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Motoring: Looking at the best production cars from 2013 NAIAS

Credit: Nauman Farooq

The star of the auto show in Detroit was unquestionably the Chevrolet Corvette.

Nauman Farooq | Interrobang | Sports | February 4th, 2013

With the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) having just wrapped up, this week let's take a look at the three best production cars on display at this year's show. In other words, if I could have taken three cars from the show home with me, the following would be found on my driveway:

Chevrolet Corvette C7 Stingray
Unquestionably the star of this year's auto show in Detroit was the new Corvette. America's longest lasting sports car has been with us for 60 years, and celebrates this momentous year with an all-new model.

This new model not only offers a new shape, but revives an old name. So the word “Stringray” is back on the Corvette after a long hiatus, but is this new model worthy?

From a performance point of view, it sure seems that way. Under its long hood lies a new 6.2- litre V8 called the LT1. This motor not only produces a heart-thumping 450hp and 450lb/ft of torque, but also features clever technologies such as variable-valve timing, direct injection and cylinder deactivation (the last one means that when simply cruising, it can run on just four cylinders to conserve fuel).

Power is still fed to the rear wheels, and while the six-speed automatic is pretty much carried over from the C6 Corvette, albeit with some new programming for faster shifts, the big transmission news is the new seven-speed manual gearbox. This new gearbox not only has tighter shifts, but also features rev-matching, so you don't have to heel and toe to get that perfect downshift. In short, this car will make you look like a better driver than you actually are.

The question most people ask about a sports car is, how fast is it? With zero to 100km/h dealt with in about 4.0 seconds, and a top speed close to 300km/h, this is a very quick car.

The new Corvette C7 will be on sale by this fall, and while Canadian prices have not been announced, don't expect any change from $70,000.

Jaguar F-Type
If the Corvette is not quite your style, maybe the brand new Jaguar F-Type, with its achingly beautiful body, will suit you better.

This spiritual successor to the EType (from 1961) is much more than a pretty design; it also has power to offer.

There will be three engines to choose from: the base F-Type will feature a supercharged 3.0-litre, V6 motor that produces 340hp; the F-Type S has essentially the same engine with a higher output supercharger; the “S” develops 380hp.

Want even more power? Of course you do. Enter the F-Type V8 S. Under the hood of this model is a supercharged 5.0-litre V8 engine that produces 495hp. This version will sprint from zero to 100km/h in just 4.3 seconds, while top speed is electronically limited to 300km/h (I wonder how fast it would have been if it was left unlimited?).

Not only is the new F-Type a seriously fast sports roadster (initially it will only be available as a convertible), but as you would expect from Jaguar, the interior is first-class, featuring the finest materials and the latest gadgets.

While electronic gadgets don't interest me much, what does interest me is its new ZF eight-speed automatic. Dubbed as a “Quickshift” box, Jaguar has had the transmission programmed to their specifications for the ultimate fast shifts.

Having driven some Jaguars in recent years, I can bet the F-Type will be a truly thrilling machine. I can't wait to try it myself. No pricing announced yet, but it is expected to start from around $70,000.

Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG Black Series
If you're in the mood to spend more — and I mean a lot more — how about the latest version of the Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG coupe? It's called the Black Series, and this is a faster, more hardcore version of an already seriously fast motor car.

So how does the Black Series differ from a normal SLS? A quick look is all you need. The Black Series has a much more aggressive look with a carbon-fibre splitter and pieces visibly seen all around it. The biggest change is from the rear, where you'll see that it has gained a large rear-wing and some venturi ground effects under the rear bumper. All these bits are not for show; they are to make this car more stable at high speeds and increase its cornering speed when driven hard at the track.

Speaking of track driving, it boasts some very impressive track numbers also. Zero to 100km/h is covered in just 3.6 seconds, while top speed is quoted at 315km/h. It is capable of such speeds because under its hood lies a 6.2 litre V8 (even though Mercedes-Benz likes to call it a 6.3) that produces 631hp. So not only does it have more power than a standard SLS, it also weighs 70kg less — no wonder this car is as fast as it is. Power goes to just the rear wheels via a seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox.

Like all AMG Black Series models that have come before this, the interior is luxurious yet minimalistic. There are no fat power operated armchairs in this; you get lightweight carbon-fibre shelled seats that you can only adjust forwards and backwards, there is no tilt. Since each car is tailored for its owner, the seat in the car you order will fit you just fine (it might not be ideal for the guy who buys it from you once you're bored with it).

This SLS AMG Black Series is a bonkers car, and as it costs more than $300,000, its price tag is mind-blowing also. But boy oh boy, do I love this car.

Forget three cars, if I could have taken just one car home from the show, this would be it.
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