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.
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.
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.
The ILX Hybrid is an all-new offering from Acura in the compact luxury sedan class, and the first ever hybrid model in the Acura line-up. The ILX Hybrid is powered by a 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 111-hp when paired with a 23-hp electric motor. A 144-volt lithium-ion battery powers the motor, which allows for engine idle-stop operation. The ILX Hybrid includes a long list of standard features such as keyless access with push-button ignition, heated exterior mirrors, aluminum wheels, speed sensing wipers, leather steering wheel and shift knob, Bluetooth cellular and audio connectivity, Pandora internet radio, power glass sunroof, Homelink and a rearview camera. Standard safety features include electronic stability and traction control, active front head restraints, tire pressure monitoring, six airbags and anti-lock brakes with panic assist. An optional Technology package includes a navigation system, XM satellite radio and a 7-speaker sound system.
The Q7 offers a lot more than room for 7-passengers onboard. As Audi's range-topping SUV, the Q7 rolls on relatively unchanged. Base models come with a 280-bhp supercharged V-6, while a higher output version used in the S Line ups power to 333 bhp and 325 lb.-ft. of torque. Yet it's hard not to fall for the charms of the TDI turbodiesel. Sure, the 225-bhp turbocharged 3.0-liter V-6 lacks the ponies of its gasoline-fed siblings. But factor in 425 lb.-ft. of torque — along with a respectable 25-mpg highway average — and the Q7 TDI could offer the best mix of power and practicality. The S Line model is the choice for those who want to stand out, however, thanks to its larger (21 inch) alloy wheels and other sporty touches inside and out. All Q7s come with all-wheel-drive, an 8-speed automatic transmission, and surprisingly car-like ride and handling characteristics. This is the same platform that serves as the basis for the Porsche Cayenne, after all.