The fun and practical A3 rolls into 2013 unchanged. This is Audi's smallest model in the U.S., but don't underestimate the appeal of this compact wagon. Some might be turned off by having to opt for a 5-door — which is probably why the next A3 sold here will be a sedan. A rev-happy and direct-injected gasoline 2.0-liter 4-cylinder delivers 200 bhp and 207 lb.-ft. of torque. A 6-speed manual transmission and front-wheel-drive is standard, though you can spend a little extra for a 6-speed dual-clutch S tronic gearbox that comes paired to Audi's Quattro all-wheel drive system. While it's nicely sized for city driving, the backseat still offers a decent amount of stretch out space and there's a useful 19 cu. ft. of cargo room. Fold the rear seats down, and that swells to an impressive 39 cu. ft.
At the same time Ford revealed the specs on the Electric Focus they showed us the 2013 C-Max that will be built at the same plant just outside of Dearborn. It will be introduced to the U.S. market as only a Hybrid and Plug-in Hybrid. The two models will be badged Hybrid and Energi (the Plug-in model). The 5-passenger C-Max shares components with the Focus and while Europe can option it out as a Grand C-Max with third row seating, like a Mazda 5, we can’t. Our 3rd row will instead be filled with battery packs. Being a large hatch it is clear the C-Max will rival the new Toyota Prius v, although the Prius v has a larger storage space, with 34.3 cubic feet available. The C-Max Hybrid only has 24.9 cubic feet, and the Energi sacrifices another 5.8 extra cubic feet for its larger battery.
Driving the C-max are the front wheels via a 2.0-liter Atkinson-cycle gasoline engine and hybrid drive system. The combined output is expected to be about 185 horsepower. The entire drive package is an evolution of the Ford Fusion Hybrid and likely to be shared with the next generation of Fusion. It contains an as yet unspecified lithium-ion battery pack. The Energi will carry about 300 lb. more battery and be capable of traveling in pure electric mode for a reasonable distance at a reasonable speed. Don’t ask us what these are; we don’t know yet.
Following in the lines of the Fusion, the C-Max will use SmartGauges whose digital display provides what some may see as excess information. For instance, there’s now a driving-coach feature that claims to help you be more efficient behind the wheel. Of course, there is the plethora of electronic wizardry that talks to your smart phone and lets you monitor the car’s charge progress. To me, one of the coolest features is the automated rear hatch that opens when you wave a foot under the rear bumper. No more fumbling with arms full; just give it a kick.
R&T Overview:The 638-bhp ZR1 model's highly refined Performance Traction Management system is now available on the bargain hot-rod Z06 7.0-liter model for 2012, along with more supportive seats and a thicker, more race-car-like steering wheel. Yum. The wild ZR1 continues its lightweight carbon-fiber body parts, with a slick rear spoiler and massive carbon-ceramic disc brakes, plus a window on the hood that allows gawkers to see the exquisitely machined supercharger. A new Centennial model (photo) has been added, commemorating 100 years of Chevrolet with a Darth Vader black-on-black paint scheme. The more firmly sprung Grand Sport models are weekend autocross warriors, with stiffer damping and engine oiling systems designed for high-cornering forces.
The Sierra was designed pre-recession, with a broad range of models from a compact-car-priced V-6 entry-level truck all the way up to a high-tech Hybrid with a sophisticated dual-mode transmission with two built-in electric motors. The V-6, however, is not for fuel economy and, in fact, gets just 15 mpg in the city and 20 mpg on the highway, while the V-8 trucks get one mpg better and the Hybrid gets 20 mpg city/23 mpg highway. It's loaded and quite a bit more expensive, however, partly negating the benefit of the reduced fuel expenses. The GMC Sierra is available with a 5-ton towing capability, and the "grade braking" feature now works in normal as well as tow/haul modes. The large options list uses the word "chrome" surprisingly often.
What’s grand about Suzuki’s compact SUV is its rare combination of in-town civility and true off-road capability. Blessed with a stoutly reinforced structure and low-range gearing in 4-wheel-drive models, the Grand Vitara is no poser when the pavement stops. It’s a good value, too. In mid-2012, Suzuki is redesigning the tailgate to dispense with the exterior-mounted spare tire, except on top-of-the-line Limited models. Available sooner is a new Ultimate Adventure Edition that packages dress-up black chrome trim, foglights and such with a three-tone interior boasting water-resistant seating and leather-wrapped steering wheel. It’s available with rwd or 4wd, and should expand this capable and affordable utility’s appeal.