Overshadowed by other launches, this quintet shines in its own quiet way

Stunning concepts and major model introductions grab the headlines at the auto show, but there is also a supporting cast of other vehicles that are either bowing for the first time or may have made their debuts elsewhere, but still deserve a second look. After all, for local showgoers, this is the first time that many of them will see them. Here's our list of the 5 sleeper cars that merit additional attention.

Audi Q3

Audi's big introduction at the show was the Audi Allroad Shooting Brake Concept, which actually is a preview of the upcoming TT sports coupe. Execs say it's not likely that the new car will be offered as a squared-off hatch. So, if it's a small wagon you want, the car to really home in on is the all-new Audi Q3 crossover SUV that made its debut in Detroit. Available in either front- or all-wheel drive, the Q3 has a 2.0-lier turbo 4-cylinder engine making 200 horsepower. The stylish coupe borrows a lot of its looks from the A3 Sportback, but is taller and has a higher ride height giving it a more muscular appearance. The Q3 is expected to go on sale this fall.  

BMW 2 Series

While enthusiasts drooled over the hot BMW M3 and M4, the North American International Auto Show was also the first time we've seen the BMW 2 Series coupe. While overshadowed by its larger, more powerful siblings, the 2 Series Coupe is significant in that it has grown slightly over its 1 Series predecessor, still retains its rear-drive layout and reflects BMW's new naming convention where coupes are even numbers and sedans are odd numbers. The 228i, which starts at $33,025 is powered by a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine making 240 horsepower. The performance M235i, the first of a new line of M Sport trim cars, boasts 322 horsepower from its 3.0-liter inline six and will cost $44,025. 

Ford Mustang Convertible

The franchise at Ford Motor Co. is the F150 pickup and the new aluminum-bodied version of this best seller was certainly the talk of the show floor. But Detroit was also the first opportunity to see the convertible version of the 2015 Mustang in the flesh. The droptop versions were part of the worldwide debut, but were shown in Barcelona, Spain and Sydney, Australia. Without any fanfare, the convertible was placed on its own turntable in the Ford display. We can't wait to slip behind the wheel of Ford's latest pony car later this year.

Nissan IDx Freeflow

Testing the waters for a future design direction on the Nissan Maxima, the Japanese automaker showed a swoopy Sport Sedan Concept flanked by two versions of the IDx show car that debuted last fall at the Tokyo Motor Show. The IDx, a small, 4-cylinder powered rear-drive 2-door recalling the original Datsun 510 was displayed in the Freeflow street version and a Nismo racing variant. We particularly like the two-tone Freeflow and Nissan product czar Andy Palmer said it's in the future product plan, but will only be built if there is sufficient interest in and demand for the car. Following the show, the IDx duo is headed for California to participate in consumer clinics. We say just build it and Millennials will come. 

Volkswagen Passat BlueMotion Concept

The Beetle Dune concept was swarmed over by photographers, while nearby the VW Passat BlueMotion Concept, which made its global debut, was easy to miss because it looks just like any another Passat. But what makes this concept special is what's under the sheetmetal. Powered by a 150-horsepower 1.4-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine mated to a twin-clutch transmission, cylinder deactivation and stop/start technology, VW says the Passat BlueMotion is capable of returning 42 miles per gallon, which is competitive with most diesel and hybrids on the market today. The great thing is that it does so on gasoline without the added cost of an extra electric motor/battery pack or expensive after treatment required on diesels. It also demonstrates that there is plenty of life left in the traditional gasoline-powered engine.

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