As much as we enjoy the base Mustang's powerful V-6 engine, we understand how tempting it would be to tick the option box for an old-fashioned wallop of American V-8. The Mustang GT coupe is a retro-themed muscle car that, thankfully, has very little in common with its ancestors — other than massive amounts of tire-smoking power and attitude. Included in the GT is a 412-bhp 5.0-liter V-8 engine, coupled to either a 6-speed manual or 6-speed automatic transmission. Selectable electronic steering offers three driving modes: Normal, Sport, and Comfort. There are tons of wheel, tire and trim choices available, so customization is never a problem when speccing your Mustang. Cynics (i.e. Camaro and Challenger owners) will deride the solid rear axle that soldiers on for another year. And there's no denying some of the cabin plastics feel a bit chintzy. But measured in terms of price-versus-performance, the Mustang GT coupe is an absolute steal.
The Cadillac Escalade ESV is a longer version of the Escalade. The ESV 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.
The ESV features a long wheelbase and an increase in total length, greatly enhancing third-row seat legroom and rear cargo space. Available as a 4x2 or 4x4, the Escalade ESV is powered by a 403-hp 6.2-liter V8 with Active Fuel Management and E85 compatibility, mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. Getting into the third row is easier with the ESV; its longer rear door provides a larger opening. 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 ESV carries over from 2013, with some changes to the exterior color availability.
Last year, the MKZ gained the Hybrid model with a 4-cylinder engine and electric motor combination good for a total of 191 hp and an impressive 41 city/36 highway mileage ratings or about 700 miles per tank. Boasting one of the best hybrid powertrains available, the MKZ Hybrid can touch 47 mph on electric power alone, and is a winner in urban driving. Sales of the MKZ Hybrid are running above expectations, and with Lincoln holding the price of the base Hybrid at the same $34,645 as the standard gasoline V-6 model, the gas/electric is a compelling choice. For open-road duty, the 263 bhp V-6 shows the good MKZ chassis to advantage. Luxury features are abundant; new for 2012 is AppLink for voice control of smartphones.
Looking for a compact crossover SUV that offers front- or all-wheel drive, and is efficient with fuel? Mazda’s Tribute fits the bill. Engines are a 2.5-liter four with 171 bhp, or a 3.0-liter V-6 with 240 bhp. The model lineup ranges from the Sport to the Touring to the Grand Touring, and the 2009 interior redesign has paid off with more comfort and better quality. A 5-speed manual transmission is available but most models feature a 6-speed automatic. For California only, there is the Tribute HEV (Hybrid Electric Vehicle) that offers excellent fuel economy (34 mpg city/31 mpg highway), along with all the usual features of the Tribute. As always, the Tribute is a mechanical twin of the Ford Escape.
If the 200 isn't the best example of how a Fiat-backed Chrysler can breathe life into dying models, we don't know what is. No Chrysler model needed an overhaul as much as the old Sebring did; its clunky exterior, low-rent interior, and subpar ride and handling won it no friends outside the rental-car lot. Its transformation into the 200 may not suddenly result in a class-leading mid-size sedan or convertible, but it is impressive nonetheless. The 200 sedan finally received the powertrain, chassis tuning, and styling it originally deserved. The base 2.4-liter four-cylinder is still a bit sluggish, but the 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 shines, delivering a healthy amount of pep. We've liked the Pentastar V-6 in other applications -- such as the Jeep Grand Cherokee and the Dodge Charger -- saying that it "has plenty of power" in the Jeep.
The 200 convertible -- with your choice of fabric or metal folding roof -- remains part of the 200 portfolio; although it feels a bit soft and prone to cowl shake, it is one of the few reasonably priced droptops capable of comfortably seating four passengers. Better yet, it received the suspension upgrades applied to the 200 sedan for 2013, greatly improving ride quality. Is the 200 automotive perfection? No, but it's proof positive that it's possible to transform an ugly duckling into quite an attractive and affordable swan. Given what Chrysler was able to do transforming the Sebring into the 200, we're very hopeful about the all-new 2015 model.