The 77-year-old Suburban has developed multiple personalities in its lifetime. One is a massive, luxurious station wagon, historically favored by Texans. Optional equipment includes power-operated running boards and a body that's refined with no gaps between bumper panels and sheet metal. The next personality is a butch off-roader, with a locking rear differential, big tow hooks in the front and a front skid plate. The base Suburban comes standard with a 320-bhp 5.3-liter V-8 and a 6-speed automatic transmission. The engine has an iron-block in rear-drive models, while the 4-wheel-drive models get an aluminum version of the V-8. The heavier-duty 2500 model gets a larger 352-bhp 6.0-liter V-8, plus a more robust frame and suspension.
If you want flashy, scratch the Acura RL off your list. But if your priorities are understated elegance, good power and a balanced chassis, the RL is more than capable of filling the bill. The recipient of several improvements in recent years, the 2012 is essentially a carryover, save for some new paint choices. But with innovations like standard Super Handling All-Wheel Drive and a powerful 3.7-liter V-6, who cares? Plus, the RL is loaded with standard features like a power moonroof, 10-speaker surround sound audio system, Bluetooth HandsFreeLink wireless interface, and GPS-linked solarsensing climate control. Satellite-linked navigation, Active Front Lighting, a Collision Mitigation Braking System and Adaptive Cruise Control are available.
The Cruze is Chevrolet's newest entrant in the highly contested compact sedan segment. It is based on a global platform that has been refined for America with an emphasis on fuel economy.
The Cruze features two new small-displacement four-cylinder engines; a 140-hp 1.4-liter turbo, or a 138-hp naturally-aspirated 1.8-liter. Depending on trim, a six-speed manual transmission or a six-speed automatic transmission sends power to the front wheels. Available safety features include ten airbags, anti-lock brakes, stability control, traction control and anti-theft alarm with engine immobilizer. The Cruze can be equipped with features such as heated leather power seating, sunroof, remote start, satellite radio, navigation system and automatic climate control.
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.
We all know the Super Duty is a rugged workaholic but, this year, Ford gussies it up for a night on the town with an available new Platinum series that will exceed even the Lariat and King Ranch for upscale content. It's available in Crew Cab only, and powered by either a 6.2- liter sohc gasoline engine or the amazingly quiet 6.7-liter Power Stroke diesel. The Platinum has unique exterior touches like a perforated satin-chrome mesh grille and 20-in. polished aluminum wheels. Inside are 10-way-power leather captain's chairs, a heated, leather-wrapped steering wheel and a navigation system viewed on the 8-in. screen of MyFord Touch, which is new throughout the Super Duty lineup and optimized even for users who may be wearing work gloves.