The Land Rover Range Rover Sport is an athletic SUV designed to bring on-road performance driving to the traditional Land Rover off-road experience. It enters its second generation in 2014, with bold, revised styling inside and out and additional standard equipment, along with a new lightweight all-aluminum monocoque platform and new powertrains.
The five-passenger Range Rover Sport is now available in four trim levels: SE, HSE, Supercharged and Autobiography. The SE and HSE are powered by a new 340-hp 3.0-liter supercharged V6 engine, while the Supercharged and Autobiography trims boast the carryover 510-hp 5.0-liter supercharged V8. Both powerplants feature Both powerplants feature new start/stop technology, which shuts the engine down during temporary stops to save fuel, and are mated to a new eight-speed automatic transmission with manual mode; additionally, Supercharged and Autobiography trims get steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters. Full-time four-wheel drive with Land Rover's acclaimed "Terrain Response" system helps tackle a wide range of off-road conditions, while Supercharged and Autobiography trims add Adaptive Dynamics with variable suspension dampening for sportier handling and an active locking rear differential. Standard equipment on the SE includes a power liftgate, 19-inch aluminum wheels, bi-xenon headlights, LED daytime running lights and tail lamps, dual-zone automatic climate control, passive entry/start, a new Meridian audio system and voice-activated hard drive-based navigation with internal memory storage; HSE and Supercharged trims add a panoramic sunroof, fog lights, 20-inch aluminum wheels, heated front seats and leather upholstery. Autobiography trims are further outfitted with 21-inch aluminum wheels, adaptive headlights with automatic high-beam assist, ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, three-zone automatic climate control and upgraded audio with HD and satellite radio. Standard safety features on all trims include eight airbags, four-wheel anti-lock brakes with brake assist, electronic stability control with traction control and roll mitigation, and a rearview camera with front visual display; Autobiography trims also get a surround camera system and blind spot monitoring with closing vehicle sensing and reverse traffic detection.
Like most of its corporate stablemates, the Town & Country was sent in 2011 to refinement school, and returned with a re-engineered suspension, richer interior and new 3.6-liter 283-bhp V-6 with 6-speed automatic. For 2012, Chrysler burnishes the Town & Country's luxury credentials by making leather seating and rear-seat DVD standard equipment on all models. Also new is Sapphire Blue interior lighting. Returning are the T&C's many virtues: one-touch fold-down Stow 'n' Go seating, standard power sliding doors, power liftgate, Uconnect Web, side-curtain airbags for all three rows and overhead ambient lighting. The SafetyTec package includes the latest features such as blind-spot monitoring, rear crosspath detection and rain-sensitive wipers.
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.
Like its Dodge Charger big brother, the Challenger was given a midcycle refresh for 2011. Out went the old 250-bhp 3.5-liter V-6, and in came the new 305-bhp 3.6-liter. New chassis architecture and suspension tuning refined the ride and handling. Dodge also released the first run of 392 Hemi SRT8 Challengers, which deliver 470 bhp as well as the fuel-saver mode that shuts the V-8 down to four cylinders at loafing speeds. For 2012, Dodge continues the SRT8’s refinement with a new 2-mode active damping suspension with “auto” and “sport” modes. The SRT8 also gets an exclusive leather-wrapped heated steering wheel. Those looking for middle ground should seek out the R/T, with 5.7-liter V-8 and either 5-speed automatic or 6-speed manual.
The hybrid version of the 3-series sedan gets the same turbocharged, 3.0-liter inline-6 found in the 335i sedan, plus a 55-hp electric motor. When the engine comes to a stop at an intersection, then the hybrid motor starts up and propels you forward until the engine starts again, making sure you get good fuel economy in the city. Even better, you get a combined 335 bhp and 330 ft.-lb of torque, and BMW says the ActiveHybrid 3 will dash from 0-60 mph in just 5.2 seconds, 0.2 seconds quicker than the 335i sedan. You can even drive as fast as 47 mph on electric power alone. This represents a useful increase in efficiency, although it's necessary to trade away some of the customary BMW agility, since the lithium-ion battery pack increases the weight of this car to 3,649 lbs. The packing of the battery pack in the trunk also reduces cargo space by more than 3 cubic feet. Nevertheless, the ability to pass gas stations, not just slower traffic, is this car's key attribute. The ActiveHybrid3 represents a high-mpg package with the driving dynamics of a BMW — not a bad combination. Standard equipment is similar to that of the 335i sedan, plus an 8.8-inch iDrive screen with a display specific to the hybrid model, along with enhanced navigation, traffic and weather functions. Unique 18-inch cast-aluminum wheels are optional at no extra charge.