Mercedes revamps the C-Class sedan for 2012 and adds an attractive new coupe to the mix. Both begin with the C250 Sport featuring a new 201-bhp 1.8-liter direct-injection 4-cylinder turbo. The C350 nets a 302-bhp 3.5-liter V-6. Targeting enthusiasts, the top C63 AMG has a 451-bhp 6.2-liter V-8. Sedans also offer a C300 4Matic with a 228-bhp 3.0-liter V-6. Standard 7-speed automatics include a Speedshift multiclutch version for the C63. Redesigned interiors gain new audio with a 5.8-in. color display, Bluetooth and USB port. Coupes receive standard paddle shifters, sport bucket seats and split-folding rear seats. Attention Assist, Adaptive Brake with Hold function, Lane Keeping Assist and Blind Sport Assist are among C-Class safety features.
First thing to notice: no Altima Hybrid. That model, with its borrowed Toyota technology, is history, but not to worry, there's a new one under development. The other two Altimas—sedan and coupe—sail into 2012 with the same updates we see on most Nissans, mainly reworked option packages that gather items like Bluetooth connectivity and a navigational system with real-time traffic. There is again a pair of engines, the 175-bhp 2.5-liter four or 270-bhp V-6, the latter renowned for its durability. Coupe buyers can opt for a 6-speed manual or the CVT (sedan owners get just the latter), and on the Altima it's not a bad choice. Obviously the coupe, which is almost 10 in. shorter than the sedan, is the sporty choice, but the sedan in 3.5 SR form is no slouch.
The 2013 Chevrolet Suburban retains the same maximum-size virtues that have made it a bestseller for so many years. It remains the first choice for anyone who needs to haul six or more people plus their cargo.
The Suburban 1500 is available in LS, LT, and LTZ trims in both two-wheel drive or four-wheel drive. It can seat up to nine passengers in its three rows of seats. The standard engine is a 320-hp 5.3-liter flexible-fuel V8 with Active Fuel Management technology, and is matched with a six-speed automatic transmission. All-disc anti-lock brakes, traction control, side curtain airbags and GM's StabiliTrak electronic stability system with rollover mitigation are standard.
As the Touareg was heavily revised for 2011 (larger, lighter, more refined), not much changes with VW’s SUV this year. The new Touareg Sport with Navigation model has an 8-in. color touchscreen and a 60-gig hard drive. The VR6 and TDI models get a touchscreen radio with an in-dash 6-CD player. As before, the base engine is a 3.6-liter V-6, plus a 3.0-liter turbodiesel V-6 (that gets 28 mpg on the highway!) and a hybrid powertrain that blends excellent performance with great economy. The hybrid system mates a supercharged 3.0-liter V-6 with an electric motor fed by nickel-metal hybrid batteries. This pricey ($61,110) Touareg Hybrid can travel at speeds of up to 30 mph on electricity alone before the gasoline engine automatically kicks in.
Once overlooked as just a token entry in the booming market for crossover utility vehicles, the recently revised BMW X3 has emerged as the brand’s best effort when it comes to all-wheel-drive utility.
New for the model year is the BMW X3 xDrive28i, which now carries a 240-bhp, turbocharged, 2.0-liter inline-4 engine, and working in concert with an eight-speed automatic transmission and stop/start technology, this engine helps give the X3 the ability to get 21 mpg city, 28 mpg highway. The BMW X3 xDrive35i continues with its 300-bhp, turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-6, and its eight-speed automatic and stop-start features takes it to 19 mpg city, 26 mpg highway.
The cabin of the X3 always feels space-efficient even if slightly less spacious than some rivals, but the utility of the package (a power-operated tailgate is now standard) and the extensive assortment of convenience and safety items gets your attention.
At the same time, let us not forget that the BMW X3 drives like a BMW should, combining surprising agility with equally surprising ability to deliver cross-country comfort.