Sneak Peeks and Rollouts for a New Year

New year, new cars. What could be better for an auto aficianado? When the North American International Auto Show, more commonly known as the Detroit Auto Show, officially kicks off next Saturday (Jan. 19), we’ll be inundated with more new cars and concepts that we can absorb. But why wait? Some automakers are getting a jump on the Detroit show by previewing their cars early, and some are even jumping the gun by showing their cars at other shows.

That’s what GM has done by debuting its Cadillac Provoq (provoke?) hydrogen-powered concept car at the Consumer Electronics Show, currently underway in Las Vegas. Typically, CES flys its geek flag by showing off the latest games and gadgets, but obviously GM saw an opportunity to make a different kind of splash and went for it. In fact, the Provoq is the first car ever to receive its unveiling at CES.

So what’s all the fuss about? Like most concept cars, the Provoq (pictured above) sports a futuristic exterior, with a streamlined roofline, a contemporary Cadillac grille, and a sculpted rear end. But of course it’s what’s inside that counts here. The Provoq features GM’s fifth-generation hydrogen fuel-cell system, which includes two 10,000-psi tanks, which feed the fuel cells under the hood that produce electricity, which is then stored in lithium-ion batteries. The Provoq can run for 20 miles on a single battery charge and an additional 280 miles with the energy provided by the fuel cells. That’s a big leap over the capabilities of GM’s current hydrogen-powered fleet.

But the Provoq is just the beginning of a wide range of vehicles set for introduction next week. Hyundai has already given us a sneak peek of its new $60,000, rear-wheel-drive 2009 Genesis luxury sedan (above), which the South Korean automaker plans to pitch alongside similar cars from Lexus, Infiniti, BMW, and Mercedes. It will come equipped with a 368-horsepower V8 engine, navigation system with eight-inch display, Bluetooth wireless communications system, high-def radio, woodgrain interior accents, heated and cooled seats, smart cruise control, and push-button start, among other features. The automaker calls it the most advanced Hyundai ever. No word yet on when it will be available. You can check out more details here.

Although it’s not quite as high-end, Subaru has given us a sneak peek of its 2009 Forester on its totally cool Japanese web site (although it helps if you read Japanese to fully appreciate the site). The Forester, which went on sale in Japan in December and will make its U.S debut in Detroit, will ride on a new platform that’s about three inches longer, with a new exterior and interior (though the jury’s still out on the new design, especially the front end – we’ll have to get back to you on that). Two new engines will supposedly be available, including a turbocharged 2.5-liter powerplant. The Forester will also feature a sturdier body structure, an upgraded suspension, side curtain airbags, and a traction control system.

Other automakers have teased new vehicles, including Toyota, which has unveiled its new 2009 Corolla. But the real big news is the 2009 Chevy Corvette ZR1, details of which were leaked by GM a few days after Christmas. The ’09 ‘Vette will come equipped with a new 6.2-liter supercharged LS9 V8 engine that produces a whopping 620 horsepower and pushes the speedster to a top speed of around 200 miles per hour. (As Letterman used to say, hold on to your wigs and keys.) The ‘Vette will also feature a new exterior design, a new transmission, a heads-up display, a revamped braking system, and a whole lot more. Rollout is expected this summer. The line forms to the left.

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