R&T Overview:The Malibu is similar in size to the slightly larger Impala, but just because the two cars share the bowtie logo on their grilles doesn't mean they drive alike. The Malibu feels light on its feet, which is great for handling response, and a real trick considering the Malibu could stand to skip a few lunches. With this confident foundation, the standard stability control, traction control and 6-speed transmission programming make both the high-tech 2.4-liter four version and the roaring 3.6-liter V-6 model into “point-and-shoot” sedans. Although there is a manual-shift feature—a switch on the shift knob—the driveline works much smoother without using it. The Malibu's fastback styling intrudes slightly on rear head space, but comfort in front is top-notch.
Extensively redesigned, this is the eighth generation of Chevy's midsize sedan. The wheelbase is 4.5 in. shorter and the track over 2 in. wider, lending visual muscle to the otherwise conservative styling. Chevy claims a 20-percent chassis rigidity upgrade, as well as more room in the classy interior, despite reduced dimensions. There are three engine choices, all with direct fuel injection, led by the new 182-hp Ecotec 4-cylinder that's the heart of the eAssist Eco model. A mild gas/electric hybrid, the Eco is rated for 25 mpg city, 37 mpg highway, topping the Malibu charts. The Malibu delivers creamy ride quality with quiet operation, and a 259-bhp 2.0-liter turbo four is available to satisfy those with a need for speed.
For those who like the Aston Martin V8 Vantage but want just a little bit more sportiness, there exists the V8 Vantage S. The model starts with the smallest, lightest, most agile car in Aston Martin's lineup (the Cygnet doesn't count) and adds just a dab more power and slightly better brakes and tires.
Power in the 4.7-liter aluminum V8 is up marginally, from 420 to 430 horsepower, while torque rises from 346 to 361 lb-ft compared with the starter kit Vantage. New mufflers, improved intake airflow, and new programming that keeps the exhaust system's bypass valves open longer are responsible for the power increases. The engine upgrades, along with a weight savings of 100 pounds, help the car rocket zero to 60 comes in about 4.0 seconds.
When the Sprinter was sold as a Dodge, some owners installed a three-pointed star on the grille to add class. Now it comes standard as Mercedes handles distribution of these workhorse vehicles. Cargo vans continue to be assembled in South Carolina from knockdown kits to avoid the 25-percent "chicken tax." Passenger, crew, minibus and cab chassis variants are imported fully built from Germany. All feature a 50-state certified BlueTEC 3.0-liter turbodiesel engine, 5-speed automatic transmission, stability control and front airbags. Vans offer three lengths, two roof heights and three GVWRs. Despite its imposing size, the Sprinter is pleasant to drive thanks to a well-tuned chassis, power rack-and-pinion steering and 4-wheel disc brakes.
The Buick Encore is a compact crossover SUV that features upscale styling and amenities in an efficient package.
The Encore is available in four trim levels: Encore, Convenience, Leather and Premium, and two drive types: front or all-wheel drive. It's powered by a 138-hp 1.4-liter turbo four-cylinder engine, mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. Standard safety features include 4-wheel anti-lock disc brakes with brake assist, electronic stability and traction control systems, OnStar, and ten airbags. Other standard features include: Buick QuietTuning acoustics package with active noise cancellation, 18-inch alloy wheels, Bluetooth wireless connectivity, IntelliLink audio system with 7-inch color touch screen and an oil life monitor. The Convenience trim adds: dual-zone climate control, rearview auto-dimming mirror, blind spot sensor, remote start and front fog lamps. The Leather trim adds: heated front seats and steering wheel, power adjustable front passenger seat, leather seating surfaces and driver seat memory system including the exterior mirrors. The Premium trim adds on the tech with rain sensing wipers, Bose audio system, lane departure warning and Ultrasonic front and rear parking sensors including rear vision camera.