car data like your battery levels to a cell-phone app and, via the GPS, tell you where your car was parked, towed or, gulp, stolen.
It's a bit like what OnStar and some head-up display startups are offering, but the Verizon backing might help it gain even more mainstream traction. Fixing the "check engine" light -- perhaps the vaguest, stupidest warning signal in modern times -- might be worth the cost alone. You don't need a Verizon cell-phone contract, but it's a subscription service scheduled to debut by June. It's rumored to cost about $15 a month, though, which might prove to be too costly for what some may see as a glorified car-phone.
Ford's extended EcoBoost: In an auto show built around performance, and one of the least "green" shows in years, Ford led the way with some signature gas-guzzlers, like the F-150 and Raptor trucks and the sporty GT supercar. But the more widespread unveiling was much subtler: The automaker announced its more fuel-efficient EcoBoost engines will be available in every new Ford car, SUV and light-duty pickup across North America starting this year.
Ford has gotten a lot of mileage out of marketing the EcoBoost tech, a mix of turbo-charging and fuel injection that saves gas and preserves engine power. And Ford's green thumb is not charity: They're constrained to federal fuel-efficiency standards, making elements like the EcoBoost important. But extending it to every car -- and not just top-line performance models -- could make a huge difference in the next lines of new cars, and encourage even more efficient engines in the months ahead.
A 3-D printed car (!): A company called Local Motors spent some of the show building "the world's first 3-D-printed car." Showgoers watched as each layer of carbon fiber-infused plastic was spit out from a big printer that looked a bit like a car wash. Even cooler than the process was the result: a cheaply made body frame that Local said can be built in 44 hours or less. The guts of the thing -- tires, electric battery, engine, etc. -- have to be added later, but Local said its first set of cars could sell this year, for between $18,000 to $30,000. There's a lot of safety testing and regulatory hoops to jump through, but imagine how that could change the world's car factories, auto waste and roads.
Hyundai Santa Cruz: It looks super weird! It doesn't know what kind of car it is! But Hyundai says the Santa Cruz might be exactly what "urban adventurers" want: a cheap, rugged, five-seat hybrid with the best parts from both crossovers and trucks. It's small enough to fit in a parking garage without bashing into your neighbors, but also has enough truck bed to bring home furniture from somewhere that's not Ikea. It also looks a bit like a melty toy truck. To each his own.
... and here's the point where you can close your wallet.
Futuristic driverless Mercedes-Benz: Every year there's a concept that doesn't really seem of this planet, and this year it's Mercedes' F015 Luxury Sedan. It was shown off at last week's Consumer Electronics Show, and it's a piece of hardware to behold, with vibrant video screens on doors and windows and glowing LED lights at its curves. Mercedes insists it's more than a car, it's a "private retreat": aerodynamic, autonomously driven and with four cabin seats that swivel to face each other over sleek wooden floors. If it's ever made, it will be the perfect lounge on wheels to shepherd riders between their future jobs at space-robot factories in New New York.
Ford GT: The 600-plus-horsepower supercar is modeled after the GT40 endurance racer that first broke hearts in the '60s. The new one is beautiful, loaded with carbon fiber and aluminum and built with twin-turbo and wind tunnels, but it will also break wallets: Ford won't give a price, but some speculate it could cost about $250,000. At least you can play with it on Xbox One!
Acura NSX: Acura invested a lot into making this long-awaited "mid-engine sports hybrid supercar," and it shows, through its two turbos, three electric motors and nine-speed manual transmission. It also just looks stunning, inside and out. It will cost a princely $150,000, though, so start saving up now.
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