Here's a handful of new and upcoming cars and trucks that stand out for being the most important and intriguing vehicles in showrooms now and into the new year.
The pint-size crossover will test buyers' appetite for fuel-efficient little SUVs with premium features and prices. Ten inches shorter than a Ford Escape, the 2013 Encore hopes to attract new buyers by combining small size with an upscale interior. Look for it in the first part of next year.
Slightly smaller than the CTS, the 2013 ATS gives Cadillac a serious player in the world's largest luxury-car segment. It faces landmark sport sedans like the BMW 3 Series and Audi A4.
Every new Corvette is an event, and the 2014 C7 is wrapped in even more secrecy than its predecessors. One thing we know is that the legendary small-block V-8 gets what GM calls "the most significant redesign of the small block in its history — transforming it into a technology powerhouse." It'll go on sale early next year.
The first complete reworking of Chevy's big sedan in a generation, the 2014 Impala brings modern style and features to a car that had grown tired. The Impala was once a stylish and prestigious model. Full-size family cars were an American mainstay for decades. Chevrolet hopes the 2014 Impala will prove there's still a desire for cars a bit bigger and more prestigious than midsize sedans. Look for it later in 2013.
Fiat dealers are clamoring for this bigger four-door model to supplement sales of the tiny 500 coupe. The 2014 500L adds some practicality to the stylish 500, but who knows whether the minicar's charm is transferable. It'll be in showrooms in early 2013.
The midsize sedan's styling and technology will get lots of attention, not all of it positive. Ford's MyFord Touch controls remain controversial, and the 2013 Fusion may engender some sticker shock. It's Ford's best-selling car, and it hits the market amid a flood of other impressive midsize sedans.
Once the industry's benchmark, this midsize sedan could alter the growing perception that Honda has lost its way. The 2014 Accord's features include a plug-in hybrid model that should be able to go at least 10 miles on battery power. Sales begin in January.
Jeep Liberty replacement
This crossover SUV is so shrouded in mystery that even its name is still secret. The 2014 version is expected to combine a Fiat-developed architecture with Jeep looks to give the legendary SUV brand a competitor for models such as the Ford Escape and Honda CR-V. Look for it later in 2013.
The aggressive 2013 MKZ midsize sedan is a first step as Lincoln tries to rejoin the likes of Audi, Cadillac, Lexus, Infiniti and Volvo as a legitimate prestige brand. The MKZ's interior and exterior styling are totally different from the Ford Fusion, with which it shares its architecture and drivetrains.
Mazda executives bet the company's future on fuel-efficiency features in the 2014 version. It'll go on sale in January.
Arriving on the heels of the surprising new Altima midsize sedan, the 2013 Sentra has a chance to rejoin upper-echelon compacts including the Hyundai Elantra, Toyota Corolla, Honda Civic, Ford Fusion and Chevy Cruze.