R&T Overview:It’s no secret that the 444-bhp 2012 Boss 302 has garnered rave reviews, even if its limited production means price negotiation will be virtually nonexistent. And though otherwise mostly a carryover for 2012, we think Ford’s Mustang has never been better. Its base 305-bhp Ti-VCT V-6 is good for up to 31 mpg highway, while the Mustang GT’s 5.0-liter Ti-VCT V-8 generates 412 bhp and up to 26 mpg highway. Handling and braking are now fully on par with power output, and interior refinement is worlds ahead of Mustangs of yore—and the pony car competition. New options for 2012 include selectable steering effort, made possible by electric power-assist steering (EPAS). And the supercharged 550-bhp Shelby GT500 is back with optional Recaro bucket seats.
The Chevrolet Spark is a sporty four-passenger, five-door hatchback. It features bold styling, vibrant color choices, and impressive cargo and passenger space.
The front-wheel drive Spark is offered in LS, 1LT, and 2LT trim levels. Power comes from an 85-hp 1.2-liter engine mated to a five-speed manual transmission, or a continuously variable transmission (CVT). Notable features offered include: MyLink infotainment system, heated front seats, air conditioning, power windows, SiriusXM satellite radio, Bluetooth, OnStar, cruise control, and leather wrapped steering wheel. Standard safety equipment includes stability and traction control, antilock brakes with brake assist, and ten airbags.
For 2014 the Chevrolet Spark has a new continuously variable transmission, with a revised axle ratio of 3.75, trip computer on all trims, and new exterior colors. The 2LT trim is now standard with heated power-adjustable body-color manual folding mirrors with integrated turn signal indicators.
Even though the traditional pony-car formula is based on a 2-door coupe with rear drive and a V-8 engine, Chevy has grasped the future idea that modern V-6 engines can be lighter and more powerful. So, the result is a 323-bhp 3.6-liter V-6 engine as the base Camaro's powerplant. That's huge power, and feels so, especially with the standard 6-speed manual. The V-8 ZL1 performance model is available with an unbelievably powerful 580-bhp version of the supercharged 6.2-liter V-8. This is the top-line, most powerful Camaro ever, with a 6-speed manual standard, and a 6-speed automatic that saves fuel optional. The SS model is between the standard Camaro and the wild ZL1. All 2012 models have the dark taillight lenses of the 2011 RS.
The Audi TT coupe continues to offer all-weather driving fun, thanks to its compact dimensions and Quattro all-wheel-drive, in one of the car world's most seductive shapes. But don't think the TT is all style and no substance. Top models, like the fire-breathing TT RS, give many Porsches a serious run for their money. Yet even the base TT coupe has the agility and performance of a true sports car. Granted, the 211-bhp turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-4 might not sound intimidating, but it's more than enough to scoot the TT down the road with aplomb. The TT and TTS are available exclusively with a dual-clutch 6-speed automatic transmission. This is a great gearbox, so it's hard to bemoan the lack of a manual. That backseat is awfully tight, however, so look elsewhere if you often need room for more than one passenger.
Bling city, here we come. Even those not enamored of big luxo SUVs have to give Cadillac credit for what it has created in this landmark machine. Such presence, normally mounted up on tall 22-in. chrome wheels. This is not your climb-every-mountain SUV, aimed more at Nordstrom than Mount Whitney, but it is one rugged body-on-frame design, the Hybrid fitted with a 6.0-liter 332-bhp V-8 matched to a 2-mode hybrid system that returns 20 mpg city/23 mpg highway in 2- or 4-wheel-drive form. That's a 33-percent bump over the non-hybrid Escalade with 403-bhp 6.2-liter V-8. Not bad for a 5900-lb. machine that will transport seven adults in quiet luxury, in heated or cooled leather seats, watching a DVD out back, drinks heated or cooled... hey, bling be me.