Ever since hot rodding began in the 1940s, enthusiasts have been in love with the idea of a small car with a big engine. Why keep up with the Joneses when you can blow their doors off? Case in point: The Lexus IS F. In a space normally occupied by no more than a 3.5-liter V-6, Lexus engineers crammed a 5.0-liter V-8 pumping out 416 bhp and mated it to an 8-speed automatic with paddle shifters and a manual mode. Essentially carryover for 2013, the IS F comes standard with 19-in. forged alloy BBS wheels, 10-way power front seats, dual-zone automatic climate control and a 13-speaker audio system. In addition to obvious exterior cues, the IS F gets a special interior treatment with two-tone leather/Alcantara seats and aluminized trim.
The Range Rover is Land Rover's most prestigious offering, a luxury sport utility vehicle with a long history of quality craftsmanship and legendary "go anywhere" off-road prowess. Now in its fourth generation, with highlights that include a lightweight all-aluminum body structure, new suspension design, exterior and interior styling revisions, and a host of innovative standard and optional features.
The five-passenger Range Rover is available in four trim levels: Base, HSE, Supercharged and Autobiography. The Base and HSE are powered by a 340-hp 3.0-liter supercharged V6, while the Supercharged and Autobiography trims boast a 510-hp 5.0-liter supercharged V8. Both powerplants feature direct fuel injection and are mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission with manual mode and paddle shifters. Full-time four-wheel drive with Land Rover's acclaimed "Terrain Response" system and an electronic air suspension help tackle a wide range of off-road conditions; Supercharged and Autobiography trims get Dynamic Response and enhanced "Terrain Response 2 Auto" systems. Standard equipment on the Base includes a power liftgate/tailgate, 19-inch aluminum wheels, Xenon headlights, passive entry/start, heated leather seats, tri-zone automatic climate control, hard drive-based navigation and a Meridian sound system, complete with HD/satellite radio, Bluetooth wireless music streaming and DVD audio/video capability; the HSE adds a sliding panoramic roof, 20-inch aluminum wheels, fog lights, auto-dimming exterior mirrors and heated rear seats. Supercharged trims are further outfitted with 21-inch aluminum wheels and enhanced interior trim elements, while the exclusive Autobiography showcases soft-close doors, premium seating with massage function, front and rear climate-controlled seats, an upgraded audio system and integrated rear seat entertainment. Safety features include eight airbags, anti-lock brakes with brake assist, electronic stability control with traction control and roll mitigation, front and rear park assist and tire pressure monitoring. Adaptive front lighting, automatic high beam assist, blind spot monitoring, adaptive cruise control, a surround camera system and automated Park Assist are also available (standard on the Autobiography).
An abbreviated model year of virtual carryover 2012 Taurus will end with the arrival of a freshened, re-powered 2013 model in the spring. Underhood, front-drive versions of the 2013 will offer a turbocharged EcoBoost 2.0-liter I-4 as an alternative to the 3.5-liter V-6 that is updated with twin independent variable-cam timing (Ti-VCT) for notably improved power and fuel efficiency. Although it will look substantially unchanged at a glance, the 2013 Taurus lineup- including the potent twin-turbo awd SHO-will also bring numerous exterior and interior revisions, improved steering and brake feel, electronic torque-vectoring control, and additions-like a heated steering wheel-to its already huge slate of convenience and safety technology.
The lightest-duty Silverado 1500 pickup is available with three V-8 engines, all able to run on gasoline or 85-percent ethanol. The 1500 is by no means light-duty and can be configured with rear- or 4-wheel drive, three cab sizes to hold from three to six passengers, and towing equipment to pull more than five tons. Standard for 2012 is automatic trailer sway control, as well as new grilles and bumper caps. The basic Work Truck model comes with a raucous 4.3-liter V-6, which is not the most frugal in the lineup—that would be the midlevel 5.3-liter V-8 with the special dual-mode Hybrid model that gets 20 mpg city/23 mpg highway. The V-6 manages just 15 mpg city/20 highway, but it's priced near a subcompact car.
Unlike most car models, the Kia Forte comes in several distinct flavors. The brand’s centerpiece is the Forte sedan, offered in LX, EX and SX trim. It’s a comfortable and agreeable ride with a solid standard features package across the board. The SX trim, with its performance-tuned suspension, 17-in. wheels, bigger front brakes and 173-bhp engine is the sportiest of the lot. But if sport is what you’re after, move directly to the 2-door Forte Koup SX—not an aggressive ride, but one that will certainly put a grin on your face in the turns. Buyers who are more in a family-about-town way should give the Forte 5-Door serious consideration. The hatchback opens to provide 19.4 cu. ft. of cargo space, compounded when the second-row seats are folded. All Forte variants enjoy a robust list of standard features.