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.
Saab was just about to introduce the all-new 9-5 sedan when General Motors sold off the company. It is based on the same platform as the Buick LaCrosse and despite its GM heritage, it maintains a distinctly Saab family look to it. According to Saab, the SportCombi version, unveiled at the 2011 Geneva Auto Show, will become available during 2012. The seats can be folded down to provide an almost flat floor with an absence of intrusions to maximize cargo space. Both models have a choice of a turbocharged 4-cylinder or turbocharged V-6 engine and can be optioned with Saab’s XWD all-wheel-drive system. The old Saab 9-5 was loved for its enormous load-carrying capacity and the new version carries on the tradition—as long as you can find one.
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 Cadillac Escalade ESV is largest of the Escalade luxury family, stretched an additional 21-in. in length for a truly cavernous cabin. Not just for passengers, when need you the hauling capacity, the ESV is good for 137.4 cu.-ft. of it with all rows folded—plenty of room for transporting cases of Dom Perignon. This interior space is decked from door to door in leather and wood trim, with standard equipment like heated and cooled seats, touchscreen navigation, a rearview camera, Bluetooth, keyless entry/ignition and power everything. One item exclusive to the ESV however is a second 8-in. flip-down screen when you opt for the rear-seat DVD entertainment. This way, the back cabin passengers don't need to strain their eyes to enjoy movies on the go. Hauling all this luxury around, and an entourage of 7, is a powerful, left-lane friendly, 402-bhp 6.2-liter V-8, equipped with Active Fuel Management to help stretch your fuel load whenever possible. Available with rear or all-wheel drive, a locking rear differential comes standard when light off-road duty calls for it, with new revised grade braking performance for 2013. Opt for the Escalade ESV Platinum model and Cadillac's proven Magnetic Ride Control suspension technology is included as are ultra bright LED headlights, rear DVD entertainment, Platinum exclusive interior treatments and last but not least, huge fender-filling 22-in. chrome alloy wheels. Though its shear size could be counted as a safety measure, all Escalades come with roll-over prevention/mitigation through Cadillac's StabiliTrak, and comprehensive airbag protection throughout the cabin.
The fun and practical A3 rolls into 2013 unchanged. This is Audi's smallest model in the U.S., but don't underestimate the appeal of this compact wagon. Some might be turned off by having to opt for a 5-door — which is probably why the next A3 sold here will be a sedan. A rev-happy and direct-injected gasoline 2.0-liter 4-cylinder delivers 200 bhp and 207 lb.-ft. of torque. A 6-speed manual transmission and front-wheel-drive is standard, though you can spend a little extra for a 6-speed dual-clutch S tronic gearbox that comes paired to Audi's Quattro all-wheel drive system. While it's nicely sized for city driving, the backseat still offers a decent amount of stretch out space and there's a useful 19 cu. ft. of cargo room. Fold the rear seats down, and that swells to an impressive 39 cu. ft.