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.
Toyota’s longest-running nameplate is sold worldwide in various guises. Americans flock to luxury SUVs so our Land Cruiser overflows with creature comforts. Four-zone climate control, 28 air vents, three rows of leather-trimmed seats and JBL Synthesis audio with 14 speakers are standard. Yet underneath it all, the Land Cruiser is built to go anywhere. The 381-bhp 5.7-liter V-8 mates with full-time 4-wheel drive and sophisticated features like Kinetic Dynamic Suspension and Crawl Control with Downhill Assist. Safety Connect with 24/7 emergency assistance is standard. Want more? Toyota obliges with an Upgrade Package that adds a rear entertainment system, navigation with backup camera, cooler box, rain-sensing wipers and rear seat heaters.
Nissan's Z car has no major changes for 2012, although we're already happy with the package...rather packages: the 370Z, its Touring version, the drop-top Roadster and, at the performance end, the Nismo 370Z coupe. While the first three models feature 332 bhp and 270 lb.-ft. of torque from the 3.7-liter V-6, the Nismo bumps that to 350 bhp and 276 lb.-ft. and adds a list of go-fast upgrades like high-performance tires, spoilers and a close-ratio 6-speed gearbox. Normal Zs come with a 7-speed automatic or a 6-speed manual that matches revs on downshifts. All the expected options are available from a navigation system to an iPod connection to Bluetooth. What we like about the Z? Its performance properly matches its exciting exterior.
If you’ve had the Pacifica on your shopping list, the time to buy is now: Chrysler has announced the Pacifica will be going out of production during the 2008 model run. Not surprisingly, the Pacifica carries over virtually unchanged from ’07. Chrysler’s large crossover is sold in front- or all-wheel-drive configuration, in base LX, Touring or upscale Limited trim. A 3.8-liter V-6 with a 4-speed automatic is standard with the fwd LX; all others get the 253-bhp 4.0-liter V-6 teamed with a 6-speed automatic. Safety gear is plentiful, with standard side-curtain airbags, front-seat knee blockers, low-risk-deployment front-passenger airbags, traction control and an Electronic Stability Program. A ParkSense back-up assist feature and the ParkView rear back-up camera are optional. Towing capacity is 2600 lb.