R&T Overview:The Charger was given a major refresh for 2011, with a new skin, powerful new V-6 and greatly updated interior. For 2012, the rest of the makeover package arrives with the addition of an optional ZF 8-speed automatic transmission, available on rwd and awd V-6 models. The extra gears add 4 mpg to the Charger's highway rating. The SRT8 returns for 2012 as well, with a 6.4-liter Hemi that delivers 470 bhp and 470 lb.-ft. of torque. It also incorporates the Fuel Saver Technology used previously only on the 5.7 Hemi. Buyers with more modest power requirements can choose either the base 3.6-liter V-6 with 292 bhp or the R/T with 5.7-liter Hemi and 370 bhp. An optional Rallye Package spiffs up the V-6 model, while R/T buyers can order awd for extra security in foul weather.
Without getting too technical, one of the things we like about small crossover SUVs is that they are so darn handy. Like Nissan's Rogue, which is a conveniently sized people-hauler and yet can be converted into a carry machine with 58 cu. ft. of cargo area. Having a 60/40 split rear seatback is a plus, as is the optional fold-down front passenger seat...all the better to carry long items. While the 170-bhp 2.5-liter four suits the bill for normal driving, we do wish there was a 6-speed alternative to the standard CVT. On the optional list is Intuitive All-Wheel drive. New for 2012 is a Sport mode switch for that CVT, redesigned 16- and 17-in. alloy wheels and the availability of Nissan's terrific Around View Monitor with its bird's-eye view of the vehicle when parking.
The value-priced Kia Sportage crossover receives high marks for its sporty and mildly aggressive looks. That same design flavor continues inside, but while the cabin styling and standard features (such as the multiformat audio system, Bluetooth connectivity, air conditioning and power windows) are welcome, the hard plastic reminds you that this is no luxury CUV. An underwhelming 2.4-liter inline-4 is standard in the base, LX and EX trims, while “upscale” SX buyers can revel in the fiesty 2.0-liter turbocharged Gasoline Direct Injection engine’s 260 bhp. All models are available in front-wheel drive, or choose the optional all-wheel drive with LX, EX and SX trim. The big news for the Sportage this year is the addition of the UVO infotainment system (standard on EX and SX), new dynamic suspension dampers and more floor insulation.
Fresh off a complete redesign in 2012, the 2013 Honda Civic offers a few more refinements to help it maintain its popularity in the compact class.
Available in sedan or coupe bodies, all but the Si and GX trims are powered by a 140 horsepower, 1.8-liter inline four-cylinder with a standard five-speed manual transmission and optional five-speed automatic. The performance-oriented Si comes with a 201 horsepower 2.4-liter inline-four bolted only to a six-speed manual, while the GX is powered by a dedicated natural gas version of the 1.8-liter gas engine, and a five-speed automatic. A unique HF trim ekes out additional fuel economy with the help of aerodynamic add-ons, lightweight alloy wheels and low rolling-resistance tires. Standard safety features on all Civics include electronic stability and traction control, anti-lock brakes with brake assist, six airbags, daytime running lights and tire pressure monitoring. Tech features include Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, a rearview camera with guidlines and ECO-Assist technology on all trims for 2013, automatic climate control for EX models and up, front fog lights for EX-L models and subscription free FM traffic updates with the optional navigation system.
The 2013 Civic is refreshed with refined interior and exterior styling, as well as safety, feature, comfort and chassis improvements.
As America's best-selling car nine years running, Toyota rewards the Camry with a redesign for 2012. Instead of pushing the styling envelope, Toyota focused on improving fuel economy, ride quality and safety. Carryover 2.5-liter 4-cylinder and 3.5-liter V-6 engines achieve increased mpg. The big news is the Camry Hybird's refined gas/electric powertrain that nets a 30-percent boost in EPA mileage to 43 mpg city/39 mpg highway. All Camrys gain roomier cabins fitted with 10 standard airbags, split-folding rear seats, Bluetooth and USB/iPod port. New sound systems include Display Audio with navigation and Toyota's Entune multimedia. The Camry SE features a sport-tuned suspension, paddle shifters and optional ultra-suede trimmed sport seats.