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.
Whenever you see a Viper pass, it looks like an exotic car, even though Chrysler has built more than 25,000 of these roaring beasts. The latest Viper, now in its third generation, continues to be refined in noise intrusion and ease of use, and it gets faster and more stable as well. Structural improvements made to the frame this year along with an easier-shifting Tremec 6-speed gearbox and dual-plate clutch have bred out the truck genes that made up the original Viper (Cherokee steering and Dakota suspension arms, remember?). Still, this is not a car you hop into when you’re beat and expect to relax, mostly because the 600-bhp V-10 taunts you to raise its baritone bellowing to the level that you’re paying a dollar for every two-and-a-half miles you drive it. Well, what’s a dollar, anyway?
Spoiler alert! If a 2012 all-wheel-drive 911 Carrera or a Cabriolet, Targa or GTS, is on your shopping list, here’s something you should know: All of those models, which are unchanged from 2011, are based on the previous-generation 911 and not on the recently unveiled all-new Carrera. Although they’re unchanged from 2011, they’re must-haves because they’re the only 911s of their kind. For all-wheel-drive only, it’s a simple Carrera 4 coupe, available in normal and S versions. For open-air touring choose the Cabrio or Targa, with either awd or rwd. Need better performance? Opt for one of the 408-bhp GTS variants (coupe or Cabrio, awd or rwd), which top out at $120,100 in Carrera 4 GTS Cabriolet trim.
For some, Acura's ZDX might be the answer to a question no one asked. But for others, it could be a welcome beacon in a sea of look-alike luxury sedans. Introduced in 2010, the ZDX was the first model to be styled start to finish in the Acura Design Studio in Torrance, California. To celebrate this landmark, Acura bestowed the ZDX with the 3.7- liter V-6 and Super Handling All-Wheel Drive from its MDX, plus too-cool features like a panoramic glass roof, hidden rear door handles and 19-in. wheels. Every ZDX interior features Acura's first hand-stitched leather dashboard, door panels and center console, plus Bluetooth connectivity, power tailgate and premium audio system. Also offered are the popular Technology and Advance option packages.
The A7 is a captivating five-door Sportback, combining coupe-like styling with the classic luxury of a sedan, then enhancing it with the added versatility of a rear power liftgate. Audi's Drive Select and venerated quattro all-wheel drive system provide dynamic handling, while high-grade materials with excellent fit and finish create an intimate interior environment.
The A7 is offered in one comprehensive Premium Plus trim level. It is powered by either a 310-hp 3.0-liter supercharged V6 engine, or a new 240-hp 3.0-liter turbocharged V6 diesel (TDI) engine. Both engines feature direct fuel injection and start/stop technology, and are mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission with manual mode. Standard equipment includes a power sunroof, 19-inch aluminum wheels, Xenon plus headlights, LED daytime running lights, heated front seats, leather upholstery, three-zone climate control, Advanced Key passive entry/start, HD/satellite radio, Bluetooth wireless connectivity for phone and audio streaming, and an Audi Music Interface; as well, a MMI voice-activated navigation plus system features real-time traffic information and internal memory for digital media storage, while Audi Connect provides a mobile internet hotspot and smartphone integration. Safety features include electronic stability and traction control systems, 4-wheel anti-lock brakes with brake assist, front/rear parking sensors with rearview camera, and Audi pre sense forward collision mitigation, along with dual front, front side-impact, knee and overhead curtain airbags; rear side-impact airbags are optional. Other available technologies include Audi Side Assist blind spot monitoring, Audi Active Lane Assist, Adaptive Cruise Control with Stop & Go functionality, Head Up Display and Night Vision Assistant, including pedestrian detection.
The Audi A7 carries over with minor changes for 2014. It now features a 5-passenger seating configuration, while new standard equipment includes 19-inch aluminum wheels, HD radio, Advanced Key, voice-activated navigation and Audi Connect. Additionally, a new TDI model debuts.