R&T Overview: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 Lexus RX was the first vehicle to successfully integrate the most desirable attributes of a luxury sedan and an SUV—and in the process, it created its own segment: the luxury crossover. Now in its third generation, the Lexus RX 350 is essentially unchanged for 2012, except for small mechanical tweaks that allow its 275-bhp 3.5-liter V-6 to digest regular 87-octane fuel. There’s also an available appearance package, which adds 19-in. wheels and halogen headlamps with a black housing. For those who want to leave a smaller carbon footprint, there’s the RX 450h hybrid, which is also a carryover. Standard features in both models include SmartAccess keyless entry with pushbutton start, dual-zone automatic climate control, nine-speaker audio system and Bluetooth.
It's official, Fisker is ramping up to deliver customer vehicles. The Karma EVer sedan should be in full production swing by the first quarter of 2012. The plugin series hybrid sports sedan is purely electric driven, but with a GM-sourced 2.0-liter gasoline generator to extend its range-i.e., Electric Vehicle Extended Range. Nominal range is 50 miles in pure electric and another 250 on gasoline. Our impressions during an early prototype test drive are that its 22-in. wheels aren't all for show and its chassis has sporting potential. The factory is claiming a sub- 6-second sprint to 60 mph. From a luxury front its 4-place seating looks to compete with Porsche's Panamera, but we're a little skeptical having found its general solidity a little Lotus-like.
The handsome Golf, now in its sixth generation, is the most successful VW nameplate ever, with global sales topping 27 million. It’s easy to see why. The Golf is available as a practical 3-door or 5-door hatchback, fitted with engines that run from the economical to the powerful. The base engine is the 2.5-liter 5-cylinder, which is not especially smooth but has the torque that buyers in the U.S. appreciate. Much better are the turbocharged 200-bhp 2.0-liter 4-cylinder found in the sporty GTI, and the 2.0-liter turbodiesel in the Golf TDI, which gets fantastic highway fuel economy of 42 mpg. Who needs a hybrid? For 2012, the option packages have been simplified, with the TDI Tech Package now having LED running lights, keyless entry and pushbutton start.
The Buick LaCrosse is a sophisticated mid-size sedan, seating five passengers in comfort while providing confident handling and a smooth quiet ride.
The LaCrosse is offered in both front- and all-wheel drive configurations. Available engines include a 182-hp 2.4-liter four-cylinder with Buick's eAssist mild hybrid technology on front-wheel drive models and a 303-hp 3.6-liter V6 which is offered on both front- and all-wheel drive models. Engines feature direct fuel injection and are mated to a six-speed automatic transmission with manual shift mode. All LaCrosse models are equipped with aluminum wheels, dual-zone automatic climate control, satellite radio, MP3 capability, a USB port and Bluetooth wireless connectivity. Additional trim-dependent features include front fog lights, heated and ventilated front seats, leather upholstery, E-Z Key passive entry/start, a heated steering wheel and a power rear window sunshade, as well as a navigation system. Standard safety features include 4-wheel anti-lock brakes with brake assist, electronic stability, traction control and eight airbags; other available technologies include rear parking assist, Xenon adaptive headlights, Head-Up Display and a Side Blind Zone Alert system.
The Buick LaCrosse has been refreshed for 2014, with updated styling inside and out. Additionally, rear side-impact airbags are now standard on all trims for enhanced safety.