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AUTO REVIEW: Auto show hits and misses

Best in show: Ford Focus Arguably the most beautiful and technically advanced compact car in the world, the 2012 Focus steals the show. Destined for production around the globe, the Focus sedan and hatchback will offer a new 2.0-liter engine and ...

Best in show: Ford Focus

Arguably the most beautiful and technically advanced compact car in the world, the 2012 Focus steals the show. Destined for production around the globe, the Focus sedan and hatchback will offer a new 2.0-liter engine and dual-clutch transmission when they hit dealerships in about a year.

The Focus will offer automatic parallel parking, blind-spot detection and the latest version of Ford's voice control system for everything from navigation to mobile phones, iPods and Internet radio.

Hit: Cadillac XTS

Perhaps the most graceful big Cadillac ever, the elegant and advanced XTS concept reveals the brand's plan for its next big luxury sedan, which should be on the road within two years.

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The XTS builds on the success of Cadillac's terrific CTS family with smooth lines and a roomy interior to compete with top luxury sedans like the Audi A8, BMW 7-series, Lexus LS and Mercedes S-Class. The production XTS aims to meld the current STS' sporty driving character with the room and comfort of Cadillac's DTS sedan. At 203.5 inches long, the XTS is 1.5 inches longer than the new Audi A8 and 4.1 inches shorter than the DTS.

The concept features a plug-in hybrid system that would allow all-electric driving for short distances. A 350-horsepower drivetrain and all-wheel drive promise good performance on the highway and back roads.

Hit: Audi A8

A sophisticated refinement of Audi's flowing styling, plus a stunning interior and advanced features make the 2011 A8 a luxury sedan to watch in 2010. The new A8 also has more power and a 15% improvement in fuel economy than the outgoing model.

Hit: Mini Beachcomber

The doorless, open-roofed concept version of Mini's coming SUV is loaded with goofy charm. It may reach production as a successor to the 1960s Mini Moke.

Hit: Hyundai Sonata and Tucson

If you want to know what keeps Honda and Toyota executives up at night, check out Hyundai's display. The new 2010 Tucson crossover SUV and 2011 Sonata midsize sedan add style and fuel economy to the value that made Hyundai the surprising sales success of 2009. Hyundai is on the move.

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Hit: Tesla Model S

After delivering 1,000 all-electric Roadsters to customers, Tesla has more credibility than any other electric carmaker. The striking Model S promises to cover up to 300 miles on a charge and have room for five adults, two kids and plenty of luggage when it hits the road in 2012.

Miss: Chrysler

Chrysler's stand is handsome, stocked with intriguing vehicles, and totally incoherent.

Despite the presence of vehicles and technologies from Chrysler's Italian partner, Fiat, there's no explanation of why they're on the stand, when they'll go on sale or how Chrysler will benefit from the alliance.

Customers could be forgiven for thinking the classy and unnamed Chrysler compact wagon is on its way to dealerships, because the company doesn't explain that it's a rebadged version of the Italian Lancia Delta premium hatchback. The Delta doesn't even use the same platform as the future models that are to merge Chrysler and Lancia's identities.

Equally baffling, there's nothing to tell you whether the nifty battery-powered 500 minicar will ever be sold -- don't hold your breath -- or that the adjacent sporty Abarth version of the 500 is slated for production at a Chrysler plant.

Worst of all, the real news from Chrysler gets lost in the confusion. Modern and fuel-efficient new engines ranging from a 1.4-liter four-cylinder to a 260-horsepower 3.5-liter V6, and Chrysler's first dual-clutch six-speed transmission, stand in near anonymity at the rear of the display. The engines and transmission are at the heart of Chrysler's plan to cut fuel consumption and improve its car line.

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Miss: Honda CR-Z

Honda sold America's first hybrid, but the CR-Z seems to miss the point: People buy hybrids for outstanding fuel economy. The CR-Z's sporty design -- reminiscent of Honda's classic CRX hatchback -- is among the most exciting new production designs at the show, but its fuel economy is unimpressive.

The CR-Z's projected EPA rating of 36 m.p.g. in the city and 38 m.p.g. on the highway not only trails the Toyota Prius, it has worse fuel economy than Honda's own bigger Civic and Insight hybrids. With a manual transmission, the CR-Z can't even match the EPA rating of the more powerful Volkswagen Golf diesel.

Miss: Hyundai Equus

While Hyundai's new Sonata and Tucson create a consistent and appealing family look for the Korean brand, the Equus luxury sedan borrows styling cues from all over the used-car lot. Note the Dodge Charger-style rear fenders, the Lincoln-like grille and Lexus-lite front fenders. The hood ornament looks like a melting ice sculpture of the Rolls-Royce Flying Lady.

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