Mercedes-Benz is bringing out an electric car, the F-Cell, powered by hydrogen fuel cell technology, which will be available for lease in California.
It's unclear how much demand for the new technology there will be, especially if gas prices remain relatively low. But automakers are forging ahead, in part because the electric and hybrid vehicles will help them meet more stringent fuel-economy standards.
Here's a roundup, in alphabetical order, of the changes for the 2011 model year from Europe:
A8: The automaker says the big sedan has a new luxury interior and the sporty driving characteristics Audi is known for. It comes in normal and long wheelbase versions. The long wheelbase, Audi says, balances sportiness and comfort for the U.S. market.
Pricing won't be announced until just before the car gets to dealers in November.
The A8 has what Audi calls an aluminum space frame to reduce weight from a comparable steel structure while handling better and retaining strength for safety. It has LED head lamps, cornering lights and LED turn signals. The car has numerous safety features including automatic braking to minimize the impact of a collision. A driver can change the character of the car to suit their driving habits, from sporty to comfortable.
Both versions have a 4.2-liter V-8 engine with 372 horsepower. A 12-cylinder, 500-horsepower engine also will be available in late spring. All engines have direct fuel injection into the cylinders, which gives the car more power and makes it more efficient. The A8 will get up to 17 mpg in the city and 27 on the highway.
A7: Audi is trying to combine a sporty coupe, a sedan and the utility of a station wagon in the sleek new A7. It has five doors, but the sloping back makes it look like a coupe. The large hatch opens to a 19-cubic-foot luggage compartment that can be expanded by folding down the rear-seat backrests.
The A7, due in U.S. showrooms in the spring, comes here with a 3-liter supercharged gasoline engine. A turbodiesel and other engines are under study. Pricing will be announced closer to the U.S. launch. Audi will offer only a four-seat version in the United States.
OTHER MODELS: Changes to existing models include a new eight-speed automatic transmission in the A4 2.0T quattro, A5 2.0T quattro Coupe and quattro Cabriolet, the new Q5 2.0T and all Q7s. Audi says the new transmission gives cars smooth acceleration, responsive downshifts and improved gas mileage.
MULSANNE: The distinctive British ultra-luxury and ultra-expensive brand has a new premium model for 2011. The Mulsanne, Bentley's flagship sedan, has the traditional Bentley elegance with refined performance, the company said. Its front design harkens to the Bentley S-Type of the 1950s. It also has many high-tech innovations, such as a multimedia system with a 60-gigabyte hard disc to run satellite navigation and other features.
It has a 6.75-liter V-8 with 512 horsepower, and an eight-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters on the steering wheel. The base price is $285,000.
CONTINENTAL: The entire Continental range of products gets the ability to run on E85 ethanol in the United States for the first time. A Supersports Convertible is added for 2011. The GT is canceled for calendar year 2010.
3 SERIES: The 3 Series coupe has some updates for 2011, including slight changes in styling, an upgraded stereo and a new single-turbocharged, 300-horsepower, inline-6 engine on the 335i. There's also a new sport package, the 335is, with a twin-turbocharged, 320-horsepower engine. The 3 Series starts at $43,535.
5 SERIES: BMW has a new 5 Series sedan, a longer and wider version of the old one. The top-of-the-line 550i has a 4.4-liter V-8 with 400 horsepower, while the 535i has an inline six with 300 horsepower. There are three transmission choices. The 5 Series starts at $52,775.
6 SERIES: BMW plans to end production of the 6 Series this fall. The company is planning to reintroduce the 6 Series, but hasn't said when.
7 SERIES: The 2011 ALPINA B7 sedan, a collaboration between BMW and performance car company Alpina, will sit at the top of the 7 Series lineup. It has a 4.4-liter V-8 with 500 horsepower and can go 0 to 60 mph in 4.5 seconds. It also has twin front and rear spoilers and electronically adjustable suspension to improve stability and performance at high speeds. It starts at $122,875.
ACTIVEHYBRID 7: The ActiveHybrid combines a turbocharged V-8 engine with an electric motor for a combined output of 455 horsepower, but with 15 percent better fuel economy than the 750i. It gets 26 mpg on the highway. Starts at $103,175.
XJ: Jaguar has revamped its flagship sedan. Like its predecessor, it's built with Jaguar's aluminum body technology, which makes the vehicle 300 pounds lighter than if it were built with steel, and improves handling and fuel economy. The exterior takes its cues from the original 1968 XJ, with a muscular lower half and coupe-like roofline. One new standard feature: a panoramic glass roof. There's a long-wheelbase version (XJL) with 5 more inches of leg room in the back seat. Jaguar gives U.S. drivers three V-8 engine choices and up to 510 horsepower. The XJ starts at $72,500.
XKR175: The XKR175, a limited edition coupe to celebrate Jaguar's 75th anniversary, has a 510-horsepower V-8 engine and some special features to improve aerodynamics, including a new front air dam and a larger rear spoiler. It costs $104,500. Production is limited to 175 cars in this country.
GALLARDO LP570-4 SUPERLEGGERA: Superleggara is Italian for "super light," which refers to the use of carbon fiber throughout -- including the engine cover and spoiler -- to make the supercar faster, lighter and more fuel efficient. It has a 5.2-liter V-10 that gets upward of 561 horsepower and can accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in 3.4 seconds. It starts at $237,600.
LR2: The LR2 small SUV gets an upgraded interior and exterior, including a new front bumper and two-bar grille to match the LR4. The engine is carried over from the previous model. The LR2 starts at $36,350.
All models in the ultra-luxury brand of Mercedes get minor changes in 2011. Among the more opulent options: a high-tech perfume diffuser and engraved silver champagne glasses in the Zeppelin, and a fire extinguisher in the 62 S.
CL CLASS: The big coupe is restyled with a new hood, fenders, grille, and headlights with LED turn signals and daytime running lights. The exhaust pipes are integrated into the rear bumper, and reverse lights are moved to the trunk lid. The interior also is restyled. The CL550 gets a new, more fuel-efficient 7-speed automatic transmission. The hot-performing CL63 AMG gets a new 5.5-liter direct-injection biturbo V-8 engine with 536 horsepower and an AMG seven-speed multiclutch transmission. Pricing hasn't been released.
E CLASS: New Coupe and Cabriolet models. Cabriolet has an improved three-layer soft-top. There's also a new E350 wagon with standard all-wheel drive, a third-row rear-facing seat, power tailgate and rear air suspension. Mercedes also plans to introduce a 50-State V-6 turbodiesel E350 BlueTEC engine with 210 horsepower.
F-CELL: New five-door, five-passenger electric car powered by fuel cell technology will be available for lease in California. It has a 240-mile range. No pricing yet.
R-CLASS: Crossovers are updated with a new hood, fender, grille and sleeker side mirrors. The crossovers also get new headlights and LED tail lights. The R-Class starts at $50,240.
SLS AMG: Redesigned high-performance car debuts in May with an aluminum body and gull-wing doors. Its 563-horsepower V-8 engine is hand-built.