"Rowdy, raucous and oozing testosterone"— that was the Dodge Challenger of yesteryear, yet the modern interpretation of this iconic muscle car exhibits the same manners relative to its 21st century competitors as the 1970s Challenger did with its contemporaries. The Challenger is a straight-up blue-collar street brawler. If you're not shy, skip the V-6-powered SXT and new Rallye Redline (an SXT in sportier trim) and head right for the R/Ts (there are three versions this year) with their mighty 5.7-liter Hemi. Need more grit? The Challenger SRT8 392, cradling a 6.4-liter Hemi, is a 470-bhp, 12-second ET beast with a price-per-horsepower ratio that's tough to beat. Nothing new on the sheet this year except four exterior colors and the Rallye Redline.
Like its Dodge Charger big brother, the Challenger was given a midcycle refresh for 2011. Out went the old 250-bhp 3.5-liter V-6, and in came the new 305- bhp 3.6-liter. New chassis architecture and suspension tuning refined the ride and handling. Dodge also released the first run of 392 Hemi SRT8 Challengers, which deliver 470 bhp as well as the fuelsaver mode that shuts the V-8 down to four cylinders at loafing speeds. For 2012, Dodge continues the SRT8's refinement with a new 2-mode active damping suspension with "auto" and "sport" modes. The SRT8 also gets an exclusive leatherwrapped heated steering wheel. Those looking for middle ground should seek out the R/T, with 5.7-liter V-8 and either 5-speed automatic or 6-speed manual.
The Cadillac Escalade is a large, luxurious SUV that delivers performance and style. Classy and powerful, it looks great for a night on the town or can haul everything needed for a weekend getaway.
Available as a 4x2 or 4x4, the Escalade is powered by a 403-hp 6.2-liter V8 with Active Fuel Management and E85 compatibility, mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. Standard equipment includes a power liftgate, stability control, remote start, Bluetooth compatibility, a rear-view camera and side curtain airbags. Some options are Magnetic Ride Control and 22-inch chrome wheels. The Platinum Edition takes style and innovation to a whole new level with standard equipment such as LED headlights, power running boards, and a rear seat entertainment system with two monitors.
The 2014 Cadillac Escalade carries over from 2013, with some changes to the exterior color availability.
The Audi A8 is coolly efficient, understated and, for whatever reason, often overlooked among the more popular BMW 7-Series and Mercedes-Benz S-Class. That's a shame, since the A8 ranks extraordinarily high in terms of engineering and luxury features. There is all the leather and massaging seats you could want in this segment, along with none of the extra bulk you don't. Thanks to its lightweight aluminum structure, stop/start system, and 333 bhp supercharged 3.0-liter V-6 that serves as the base engine (replacing the outgoing 4.2-liter V-8), Audi's flagship sedan is more fuel-efficient than ever. For those who want the ultimate in prestige and pampering, the luxury-laden A8 L comes with a 500 bhp 6.3-liter W-12. Both the 12-cylinder and the base V-6 come equipped with an excellent 8-speed automatic transmission. At the top of the performance heap, the sport-themed S8 comes with a 520 bhp twin-turbocharged V-8 and can sprint from 0-60 mph in approximately 4.2 seconds. Look for a TDI diesel to join the A8 range later this year.
Mercedes revamps the C-Class sedan for 2012 and adds an attractive new coupe to the mix. Both begin with the C250 Sport featuring a new 201-bhp 1.8-liter direct-injection 4-cylinder turbo. The C350 nets a 302-bhp 3.5-liter V-6. Targeting enthusiasts, the top C63 AMG has a 451-bhp 6.2-liter V-8. Sedans also offer a C300 4Matic with a 228-bhp 3.0-liter V-6. Standard 7-speed automatics include a Speedshift multiclutch version for the C63. Redesigned interiors gain new audio with a 5.8-in. color display, Bluetooth and USB port. Coupes receive standard paddle shifters, sport bucket seats and split-folding rear seats. Attention Assist, Adaptive Brake with Hold function, Lane Keeping Assist and Blind Sport Assist are among C-Class safety features.