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.
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.
The hybrid version of the 3-series sedan gets the same turbocharged, 3.0-liter inline-6 found in the 335i sedan, plus a 55-hp electric motor. When the engine comes to a stop at an intersection, then the hybrid motor starts up and propels you forward until the engine starts again, making sure you get good fuel economy in the city. Even better, you get a combined 335 bhp and 330 ft.-lb of torque, and BMW says the ActiveHybrid 3 will dash from 0-60 mph in just 5.2 seconds, 0.2 seconds quicker than the 335i sedan. You can even drive as fast as 47 mph on electric power alone. This represents a useful increase in efficiency, although it's necessary to trade away some of the customary BMW agility, since the lithium-ion battery pack increases the weight of this car to 3,649 lbs. The packing of the battery pack in the trunk also reduces cargo space by more than 3 cubic feet. Nevertheless, the ability to pass gas stations, not just slower traffic, is this car's key attribute. The ActiveHybrid3 represents a high-mpg package with the driving dynamics of a BMW — not a bad combination. Standard equipment is similar to that of the 335i sedan, plus an 8.8-inch iDrive screen with a display specific to the hybrid model, along with enhanced navigation, traffic and weather functions. Unique 18-inch cast-aluminum wheels are optional at no extra charge.
The fun to drive compact German hatchback returned to the North American market in 2010 to replace the Rabbit, a name that was revived in North America back in 2006 for the then new MkV hatchback version of the Jetta.
The MkVI Golf is available as a four-door body-style and can be powered by either a 170-hp 2.5-liter inline five-cylinder gas engine, or a 140-hp 2.0-liter TDI clean-diesel engine. Buyers that go with the gas engine receive the six-speed Tiptronic automatic; while TDI buyers select from either a six-speed manual transmission, or a six-speed DSG auto with Tiptronic. Standard safety features on all models include, anti-lock brakes, stability and traction control, tire pressure monitoring and six airbags. TDI models are extra equipped with features such as sport suspension, 17-inch alloy wheels/tires, leather steering wheel and shift knob, touch-screen 6-disc audio system with SIRIUS and floor mats.
The A8 carries the technology flag for Audi, and along with its understated styling and all aluminum frame, it's a unique choice in the full-size luxury sedan market.
The five-passenger A8 comes in six variations: 3.0T NWB (normal wheelbase), 4.0T NWB, 3.0T LWB (long wheelbase), 3.0 TDI LWB, 4.0T LWB and the W12 LWB. The 3.0T sports a supercharged V6 with 333-hp, the 3.0 TDI V6 makes 240-hp and 406lb-ft of torque, the 4.0T is a twin-turbo direct-injection V8 producing 420 horsepower, and the W12 is a 6.3-liter twelve-cylinder engine with direct-injection and 500 horsepower. Power on all models is routed to the ground by an eight-speed automatic paddle-shifted Tiptronic transmission and quattro all-wheel drive. Optional tech features include a 19-speaker Bang & Olufsen sound system, solar-panel sunroof, dual-pane security glass, night vision, full LED headlights, blind spot, collision and lane assistance, and adaptive cruise control. Anti-lock brakes, electronic stability system, active head restraints, LED brakelights and ten airbags are some of the standard safety features on the A8.
For 2014, a 3.0-liter TDI engine has been added to the line-up. Power door closers, power trunk, Advanced key and Audi parking system plus (front and rear sensors with rear camera) are now all standard on the NWB.