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.
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.
Taller, wider and longer the Toyota 4Runner is a mid-size sport utility vehicle that combines true off-road competence with everyday driving comfort, refinement and safety.
The SR5 and Limited trims are available in rear- or four-wheel drive. A Trail Edition with rear locking differential, crawl control, rock rails and moonroof is only available in four-wheel drive. Each trim has a five-speed automatic transmission and a 270-hp 4.0-liter V6 engine. An optional third-row seat expands passenger capacity to seven. Stability control, traction control, 12 airbags and roll-over sensors are standard.
Perhaps its rounded, space-pod styling is an acquired taste, but the EX37 5-seat crossover—based on the G37's FM platform— tempts with an appealing blend of taut carlike handling, luxury and utility. Its new designation reflects its new 325- bhp 3.7-liter V-6 (previously a 3.5-liter) that's paired with a 7-speed automatic transmission in both rear- and all-wheeldrive versions. The base vehicle isn't exactly for paupers, with standard leather seating, keyless ignition and 18-in. alloy wheels. Opt for the Journey model and standard equipment includes a power tinted moonroof, Bluetooth phone and power tilt/telescope steering column. A slew of optional safety systems can be had, including Blind Spot Warning and Lane Departure Prevention.
R&T Overview:The 638-bhp ZR1 model's highly refined Performance Traction Management system is now available on the bargain hot-rod Z06 7.0-liter model for 2012, along with more supportive seats and a thicker, more race-car-like steering wheel. Yum. The wild ZR1 continues its lightweight carbon-fiber body parts, with a slick rear spoiler and massive carbon-ceramic disc brakes, plus a window on the hood that allows gawkers to see the exquisitely machined supercharger. A new Centennial model (photo) has been added, commemorating 100 years of Chevrolet with a Darth Vader black-on-black paint scheme. The more firmly sprung Grand Sport models are weekend autocross warriors, with stiffer damping and engine oiling systems designed for high-cornering forces.