In Detroit, the upscale unit focused on the Q50 Eau Rouge, a high-performance version of the midsize luxury sedan it launched for 2014.
"The question [is] whether you can be a serious global luxury brand without a performance division," de Nysschen said. He quickly offered a one-word answer, "No."
Indeed, a quick check of the offerings at other prestige stands would support that view.
BMW is using the show to unveil its new M3 and M4 high-performance models. Mercedes-Benz is launching a new 12-cylinder version of the big S-Class sedan and a new, high-powered S-Class Coupe.
Lexus, the Toyota subsidiary that in past years rolled out a number of hybrids in Detroit, is introducing the RC F, a 450-horsepower screamer meant to compete with the new BMW M4.
(More from The Detroit Bureau: Volvo concept XC Coupe, Ford Mustang win design awards)
Industry analysts warn that, by their very definition, halo cars tend to be low-volume. But there's significant demand for some models. The U.S. accounts for nearly half of the sales of Mercedes' ultrapowerful AMG models, with Southern California alone generating nearly a quarter of worldwide demand, according to U.S. CEO Steve Cannon.
Sales in the so-called premium sports segment are expected to roughly double between 2011 (when recession-racked demand bottomed) and 2016, to about 62,000, according to an AutoPacific forecast.
Among more mainstream models, the consulting firm expects the new Mustang to drive a 20 percent boost in demand, to 91,000, in 2016. Even little Subaru has big expectations for the all-new WRX STi "hot hatch" that it is showing off in Detroit.
(More from The Detroit Bureau: A complete Detroit Auto Show roundup)
By cutting out mass, improving aerodynamics and using new technologies, most all these models are getting markedly better mileage than they were before.
The Corvette Stingray's engine, for example, uses direct injection and can even shut off half of its cylinders when power demand is light. Most new Porsches have a Stop/Start function: The engine shuts off instead of idling, firing up automatically when the driver's foot lifts off the brake. And new double-clutch and 8- and 9-speed automatic gearboxes further boost efficiency.
So while the revival of the muscle car may frustrate environmentalists, regulators and insurance actuaries, fans are pleased to be getting what is for them the best of all worlds.
—By CNBC Contributor Paul A. Eisenstein. Follow him on Twitter
@DetroitBureau or at thedetroitbureau.com.