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 Cadillac CTS offers a range of vehicles to suit any lifestyle. The amazing CTS Coupe, practical Sport Wagon, and respected, award winning Sedan all offer optional all-wheel-drive, an impressively finished interior and a large dose of style. For 2014 the CTS sedan is all-new with an available 420-hp twin-turbo V6 engine and eight-speed automatic transmission. The sedan will be released in the fall of 2013.
Depending on model, the CTS is available in Base, Luxury, Performance, and Premium trims. The CTS comes standard with either 17- or 18-inch alloy wheels and 19-inch polished alloy wheels are optional. The standard engine is a four-cam, 3.0-liter V6 with direct injection and variable valve-timing generating 270 horsepower. A direct injected 3.6-liter V6, now with 318 horsepower, is available. The transmission is a six-speed automatic, and a variable-torque full-time all-wheel-drive system can be added to either engine. With seating for four the CTS Coupe includes the 3.6 liter engine as standard equipment. The Sedan and Sport Wagon include seating for five. Feature highlights include a standard Bose audio system with XM Satellite radio, eight speakers and auxiliary input jack. A power sunroof, keyless access, rear camera, and an upgraded radio with DVD-Audio, Bose 5.1 Cabin Surround Sound, 40 gB Hard Drive, and a USB port are available.
Volvo has simplified the lineup of its compact sedan and sport wagon. Base models, now designated S40/V50 T5, are fitted with the 227-bhp 2.5-liter turbocharged 5-cylinder engine and 5-speed automatic transmission. Former normally aspirated 2.4i models are discontinued. The top-line T5 R-Design returns, but loses its all-wheel drive variants and manual gearboxes. Standard features increase across the board with a power driver’s seat and auto-dimming mirror for the T5s. R-Designs receive standard power moonroofs and 17-in. alloys along with carryover cues such as a full body kit, leather/Flextech upholstery, sport pedals, unique aluminum inlays and dynamic sport suspension. A navigation system has been added to the optional Multimedia Package.
It's hard to stand out in a class defined by Mercedes-Benz and BMW, but the 2011 Audi A6/S6 sedans and wagon soldier on. Fortunately, they are exemplary soldiers, and prime examples of Audi's ability to combine design, engineering and luxury. From the elegant, aggressive Audi front grille and sumptuous interior to the power and poise offered up by the lineup of V-6 and V-8 engines, every A6 earns its first-class reputation. Real wood, leather and brushed aluminum are not scarce. The superb handling advantages of Audi's Quattro all-wheel drive bless all but the front-drive base A6 model. And at the performance peak, the 435-bhp V-10 and Nappa leather sport seats in the Audi S6 just about provide the dictionary definition for "sports sedan."
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.