The Toyota Camry is America’s best-selling sedan. So if you take this already proven platform, pile on luxury features and bestow it with buttery-smooth refinement, you’re bound to have a winner—and Lexus does with its ES 350. True, its styling is conservative—but it’s what’s on the inside that counts. Leather-trimmed seating, a one-touch tilt/slide power glass moonroof, dual-zone automatic climate control, 10-way power front seats and a power tilt and telescoping steering wheel are all standard. In fact, the ES 350 only comes one way: loaded, with a variety of options and packages. A new limited-production ES Touring Package offers 17-in. wheels, heated and ventilated front seats, navigation, Saddle Tan leather and Brown Walnut wood trim.
Introduced in 2001, the Avalanche blurs the border between pickup trucks and SUVs. It shares the Chevy Suburban's frame, substituting a short pickup bed for the Suburban's third-row seats and enclosed cargo bay. The key feature is its Midgate, which opens the rear of the cabin to expand cargo bed capacity. A sturdy folding cover shelters the cargo bed, and the hollow bed walls provide small object storage. Rear- or 4-wheel drive, the Avalanche is propelled by a flex-fuel 320-bhp 5.3-liter V-8 with variable valve timing and cylinder deactivation. A capable workhorse, the Avalanche can tow up to 8100 lb. If Avalanche versatility appeals to you, now is the time to buy. The 2013 model year will be its last.
The 2014 Honda Accord Plug-in Hybrid sedan offers the ability to drive in all-electric mode, gasoline-electric Hybrid mode or gasoline only mode. Such a system offers the most flexibility while doing away with range anxiety.
A two-motor hybrid system sends power to the front wheels. This system uses a 2.0-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine and a 124-kilowatt electric motor/lithium-ion battery combo. The battery can be fully charged on regular 120-volt household current in approximately three hours, and one hour using a 240-volt outlet. The Accord Plug-in Hybrid features unique 17-inch forged alloy wheels, aluminum hood for weight savings, unique front bumper and aerodynamic aids. Standard equipment also includes a rearview camera, LED head and tail lights, Honda LaneWatch, along with heated front and rear seats.
The Accord Plug-in Hybrid sedan is all-new for 2014.
The handsome Golf, now in its sixth generation, is the most successful VW nameplate ever, with global sales topping 27 million. It’s easy to see why. The Golf is available as a practical 3-door or 5-door hatchback, fitted with engines that run from the economical to the powerful. The base engine is the 2.5-liter 5-cylinder, which is not especially smooth but has the torque that buyers in the U.S. appreciate. Much better are the turbocharged 200-bhp 2.0-liter 4-cylinder found in the sporty GTI, and the 2.0-liter turbodiesel in the Golf TDI, which gets fantastic highway fuel economy of 42 mpg. Who needs a hybrid? For 2012, the option packages have been simplified, with the TDI Tech Package now having LED running lights, keyless entry and pushbutton start.
The Audi RS 5 is the even higher performance variant of the S5. Flared fenders, a unique front fascia, and a sporty stance give the RS 5 a muscular presence.
The RS 5's claim to fame is its normally aspirated 450 horsepower V8. A seven-speed dual-clutch S tronic transmission sends the power to the ground via Audi's legendary quattro all-wheel drive system. Eight piston front calipers, a sport-tuned adaptive suspension, and quattro sport rear differential enhance this cars sporting character. The exterior features aluminum-look mirrors, front and rear fascia accents, 19-inch forged aluminum wheels, dual oval exhaust tips and a power rear spoiler that automatically deploys at speed (coupe). The interior features power adjustable sport seats with the RS 5 logo embossed into the fixed headrests, carbon-fibre trim and a flat-bottom sport steering wheel. Available features include a navigation system, ceramic brake rotors, reverse camera and a Bang & Olufsen sound system.