Perhaps “middle-age Beetle” would be more apt, as the New Beetle is now in its 11th year of production. VW hasn’t exactly lavished lots of attention on the Water Bug during that time, and the same is true for 2010: Changes amount to new colors inside and out. That’s not so terrible, though. VW’s New Beetle remains a cute, perky little coupe (or droptop) with some engaging qualities, from its semi-sporty driving dynamics to its torquey 2.5-liter 150-bhp inline-5. Sadly there’s no DSG transmission option. Otherwise, the rounded front driver remains reasonably well equipped, with ESP stability control, a premium 6-speaker AM/FM/CD stereo and a Cold Weather package. If only all of us could be so desirable in our middle age.
If you ever zone out while driving and wander into other lanes, the trim and tidy Equinox compact crossover SUV now has a system to alert you. It will also warn you if you are too quickly approaching a car that is stopped. The optional 3.0-liter V-6 is the favored powerplant, boasting a zippy 264 bhp. We rented a base Equinox to sample the 2.4-liter 182-bhp 4-cylinder. Although it revved easily and responsively, it didn't feel as quick as the Toyota RAV4 2.2-liter or the Ford Escape 2.5- liter. Quality refinements (especially with regard to noise and vibration control) inside the Equinox are very apparent, allowing us to chat on the phone without having to raise our voice. As Chevy's smallest crossover SUV, it feels not as precise as the Toyota RAV or the Honda CRV but is just as comfortable inside.
Thanks to its size, traditional body-on-frame construction and multitude of options, the GMC Yukon family leaves a big footprint in the SUV market. There are two wheelbases available, 116-in. and 130-in. (XL), and choice of 5.3-, 6.0- or 6.2-liter V-8s, all of which are flex-fuel capable. Or if 20 mpg city sounds good, check out the Hybrid model. The long-wheelbase XL is available in the 1500 series or the heavier-duty 2500, which has a towing capacity of 9600 lb. There is an entry-level Yukon SLE available, but GMC’s biggest SUV is better known for the upscale Denali. The Denali model continues to add features, with standard blind-spot alert for 2012. The StabiliTrak system now includes electronic trailer sway control and hill start assist.
The Accord continues to be the best-selling Honda, one of the most popular cars in the country and a target for competitive advertising for good reasons. There’s a choice of the roomy sedan, sporty coupe, two refined engines and an array of models. When it comes to safety, the Accord earned a top five-star rating in the more comprehensive NHTSA crash tests. It’s also fun to drive with a double-wishbone front and multilink rear suspension. The 2.4-liter 4-cylinder sedans carry an EPA rating of 34 mpg on the highway. Power players can opt for a 3.5-liter V-6 and team it with a 6-speed manual gearbox on the coupe. A USB port is now standard on all Accords. Honda’s navigation system, offered on EX-L models, includes a rearview camera for sedans.
Lexus increased the IS family with the addition of the two-door, convertible hard-top version called the IS 250C.
With its two doors and three-panel retractable hard-top roof up, the IS 250C has a very coupe-like appearance. With the push of a button, the aluminum roof panels retract to provide open-air motoring for up to four passengers. The IS 250C shares the same powertrain as the IS sedan - a 2.5 liter V6 mated to a six-speed automatic. Safety features include driver and front-passenger knee airbags, four-wheel antilock disc brakes with brake assist, traction and stability control. HID headlamps, Intuitive Park Assist, heated seats, Mark Levinson surround sound and navigation system are just some of the features available on the IS 250C.
The Lexus IS 250C is a carryover for 2013.