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.
Fiesta: The name says it all about this engaging B-size contender that has its 4-door sedan or 5-door hatch utilitarianism somehow infused with the playful DNA of a go-kart. Its pushbutton-start 1.6-liter Ti-VCT I-4 is a willing partner to either a 5-speed manual or 6-speed dualclutch automatic, the latter delivering as much as 40 mpg (hwy) when bundled in the available Super Fuel Economy package that also brings along specific aero enhancements and low-rolling-resistance tires. A comprehensive safety suite including AdvanceTrac electronic stability control and a virtual cocoon of seven airbags is standard, and the Fiesta fairly bristles with class-exclusive communications and entertainment technology. Buy it for frugality or fun.
Those waiting for BMW's little X1 sport-activity vehicle may want to consider the U.S.-built X3, as the X1 has been delayed until mid-2013. The X3 was all new just last year, and little has changed to this midsize all-wheel-drive crossover, but the options of a manual transmission and diesel power are gone. The smooth but dated naturally aspirated 3.0-liter inline-6 isn't being replaced with the new turbo 4 yet. Mated to the standard 8-speed automatic, the 6 is a compelling reason to buy now rather than wait for the X1, which is considerably smaller, less capable and not much more efficient. The turbo X3 xDrive 35i is our pick for its plentiful power and surprisingly good fuel economy that bests that of the xDrive 28i with 19/26 mpg.
The Honda CR-V is a compact crossover SUV that delivers a satisfying balance of style, versatility and comfort.
The five-passenger CR-V is available in both front-wheel and all-wheel drive configurations, each with a choice of three trim levels: LX, EX and EX-L. All are powered by a 185-hp 2.4-liter inline four-cylinder engine, paired with a five-speed automatic transmission. The LX is equipped with 16-inch styled steel wheels, auto-off headlights, air conditioning, a CD player with MP3 capability, USB port and Bluetooth wireless connectivity for phone/audio; EX trims add a power sunroof, 17-inch aluminum wheels, fog lights, privacy glass and a security system. The EX-L is further outfitted with roof rails, heated front seats, leather upholstery, dual-zone automatic climate control and satellite radio. A DVD Rear Entertainment System (RES) is available on the CR-V EX-L trim, along with voice-activated navigation. Safety features found on every CR-V include anti-lock disc brakes with brake assist, Vehicle Stability Assist with traction control, front seat-mounted side airbags, front and rear side curtain airbags and a tire pressure monitor; a multi-angle rearview camera is also standard on all trim levels.
The Honda CR-V carries over with minimal changes for 2014. The EX now gets auto-on/off headlights, while Pandora internet radio compatibility becomes standard on all trim levels.
The Volkswagen Beetle is now in it's third generation and has been designed as a modern interpretation of the original Beetle that respects the past and looks forward to the future.
The Volkswagen Beetle is a front-wheel drive, four-seater in either a hatchback or convertible body. Engine choices are a 170-hp 2.5-liter inline-five cylinder engine, a 210-hp 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder, or a 140-hp turbo diesel (TDI) four-cylinder. Transmission choices include a five-speed manual or six-speed automatic for the 2.5L, and a six-speed manual or six-speed DSG with the 2.0T or TDI. Safety features include front and side-impact airbags, anti-lock brakes, electronic stability control, tire pressure monitoring system, and daytime running lights.
For 2014, an R-Line trim is available on both bodystyles, while a GSR trim is new to the hatchback. Also, all trims now have multi-link rear suspension that replaces the torsion beam. Later in the model year, a new 1.8T four-cylinder engine will replace the 2.5L.