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 Legacy is Subaru's full-time all-wheel drive entry in the hotly contended midsize sedan segment.
The Legacy is available with a 173-hp 2.5-liter horizontally opposed four-cylinder with a six-speed manual transmission (or optional six-speed CVT), or a 256-hp 3.6-liter six-cylinder with a five-speed automatic transmission. The CVT and automatic transmissions feature a manual mode with paddle levers on the steering wheel. Standard safety features on all Legacy models include eight-airbags, vehicle stability and traction control systems, anti-lock brakes, active front head restraints and a tire-pressure monitor. Available features include leather seating, a 440-watt nine-speaker harman/kardon audio system and dual-zone automatic climate control.
The Ford Flex is a full-size family vehicle that features three-rows of seating, bold styling and is highly functional. The Flex competes directly in the popular crossover segment.
The front-wheel or all-wheel drive Flex is powered by a 285-hp 3.5-liter Ti-VCT V6 engine. Available on the all-wheel drive Limited only is the 355-hp 3.5-liter twin-turbo EcoBoost V6 engine. Both engines are mated to a six-speed automatic transmission with SelectShift. Available features include a Multi-Panel Vista Roof, interior refrigerator, and capless fueling. Standard safety features include four-wheel disc brakes with anti-lock brakes, electronic stability and roll control, six airbags, and a tire pressure monitor.
After a 2013 refresh, the Flex rolls into 2014 unchanged.
While the Impreza is great for economy-minded drivers, Subaru's WRX and STI provide an easy upgrade path to enthusiasts seeking performance nirvana. The WRX and STI may be similar in specification—they come in either 4- or 5-door body styles and feature manual transmissions and all-wheel-drive drivetrains, turbocharged flat-4 engines and sport-tuned suspension—but they are fairly different in intent. The WRX is for enthusiasts, and 265 bhp and a 5-speed manual is just what it takes to keep them happy. The STI is for the hardcore types, the ones who demand more power to the tune of 305 bhp. You also get a 6-speed manual, adjustable center differential, an even stiffer suspension setup, and a bigger and stickier tire package.
The benchmark Toyota Camry sedan continues its reputation of safety, reliability, and quality into an all-new seventh-generation model.
The Camry is a front-wheel drive, five-passenger, four-door sedan featuring four trims: L, LE, SE, and XLE. A 178-hp 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine and six-speed automatic transmission are standard. The SE and XLE trims are also available with a 268-hp 3.5-liter V6 and six-speed automatic transmission. Paddle shifters are added to the SE's. Stability and traction control, ten-airbags, anti-lock brakes with brake assist and tire pressure monitor are some of the standard safety equipment. Tech features include Bluetooth phone connectivity and audio streaming, garage door opener, rear camera, navigation with touch screen, HD and satellite radio, and the new Entune mobile app and services system.