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.
The MINI Clubman offers the driving enthusiast a combination of fun-to-drive performance, engineering and unconventional attitude, while providing more space than the two-door hatchback MINI.
The Clubman is available in three different trims: the Cooper with a 121-hp 1.6-liter inline four-cylinder engine, the Cooper S with a direct-injection, 181-hp turbocharged 1.6-liter engine, or the John Cooper Works with a 208-hp version of the Cooper S turbo engine. All trims are mated to either a six-speed manual or optional six-speed automatic transmission. Standard safety equipment includes six airbags, electronic traction and stability control and anti-lock brakes. A wide variety of interior trim materials and colors are available, as well as features such as xenon headlights, panoramic sunroof, sport suspension, Dynamic Traction Control, navigation system, harman/kardon audio, parking sensors, and satellite radio. Bluetooth and HD radio are standard equipment.
The Audi RS 7 is the even higher performance variant of the sport-refined S7 Sportback, bringing with it powerful yet elegant design dynamics, an impressive array of exclusive equipment and even more remarkable driver-oriented credentials.
The quattro all-wheel drive RS 7 is equipped with a 560-hp 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8 TFSI engine with direct fuel injection and Audi's new cylinder-on-demand technology that deactivates four cylinders when under partial load. This powerful engine is paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission with Tiptronic manual mode and steering wheel paddle shifters. Building on the comprehensively-equipped S7, standard equipment exclusive to the RS 7 includes 20-inch forged aluminum wheels, LED headlights, aluminum exterior features, RS-specific sport seats and leather upholstery, and carbon fibre interior trim elements. The exterior of the RS 7 can be further distinguished by Matte Aluminum Optic and Carbon-Optic packages, as well as red painted brake calipers and black sport exhaust outlets. Standard safety features include electronic stability and traction control systems, 4-wheel anti-lock brakes with brake assist, rear camera parking assist, Audi Side Assist blind spot monitoring, Audi pre sense rear collision warning system and front, front side-impact and overhead curtain airbags; rear side-impact airbags are optional. Additional advanced technologies offered include Night Vision Assistant with Pedestrian Detection, Audi Active Lane Assist and Adaptive Cruise Control with Stop & Go functionality.
The new interior takes advantage of the 2014 Forester's expanded roominess by creating a feeling of spaciousness through a combination of horizontal design elements and more space between the instrument panel and seats.
The front seats use a new cushion spring array for long-distance comfort, the hip point is 1.1-inches higher than before, and the driver's seat has 1.3 inches more fore-aft and 0.6 inches more height adjustment travel. Materials are upgraded compared to previous models with soft-touch surfaces on the upper instrument panels and armrests.
Rivaling some larger vehicles, rear-seat legroom is 41.7 inches in the 2014 Forester, from the previous 38.0, ample room for a leggy six-footer even with the front seat all the way back, and there's more room than before for a center rear passenger. Wider-opening rear doors make it easier to climb in and out and to install a child seat, and the rear seatbacks recline a bit in all but the base 2.5i model.
To better accommodate cargo, the load floor is flatter and total capacity is increased to 74.7 cubic feet when the standard 60/40 split rear seats are folded down. The available power moonroof cuts cargo space to 68.5 cubic feet.
Instruments are limited to large, round speedometer and tachometer dials and a digital fuel gauge between them. We appreciated the blue cold-engine light following a cold start but would have gladly traded it for a real temperature gauge. The climate controls are very nice. We also loved that top-center color screen for the rearview camera, which can also display a multitude of information including average fuel economy, range and entertainment system selection.
The base Forester 2.5i has a 4.3-inch LCD screen at top center of the dash that displays outside temperature, fuel economy and a road surface freeze warning. All other models have a multifunction color display with rearview camera, audio and Bluetooth information, climate control, vehicle self-check and maintenance reminder; when equipped, X-Mode and Hill Descent Control operation are displayed as well. Premium and Limited models offer a new standard six-speaker audio system with AM/FM HD (but no satellite) radio with capability to play music from CD, Bluetooth audio streaming, iPod and other players.
Ferrari’s California was meant to capture a new segment of owner, one who would appreciate the dual nature of this folding-hardtop spider. And so it has happened. There are those who argue against the exterior design, the main point of contention being the tall rear that accommodates the folding hardtop. Yet that shape means 12 cu. ft. of luggage space and the ability to go from closed roof to open in 13 seconds. And still the California drives like a Ferrari, its front mid-engine being a 4.3-liter 460-bhp V-8 backed by the company’s shift-in-a-flash 7-speed paddle-shifter gearbox. About all that’s new for 2011 is stop/start of the V-8 when you’re in traffic. Unlike a hybrid’s almost unnoticed stop/start, the Ferrari’s is downright invigorating as it growls back to life. Cool.