From mild to wild, Mercedes offers E-Class models to suit everyone's fancy. The E350 sedan, coupe, convertible and wagon gain a new 3.5-liter 302-bhp direct-injection V-6 and 7-speed automatic. An unchanged BlueTEC diesel remains a sedan option. E550 models receive a new 402-bhp 4.6-liter twin-turbo V-8. A wagon joins the sedan for the hot E63 AMG treatment including a new 518-bhp 5.5-liter V-8 and 7-speed MCT transmission. The former also features a panorama roof and rearview camera. E-Class safety, infotainment and luxury equipment varies by model. Convertibles are fitted with a 2-piece Aircap wind deflector to help reduce turbulence with the top down. Wagons have standard 7-passenger seating, a power tailgate and rear air suspension.
The iQ is Scion's premium micro-subcompact, packaged as a three-door, four-passenger hatchback. It features intelligent and functional design elements that follow a "less is more" philosophy, offering innovative technologies and surprising comfort in the world's smallest four-seater.
The iQ is powered by an efficient 94-hp 1.3-liter four-cylinder engine, paired with a Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT). Every iQ is equipped with 16-inch wheels, air conditioning, a leather shift knob and steering wheel and Bluetooth wireless connectivity, as well as power windows, exterior mirrors and door locks with keyless entry. The standard Pioneer sound system features HD Radio technology, 6.1-inch LCD touchscreen, Bluetooth audio streaming, MP3 capability and a USB port, along with a regular auxiliary jack for various types of portable music devices. The rear seats are split 50/50, and can be folded down flat for increased cargo capacity. Safety features include a vehicle stability control system with integrated traction control, anti-lock brakes with brake assist and a tire pressure monitor. The iQ also boasts an industry-leading 11 standard airbags, including front seat-cushion airbags and the world's first rear window airbag, along with dual front, knee, front side-impact and overhead curtain airbags.
For 2014, the Scion brand is celebrating its 10th anniversary. Unique 10th Anniversary Edition iQ is available in limited numbers. It features exclusive exterior paint, silver seatbelts, a solar powered illuminated shift knob, illuminated badges, graphite gray finish 16" alloy wheels, and BeSpoke premium audio with navigation.
There was a time when Nissan's Maxima was known as a 4-door sports car. Now it's almost invisible. Think about it: When was the last time you noticed one? This is a rather attractive car, fitted with reworked grille and taillights for 2012, but it just doesn't stick in your brain. This is due, in part, to the fact that its sportiness is gone, given up to front-wheel drive and a CVT transmission. Not bad, but not exciting. We do give points for the interior, which bears a resemblance to that in Nissan's highly regarded Infiniti G sedans. And the engine is Nissan's stout 3.5-liter VQ V-6, but tied to a CVT. To go with this year's exterior updates are interior tweaks and a long list of tech options from Nav with real-time traffic to voice recognition.
The largest Buick sedan, the Lucerne carries over touchtones Buick is known for, including a torquey old-school 227-bhp V-6 pushrod engine and a 4-speed automatic transmission. Its suspension is soft, something Buick folks like. Another Buick value is the ability to carry mom and dad, both kids, and grandma and grandpa to the pancake house on Sundays, which means an optional front bench seat that ups the passenger count to six. This seat option is not available in the Super model, which comes standard with a 292-bhp Cadillac 4.6-liter V-8, quicker steering, electromagnetic variable damping, and flashy chrome 18-in. wheels and tires. Inside the Super is a leather-covered instrument panel and suede leather door panels in tasteful earth tone colors.
With the Mini range expanding to a new 2-seater and a 4-door all-wheel-drive family hauler, it's beginning to look more like old times again (remember the Mini Pickup Truck?). But truthfully, it's the core vehicle that carries the brand, the Cooper Hardtop, which is still one of the best front-drive cars money can buy. With its surprisingly affordable entry price, the Mini impresses with its build quality and fuel economy you'll get from the standard Cooper's 1.6-liter 4-cylinder. The fun starts, however, at the 181-bhp turbo Cooper S, and gets addictive should you choose to go the 208-bhp John Cooper Works route. The cargo-friendly Clubman and open-air Convertible can be had in all three trims too, but the posh, $52,000 Goodwood special edition (co-developed with Rolls-Royce) is reserved just for the original.