When the Range Rover was introduced over four decades ago, it revolutionized the market by introducing an upscale SUV that was in its element on city streets or muddy dirt tracks. It’s remained the epitome of a classy SUV ever since. Could the Range Rover Evoque do the same for small crossover SUVs? This luxury SUV is powered by a 240-bhp turbo-4 engine, yet it’s so much lighter than a giant Range Rover it delivers similar performance and far better fuel economy. It has a roomy interior and can tackle off-road challenges with the same aplomb thanks to use of the same off-road assist technologies. The 5-door Evoque might be more practical, but it goes up against some tough competitors. The 3-door Evoque, on the other hand, really has no competition yet.
A free society doesn’t need cars to come in a baffling number of trim levels and options, no more than it needs a similarly large selection of breakfast cereals. Fortunately, in a moment of clarity, Volkswagen chose to offer its Passat in only sedan and wagon styles, a sole trim level (Komfort), a single option package and one notable change for 2010: VW’s 6-speed twin-clutch DSG in place of the previous 6-speed Tiptronic automatic. Otherwise, the Passat retains its semi-luxurious Euro-sedan (and wagon) driving experience. Such an experience stems from ample standard equipment, plus its 200-bhp 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-4, supple suspension, electric-assist power steering, electronic differential and VW’s stability control.
For 2013, a new lower priced Touring version of the XK grand tourer, coupe or convertible, is available. Starting at $79,000 for the coupe, it offers the same performance as before with a sticker price that’s $4500 less. A new Portfolio Pack for the XK and XKR gives you special features and finishes such as chrome mirror caps and grille, more exterior color options, a leather headliner from the XKR-S and more. New 20-in. alloy wheels are now standard, up from last year’s 19s. A Dynamic Pack on the XKR coupe and convertible is now available, bringing XKR-S suspension tuning to the XKR. All XKs have a variation of Jaguar’s 5.0-liter V-8 (385 bhp in the XK, 550 bhp in the XKR-S) mated to a 6-speed automatic transmission.
The Subaru Outback wagon is a superb vehicle on dirt and gravel roads, in the snow, heavy rain, or anything that calls of traction and sure-footedness. Equipped with all-wheel drive, the Outback is ready for active outdoor use.
Outback was redesigned for the 2010 model year. Changes since then have been modest. 2012 Subaru Outback models offer an Alloy Wheel Package with fog lights and cold-weather equipment. Audio systems have been upgraded on 2012 Outback Premium and 2012 Outback Limited models.
The Outback suspension, transmission and all-wheel-drive system are geared for control, comfort and stability on gravel roads and in inclement weather. All Subaru models are all-wheel drive, aiming for sure handling and traction in marginal conditions. They are most popular in the New England, Pacific Northwest, and Rocky Mountain states. The engines feature horizontally opposed pistons, the so-called boxer layout that Porsche also uses. This results in strong torque for accelerating up hills while helping maintain a low center of gravity for improved handling.
We found the Outback to be an exceptionally capable car on unpaved forest roads. Extensive driving on Montana's back roads revealed that its tough, supple suspension could handle rough roads, and its all-wheel drive performed well in all sorts of slippery conditions. Out on the open highway the Outback is smooth and comfortable and feels like a regular car. During a week of nasty Pacific Northwest winter, and it gave us a sense of security like few cars can, confident that with the Outback under us we could breeze through whatever weather we were dealt.
Two engines are available, balancing efficiency and performance. Best government-rated fuel economy is an EPA-estimated 22/29 mpg City/Highway for the 170-horsepower 2.5-liter four-cylinder with the continuously variable transmission (CVT). For maximum performance, a 256-hp 3.6-liter six-cylinder is available, mated to a 5-speed automatic transmission. Neither engine uses forced induction or turbocharging to achieve its rated output, and both run on regular unleaded fuel.
One year after the new 5 was introduced, it gets the M treatment. Gone is the visceral naturally aspirated 500-bhp V-10 and in its place is a high-output version of the 4.4-liter twin-turbo V-8 that makes a Cadillac CTS-V-besting 560 bhp. The Über sports sedan remains rear-wheel drive, although the 5 Series shares its architecture with the larger 7 Series, and thus is available with allwheel drive on the xDrive 535i and 550i. The M5 (photo) is being introduced with a 7-speed twin-clutch transmission; a 6-speed manual is only available on the 535i. For improved performance and efficiency, the 3.0-liter inline-6 of the 528i has been phased out in favor of a twinturbo four that is mated to an 8-speed automatic. A hybrid 5, based on the 535i, arrives in March.