Honed to a razor edge, the carbonfiber-intensive Z06 is not quite the flatout fastest Corvette, but it's the most serious track day weapon, with gunfighter reflexes, limpet grip, surgically precise steering and stop-on-a-dime braking. And if it cedes some speed to the supercharged ZR1, it's not much. With 505 bhp from its 7.0-liter V-8, the Z06 covers a quarter mile in well under 12 seconds, and is capable of 198 mph. Named for Chevy's famous old "rat motor" big-block V-8, the new 427 is essentially a convertible version of the Z06, with the same dynamic credentials. This is the final year for the C6 generation, so aside from the 427, the only change is a 60th anniversary cosmetic package.
Extensively redesigned, this is the eighth generation of Chevy's midsize sedan. The wheelbase is 4.5 in. shorter and the track over 2 in. wider, lending visual muscle to the otherwise conservative styling. Chevy claims a 20-percent chassis rigidity upgrade, as well as more room in the classy interior, despite reduced dimensions. There are three engine choices, all with direct fuel injection, led by the new 182-hp Ecotec 4-cylinder that's the heart of the eAssist Eco model. A mild gas/electric hybrid, the Eco is rated for 25 mpg city, 37 mpg highway, topping the Malibu charts. The Malibu delivers creamy ride quality with quiet operation, and a 259-bhp 2.0-liter turbo four is available to satisfy those with a need for speed.
Big and comfy are Navigator bywords. Typically scaling three tons across its truck-based ladder frame, the Navigator is for big groups on big jobs. Think yachts to the sea and horses to dressage. It’s also loaded with all of Lincoln’s luxury, from olive and walnut swirl wood trim, leather and anechoic chamber levels of sound deadening to power extending running boards and V-8 torque. Towing is a natural and electronic gadgetry a given. Navigators are available in the standard 119-in. wheelbase, or the extended 123-in. L model for extra cargo and family room. As a mature design, the Nav get only small detail improvements such as spotter exterior mirrors and AppLink connectivity for smartphones for 2012.
Looking for a compact crossover SUV that offers front- or all-wheel drive, and is efficient with fuel? Mazda’s Tribute fits the bill. Engines are a 2.5-liter four with 171 bhp, or a 3.0-liter V-6 with 240 bhp. The model lineup ranges from the Sport to the Touring to the Grand Touring, and the 2009 interior redesign has paid off with more comfort and better quality. A 5-speed manual transmission is available but most models feature a 6-speed automatic. For California only, there is the Tribute HEV (Hybrid Electric Vehicle) that offers excellent fuel economy (34 mpg city/31 mpg highway), along with all the usual features of the Tribute. As always, the Tribute is a mechanical twin of the Ford Escape.
The Infiniti G37 is available as sedan, a coupe, or hardtop convertible. Responsive and agile, the G37 has a sporty flare while offering a comfortable ride and a luxurious interior.
The rear-wheel drive G37 is named for its 3.7-liter V6 engine, available with between 325 and 330 horsepower depending on the model. This smooth, powerful engine comes with a seven-speed automatic or six-speed manual transmission. The G37 comes in Premium, Sport, or Premier trims depending on model. Styling of the G series is aggressive yet subtle with abounding curves and the heritage is apparent in both design and performance. Standard safety features include six airbags, traction control and four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes. Optional is an intelligent cruise control system that matches the speed of the car ahead and an upgraded audio system with Bose sound.