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.
The 2014 Aston Martin DB9 carries its sleek, elegant form and powerful performance into the new model year with few changes--but that's fine by us.
Despite its nearly nine-year age, last year's updates and the DB9's distillation of the Aston Martin ethos and look gives it a timelessness. Not long ago the Virage attempted to take over the DB9's spot, but was out of production within two years. That says less about the failure of the Virage than it does the success of the DB9.
Its gorgeous exterior form aside, the interior's tightly fitted leather and clean wood or carbon fiber trim feel current, too. An LCD touchscreen sits front and center, and the crystal-tipped key/fob is a unique feature that rises above the gimmick. The details are simple and restrained, the total effect one of sophistication.
For both the coupe and DB9 Volante convertible, under the hood there's a 6.0-liter V-12 engine loosing 510 horses and 457 pound-feet of torque. Last year's 40-horsepower jump woke the DB9 back up, and it continues to exude the purest of grand tourer experiences: fast, comfortable, and quiet--thought it will bark with provocation. A six-speed paddle-shifted ZF automatic transmission clicks quick shifts, but lacks the crisp, throttle-blipping precision of a modern dual clutch. You wouldn't expect the DB9 to be fuel efficient, and it's not: the EPA estimates 13 mpg city and 19 mpg highway for 15 mpg combined.
Despite its grand tourer nature, the DB9 is quick, launching to 60 mph in just 4.6 seconds and capable of a top speed of 186 mph.
The careful balance required for grand touring ride and handling like the DB9's requires a solid platform to build from, and the all-aluminum, bonded and riveted chassis and body provide it. Despite the aluminum focus, the DB9 isn't especially light: a typical example weighs about 3,800 pounds. In the context of some competitors, however, it's not nearly as heavy as it could be.
It makes sense, then, that while the DB9 lacks the immediacy of some smaller, nimbler cars (the Porsche 911 comes to mind) it's still athletic. The adaptive suspension provides much of the magic in this regard, whether absorbing poor roads in Normal, chasing up a canyon in Sport, or truly pushing the limits in Track, each mode lets the underlying chassis span a wide range of conditions and experiences.
The new 2012 Elantra is a big seller for Hyundai, boasting an all-new 1.8-liter inline-4 engine with Dual Continuously Variable Valve Timing. The result is 148 bhp for more performance, along with improved fuel economy thanks to Hyundai's ActiveECO System that modifies engine and transmission control. Both automatic and manual transmissions are 6-speeds. The interior of the Elantra is also thoroughly modern with swoopy curves and well-marked instruments. Other alterations for the 2012 Elantra include new steering calibration for improved on-center feel, plus foglights and a passenger sun visor extension as part of the GLS Preferred Package.
The Subaru Forester is a compact crossover vehicle that blends many of the best attributes of a sport-utility vehicle with the ride and driving dynamics of a car. It offers the capability of Symmetrical full-time All-Wheel Drive, as well as a versatile rear cargo area with liftgate, underfloor storage and up to 74 cubic feet of cargo capacity.
The Forester is available in six trim levels: 2.5i, 2.5i Premium, 2.5i Limited, 2.5i Touring, 2.0XT Premium and 2.0XT Touring. All 2.5i variants are equipped with a 2.5-liter horizontally-opposed naturally-aspirated four-cylinder engine, producing 170 horsepower. For 2014, both "XT" variants get a new 2.0-liter horizontally-opposed four-cylinder engine with direct fuel injection, generating 250 horsepower compliments of an intercooled turbocharger. Transmissions are also new for this model year - the 2.5i and 2.5i Premium get a six-speed manual, while all other trims are mated to a Lineartronic continuously variable transmission (CVT) with manual shift mode (available on the 2.5i and 2.5i Premium). Notable (trim-dependent) features include a sport-tuned suspension, panoramic glass sunroof, power liftgate, 17- or 18-inch aluminum wheels, automatic climate control, heated front seats, leather upholstery, HD and satellite radio, a USB port and Bluetooth wireless phone/audio streaming capability. A revised touch-screen voice-activated navigation system is found on Touring trims, complete with premium harman/kardon audio and Aha Infotainment smartphone integration. Standard safety equipment includes electronic stability and traction control systems, four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes with brake assist, active front head restraints, front side-impact airbags and front and rear side curtain airbags with a rollover sensor; additionally, a rear-vision camera is standard on all but the 2.5i trim level. New for 2014, a driver's side knee airbag has been added to every Forester.
The Subaru Forester is completely redesigned for the 2014 model year. It receives exterior and interior design revisions, a new, more powerful 2.0-liter turbocharged engine, new transmissions, and a host of additional standard features. Dynamic new technologies include: Subaru Intelligent Drive (SI-DRIVE), an engine management system that allows the driver to customize performance characteristics by selecting one of three modes - Intelligent, Sport, and Sport Sharp; X-mode manual locking of the AWD variable transfer clutch for enhanced control; and Eyesight driver assist, including adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning and collision mitigation.
Volvo continues to enhance the performance of its delightful midsize XC60. The flagship R-Design boosts its turbocharged inline-6 to 325 bhp (up 25) and 354 lb.-ft. (up 29). Thus, it now tops the midrange T6 AWD turbo that returns with 300 bhp. Then there's the naturally aspirated XC60 3.2 with 240 bhp and front- or awd. Volvo's new trim level strategy offers a choice of Premier, Premier Plus and Platinum grades. A new Dynamic Package for the T6 AWD includes Four-C active suspension, speed-sensing steering and xenon headlights. The XC60 was the first Volvo to offer City Safety. Additional advanced safety features come with the Technology Package such as Collision Warning with Full Auto Brake and Adaptive Cruise Control with Queue Assist.