The late Carroll Shelby told us once that the biggest thing he would change about the auto industry would be to convert all cars to run on compressed natural gas (CNG), simply because there's much more of it than oil. The latest heavy-duty version of GMC's Sierra is equipped to use CNG or gasoline with a 6.0-liter V-8, and since these trucks get regular workouts by fleets, they have easy access to CNG fuel stations. New last year, the sturdiest Sierras are available with GM's highly refined 6.6-liter turbodiesel V-8, with a range of 680 miles and it's rated for B20 biodiesel. With proper towing equipment, the 3500 HD model can tow 18,000 lb. with a rear frame hitch or 23,100 lb. with a fifth-wheel setup. Tenfour, good buddy.
At press time, BMW hadn't yet shown the 3 Series replacement, but we've seen spy photos of it for over a year. Not surprisingly, the current generation has received little change for 2012, as all development is ongoing for the new car. The coupe, retractable hardtop convertible and sedan versions of the 328, 335 and M3 continue as they are with some package changes and the standard inclusion of Bluetooth. Gone for 2012, however, is the M3 sedan and turbodiesel engine option. A 328i Wagon remains the least expensive variant of the 3 Series. The M3 Convertible will receive a new $5000 Individual Composition Package option with four unique paint colors and interior trim choices to help make it more distinct.
For nearly an extra $25K over the base XLR, an extra 123 horsepower can be had. With that comes a slight hit on fuel economy, of minus 1 mpg in both city and highway ratings. Is it worth it? The extra cost includes the labor of hand-building the engine, as well as the improved performance resulting from specific suspension tuning that includes wider wheels and tires that are shod with sticky rubber. If a Chevrolet Corvette is too plain-Jane for you, this is the answer. Not only will it defy the imports, it has all of the same features, plus some extras. Only the Mercedes-Benz SL has a retractable hardtop, but the cost difference most assuredly favors the XLR-V. The XLR-V is a rare American sports coupe that is under-valued, yet likely to become a future classic.
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.
The Toyota Prius is a gas-electric hybrid that sets the standard for environmentally-friendly transportation. This front-wheel drive, five-door liftback delivers comfort, value and a smooth ride, as well as impressive fuel economy and low emissions.
The Prius is available in five trim levels - Prius I, Prius II, Prius III, Prius IV and Prius V. All trim levels employ Toyota's Hybrid Synergy Drive, a hybrid powertrain technology that unites a 1.8-liter Atkinson-cycle four-cylinder gasoline engine with a powerful electric drive motor to generate 134 combined horsepower. A continuously variable transmission (CVT) is standard, and three selectable drive modes provide more power without compromising fuel efficiency. Every Prius is equipped with a high level of standard equipment: building on the value-oriented Prius I, Prius II trims feature 15-inch alloy wheels, power heated mirrors, remote keyless entry with driver door Smart Key passive entry, automatic air conditioning, cruise control and MP3 capability; Prius III trims add Bluetooth wireless connectivity and audio streaming, satellite radio and upgraded audio with a 6-disc CD changer; Prius IV trims are further outfitted with heated front seats and leather upholstery, while the Prius V boasts 17-inch alloy wheels and auto-leveling LED low-beam headlights. Standard safety technologies include anti-lock brakes with brake assist, vehicle stability and traction control systems, and a tire pressure monitor, as well as front side-impact airbags, front and rear overhead curtain airbags and a driver's knee airbag. An optional Advanced Technology Package offers progressive features such as a pre-collision system, radar cruise control, lane keep assist and intelligent parking assist. Hybrid-related components are backed by an 8 year/100,000 mile warranty.