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.
With more than eight million sold since 1973, the Civic needs no introduction. Yet the all-new ninth generation for 2012 does. Sedans and coupes gain more sophisticated styling, improved fuel economy and new technology. Civic DX, LX, EX and HF receive a massaged 140-bhp 4-cylinder engine that nets EPA 41 mpg on the highway for the last. Sporty Si models boast a new 201-bhp 2.4-liter four mated to a 6-speed manual transmission. The Civic Natural Gas returns with expanded availability nationwide. Honda gives the Civic Hybrid a larger 1.5-liter gas engine, more powerful electric motor and lithium-ion batteries resulting in 44 mpg ratings for city and highway. A multi-information display, Eco Assist and Econ mode are standard on most Civics.
The Ford Expedition carries people, hauls gear, tows boats, and pulls campers. When equipped with four-wheel drive, the Expedition will get you there whether the road is dry, wet, snowy, or even when there's hardly any road at all.
For 2013 the Expedition is available in four trims: XL, XLT, Limited, and King Ranch. Every Expedition is powered by a SOHC 5.4-liter V-8 that is rated at 310 horsepower and 365 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed automatic transmission is standard equipment. It is available with either rear-wheel drive or electronically engaged four-wheel drive. A Class IV trailer hitch and trailer sway control are standard. The Expedition offers towing capacities in the 9000-pound range. Safety equipment includes front and side-impact air bags, three-row head-protection curtain air bags, anti-lock braking, and electronic stability control with anti-rollover technology.
Seems you can't swing a proverbial cat these days without hitting a crossover, so it's a surprise to some that Dodge's crossover offering, after its rough debut, has become a must-see for anyone contemplating a sedan/SUV hybrid. The Journey's 2011 redo to address woeful interior quality has absolved all sins (except for the anemic 2.4-liter inline-4), making this crossover a solid representative of the breed. The SXT with the optional 3.6-liter V-6 is the smart entry point to the Journey family, providing respectful performance and sportier styling than the base SE, and available all-wheel drive. In-floor storage, fold-flat seating and optional third-row seating give the Journey true family hauling credentials. Crew and R/T models deliver $1500 in added value content for 2013.
With the Mini range expanding to a new 2-seater and a 4-door all-wheel-drive family hauler, it's beginning to look more like old times again (remember the Mini Pickup Truck?). But truthfully, it's the core vehicle that carries the brand, the Cooper Hardtop, which is still one of the best front-drive cars money can buy. With its surprisingly affordable entry price, the Mini impresses with its build quality and fuel economy you'll get from the standard Cooper's 1.6-liter 4-cylinder. The fun starts, however, at the 181-bhp turbo Cooper S, and gets addictive should you choose to go the 208-bhp John Cooper Works route. The cargo-friendly Clubman and open-air Convertible can be had in all three trims too, but the posh, $52,000 Goodwood special edition (co-developed with Rolls-Royce) is reserved just for the original.