In a bid to compete with the incoming crop of miniaturized crossover vehicles, such as the BMW X1 and Audi Q3, Buick is set to introduce the Encore in early 2013. With roughly the same interior volume of a Chevrolet Sonic 5-door, the Encore will also share its turbocharged 1.4-liter Ecotec engine, outputting 140 bhp with 148 lb.-ft. of torque. This should return some respectable fuel economy figures, thought we're slightly concerned about its acceleration potential. Manufacturer specs have the Encore carrying an additional 415 lb. over the Sonic LTZ for the front drive model, and around 535 lb. more with all-wheel drive. BMW's slightly heavier X1, by comparison, will come with no less than 240 bhp (and 260 lb.-ft.) and as much as 300 bhp (with 300 lb.-ft.). Regardless, the Encore promises an environment of luxury within a tiny package. It'll come with features such as remote ignition, dual climate control, Bose premium audio, as well as Buick's first application of active noise cancelling technology—dubbed QuietTuning. As safety is always a concern, especially with smaller vehicle segments, the Encore is available with a number of electronic aids (forward collision alert, lane departure warning), as well as 10 standard airbags to shield occupants when things head south. Only time can tell if this new ilk of automobile will find success in the U.S. market, though the Encore should have a leg up on price over the competition.
If you've had the Caliber on your shopping list, now is the time to pull the trigger. This is likely the car's last year as it makes way for a new generation of Fiatbased small Dodges. Consequently, the 2.4-liter I-4 has been dropped, and gone are last year's Uptown, Mainstreet, Heat and Rush models, replaced by familiar Dodge SE, SXT and SXT Plus designations. All 2012 Calibers are powered by a 2.0-liter dohc 16-valve I-4 rated at 158 bhp, mated to either a 5-speed manual or CVT2. The CVT2 transmission has been recalibrated this year for better acceleration and smoother deceleration. The topof- the-line Caliber is the SXT Plus, with AutoStick, 18-in. polished aluminum wheels, sport-tuned suspension and performance tires.
The Porsche Cayenne combines legendary Porsche sports car performance with convenient SUV utility and all-condition capability.
The all-wheel drive, five-passenger Cayenne is available in five trims for 2013: V6, S, GTS, Turbo and Diesel. The V6 is powered by a 300-hp 3.6-liter V6 engine, the S and GTS have a normally aspirated 4.8-liter V8 with 400-hp for the S and 420-hp for the GTS, while the Turbo gets a 500-hp twin-turbocharged version of the same 4.8-liter V8 and the Diesel gets a 3.0-liter V6 with 240-hp. There is an eight-speed automatic transmission with an auto start-stop system available on the V6 and is standard on the two V8 powered trims. The diesel gets the eight-speed automatic as well, but without the auto start-stop system. Notable features available on the Cayenne include: Porsche Stability Management (PSM), Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM), Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control (PDCC), a conventional moonroof or a panoramic roof system, Bi-Xenon headlamps, power memory seats, 4-zone climate control and a Bose surround sound system.
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.
From a company known for its sports cars comes the Cayenne, a sport-utility vehicle that emphasizes sport more than utility. Bristling with handling, ride control and comfort-enhancing devices, the Cayenne, virtually unchanged for 2010, is available in six versions ranging from the base model with its fuel-frugal V-6 to the 174-mph Cayenne Turbo S with its 550-bhp twin-turbo V-8. Sandwiched among four other V-8s, ranging from 385 to 500 bhp, are two so-called boutique models—the 405-bhp GTS Porsche Design 3 and the 405-bhp Transsyberia, which are set off by their distinctive paint schemes, body trim and special wheels. New this year: 21-in. wheels, standard on the GTS and Turbo S.