It’s hard to believe that it’s been more than 20 years since the first time we saw the Lexus LS–on a chassis dyno with a pyramid of champagne glasses placed upon its hood, no less. Since then, the LS has grown—not only in size, but in model range. In addition to the “base” LS 460, there’s an LS 460 all-wheel drive (AWD), an LS 460 L (long), an LS 460 L AWD and the LS 600h L—the luxury hybrid that comes standard in long wheelbase with awd. Naturally, the LS’s cabin is swathed in leather, wood trim and abundant convenience features like SmartAccess keyless entry and a standard moonroof. New this year on the LS 460 is the limited-production (250 units) Sport Authentic Special, with 19-in. wheels, Brembo brakes, paddle shifters, navigation and more.
When it comes to the driver’s car of large, luxury sedans, look no further than BMW’s 7 Series. For 2011, there are more models than ever. Besides the twin-turbo V-8-powered 750i, 750Li, 750i xDrive, 750Li xDrive and range-topping twin-turbo V-12 760Li, BMW has added base 740i and 740Li models, which utilize a twin-turbo 3.0-liter inline-6 with 315 bhp mated to a 6-speed automatic (pricing starts at $71,025). The ActiveHybrid 7, which pairs a twin-turbo V-8 with a 3-phase synchronous electric motor, garners an EPA-rated 17/26 mpg but carries a $103,175 price tag. Saving the best for last, the new Alpina B7 offers factory covered-under-warranty tuning to deliver more power (500 bhp and 516 lb.-ft. of torque from a 4.4-liter twin-turbo V-8) and better handling.
R&T Overview:The truck-based TrailBlazer uses old-school parts such as a solid rear axle, while its contemporaries have been shifting to independent multilink suspensions. The difference is felt when you’re on a packed-gravel county road and come to a railroad crossing—here, the TrailBlazer wiggles more than its competitors over bumps. On smoother roads, the TrailBlazer runs quietly, feeling like an oversized wagon in the way it coddles its occupants. The standard engine in the TrailBlazer is a 4.2-liter inline-6 that puts 285 bhp to the rear wheels via a 4-speed automatic; all-wheel drive is optional. The hot SS model lives up to its name with a 6.0-liter V-8 that pumps out 390 bhp and 400 lb.-ft. of torque. The TrailBlazer is a competent SUV in need of transmission and suspension updates.
The BMW Z4 has the classic two-seat roadster look, but features a modern two-piece power retractable hardtop. The result is an elegant looking car that blends the sportiness of a coupe with the enjoyment of a convertible.
The Z4 is offered as three different models; sDrive28i, sDrive35i, or sDrive35is. Power for the sDrive28i comes from a 240-hp 2.0-liter direct-injection, turbocharged four-cylinder engine. The sDrive35i is powered by a twin-turbo, 300-hp 3.0-liter inline six-cylinder engine, while the sDrive35is gets a 335-hp version of the twin-turbo 3.0-liter inline six. Transmission choices include a six-speed manual, eight-speed automatic, or an advanced double-clutch seven-speed transmission. Standard features include Driving Dynamics Control which allows the driver to change the vehicles characteristics between normal, sport, and sport+ mode, Servotronic electric power steering, auto-dimming interior and exterior mirrors, Comfort Access keyless entry with push-button start, and a two-piece lightweight-aluminum hardtop.
For 2014, the Z4 gets a refresh with slight interior and exterior refinements, also the storage package and BMW Assist with eCall become standard equipment. There are also new exterior colour choices and a new Hyper Orange design package.
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 wood grain steering wheel and a power rear window sunshade, as well as a hard-drive based navigation system with DVD audio/video playback. Standard safety features include 4-wheel anti-lock brakes with brake assist, electronic stability, traction control and six airbags; other available technologies include rear side-impact airbags, rear parking assist, Xenon adaptive headlights, Head-Up Display and a Side Blind Zone Alert system.
The Buick LaCrosse carries over with minimal changes for 2013. Standard equipment, package and trim offerings have been adjusted.