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.
Nissan's Z car has no major changes for 2012, although we're already happy with the package...rather packages: the 370Z, its Touring version, the drop-top Roadster and, at the performance end, the Nismo 370Z coupe. While the first three models feature 332 bhp and 270 lb.-ft. of torque from the 3.7-liter V-6, the Nismo bumps that to 350 bhp and 276 lb.-ft. and adds a list of go-fast upgrades like high-performance tires, spoilers and a close-ratio 6-speed gearbox. Normal Zs come with a 7-speed automatic or a 6-speed manual that matches revs on downshifts. All the expected options are available from a navigation system to an iPod connection to Bluetooth. What we like about the Z? Its performance properly matches its exciting exterior.
The Volvo S60 is a sporty, dynamic sedan combining excellent performance and great design with outstanding safety features. For 2014, the S60 has been refreshed and updated.
The S60 is available as a front-wheel or all-wheel drive T5, or as an all-wheel drive T6 or T6 R-Design. Included on the T5 is a turbocharged 250-hp five-cylinder, the T6 includes a turbocharged 300-hp 3.0-liter six-cylinder engine which the T6 R-Design upgrades to 325-hp. All are matched with a six-speed Geartronic automatic transmission. Chassis equipment includes dynamic stability traction control (DSTC) with advanced stability control, and corner traction control with torque vectoring. Safety features include City Safety, whiplash protection front headrests (WHIPS), anti-lock brakes, and six airbags. Sirius satellite radio and Bluetooth are standard. The T5 includes T-Tec cloth upholstery, the T6 and R-Design have standard leather upholstery. Optional equipment includes a glass moonroof, navigation system, an upgraded premium audio system, rear seat entertainment system with dual DVD players, and xenon high-intensity headlights with washers.
As entry-level sports cars go, it’s not inexpensive. But if styling, performance and the cachet of owning a Porsche is important, then the Boxster is your economy-class ticket to experience Teutonic engineering at its best. Superbly balanced handling enables this retro roadster to trump the competition in nearly every comparison test. Unchanged for 2012, the base model should satisfy casual cruisers, while the 310-bhp Boxster S costing $10,000 more should delight value-conscious enthusiasts who spurn options such as a PDK transmission, power seats or a leather interior, and who consider the 320-bhp the distinctive Spyder ($61,800) or the similarly powered, 171-mph Boxster S Black Edition ($65,200) an extravagance. Expect a reengineered, restyled Boxster early in 2013.
The Audi S4 sedan is the sport version of the A4. It has aggressive styling, increased engine power and a sport-tuned suspension.
The S4 is outfitted with a 333-hp 3.0-liter supercharged V6 engine and a six-speed manual transmission; a seven-speed S tronic automatic transmission, including manual gear selection and paddle shifters, is optional. Audi's quattro all-wheel drive system transfer power to the ground, while Audi Drive Select allows the choice of tailored driving programs. The S4 comes with a power sunroof, 18-inch aluminum wheels and performance tires, Xenon plus headlights, LED daytime running lights and tail lamps, heated front sport seats, leather/Alcantara upholstery, three-zone climate control, Advanced Key passive entry/start, satellite radio, Bluetooth and an Audi Music Interface with iPod integration. An available Prestige package boasts adaptive headlights, MMI Navigation Plus with internal memory for digital media storage, Bang & Olufsen premium sound and HD radio. Standard safety features include electronic stability and traction control systems, four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes with brake assist, front side-impact airbags, overhead curtain airbags for front and rear passengers, and a tire pressure monitor; rear parking assist with rearview camera, Audi Side Assist blind spot monitoring, adaptive cruise control and rear side-impact airbags are also available.
The Audi S4 carries over with minimal changes for 2014. Audi Advanced Key passive entry/start is now standard, while a new Black Optic Package offers unique 19-inch aluminum wheels, along with a high-gloss black grille and body-colored exterior mirrors.