For most people, the holiday season ends Jan. 1. For some, though, it doesn’t stop until Jan. 19, the last day of the North American International Auto Show. It’s the best thing to happen to Detroit every year. Hundreds of thousands of people pour into Cobo Hall to see what the latest and greatest in automotive technology has to offer. This year, the show was attended by celebrities and presidential candidates alike, but the real stars, as always, were the cars.

Phillip Kurdunowicz
BMW X6 (PHOTO/AP)
Phillip Kurdunowicz
Ford Explorer American Concept (MAX COLLINS/Daily)
Phillip Kurdunowicz
Dodge ZEO (PHOTO/AP)

Best concept

MAZDA FURAI

I hate Mazda. Every year the company makes possibly the most gorgeous car at the show, yet you view it knowing that it will never, ever make it to production. More of a work of art than anything else, the body flows gracefully – Furai does mean “the sound of wind” in Japanese, after all. Plus, it’s a supercar CEOs can’t even get their hands on.

Worst concept

JEEP RENEGADE

Jeep usually tries to debut a concept every year with a ridiculous name like “Gladiator” or “Hurricane” (I bet they regretted that one pretty quickly). This year it’s the “Renegade” and, quite simply, it’s awful. Essentially, it’s a two-seater with the windshield cut in half. Its awkward-looking body panels make it look like a model car that a very strong six-year old could put together in half an hour.

Best production

NISSAN GT-R

Yeah, screw the environment; just give us speed. That’s what the return of the once deceased GT-R is saying, if unintentionally. Faster than a Porsche and more powerful than a Corvette, it’s the newly resurrected superhero of the sports car scene. And it’s coming soon, so get ready.

Worst production

KIA BORREGO

Kia, when will you stop designing cars that look they came out five years ago? The Borrego is some sort of small SUV whose front was stolen from an already ugly SUV, the Chrysler Aspen, with the rest cobbled together from an SUV junkyard. Hyundai is starting to not suck; if only Kia followed its lead and stopped using the selling point of “we’re really damn cheap.”

Likely to Succeed (Hopefully)

FORD EXPLORER AMERICA CONCEPT

Ford needs a break. After suffering a yearlong beating from Japanese automakers, the company is looking to get back on track and the new Explorer might be its ticket. What used to be the bestselling SUV on the planet has slipped into mediocrity, and the new design is a welcomed makeover. And yes, it’s called the “America Concept.” There’s no messing around with subtlety here.

Most Improved

DODGE ZEO

Nothing screams “MORE POWER!” like a typical Dodge, assailing your eyes and ears with its brutal style and deafening Hemi engine. This is why the ZEO is such a pleasant surprise. It produces zero emissions, it’s fast and it’s good-looking. Despite being touted as a vehicle for people with a “dynamic lifestyle” (what the hell does that even mean?), it looks to be quite a bit of fun if it ever makes it to production.

Most unnecessary

BMW X6

BMW is amazing, but the X6 is incredibly confusing. It’s not big enough to be considered a crossover, but it’s not small enough to be a car. The result? It’s, awkward. The individual elements are nice, but the strange shape doesn’t fit into any particular category, and being unique isn’t always good.

Most fun

HUMMER HX CONCEPT

Ever get the urge to drive a car off a sand dune? If so, the HX can fulfill that wish. Although it’s the smallest Hummer yet, with only two doors, it’s still a Hummer. It’s got the grill. It’s got the slantback. It’s got everything but a machine gun turret. Something similar to this will make it to production, completing Hummer’s welcomed shift from 100K war machines to practical yet badass production cars.

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