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2012 Paris Auto Show: New Cars, New Concepts, Old Problems

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The auto industry's been known to defy logic. At the 2012 Paris Auto Show, it seemed to defy gravity.

Europe's been embroiled in a currency crisis for more than a year. In the U.S., the economy's barely edged out of recession, and stiff new fuel-economy standards are starting to take effect. Around the world, energy prices and demand remain high, and safety regulations and pricing pressure are bigger challenges than ever.

So how to explain a dazzling new British sports car, and its companion luxury SUV? Or a $435,000 gullwing electric car? The 2012 installment of the biannual Paris show won't be remembered for a vast display of new products, but the sheer presence of so many ultra-luxury, cutting-edge vehicles suggests there's deep confidence in better economic times to come.

Or maybe just some blind faith.

The most important new cars and concepts to come from Paris this year include the following:

2014 Jaguar F-Type

2014 Jaguar F-Type

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2014 Jaguar F-Type

The new Jaguar two-seat sportscar makes its U.S. debut in May 2013, with a base price of just under $70,000. With an aluminum body structure, the F-Type weighs less than Jaguar's current four-seat convertible, the XK. Though it overlaps the XK in price, the F-Type's more a traditional roadster--an "indulgence," says chief designer Ian Callum. It's rear-wheel drive, with a choice between a 340-horsepower supercharged V-6, a 380-hp version of the same engine, and a 495-hp supercharged V-8 that's capable of 0-60 mph runs in 4.2 seconds, and a top speed of 186 mph. For now, the F-Type is convertible-only, and eight-speed-automatic only--though officials hint strongly that a coupe model and a manual transmission are in the works.

2013 Land Rover Range Rover

2013 Land Rover Range Rover

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2013 Land Rover Range Rover

The first new Range Rover since India's Tata Motors took control of the British luxury SUV maker will arrive in showrooms late this year, wearing a price tag of just under $84,000. The 2013 edition changes everything from the inside out: it's now not only clad in aluminum body panels, but the Range Rover's body structure itself is also made from bonded and riveted aluminum, like the Jaguar convertibles and XJ sedan. The move sheds 700 pounds from the SUV's curb weight, enabling an almost 5-inch stretch in wheelbase that provides much more rear-seat leg room, though overall length is only up an inch. If anything, the new Range Rover only grows more luxurious and more capable: 17 color choices, Meridian sound systems, a panoramic sunroof and surround-view cameras are just some of the available features. Power comes from either a 385-hp V-8 or a supercharged, 510-hp version, either one coupled to an eight-speed automatic, standard four-wheel drive with low range, and new Terrain Response that automatically detects traction conditions ahead.

2014 Mazda Mazda6

2014 Mazda Mazda6

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2014 Mazda 6

Now that Mazda's divorced from Ford, it's developing its own cars with its own lightweight philosophy--dubbed SkyActiv--and its own new design language, called Kodo. The two meet handsomely in the new 6 sedan, coming for the 2014 model year to Mazda's U.S. dealers. It's expected to drop its V-6 engine, as many family sedans have done in the past two years, in favor of an all-four-cylinder lineup. In this case, the top 2.5-liter four could be rated at about 189 horsepower, through either a six-speed manual or automatic transmission, for highway fuel economy of up to 35 miles per gallon. New safety features will include an available lane-departure warning system. In the past, the Mazda 6 has been assembled at a plant shared with Ford in Flat Rock, Michigan; it's now being produced near Mazda's home base in Hiroshima, Japan.


 
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