Lean and mean: Cool cars at the Detroit Auto Show

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. But in 2014, lighter (and pricier) building materials are putting muscle and performance back in the driver's seat. Take a look at these new models, all on the market this coming year.

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About half of the new Mercedes-Benz C-Class is made from aluminum, allowing the car to shed 220 pounds even as designers added a few inches. The company says the longer, taller C-Class is meant to accommodate rising height averages. For the first time it will be American-made.

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With 625 horsepower and 635 pound-feet of torque, the Z06 is the fastest Corvette ever. Though the Z06 engine has 13 fewer horses, the company says the car has posted faster lap times than the ZR1, Corvette's previously reigning speed champion.

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Ford's 2014 F-150 dropped a whopping 700 pounds from the previous version. The body is made with an aluminum alloy, but the frame is composed of a light, high-strength steel. Oh, and you can lower the tailgate via remote.

Tannen Maury / EPA

Also using aluminum, BMW chopped 176 pounds off last year's M3, and added a carbon fiber roof to both the M3 sedan and M4 coupe. The M-Series models also share a 431 horsepower engine with 406 pound-feet of torque.

Stan Honda / AFP

The Bentley Continental GT V8 can go from zero to 60 in 4.6 seconds, topping out at 188 mph. The company claims the new model has achieved a 40 percent increase in fuel efficiency — meaning you can drive 530 miles before having to refill the tanks.

Tony Ding / FR143848 AP