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.
Saab was just about to introduce the all-new 9-5 sedan when General Motors sold off the company. It is based on the same platform as the Buick LaCrosse and despite its GM heritage, it maintains a distinctly Saab family look to it. According to Saab, the SportCombi version, unveiled at the 2011 Geneva Auto Show, will become available during 2012. The seats can be folded down to provide an almost flat floor with an absence of intrusions to maximize cargo space. Both models have a choice of a turbocharged 4-cylinder or turbocharged V-6 engine and can be optioned with Saab’s XWD all-wheel-drive system. The old Saab 9-5 was loved for its enormous load-carrying capacity and the new version carries on the tradition—as long as you can find one.
There's a special feel in the Continental, from the moment you open the heavy door and get your first nose full of that leather interior. Keep in mind that, in a Bentley, we're not just talking "seating surfaces." This is leather everywhere, including the dash, the pillars, the headliner, everything. The front thrones are about what you'd expect, but the well being of the back-seat passengers is completely dependent on the generosity of those up front to scoot their seats forward.
The Continental has used a twelve-cylinder engine from the get-go; it's a large, 6.0-liter unit with its cylinders arranged not in a V but in a W shape. Spin the W-12 to life and it settles into a deep bass rumble. 567 hp and 516 lb-ft of torque are waiting to be unleashed by your right foot. More recently, Bentley added the (lower-cost) option of a turbocharged V-8. Although its 500 hp and 487 lb-ft are shaded by the W-12, it's amazing how similar in character the two engines are. The V-8 accelerates the Continental GT from 0 to 60 mph in 4.6 seconds; the W-12 accomplishes the same feat in 4.4 seconds.
Any version of the Continental GT or GTC is impressive underway. This is a heavy car and yet it accelerates and changes direction with alacrity. The steering is neither overboosted nor too heavy, and it is commendably precise. Also notable is the beautifully matched calibration of the throttle and brake -- neither jumpy nor grabby; both have a long travel that is nicely progressive.
At press time, BMW hadn't yet shown the 3 Series replacement, but we've seen spy photos of it for over a year. Not surprisingly, the current generation has received little change for 2012, as all development is ongoing for the new car. The coupe, retractable hardtop convertible and sedan versions of the 328, 335 and M3 continue as they are with some package changes and the standard inclusion of Bluetooth. Gone for 2012, however, is the M3 sedan and turbodiesel engine option. A 328i Wagon remains the least expensive variant of the 3 Series. The M3 Convertible will receive a new $5000 Individual Composition Package option with four unique paint colors and interior trim choices to help make it more distinct.
Infiniti turned the SUV world on its head when it introduced its avant-garde FX crossover in 2003. Blending the styling cues of performance automobiles with the sturdy confidence of full-size SUVs, the FX won the hearts of those who longed for something different. For 2008, the FX carries on with three models: The FX35 in either rear- or all-wheel-drive platforms, and the top-dog V-8 FX45 with standard all-wheel drive. Both models use a 5-speed automatic transmission with manual shift mode. Significantly redesigned in 2006, this year the only changes are standard XM satellite radio and revised interior/exterior color combinations. Stability control with traction control is standard, and interesting options include Lane Departure Warning, Intelligent Cruise Control, Rearview Monitor and Intelligent Key.