Toyota’s longest-running nameplate is sold worldwide in various guises. Americans flock to luxury SUVs so our Land Cruiser overflows with creature comforts. Four-zone climate control, 28 air vents, three rows of leather-trimmed seats and JBL Synthesis audio with 14 speakers are standard. Yet underneath it all, the Land Cruiser is built to go anywhere. The 381-bhp 5.7-liter V-8 mates with full-time 4-wheel drive and sophisticated features like Kinetic Dynamic Suspension and Crawl Control with Downhill Assist. Safety Connect with 24/7 emergency assistance is standard. Want more? Toyota obliges with an Upgrade Package that adds a rear entertainment system, navigation with backup camera, cooler box, rain-sensing wipers and rear seat heaters.
Maserati kicks off 2012 with two new additions to the GranTurismo model line: the GranTurismo Convertible Sport and MC. Both come equipped with the 444-bhp 4.7-liter V-8 mated to a 6-speed ZF paddle-shift torque-converter automatic transmission. Not only taking the performance up a notch above the standard 433-bhp GranTurismo convertible, the Sport also has more aggressive suspension tuning and sharper handling. And while the MC has only an 11 bhp bump from the base coupe’s 433 bhp, the car is configured more akin to its race-inspired European MC Stradale. The MC’s transmission has quicker shifts, and single-rate springs are in place to give it more precise handling dynamics.
BMW’s Z4 Coupe and Roadster march into 2008 looking much the same as last year, while we await all-new versions expected in 2009. The three Z4 models use the company’s N52 magnesium/aluminum 3.0-liter inline-6. In the Roadster 3.0i, even with variable intake lift and double-VANOS variable valve timing, the engine produces only 215 bhp. The powerplant in the Coupe 3.0si and Roadster 3.0si has a much more worthy 255 bhp. But the Z4 has never screamed “sports car” in a straight line, nor through corners; its handling can best be described as fun, but lacking the precise feedback of, say, a Mazda MX-5 Miata or Honda S2000. The interior, though, has terrific materials and a solid feel. Audiophiles will appreciate the standard auxiliary input and available HD radio.
The Chevrolet Equinox is a competitively priced mid-sized SUV that offers exceptional versatility, distinctive design and a high-level of practicality.
The Equinox is available in four trim levels, LS, 1LT, 2LT and LTZ, and can be had in front-wheel or all-wheel drive. The standard drivetrain is a 182-hp 2.4-liter direct injection four-cylinder and six-speed automatic transmission. A 301-hp 3.6-liter direct injection V6 is optional on the LT and LTZ trims. Both engines have E85 FlexFuel capability. Standard safety features include: four-wheel-disc brakes with ABS, electronic stability system, six airbags, tire pressure monitor, OnStar, security system and daytime running lights. Available high-tech features include remote vehicle starter, forward collision alert and lane departure warning, navigation system, rearview camera and a power liftgate.
For 2013, the Equinox receives a new 3.6-liter direct injection V6. Also, a color touch screen navigation system with Chevrolet MyLink is now available. Finally, new exterior colors are offered.
The Sonata models made a huge leap forward in 2011 with a completely redesigned car that really performed well. And for 2012, Hyundai is touting the standard Blue Link system that provides traffic and weather information, connects to roadside assistance, and can run diagnostics, alert you to maintenance needs and more. Another standout feature is the Theta II 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine that provides 24 mpg city and 35 mpg highway. And the 2.0 turbo and the Hybrid (40-mpg rated) add to the choices. Transmission choices are a 6-speed manual (base model) or the 6-speed automatic with Shiftronic so you can choose gears if you like. Inside and out, the Sonata is a design delight and offers fine ride character and handling.