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Lean and mean: The coolest cars at the Detroit Auto Show

AP

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The 2014 North American International Auto Show—the most important event on the U.S. automotive calendar—this week in Detroit is showcasing a new crop of light, lean cars that are still breaking a few speed records.

Rising fuel prices, climate change worries and recessionary fears have led automakers to showcase sensible, high-gas mileage cars in recent years at the show in recent years. But in 2014, lighter (and pricier) building materials are putting muscle and performance back in the driver's seat.

Rather than relying on bigger engines, BMW and Mercedes designs—even Ford trucks—are using a lot more aluminum and carbon fiber. That means faster, stronger cars that drink less.

This year's Corvette Z06, for example, has less horsepower than last year's ZR1, but its lighter build means the Z06 will steal the mantle of Corvette's fastest model from the reigning champion.

It has been a good week in Detroit for Chevrolet. The company has taken both top awards at this year's show for models it introduced last year.

The 2014 Corvette Stingray won the award for best car, and the Silverado pickup helped Chevrolet edge out rival Ford for truck of the year. That's is a boost after the recent recall of thousands of Silverados after Chevrolet had determined that they could unexpectedly burst into flames.

Take a look at these new models, all on the market this coming year. Then check back for updates throughout the week.

AP