The Yukon comes in three distinct flavors: a regular truck-based three-row SUV that's a Chevy Tahoe underneath the skin, complete with a 320-bhp 5.3- liter V-8; a 14-in.-longer version that's a Chevy Suburban underneath the skin; and an HD model with a stronger frame and a 352-bhp 6.0-liter V-8. There are also Denali models that feature a 403-bhp 6.2-liter V-8, as well as heated and cooled seats, heated steering wheel, retracting running boards and leather upholstery. The Denalis have a special sound-insulating package to make them quieter inside. These are not sissy trucks, though, since capable off-road packages are available with locking rear differentials, big tow hooks in the front and a front skid plate. The Hybrid Yukon and Denali get an impressive 20 mpg in the city.
GM’s Acadia hits the family sweet spot with 7- or 8-passenger seating, front-wheel-drive or all-wheel-drive layout, and towing capacity of 5200 lb. The second-row Smart Slide system makes it easy to crawl in or out, and you don’t have to travel far down the option list to find a kid-friendly rear-seat entertainment system. Families who avoided the worst of the Great Recession’s carnage may want to examine the upscale Denali, which includes perforated leather seats with matching door trim, heated and cooled driver and passenger seats, a head-up display and Dual SkyScrape sunroof. GMC keeps things simple with a single powertrain configuration, a 288-bhp VVT V-6 with 6-speed automatic. For 2012, there are new colors and some formerly optional equipment is now standard.
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.
In standard form, the Audi TT is already stylish and fun to drive. The all-wheel-drive TTS roadster adds an extra dose of performance thanks to its 265-bhp turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-4 and dual-clutch 6-speed automatic transmission. There is no manual transmission offered even in this performance-oriented model. However, the TTS still offers sports car performance, minus a sports car appetite for fuel — a 29-mpg average on the highway is pretty impressive. Choosing the roadster means sacrificing the rear seat; this car is strictly a 2-seater. That's no great loss, since the backseat in the TT coupe is best used for kids or cargo. The power-operated folding soft top can be opened or closed at speeds up to 31 mph, and a wind deflector keeps noise and buffeting to a minimum.
What can we possibly tell you about the venerable Ranger that you don’t already know? This homegrown compact pickup has survived the test of time not just because of very attractive pricing, but also because its model array covers the gamut from inexpensive regular-cab, rear-drive, 4-cylinder, manual-gearbox work truck to well optioned 4-door SuperCab, 4wd, V-6 weekend warrior. Though the basic platform is ancient, the Ranger has earned a reputation for durability, and Ford has made safety technology such as 4-wheel ABS, seat-mounted side airbags and the company’s unique AdvanceTrac stability control with RSC (roll stability control) standard across the lineup. Rumors abound of a new Ranger on the horizon, but for now they remain vague and unconfirmed.