Garish, or just livin' large? You make the call with the QX56. But there's no denying the space (seats up to eight) or functionality (tows up to 8500 lb.) of this massive, somewhat porcine vehicle. Power is provided by a direct-injected 5.6-liter 400-bhp V-8 mated to a 7-speed automatic, and a choice of 2wd or 4wd. But that's one of few choices you'll make, as there's just one lavishly appointed trim level, with a navigation system and 13-speaker Bose audio. We'd opt for the dual-monitor Theater Package to keep the kids entertained, which features an upgraded remote control and interface for 2013. Also, Moving Object Detection is added to the standard Around View Monitor and auto-dimming exterior mirrors are standard.
So you’ve got a large family. Does that mean that you should have to sacrifice luxury for an 8-passenger van? Infiniti doesn’t think so, and it’s betting you won’t, either—which is why it invested in an all-new QX56 just last year. Understandably, the big Q is mostly carryover for 2012, the only changes being the addition of features to the available Technology, Deluxe Touring and Theater Packages. Available in 2- or 4-wheel drive, the QX only comes in one well-equipped trim level, then lets you customize it from there with a long list of available equipment. Standard features include leather-trimmed, heated front seats; 13-speaker Bose audio system; Tri-Zone automatic temperature control; Bluetooth hands-free phone system and navigation.
The big news for this classically sensuous Grand Tourer is the addition of the XKR-S, which is Jaguar’s most powerful road car ever. The engine is based on the supercharged 5.0-liter V-8 in the XKR but revised mapping delivers 550 bhp and a massive 502 lb.-ft. of torque, giving it a 0–60-mph time of 4.2 seconds. All XK models utilize Active Dynamic technology, which continuously adjusts ride and handling characteristics. Both the XKR and the XKR-S also have Jaguar’s Active Differential Control to help provide grip. The suspension in the XKR-S is further upgraded beyond that found in the XKR. All XK models get some minor exterior and interior changes while the XKR gets other design cues to differentiate it from the “base” XK.
The 2014 Aston Martin DB9 carries its sleek, elegant form and powerful performance into the new model year with few changes--but that's fine by us.
Despite its nearly nine-year age, last year's updates and the DB9's distillation of the Aston Martin ethos and look gives it a timelessness. Not long ago the Virage attempted to take over the DB9's spot, but was out of production within two years. That says less about the failure of the Virage than it does the success of the DB9.
Its gorgeous exterior form aside, the interior's tightly fitted leather and clean wood or carbon fiber trim feel current, too. An LCD touchscreen sits front and center, and the crystal-tipped key/fob is a unique feature that rises above the gimmick. The details are simple and restrained, the total effect one of sophistication.
For both the coupe and DB9 Volante convertible, under the hood there's a 6.0-liter V-12 engine loosing 510 horses and 457 pound-feet of torque. Last year's 40-horsepower jump woke the DB9 back up, and it continues to exude the purest of grand tourer experiences: fast, comfortable, and quiet--thought it will bark with provocation. A six-speed paddle-shifted ZF automatic transmission clicks quick shifts, but lacks the crisp, throttle-blipping precision of a modern dual clutch. You wouldn't expect the DB9 to be fuel efficient, and it's not: the EPA estimates 13 mpg city and 19 mpg highway for 15 mpg combined.
Despite its grand tourer nature, the DB9 is quick, launching to 60 mph in just 4.6 seconds and capable of a top speed of 186 mph.
The careful balance required for grand touring ride and handling like the DB9's requires a solid platform to build from, and the all-aluminum, bonded and riveted chassis and body provide it. Despite the aluminum focus, the DB9 isn't especially light: a typical example weighs about 3,800 pounds. In the context of some competitors, however, it's not nearly as heavy as it could be.
It makes sense, then, that while the DB9 lacks the immediacy of some smaller, nimbler cars (the Porsche 911 comes to mind) it's still athletic. The adaptive suspension provides much of the magic in this regard, whether absorbing poor roads in Normal, chasing up a canyon in Sport, or truly pushing the limits in Track, each mode lets the underlying chassis span a wide range of conditions and experiences.
Built in Chattanooga, Tennessee, the new VW Passat is a bona fide competitor for the likes of the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord. It’s super roomy inside, especially in back, and there’s a choice of three engines: a 2.5-liter 5-cylinder with 177 bhp, a 2.0-liter turbodiesel 4-cylinder with 140 bhp and VW’s 3.6-liter VR6 with 280. Don’t be fooled by the diesel’s low bhp; this oil-burner has lots of torque, and although it does not make this new Passat exceptionally quick, it’s very efficient, able to squeeze 43 miles out of a gallon of diesel fuel when mated to the 6-speed manual transmission. If you value luxury over efficiency, get the 3.6 SEL Premium, which has leather, keyless entry, navigation, power seats and interior chrome accents.