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.
"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.
The Buick Verano is a compact luxury sedan that features upscale styling and progressive technologies, along with comfortable seating for five and a high level of standard equipment.
The front-wheel drive Verano is available in four trim levels: Base, Convenience Group, Leather Group and Premium Group. It is powered by either a 180-hp 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine with direct fuel injection, or a 250-hp 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine for the Premium Group trim. Both engines are mated to a six-speed automatic transmission with manual shift mode, and an optional six-speed manual is available with the 2.0-liter engine. Every Verano is outfitted with 18-inch aluminum wheels, dual-zone automatic climate control, Bluetooth wireless connectivity, satellite radio, USB port and Buick's IntelliLink system, which allows smartphone integration and audio streaming through the vehicle's infotainment centre, controlled via a seven-inch LED touch screen. The Convenience Group adds heated exterior mirrors, heated front seats, an auto-dimming interior rearview mirror and a 6-way power driver's seat. The Leather Group is further equipped with leather upholstery, passive entry/start, upgraded audio and a heated steering wheel, while the Premium Group is visually distinguished by dual exhaust outlets and a flushmount rear spoiler. Standard safety features include 4-wheel anti-lock disc brakes with brake assist, electronic stability and traction control systems, rearview camera, OnStar and a tire pressure monitor, as well as ten airbags. Ultrasonic rear parking assist sensors, Rear Cross-Traffic Alert and Side Blind Zone Alert are standard on all but the Base trim level.
The Buick Verano carries over with minimal changes for 2014. A universal garage door opener is now standard on all but the Base trim level, and heated front seats have been added to the Convenience Group. Additionally, new safety features - including Forward Collision Alert and Lane Departure Warning - are standard on all but the Base trim.
With so many configurations of the 7, it's no surprise that BMW is leaving it as is this year and focusing more on other models. This luxury sports sedan carries the enthusiast torch with the factory- tuned Alpina B7 whose twin-turbo V-8 has an increased output of 500 bhp, which is enough to rival the straight-line performance of the V-12-powered 760Li. The Alpina, of course, takes to corners far more readily. At the other end of the fuel consumption spectrum is the 740i with its 315 bhp turbocharged inline-6, and twin-turbo V-8 hybrid that's consumption of 17/24 mpg is about equal. This year, the ActiveHybrid 7 can be fitted with an M Sport Package giving it good looks, performance and economy.
While the Impreza is great for economy-minded drivers, Subaru's WRX and STI provide an easy upgrade path to enthusiasts seeking performance nirvana. The WRX and STI may be similar in specification—they come in either 4- or 5-door body styles and feature manual transmissions and all-wheel-drive drivetrains, turbocharged flat-4 engines and sport-tuned suspension—but they are fairly different in intent. The WRX is for enthusiasts, and 265 bhp and a 5-speed manual is just what it takes to keep them happy. The STI is for the hardcore types, the ones who demand more power to the tune of 305 bhp. You also get a 6-speed manual, adjustable center differential, an even stiffer suspension setup, and a bigger and stickier tire package.