Built in Chattanooga, Tennessee, the new VW Passat is a bona fide competitor for the likes of the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord. It’s super roomy inside, especially in back, and there’s a choice of three engines: a 2.5-liter 5-cylinder with 177 bhp, a 2.0-liter turbodiesel 4-cylinder with 140 bhp and VW’s 3.6-liter VR6 with 280. Don’t be fooled by the diesel’s low bhp; this oil-burner has lots of torque, and although it does not make this new Passat exceptionally quick, it’s very efficient, able to squeeze 43 miles out of a gallon of diesel fuel when mated to the 6-speed manual transmission. If you value luxury over efficiency, get the 3.6 SEL Premium, which has leather, keyless entry, navigation, power seats and interior chrome accents.
The Ford Fiesta is a sub-compact, front-wheel drive, five-passenger car. Available in four and five-door bodystyles, the current benchmarks for the sub-compact segment are being tested by the Fiestas styling, comfort and luxury features, technology, and overall practicality.
The Fiesta is offered in three trims, S, SE, and a Titanium model. For 2014 there is the addition of the new ST trim to the hatchback lineup. Power comes from a 120-hp 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine, mated to a five-speed manual transmission. An advanced six-speed PowerShift automatic transmission is optional. The ST gets a turbocharged, direct-injected version of the 1.6-liter that offers nearly 200-hp, mated to a six-speed manual transmission. Standard features on all models include air-conditioning, capless fuel filler system, power body-colored mirrors, tilt/telescoping steering wheel, aux audio input jack, electronic power-assisted steering and hill launch assist. Higher trim levels include cruise control, keyless entry, Ford's MyKey system, HD and satellite radio, alloy wheels, power windows, rearview camera with reverse park sensing, SYNC hands-free communications and entertainment system and SYNC with MyFord Touch. Standard safety features include AdvanceTrac electronic stability control, seven airbags including a driver knee airbag, tire pressure monitoring system, engine immobilizer and four-wheel anti-lock brakes.
For 2014, the Fiesta is a refresh with new interior and exterior styling, feature changes across the entire lineup and the addition of the ST performance hot hatch.
Ferrari’s front-engine V-12 GT is little changed for 2011, retaining its two models, the GTB and Handling GTE. Both have the 611-bhp 6.0-liter V-12, backed by either a 6-speed manual or F1 paddle-shifter gearbox that pops from gear to gear in 85 milliseconds. Acceleration to 60 mph comes in under 4.0 seconds and given the right road you could continue to 205 mph. Outside is typically beautiful Pininfarina styling, but just as scrumptious is the leather-upholstered interior. What the Handling GTE package brings are firmer shocks and springs, a still better-handling 599 with just minor ride deterioration. Oh, and if what you really want is the 599 GTO with its 661 bhp, 208-mph top speed and quicker-than-an-Enzo handling, sorry. All 599 that will be built have been snapped up.
To continue the momentum generated by the launch of an all-new tC last year, Scion is offering the tC Release Series 7.0 for 2012. Dressed in bright yellow paint with a TRD body kit, it features black 18-in. alloys, yellow and black interior accents and a smart key with red push-button starter. A limited run of 2200 ensures exclusivity. Meanwhile, the standard tC continues with modest changes including Bluetooth and a new Pioneer audio system with HD radio. Performance-minded drivers relish the tC’s 180-bhp 2.5-liter engine whether coupled to a 6-speed manual or 6-speed automatic transmission. Plentiful standard features include a panoramic moonroof, sport-tuned exhaust, stability and traction control, knee airbags and active front headrests.
The Highlander continues to be praised for its refinement and available Hybrid models. Based on the previous-generation Camry, this crossover delivers one of the smoothest rides in its class. Last year's enhancements included freshened styling along with standard seating for seven. Carryover powertrains include a 2.7-liter 4-cylinder for base and SE. A powerful 3.5-liter V-6 offering front- or awd is standard on Limited and optional on the others. When teamed with Toyota's Hybrid Synergy Drive, the V-6 delivers EPA fuel economy of 28 mpg for city and highway. Standard awd employs an electric motor to power the rear wheels, eliminating the driveshaft used on gasoline models. Navigation and rear-seat entertainment systems are Highlander options.