R&T Overview:As Chevy's biggest sedan, the Impala holds six folks if you get the optional bench front seat, although these days it feels a bit tight to have an adult passenger seated at your right elbow instead of a cushy armrest. However, there's a space in American culture for a car that can take mom, pop, two kids, granny and gramps to breakfast Sunday morning. The Impala uses the most advanced overhead-cam 3.6-liter V-6 engine shared by other GM cars, and it can run on E85 ethanol fuel if you live in the Corn Belt. It also comes standard with a 6-speed automatic, as well as standard anti-lock brakes, stability control and a suspension that is not too squishy. Competitors may be larger and quieter, but Impala makes for a clandestine drive.
Eyebrows were raised when Ford brought 6-cylinder engines back into its F-150 lineup in a big way for 2011, but any doubts about that decision were soon banished when the 302-bhp 3.7-liter V-6 and the 365-bhp twin-turbo EcoBoost 3.5-liter V-6 began outselling V-8 F-150s, and then handily outsold the combined V-6 sales of all other full-size pickup manufacturers combined. That F-150 engine menu, which also includes 5.0-liter and 6.2-liter V-8s, continues unchanged for 2012, as does the rest of this best-selling pickup's extensive lineup, save for the revised Harley-Davidson edition complete with standard 411-bhp 6.2-liter V-8, voiceactivated navigation, snakeskin leather accents and 22-in. aluminum wheels.
The XTS sedan is the newest addition to the Cadillac lineup. Larger than the CTS, the XTS offers the high level of quality and innovation that Cadillac owners are used to. With the debut of some of the most technologically advanced features in the brand's history, the XTS is definitely a modern luxury vehicle to consider.
Available in both front-wheel and all-wheel drive models; the XTS is powered by a direct-injected, 3.6 liter V-6 engine producing 304 horsepower and 264 foot-pounds of torque. It is matched with a 6-speed automatic transmission that includes tap up/tap down steering wheel shift controls. The XTS is the first vehicle in the Cadillac lineup to offer the CUE system, a comprehensive in-vehicle experience with an intuitive design for information and media data control. Standard features include 10 airbags, an 8-speaker Bose audio system, and dual-zone climate control. Available equipment includes a driver awareness package, power rear sunshade, heated front and rear seats, and a 12.3-inch color screen.
The largest Buick sedan, the Lucerne carries over touchtones Buick is known for, including a torquey old-school 227-bhp V-6 pushrod engine and a 4-speed automatic transmission. Its suspension is soft, something Buick folks like. Another Buick value is the ability to carry mom and dad, both kids, and grandma and grandpa to the pancake house on Sundays, which means an optional front bench seat that ups the passenger count to six. This seat option is not available in the Super model, which comes standard with a 292-bhp Cadillac 4.6-liter V-8, quicker steering, electromagnetic variable damping, and flashy chrome 18-in. wheels and tires. Inside the Super is a leather-covered instrument panel and suede leather door panels in tasteful earth tone colors.
BMW calls its X3 a “Sports Activity Vehicle.” While this is clearly an attempt to distinguish the X3 from run-of-the-mill sport utilities and crossovers, there’s some legitimacy here, for without doubt, the X3 is one of the best-handling crossovers in the world. The X3 comes standard with all-wheel drive and a smooth inline-6, a 3.0-liter that puts out 260 bhp mated to either a 6-speed manual or a 6-speed automatic at no extra charge. Although the X3’s starting price is above average for its class, and the interior quarters are on the cramped side, for many, driving “the BMW of crossovers” more than makes up for any faults. For 2010, HD radio becomes standard equipment. An even smaller X1 will arrive in the U.S. in 2011.