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.
The new Acura ILX sedan is the Japanese luxury brand's attempt at making its range more affordable and, depending on the model you choose, a bit more fun. Based on the current Honda Civic, the base ILX comes with a 150-bhp 2.0-liter 4-cylinder and starts at $25,900. While perfectly suitable for most driving situations, the optional 201-bhp 2.4-liter inline-4 (coupled to a 6-speed manual transmission) is much more entertaining. Too bad Acura hasn't quite perfected the feel and feedback from the electric-assisted steering. Your options are also limited when it comes to choosing a gearbox. A 5-speed automatic is the only transmission offered with the base model, and the manual is the sole choice with sportier 2.4-liter. Skip the pricey ILX Hybrid altogether, its 111-bhp 1.5-liter engine is underpowered, and the mechanically identical Civic Hybrid gets significantly better mileage and costs thousands less.
The second-generation Toyota Yaris arrives for 2012 giving entry-level buyers cause to rejoice. Longer and lower with a stretched wheelbase, the 3- and 5-door Liftback models shed their "Finding Nemo" looks for more grown-up styling. Redesigned cabins gain a new instrument cluster properly placed behind the steering wheel instead of in the center of the dash. And there's more room for gear with larger cargo compartments. The base L is the value-leader equipped with standard air conditioning, a nice audio system and nine airbags. Moving up to the LE adds HD radio, Bluetooth and keyless entry. The SE gains a sport-tuned suspension, 16-in. alloys and spoilers. A carryover 1.5-liter 4-cylinder engine teams with 5-speed manual or 4-speed automatic transmissions.
The Volvo XC70 is a crossover wagon providing comfort and stability on the road, and security and peace of mind on rough roads or when the weather turns bad. New for 2014 the XC70 has been updated inside and out.
A very functional wagon, the XC70 features higher ground clearance and SUV styling. Available in all-wheel or front-wheel drive the XC70 3.2 features a 240-hp 3.2-liter inline-six. A 230-hp 3.2-liter PZEV engine is available. The all-wheel drive XC70 T6 includes a 300-hp turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-six engine. Both engines are paired with a Geartronic six-speed automatic transmission, allowing driver selectable shifting. With seating for 5 and a flat folding back seat the XC70 offers great versatility and maximum cargo capacity. Safety features include electronic stability control, side-impact and side curtain airbags, and anti-lock disc brakes with electronic brake-force distribution. Standard equipment includes Bluetooth and Hill Descent Control.
For 2014, the Volvo XC70 has been refreshed and updated.
The Tribeca is Subarus' largest model. Well equipped and with seating for seven it continues to offer drivers a safe comfortable ride in any kind of road condition or weather.
Utilizing Symmetrical All-Wheel-Drive, the engine is a 256-horsepower, aluminum, 3.6-liter flat-six that drives all four wheels full time through a five-speed automatic transmission featuring manual sequential shift control. Available in a Limited trim, the Tribeca includes 7-passenger seating and features like power heated front seats and mirrors. Safety features include dual-stage frontal airbags, seat-mounted side impact airbags, first and second row curtain airbags, active head restraints, and a tire pressure monitor. Options include moonroof, navigation package and rear seat DVD entertainment system.