R&T Overview:As Chevy's biggest sedan, the Impala holds six folks if you get the optional bench front seat, although these days it feels a bit tight to have an adult passenger seated at your right elbow instead of a cushy armrest. However, there's a space in American culture for a car that can take mom, pop, two kids, granny and gramps to breakfast Sunday morning. The Impala uses the most advanced overhead-cam 3.6-liter V-6 engine shared by other GM cars, and it can run on E85 ethanol fuel if you live in the Corn Belt. It also comes standard with a 6-speed automatic, as well as standard anti-lock brakes, stability control and a suspension that is not too squishy. Competitors may be larger and quieter, but Impala makes for a clandestine drive.
Now that the Monte Carlo is dead and gone, the Impala is shouldering the load for Chevy in the midsize segment and on the track in NASCAR events. The front-drive sedan is certainly no “Car of Tomorrow”; the basic platform dates back to the ’80s, although it has been updated. It is one of the few cars to come in a 6-passenger configuration and offers a wide range of engine choices. The base engine is a 211-bhp 3.5-liter pushrod V-6. The LTZ has a 224-bhp 3.9-liter pushrod six. And the relatively hairy SS has a pushrod 5.3-liter V-8 that sends 303 bhp to the front axle. Chevy has worked hard at keeping the value end of the bargain going by adding such features as dual-zone climate control, traction control, ABS, new thorax side-impact airbags and Bluetooth connectivity.
R&T Overview:The current Jetta, introduced last year to better compete with the likes of the Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla, has been a huge hit, the American public taking to its larger size and lower price. Now, for 2012, a new Jetta arrives: the GLI. This sporty Jetta is powered by VW’s familiar 200-bhp turbo 4-cylinder, mated to a standard 6-speed manual or an optional 6-speed dual-clutch automatic. Also noteworthy: The GLI has a true multilink rear suspension, which helps keep the back end of the car planted better than the standard Jetta’s twist-beam axle. Available Jetta engines include VW’s old sohc 2.0-liter inline-4, a 2.5-liter 5-cylinder and one of our favorites: a 2.0-liter turbodiesel that endows the Jetta TDI with 42 mpg on the highway.
The Armada has the power and size to accommodate whatever owner's ask of Nissan's flagship SUV.
The Armada seats up to eight people and is available in either rear- or four-wheel drive. Class leading towing capability comes from a 317-hp 5.6-liter V8 mated to a five-speed automatic. An E85 Flex Fuel Vehicle (FFV) version is available. Standard safety features include electronic stability control, active head restraints, side curtain and front side airbags, and anti-lock brakes with brake assist. The Armada is available in SV, SL, and Platinum trims. The SL and Platinum Editions feature upgraded wheels and exterior trim, as well as Intelligent Key and leather seat trim. The SL and Platinum Editions also include an upgraded Bose stereo while the Platinum Edition includes heated seats, moonroof, dual-screen rear entertainment system, and a navigation system.
The Santa Fe is what's commonly known as a crossover utility vehicle that can be ordered with either front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive. Engine choices are a 2.4-liter 4-cylinder or a 3.5-liter V-6. The only transmission is a 6-speed automatic with Shiftronic so you can shift it manually if desired. If you need it, Hyundai offers an electronically controlled all-wheel-drive system that directs power to the wheels with traction, or it can be locked in a fixed 50/50 split between front and rear wheels. For 2012, the Santa Fe gets a bold new grille and two new colors: Venetian red and Cabo bronze. Also, a factory-installed navigation system is available as an option.