With gas around $4 per gallon, hybrids are hot. Before, if they looked like their regular production counterparts, they languished while the different-looking Toyota Prius prospered. Now buyers would rather have extra bucks in their pockets than make a styling statement. Other than hybrid badging, there is little that makes the Malibu Hybrid stand out. It does get better fuel economy, primarily in the traffic where the stop-start feature helps squeeze 4 mpg more out of the city cycle. Chevy has done an admirable job in making the operation seamless; just don’t expect massive boosts in fuel economy. With a light foot, you can make the Malibu start off in pure electric mode, but it will soon pop on the 4-cylinder engine, especially if you have accessories like air conditioning running.
The Toyota Camry Hybrid sedan brings the quality and reliability of the Camry together with increased fuel efficiency.
The Camry Hybrid is a front-wheel drive four-door sedan that seats five passengers. Available in two trim levels, LE and XLE, the heart of the Camry Hybrid is the Hybrid Synergy Drive, a combination electric motor/gasoline engine that produces a combined 200-hp, and efficient, electronic continuously variable transmission. The standard warranty for hybrid-related components is 8 years/100,000 miles. Stability and traction control, ten-airbags, anti-lock brakes with brake assist and tire pressure monitor are some of the standard safety equipment. Tech features include Bluetooth phone connectivity and audio streaming, garage door opener, rear camera, navigation with touch screen, HD and satellite radio, and the new Entune mobile app and services system.
For 2013, the Camry Hybrid LE is outfitted with a standard 6.1-inch touch screen audio system with Bluetooth wireless streaming.
If you’re looking for a sport-touring machine with great driving dynamics and high style, look no further than BMW’s 4-seat 6 Series. True, not everyone finds the trunk of the coupe particularly graceful. Same goes for the lines of the convertible top in its up position. Aside from those minor faults, the 6 Series is fantastic, from the 650i and its 4.8-liter 360-bhp V-8 to the M6’s mighty 5.0-liter 500-bhp V-10. Both 650i and M6 come in coupe or convertible form, along with your choice of transmission at no extra charge: the 650i with either a 6-speed manual or a 6-speed automatic and the M6 with a 6-speed manual or a single-clutch 7-speed SMG paddle-shift. Other than an updated iDrive system, the 6 Series carries on unchanged.
One year after the new 5 was introduced, it gets the M treatment. Gone is the visceral naturally aspirated 500-bhp V-10 and in its place is a high-output version of the 4.4-liter twin-turbo V-8 that makes a Cadillac CTS-V-besting 560 bhp. The Über sports sedan remains rear-wheel drive, although the 5 Series shares its architecture with the larger 7 Series, and thus is available with allwheel drive on the xDrive 535i and 550i. The M5 (photo) is being introduced with a 7-speed twin-clutch transmission; a 6-speed manual is only available on the 535i. For improved performance and efficiency, the 3.0-liter inline-6 of the 528i has been phased out in favor of a twinturbo four that is mated to an 8-speed automatic. A hybrid 5, based on the 535i, arrives in March.
R&T Overview:Think of the Hyundai Azera as an XL-sized Sonata sedan. Big on value and cabin space, the Azera is a comfortable cruiser that emphasizes driving refinement and a quiet ride. The looks are less polarizing than the swoopy exterior of the Sonata -- which shares the same platform -- and borrow a lot from the upmarket Genesis sedan. The Azera comes equipped with a direct-injected 3.3-liter V-6 engine that produces 293 bhp and 255 lb.-ft. of torque. Coupled to a 6-speed automatic transmission, the front-wheel-drive Azera gets estimated EPA figures of 20 mpg city and 29 mpg highway. That's competitive with other cars in this class, such as the Buick LaCrosse, Toyota Avalon, and Nissan Maxima. Hyundai has paid particular attention to the suspension, which now features an electronically adjustable damper system. But it's the Azera's solid value and high standard feature content -- not corner carving prowess -- that will put this luxury sedan on many shopping lists.