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BMW presents five-door M135i models

2013 BMW M135i

The performance potential of the BMW M135i is reflected in its individual exterior and interior design features, which are integral parts of the series equipment in this BMW M Performance automobile. The body details are typical of a car designed to handle the aerodynamic requirements associated with dynamic, high-performance driving situations – it is such details that convey the unique M style and flair. The front apron is typical of M styling that reflects the car’s firm and responsive road handling, with the large air intake vents needed to meet the cooling demands of a high-performance straight six-cylinder engine, auxiliary units and oversized brakes. The competitive character of the car can also be seen in the three-dimensional flaps on the outer air vents, a detail inspired by automobile racing. These air inlets take up the space reserved for the fog lights in the other versions of the three-door BMW 1-Series. They are separated by horizontal struts in Ferric Grey metallic – a design detail that distinguishes BMW M Performance cars.

This power plant enhances the wide selection of engines available for the new compact three-door BMW 1-Series. At the same time, it is an essential component of a portfolio that positions BMW M Performance automobiles at the top of the performance segment. The BMW M135i is powered by a straight six-cylinder engine with M Performance TwinPower Turbo technology, which is known for its spontaneous performance and high revving, plus a level of efficiency that is remarkable in this performance class. The technology package includes a TwinScroll turbocharger, direct High Precision Injection with central multi-hole injectors, VALVETRONIC variable valve control and Double VANOS variable camshaft timing. This 3.0-litre engine delivers a maximum power output of 235 kW/320 hp at 5 800 rpm. This impressive power results from the maximum torque of 450 Nm that is available between 1 300 and 4 500 rpm.

The BMW M135i sprints from 0 to 100 km/h in just 5.1 seconds (automatic: 4.9 seconds) and reaches a top speed of 250 km/h – the top limit permitted by the vehicle’s electronic speed control system. Average fuel consumption in the EU test cycle is 8.0 litres (7.5 litres)/100 km, and the CO2 emissions level is 188 grams (175 grams) per kilometre. The exclusive power train for the compact BMW M Performance car also features a customised cooling system, M performance control and engine sound tuning, plus a newly developed six-speed manual transmission with dry sump lubrication. A dynamic eight-speed automatic sports transmission with gearshift paddles integrated in the steering wheel is available as an option.

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BMW M135i concept

New BMW M135i

BMW M135i images

Subaru Tribeca Moving Towards the Dead End

New Subaru Tribeca

Say farewell to the Subaru Tribeca. According to MotorTrend’s Japanese correspondent, a source close to the automaker says that the Tribeca will end production at the end of this year.

When asked to make an on-the-record-comment about the Tribeca, a Subaru spokesman said “No, Tribeca is not dead, and will be on sale for the 2013 model year.” However, beyond the 2013 model year, the spokesman had no comment.

We’re guessing the new Subaru XV Crosstreck will end up taking the Tribeca’s place when all is said and done.

Power for the 2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek comes from a 2.0 liter Boxer engine making 148-hp. The engine is mated to Subaru’s symmetrical all-wheel-drive system, a 5-speed manual transmission – a second-generation Lineartronic Continuously Variable Transmission (automatic transmission) is available as an option. Estimated fuel-economy comes in at 25/33 mpg (city/highway) and 28 mpg combined.

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subaru tribeca 630op

Subaru Tribeca Moving Towards the Dead End

Subaru-B9 Tribeca

2012 Suzuki Kizashi Sedan

suzuki kizashi 2012

Now in its third model year, the Suzuki Kizashi is the Japanese manufacturer’s most expensive vehicle. The midsize sedan has only a few minor changes in 2012 from last year’s offering, with the uniquely named car still hoping to find a larger niche in the near-luxury category.

Kizashi (pronounced KEY-ZAH-SHEE) means “something great is coming.”

Suzuki promoted the Kizashi with industry buzz in mind. And it attracted attention for a while when the car debuted in 2009 as a less expensive alternative to an Audi 4. But the Kizashi is still largely unheralded and under publicized.

The Kizashi S includes 16-inch steel wheels, keyless ignition/entry, full power accessories, dual-zone automatic climate control, cloth upholstery, a height-adjustable driver seat and a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel.

The SE includes all of S model’s features, plus 17-inch alloy wheels, steering-wheel-mounted audio controls and an eight-way power driver seat with memory settings and power lumbar adjustment.

When equipped with its continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT), the SE gains cruise control, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and a seven-speaker stereo with USB port/iPod interface.

I drove the SE trim (185 horsepower) on an extended weekly test, about 1,000 miles from the San Francisco Bay Area to Los Angeles and then home to Sacramento.

Just like with the debut edition, several passersby momentarily thought the car might be Audi A4. But then they noticed the insignia Suzuki “S” and tried to pronounce the car’s name. Even when the phonetic pronunciation is said slowly, the name isn’t easy to pronounce and it likely won’t be easy to remember.

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2012 Suzuki Kizashi AWD GTS

new suzuki kizashi

suzuki kizashi 2012 images

2013 Ford Explorer Sport Revealed

2013 Ford Explorer Sport

Ford Motor Company has recently provided the buying public and the rest of the automotive community with the key details regarding the range-topping 2013 Ford Explorer Sport. Although Ford failed to provide the vehicle model’s price, the company has provided a clear hint that the performance-based Explorer would probably cost around $40,000.

Given this tentative pricing estimate, it is quite clear that the 2013 Ford Explorer Sport would surely be considered as the most expensive trim of the Explorer line-up for this year. This is because the expected price of the Sport which is about $40,000 is higher than the current price of the 2013 Ford Explorer Limited which is about $36,680 which also includes the destination charge of $825.

In addition to this, the difference between the prices of the base model which is about $29,695 and the Sport version’s rumoured price of $40,000 has also caught the attention of many car experts since the gap is quite high. But despite of all the uncertainties that were created when the company revealed the possible starting price of the Sport model of the Explorer, Ford is still optimistic that this SUV would become one of its most in demand vehicles in the market since the 2013 Ford Explorer Sport is equipped with a lot of premium features that are not readily found on its siblings.

Aside from the premium features that are found on the 2013 Explorer Sport, this vehicle also takes pride of its powerful engine. It is powered by a 3.5-liter twin-turbocharged EcoBoost engine which is capable of producing a maximum power output of up to 350 horsepower. The engine is connected to a 6-speed automatic transmission which is equipped with paddle shifters. The Explorer Sport is also using the 4-wheel drive system that allows the vehicle to take on the challenges that it might encounter when taken off-road.

To further impress its potential customers, Ford has used the company’s “Terrain Management System.” This system helps the 2013 version of the Explorer Sport in handling different road conditions. The system has specialized settings that tune the vehicle’s performance when this SUV is driven on snowy, a rutted mud or sandy roads. The system also features a hill descent function that empowers the Explorer Sport in climbing hilly terrains.

Despite its impressive performance and power generation, the vehicle is not considered as the least fuel-efficient model in the current line-up. This is because Ford has estimated that the Explorer Sport will obtain the fuel-economy ratings of 16 miles per gallon in the city and 22 miles per gallon on the highway. In order to validate the fuel economy estimates of the vehicle, the Environmental Protection Agency or EPA will also be conducting their own test on this vehicle. The agency has also assured the buying public that they will be publishing their own ratings as soon as their tests are finished.

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2013 Ford Explorer Sport design

2013 Ford Explorer Sport images

New Ford Explorer Sport

2013 Mercedes-Benz C300 4Matic

2013 Mercedes-Benz C300 4Matic

Just last month we speculated that the Mercedes-Benz C300 4Matic could be getting a new engine, specifically a de-tuned 3.5-liter V-6 that could be shared with an entry-level E Class sedan.

We still don’t have news on the rumored new E300, but Mercedes-Benz has confirmed that 2013 C300 4Matic models will benefit from a direct-injection 3.5-liter V-6, good for 248 horsepower and 251 pound-feet of torque. That’s a considerable jump from last year’s 3.0-liter V-6, which produced 228 horsepower and 221 pound-feet of torque.

While Mercedes-Benz hasn’t published fuel economy numbers just yet, the addition of ECO Start/Stop (and gasoline direct injection) tells us to expect slightly better numbers than last year’s 17 mpg city and 24 mpg highway.

The same 3.5-liter V-6 is used to power the C350 Coupe and C350 Sport Sedan, where it’s tuned to produce 302 horsepower and 273 pound feet of torque. It also sees duty in the E350 models, with the same level of output.

Mercedes-Benz has made some expansive changes to its lineup for 2013, in an effort to both modernize product and attract new customers. Look for a serious increase in new models to hit U.S. dealers in coming years, too, as Mercedes Benz introduces the new A Class, B Class and CLA sedan.

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2013 Mercedes-Benz C300 4Matic images

New Mercedes-Benz C300 4Matic

2013 Mercedes-Benz C300 4Matic design

2012 Maserati Quattroporte S Revealed

2012 Maserati Quattroporte S

The Ferrari 4.7 liter V8 engine boasted in the new Maserati Quattroporte S produces 425 hp and pushes the car to a top speed of 174 mph and a 0 – 60 mph acceleration in 5.3 seconds to guarantee this sensational sedan exceptional handling, balance and performance. Fluid gear changes and high performance result indeed in a drive that is both captivating and enjoyable.

The interiors are equipped with Poltrona Frau leather, prestigious wood and superb craftsmanship making the on board experience truly enjoyable. In line with Maserati tradition, clients ordering a Maserati Quattroporte S can choose from a vast variety of personalization options to fit each owner individual taste and personality. The personalization options include, for example, on board electronics, color choice, interior options such as stitching, woods, seats, steering wheel and trim combinations. Maserati Quattroporte S owners can also select from several colors to personalize the parcel shelf colors, dashboard, steering wheel, stitching, roof lining, seat edge piping, carpets and also brakes calipers.

Rosewood, Mahogany, walnut, vavona and polish wenge are some of the woods selection available in addition to black piano or blue laque interior finish.

The Maserati Quattroporte can be fitted with the Comfort Pack – providing heating, ventilation and massage with the roof in Alcantara suede or the Luxury Pack conveying the natural Poltrona Frau leather an even more supple finish. Steering wheel materials to choose from are leather, Piano Black or wood trim. Comfort Pack is also available as an option for rear seats. Executive Pack offers Maserati Quattroporte S driver and passengers’ supreme comfort thanks to ventilation and massage functions, front seats heating, rear climate control, Alcantara roof lining, side rear window blinds and wooden pull down tables for rear occupants.

The Quattroporte S comes standard with rear parking sensors and sunroof but can be further enhanced with the Rear Seat Entertainment System including a TV screen and DVD player, and front parking sensors. All four seats in the Quattroporte S are electrically adjustable with the driver seats featuring three memory settings and an easy entry / exit system. Controls are set closer to the driver to make them easy and accessible under all driving conditions.

The spacious trunk is 15 cubic feet and has flexible storage configuration able to fit three to four golf bags. An optional Maserati luggage specifically designed to suitwithin the Quattroporte S is available as an option to further optimize trunk space.

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New Maserati Quattroporte S

Maserati Quattroporte S design

Maserati Quattroporte S images

2014 Corvette Stingray Coupe Premiere Edition

2014 Corvette Stingray Coupe Premiere Edition

The 2014 Corvette Stingray is the Most Fuel-Efficient Sports Car on the Market

The Corvette Stingray has been getting a lot of hype around here, but for good reason. It will be the fastest production Corvette yet to be made, it’s starring in Transformers 4, and now it’s also going to deliver an EPA-estimated 17 miles per gallon in the city, and 29 MGP on the highway. These statistics make the new Corvette Stingray the most fuel-efficient sports car on the market. No other vehicle offers a driver more than 455 horsepower at the touch of a pedal while still maintaining 29 MPG on highway driving.

Audi R8 2013

Audi R8 2013

The lighter, faster, more focused and coupe-only V10 Plus sits at the top of the new 2013 Audi R8 range. There’s no ‘Plus’ badging, but it’s easy to spot one thanks to its carbonfibre splitter, door-mirror shells, side-blades and rear diffuser. It can also be had in a unique Sepang Blue satin paint finish, while gloss black wheels are standard. It costs 127,575.

The R8 Plus’s 5.2-litre engine develops an extra 24bhp and 7lb ft to raise power and torque to 542bhp and 398lb ft over the standard V10. The motor feels creamy smooth yet has a wonderful sense of crazy ferocity as you work towards the 8000rpm red line, the quattro four-wheel-drive digging in hard. With Sport mode engaged it sounds magnificent, hollering and whooping under hard acceleration, then popping and gargling as you brake and downshift. With the seven-speed S-tronic twin-clutch gearbox tested here, 0-62mph takes just 3.5sec (a tenth quicker than the regular V10 R8) while the top speed is 197mph.

2013 Hyundai Elantra Coupe

2013 Elantra Coupe images

The 2013 Hyundai Elantra coupe will go on sale later this month with a starting price of $18,220, including a $775 destination fee. That price is for a six-speed manual-transmission model; the six-speed automatic version will start at $19,220. The Elantra coupe is available in two trims: a base GS and upper-level SE.

The initial pricing puts the Elantra coupe above the 2012 Honda Civic coupe ($16,545) and the 2012 Kia Forte Koup ($17,950). The Hyundai comes with more standard features, however. They include fog lights, 16-inch alloy wheels, heated mirrors, heated front seats and Bluetooth.

The Elantra coupe SE, which starts at $20,520 with a manual transmission, comes with 17-inch alloy wheels, sport-tuned suspension, leather upholstery and a rear spoiler. On top of the SE trim (with automatic transmission), there’s a Technology Package that costs $2,350 and comes with a navigation system, backup camera, dual-zone automatic climate control and push-button start.

Earlier this week, Hyundai priced the 2013 Elantra GT hatchback at $19,170, including a $795 destination fee. It also goes on sale this month. The 2013 Elantra sedan has a base price of $17,470, including destination.

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New Elantra Coupe

2013 Elantra Coupe design

2013 Elantra Coupe

2013 Bentley Continental GT Speed First Look

2013 Bentley Continental GT Speed images

Bentley has unveiled its fastest production model ever, the new Continental GT Speed coupe. How fast is it? With 616 horsepower under the hood and a top speed of 205 mph, the Continental GT Speed is sure to satisfy a hardcore Bentley fan.

The Continental GT Speed is powered by an upgraded version of Bentley’s 6.0L W12 twin-turbocharged engine. It puts out 616 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 590 lb-ft. of torque. The W12 is mated to a close-ratio, ZF eight-speed automatic transmission and a permanent all-wheel drive system. According to Bentley, the new transmission makes a significant contribution to an overall twelve percent improvement in fuel economy and CO2 emissions. The Continental GT Speed will reach 0-60 mph in 4.0 seconds.

Bentley has also upgraded the steering and suspension and lowered the ride height. The Continental GT Speed rides on 21-inch wheels that are available in two finishes and are wrapped in 275 35 R21 Pirelli PZero ultra-high performance tires.

Wolfgang D rheimer, Bentley’s Chairman and Chief Executive has commented, “For nearly a decade, the Bentley Continental GT has defined high luxury, high performance grand touring and the unique W12 engine has been so successful that Bentley is now the world’s largest producer of 12-cylinder engines. The new GT Speed with its harder-edged, sportier character reaffirms this pinnacle positioning and continues to broaden the worldwide appeal of the Continental coupe.”

Styling changes include a dark-tinted matrix front grille and lower air intakes and the ‘rifled’ finish to the exhaust tailpipes.

The GT Continental GT Speed is set to have its international debut at the Goodwood Festival of Speed from 28th June until 1st July before it goes on sale this fall.

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2013 Bentley Continental GT Speed coupe

New Bentley Continental GT Speed

2013 Bentley Continental GT Speed design

All-new 2013 Mercedes-Benz SL550 Roadster

2013 Mercedes-Benz SL550

Mercedes-Benz car maker has announced new car with called 2013 Mercedes-Benz SL550. While the sleek Mercedes-Benz SL550 for the 2013 model year is about two inches longer and wider, its aluminum frame is more than 200 pounds lighter than the previous model. Most of the body panels are also aluminum, and high-strength steel is used in the roof pillars. Overall, the new SL body is about 20 percent stiffer than the car it replaces.Mercedes-Benz SL550 is powered by an efficient and refined new V8 engine that gets up to 14% better fuel economy while producing more power – an astounding feat, considering that increasing power or fuel economy is usually an either-or scenario. The V8 features direct fuel injection, twin turbochargers and multi-spark ignition.

Based on its highly successful 5.5-liter predecessor, the new 4.6-liter V8 engine has 20 percent smaller displacement but generates more horsepower and torque – 429 horsepower and 516 lb.-ft. of torque. Its smaller displacement is more than offset by the power boost of its twin turbochargers and an air-water intercooler.The 2013 Mercedes-Benz SL550 engine comes with an innovative ECO stop-start system. Whenever the car stops with the brake pedal depressed, the engine is automatically turned off to save fuel. As soon as the driver touches the accelerator pedal, the engine computer selects the piston that is in the best position for first ignition, and the direct fuel injection and multi-spark systems work with a starter motor to seamlessly re-start the engine.

Mercedes-Benz was the first manufacturer to make emergency calling a standard feature, and the new SL marks the debut of mbrace2, the next generation of telematics innovation that gives drivers top-of-the-line features related to safety, infotainment, personal assistance and vehicle care. It includes the ability to remotely update all software modules via cloud networks, so mbrace2 users always have the latest technology in their vehicles and at their fingertips. New services are also added to the mbrace2 Mobile Application, which is compatible with both iPhone and Android smartphones.

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2013 Mercedes-Benz SL550 images

2013 Mercedes-Benz SL550 design

New Mercedes-Benz SL550

2012 Lexus IS 250 C Special Edition

2012 Lexus IS 250 C Special Edition design

I recently attended the launch of the 2013 Lexus ES 350 and ES 300h in Newberg, Oregon USA. Rather than fly, as journalists so often do, I drove to the event, which was a 1,200 km round trip. The vehicle that carried me to and fro is the subject of this review.

The Lexus IS is a compact four-door sports sedan. When a ‘C’ is added to the badging, it becomes a two-door convertible coupe that seats four occupants. The ‘C’ could just as easily represent “competent.”

While its cabin is less spacious than the sedan, the hardtop convertible lid is so well executed that it’s difficult to discern from within that the roof fully retracts into the trunk. Even from the outside, the car conceals its roofless alter, preferring to appear simply as a sleek coupe when the roof is in place.

The 2012 Lexus IS 250 C rides upon a rear-wheel-drive platform and relies upon a smaller V6 engine for propulsion than its IS 350 C sibling. That’s okay, because it still has plenty of oomph when needed while returning better fuel economy.

The polished mill displaces 2.5 litres, generating 204 hp @ 6,400 rpm and 185 lb-ft @ 4,800 rpm. It’s fastened to a 6-speed automatic transmission featuring shift paddles. Fuel economy with the autobox is pegged at 9.8L/100km and 6.7L/100km, city and highway driving respectively.

The 306-hp IS 350 C is rated at a thirstier 11.5L/100km and 7.9L/100km city/highway. This is a powerful vehicle, and with a base MSRP of $57,000, it’s also significantly more expensive than its calmer brother, the IS 250 C, which is listed at $49,100.

Unless big power is a big need, I’d recommend forgoing the IS 350 C in favour of the more sensible brother. The congenial, soothing performance of its smaller powerplant delivers plenty of pleasure and contentment.

The standout attribute of this engine isn’t its power but its refinement. I was delighted by its quiet, ultra-smooth operation and performance. It really reinforces the notion that the IS 250 C is, at its core, a luxury vehicle. But don’t let that orientation delude into thinking that it’s not directionally capable as well.

My run to Newberg and back provided an extended opportunity to evaluate the ride comfort versus handling equation of my tester, and I’m happy to report that it was ideal in all situations.

The car delivers an absorbent, composed ride that’s not mushy by any means. In fact, it’s more on the sporty side than the revised ES series launched at the Newberg program; that vehicle emphasized comfort over handling, whereas the IS strikes a slightly more aggressive balance.

I purposely sought out secondary roads in the US, avoiding the freeway much of the time. It was on these twisty traffic-free stretches of tarmac that the responsive, direct steering of the IS 250 C was appreciated.

The car settles nicely into a curve, holding its line with precision and predictability as its 18″ rear wheels push it off the apex and through to the next bend. Nice indeed.
The IS Series is a generously equipped luxury car with few available option packages. My tester was the Special Edition version of the IS 250 C, which added $3,400 to its MSRP.

In return, Special Edition packaging includes the 18″ alloy wheels, a backup camera in the navigation display, clearance and backup sensors, voice-activated HDD navigation (most helpful on my trip) and red leather upholstery.

The automatic transmission with paddle-shift added another $1,600 to the bottom line, which saw my tester’s price tag climb to $54,100 before taxes and delivery charges, which is a few thousand less than the Volvo C70 T5, the closest competitor to the IS 250 C.

However, both the Volvo and Lexus are considerably more expensive than the Chrysler 200 hardtop convertible, which starts at just $30,095 and works its way up to the $40K mark.

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2012 Lexus IS 250 C Special Edition

New Lexus IS 250 C Special Edition

2012 Lexus IS 250 C Special Edition images

Volkswagen Golf R Cabriolet Debut

Volkswagen Golf R Cabriolet images

The Volkswagen Golf R Cabriolet is set to become the quickest and meanest VW convertible in history, with CarAdvice’s spy photographers snapping a prototype of the hard-core soft-top on public roads in Germany.

We got our first hint that Volkswagen was planning a Golf R Cabriolet 12 months ago when the German manufacturer unveiled the car in concept form at the 2011 Worthersee tuning show in Austria.

Like the Worthersee concept and the production Golf R hot-hatch, the Golf R Cabriolet will be powered by a 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine producing 199kW and 350Nm, or 188kW/330Nm in ‘hot weather’ countries like Australia.

Drive will be sent to all four wheels via a six-speed manual or six-speed dual-clutch DSG transmission like the Golf R hatch.

Although this prototype features body panels and badges from existing Golf Cabriolet models, the larger brakes and alloy wheels confirm the bodywork hides the most powerful and sporty soft-top variant to date.

While not seen on this prototype, the production version of the Golf R Cabriolet will feature centrally positioned twin exhaust outlets like the hatch.

The Golf R Cabriolet is likely to act as a send-off for the Golf VI range, with the next-generation Golf VII due to be unveiled at the 2012 Paris motor show in September. The current-generation Golf R may continue to be produced for some time into the lifecycle of the new Golf until a high-performance replacement is introduced.

The Golf R Cabriolet comes hot on the heels of the Golf GTI Cabriolet, which made its world premiere at the 2012 Geneva motor in March.

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Volkswagen Golf R Cabriolet

New Volkswagen Golf R Cabriolet

Volkswagen Golf R Cabriolet design

2013 Mazda3 Sedan

New Mazda3

For the 2013 model year, the most important changes coming to the Mazda3 includes greater availability of the company’s new SkyActiv powertrain as well as more standard comfort features.

The 2013 Mazda3 is available in i SV, i Sport, i Touring, i Grand Touring, s Touring and s Grand Touring trims.

The i Sport trim – available as a sedan only – gets a SkyActiv powertrain standard for 2013, replacing the 148-horsepower, 2.0-liter four-cylinder. The 155-hp, 2.0-liter SkyActiv four-cylinder engine with direct injection, adds 10% more passing-lane torque than the normal 2.0-liter four-cylinder and is available with either a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission. Fuel economy comes in at an impressive 28/40 mpg city/highway for the sedan model with an automatic transmission.

While pricing information isn’t available, the i Sport was $1,855 less expensive than the most affordable SkyActiv trim (an i Touring sedan) available in 2012.

Other changes to the i Sport make it more competitive with the segment and don’t force shoppers to move up to a Touring trim. For 2013, it adds the multi-information display seen on the rest of the lineup and a USB port as standard equipment. The higher trim levels also receive a USB port standard, which is an odd feature for Mazda not to have.

Air conditioning is now standard on all models; formerly air conditioning was unavailable on the base i SV trim. A passive entry keyless system, push-button start and automatic climate control are now standard on the i Touring and i Grand Touring trims (formerly the options were unavailable). Blind spot monitoring is now standard on the i Grand Touring and s Grand Touring trims and available on the i Touring.

The s Grand Touring now gets rain-sensing windshield wipers, self-leveling bi-xenon high-intensity-discharge headlights and an alarm system standard.

A firm launch date for the 2013 Mazda3 wasn’t made available, though Mazda spokeswoman Beverly Braga said it will go on sale later in 2012.

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2013 Mazda3 images

2013 Mazda3

2013 Mazda3 design

2013 Lexus ES350 and ES300h Hybrid Unveiled

2013 Lexus ES350 design

The introduction of the all-new 2013 ES350 and ES300h marks the sixth generation of Lexus’ popular luxury sedan since its introduction over 20 years ago. Featuring the signature Lexus spindle grille, a progressive new design and enhanced handling, the ES brings new levels of refinement and quality to the entry luxury segment. Now available with Lexus Hybrid Drive, the ES is sure to impress new and loyal consumers.

“Since its introduction in 1989, the ES has been the benchmark luxury sedan for quality, reliability, ride comfort and value,” said Mark Templin, Lexus group vice president and general manager. “The new ES350 and the first ever ES hybrid raise the bar once again.”

For the first time, the Lexus ES will be available with Lexus Hybrid Drive.Featuring a 2.5-liter four-cylinder Atkinson cycle engine, the ES300h is expected to earn EPA fuel economy ratings of approximately 40 mpg city, 39 mpg highway and 39 mpg combined. The ES300h generates 200 total system horsepower.

The new, low friction engine utilizes a sophisticated power management system and high compression ratio
(12.5:1) to increase overall efficiency. Equipped with an electric water pump, electric power steering, and an integrated hybrid electric motor/generator, this engine does not require any accessory belts. The
beltless design helps improve fuel economy and overall reliability.

The Lexus ES350 is powered by a 3.5-liter V6 engine with Dual VVT-i that delivers 268 horsepower at 6,200 rpm and 248 lb.-ft. of peak torque at 4,700. The six-speed sequential-shift automatic Electronically Controlled Transmission with intelligence (ECT-i) provides enhanced driving performance, fuel efficiency and smooth shifts. Low friction materials further improve efficiency and help with the ES350′s EPA-fuel economy estimates of 21 mpg city, 31 mpg highway and 24 mpg combined.

Both the Lexus ES350 and ES300h feature a Drive Mode selector. Normal mode provides a blend of performance and efficiency that is suited to everyday driving, while Eco mode favors fuel economy. Sport mode increases powertrain and steering responsiveness, and for the ES300h, the IP changes from the hybrid power monitor to a tachometer. The ES300h adds an EV mode which allows short distance drives, at reduced speed, using only the power from the hybrid battery pack.

Suspension changes, a stiffer body and a quicker steering gear ratio deliver more precise handling in the new 2013 Lexus ES.

The front suspension employs opposite-wound coil springs to help enhance straight-line stability. Revised rear suspension geometry and improved shock absorber damping characteristics enhance ride comfort. The steering gear ratio has been reduced from 16.1:1 to 14.8:1 to help deliver a more responsive
and direct steering feel. Increased body rigidity is achieved through lightweight, high tensile strength steel, added bracing and more spot welds. Airflow is smoothed beneath the vehicle, improving stability and fuel economy, and reducing drag.

The ES will be equipped with standard 215/55R17 low rolling resistance tires on 17-inch alloy wheels.
The Lexus ES350 will offer optional high-gloss 17-inch wheels and, for the first time, 18-inch high-gloss alloy wheels.

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New Lexus ES350

2013 Lexus ES350 images

2013 Lexus ES350

2013 Lexus RX450h Hybrid Luxury AWD Crossover

2013 lexus rx 450h hybrid

Even though the luxury hybrid was somewhat of a novelty when Lexus introduced the RX400h in 2005 as a 2006 model, it quickly followed its gasoline counterpart and became a top-selling model. At the time it was the closest thing to a guilt-free sport-utility vehicle we’d ever seen: luxurious with an impressive assemblage of features and technologies, powerful and more fuel-efficient than its gas-powered sibling, the RX 300.

Since the beginning the RX hybrid has been in the top ten hybrid sales column and was the most popular hybrid sport utility in 2012.

In 2010 Lexus rolled out an all new RX hybrid, the RX 450h. It not only featured a new exterior and interior design, it offered more power and significantly improved fuel economy.

For 2013 Lexus has given both the gasoline and hybrid RX models a refresh. The most obvious change is a new facelift and includes slight revisions to the backside and a modest interior makeover. Additionally for the RX hybrid, the power liftgate is now standard as is a USB interface for connection to external devices such as iPods. Also, the Sport mode is standard rather than optional for 2013.

The 2013 RX 450h is offered in a front-wheel drive (FWD) model with a base price of $46,310, an increase of $1,075 over the 2012 model, and an all-wheel drive (AWD) version starting at $47,710, up $885.

With an EPA combined fuel economy of 30 mpg – 32 city/28 highway – the RX 450h front drive model is the most fuel-efficient sport utility on the road. And the second best? The all-wheel drive version with a rating of 30 city/28 highway/29 combined.
Carryover Hybrid Powertrain

Pop the hood and you’ll find a repeat of the hybrid powertrain introduced in 2010. The system combines a gasoline engine with two electric motors for the front drive model and three motors for the all-wheel drive version. A continuously variable transmission (CVT) and nickel-metal hydride battery pack complete the system.

Like other Lexus hybrids, the RX 450h can operate in electric-only or gas-engine-only modes as well as a combination of both. And, the hybrid system can shut off the engine when the car is stopped, and then turn it on again when the brake pedal is released.

The gas-electric RX is outfitted with a 3.5-liter V-6 engine rated at 245 horsepower and 234 pounds-feet of torque. Like many engines used in hybrid vehicles, the RX hybrid’s runs on the Atkinson cycle rather than the conventional Otto cycle. In simple terms, the Atkinson cycle uses less energy to compress fuel and air together, and makes relatively more energy when that mixture explodes. Lexus says this contributes fuel savings of 12 to 14 percent.

The engine runs on exceptionally free-flowing 0W-20 oil. In modern engines, lighter oils are an important fuel economy factor, with less energy lost to friction. For the RX hybrid, less friction allows an oil pump that operates on less power.

In addition, two electric motors join this powertrain. One is an engine-driven generator that operates as an engine starter and can charge the battery pack or power other electric motors as needed. The second is a 155 horsepower motor that works with the gas engine to deliver power to the front wheels. Total output of this pairing is 295 horsepower.

The CVT is charged with managing that output and directing the power to the front wheels. The CVT uses a belt-pulley system instead of a finite set of gears in conventional automatic transmissions. It continuously adjusts gear ratios through a planetary gearset that more precisely matches engine output with acceleration and fuel economy. The driver can “downshift” and “upshift” via the shifter, but these are programmed virtual shift points, not actual fixed gears.

Completing the hybrid system is a 288-volt nickel metal hydride battery pack tucked neatly under the second-row seats. When the vehicle brakes, some of the energy is captured and sent to the battery pack.

The all-wheel drive RX hybrid adds a third, rear-mounted motor-generator. Since it aspires to all-weather mobility instead of all-terrain capability, the motor simply adds more torque automatically to the rear wheels if wheelspin is detected. A dual-range transmission is not offered.

For greater emphasis on efficiency, Lexus has outfitted the RX 450h with both EV and Eco driving modes. In EV, this hybrid functions solely on electric power, but only at low speeds and short distances. The more practical Eco mode works to limit throttle response in order to promote greater fuel economy. In other words, it restrains the engine’s ability to operate at its full potential. The ideal time to use this function is during in-town driving or stop-and-go traffic.

Updated Outside And In

To call the 2013 RX 450h an all-new design is a stretch, but it gains a notable face lift. Like all Lexuses, the RX hybrid has a version of the automaker’s new distinctive grille design. Hourglass in shape – Lexus calls it a “spindle” shape – it has horizontal rather than vertical slats with a center bar in between the upper and lower sections. Headlamps are thinner, almost blade-like highlighted by beaded LED running lights underneath. The net result is a slightly more aggressive face.

Aside from these changes and tweaked taillamps, the RX hybrid continues its sleek, aerodynamic look from front to back. Its raked windshield flows effortlessly into a gently sloping roofline. In other words, it continues to look like an RX.

The no-detail-overlooked interior of the RX 450h is sumptuous with soft leather meeting fingertips at nearly every touch point. Changes for 2013 are subtle, like a redesigned steering wheel that Lexus says has a more comfortable and relaxing grip. The glove box has new metallic accents, while a redesigned center console provides improved accessibility and more storage space.

As expected, front seating is all-day comfortable with an abundance of head, shoulder and leg room. This carries to the rear where passengers – three comfortably – will find seats that recline and move fore and aft.

There’s also generous cargo space: 40 cubic feet behind the 40/20/40 split-folding rear seats that expands to 80 cubes when they’re all lowered. If you are looking for a third row seat you’ll have to look elsewhere.

While the RX 450h does offer all the high-tech gizmos that have become synonymous with luxury class vehicles, many are an extra cost. Yes, the hybrid does include standard features such as a power tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, ten-way power front seats, automatic dual-zone climate control, a nine-speaker sound system, satellite radio, Bluetooth connectivity and an iPod/USB audio interface.

If you want the full-meal-deal luxury experience, you’ll pay extra. Leather seating is optional as is a moonroof and roof rails that each are part of option packages.

Want a blind spot monitor, a marvelous safety feature? That’s a $500 option. It’s standard on the $23,650 Mazda3 Grand Touring.

How about a backup camera, another excellent safety device? You have to purchase the $860 Display Audio and Camera package. It’s standard on a $24,980 Honda Accord Sport sedan.

Granted, there are some very nifty options: a head-up display, adaptive cruise control, heated and cooled leather seats, dual screen rear entertainment and the superb 15 speaker Mark Levinson audio system. But it all adds up. Our all-wheel drive test vehicle was equipped with every available option with a sticker price of $63,385 plus $895 destination charges.

If you need to be connected, the $2,700 Navigation package is a must. It includes the Lexus Enform application suite. With it you can tap into Internet search engines, apps such as OpenTable, Pandora, and Yelp by pairing a smart phone via Bluetooth or a physical connection.

When you opt for the Navigation system you get the Lexus Remote Touch system, a mouse-like controller that allows moving among a variety of icons on the large dash-mounted screen. It takes a little practice to get the hang of it, but from then on it’s a breeze to operate.
Behind The Steering Wheel

We spent the long President’s Day weekend in Phoenix, where we quickly remembered why people become snowbirds – sunshine, endless blue skies and 75 degrees in February is difficult to beat.

On the top of our to-do list was to revisit Sedona and its red rocks, about 120 miles north of Phoenix. A few minutes after 8:00 a.m. as we loaded a few things in the Stargazer Black RX, the temperature was already nudging 60 degrees. We headed east on I-10 and then north on I-17 through greater Phoenix’s western sprawl, into the city itself, and then up the entire length of the ever growing northern sprawl.

Once suburbia gave way to saguaro, the speed limit increased to 75 mph, which was mainly ignored. So, when in Rome, do as the Romans do.

Tackling on-road duties is the RX hybrid’s forte. On the highway it acts much like the vaunted ES 300 sedan, just with a higher ride height. The interior remains quiet at speed and the vehicle is stable on the road, regardless of how broken the pavement.

There’s a bit of body lean in turns that lets you know this is taller than a sedan. But it grips the road like a well-designed automobile.

While the RX hybrid may mimic the ES 300, it doesn’t have the same suspension. It has longer travel that soaks up the big bumps particularly well and virtually preventing the small impacts. The ride isn’t quite firm enough to put the “sport” into sport-utility, but it’s plenty comfortable to firmly plant the RX 450h into the realm of luxury vehicles.

The famous red to orange-colored sandstone “Red Rocks of Sedona” seem to appear from nowhere as we round a curve. Choose an adjective – spectacular, astounding, wondrous, incredible, etc., etc. None seem adequate to describe their splendor. Sedona’s elevation is around 4,500 feet, with some rock formation ascending to more than a mile-high.

The red rocks aren’t the only attraction that draws more than four million visitors annually to Sedona (half of which seemed to be there on the day of our visit). The town is a major arts center with art galleries lining Sedona’s two main thoroughfares.

Slowly scouring the streets in search of a parking space, the hybrid powertrain performed its role as an electric vehicle flawlessly. Light-footed driving saw the RX deliver its power in a smooth, virtually noiseless manner and, of course, no nasty exhaust emissions.

Our previous experiences with the Lexus RX hybrid have yielded fuel economy that was at or exceeded the EPA estimates. However, keeping up with the flow of traffic in the far left lane on I-17 took its toll. A fill up after 312 miles of travel resulted in 25.3 mpg, nearly 4 mpg less than the EPA’s combined average. But, that was somewhat consoling when I thought about the fuel mileage of the full-size SUVs and pickups that whisked past us when our speedo was planted at 85 mph.

The 2013 RX 450h is pricey, $6,650 more than its non-hybrid sibling, the RX 350. The question is, is the fuel efficiency boost of 14 mpg city and only 3 mpg highway worth the additional dollars? With the current price of gas at $3.75 per gallon according to AAA, if most of your driving is city or urban, the hybrid is a pretty good choice. If you do more highway driving than city, gas-powered RX may be a better choice.

Lexus pioneered the luxury hybrid SUV segment, but there are a couple of other hybrid choices.

Audi’s 2013 Q5 Hybrid is a tad smaller inside than the RX and its 30 mpg highway fuel economy equals the Lexus. However, city driving can only muster 24 mpg in town. The starting price of $50,900 is $4,590 more than the RX but is comes standard with all-wheel drive, leather interior, navigation and a sunroof.

If performance and handling trump fuel economy, then Porsche’s Cayenne S Hybrid with a price starting at $69,850 shouldn’t be overlooked. And if you need an SUV that can seat seven or even eight passengers and can tow up to 5,800 pounds, the Cadillac Escalade Hybrid is your only choice. It starts at a hefty $73,850, bear in mind that it has a truck-based chassis platform and won’t provide the smoother ride quality as the Lexus.

Bottom line: In general, the 2013 Lexus RX 450h is the perfect all-purpose vehicle as an everyday hauler of full-size people and their stuff. It’s at its best around town, picking up people and delivering people and doing so in all kinds of weather. Plus. it delivers the best fuel economy of any sport utility.

2013 Kia cee’d and pro_cee’d GT fully revealed

2013 Kia cee'd

Kia has officially displayed the 2013 cee’d GT and pro_cee’d GT this week at the Geneva Motor Show.

Under the lid there is a 1.6-liter GDi extra power unit with 204 HP (150 kW) and 195 lb-ft (265 Nm) of torque moved to the front wheels through a 6-speed manual gearbox. The arrangement gives both models a 0-62 mph (0-100 km/h) run in 7.7 seconds and a top speed of 143 mph (230 km/h). Fuel consumption comes to 7.4 liters / 100 km with 171 g/km of CO2 emissions.

Compared to previous model the latest version brings an offensive body kit, red brake calipers, 18-inch rims, updated front grille and deeper bumpers. The cabin boasts a 7 inch TFT instrument cluster, bespoke surface materials, alloy pedals and Recaro seats.

The three-door pro_cee’d GT coupe will be restricted to 500 units. It will have a few interior/exterior upgradation, sunroof, adaptive xenon headlights, satellite-navigation system and automatic air conditioning.

2013 Suzuki Swift SZ-R Special Edition

2013 Suzuki Swift SZ-R Special Edition

While the Indian car market recently got the Swift Star limited edition, the UK car market has the 2013 Suzuki Swift Sport SZ-R limited edition model on sale. Only 100 units of the 2013 Suzuki Swift Sport SZ-R will be sold in UK and every limited edition car that will be sold there will have numbered door sills that will announce the serial number of the car and thus add to the exclusivity of the limited edition variant.

The Suzuki Swift Sport SZ-R is powered by a 1.6 Liter petrol engine that is powerful enough to bring the title of ‘hot hatch’ to the Japanese hatchback. Those who are specifications-hungry would be pleased about the fact the naturally aspirated, 1.6 litres, 4 cylinder petrol engine has a max power output of 134 Bhp and a peak torque figure of 160 Nm. The engine is mated to a 5 speed manual transmission.

The visual changes on the 2013 Swift Sport SZ-R limited edition include Smoked Projector Headlamps, Revised Front Bumper, Cosmic Black Paint Finish, Contrast Red Painted Roof, Roof Spoiler and Wing Mirrors, 17 inch alloy wheels, Red trim on carpets and gear lever, All black treatment for interiors and red trim for seats.

The Swift Sport SZ-R limited edition has a sticker price of GBP 14,249. Now that the Grand Punto Abarth and Polo TSI variants are headed to India, won’t it be only fitting for MSIL to introduce the 2013 Suzuki Swift Sport SZ-R in to our fast developing car market?

Cam Shaft Presents BMW M3 Guerilla

BMW M3 Coupe Guerrilla images

German tuner, Cam Shaft, recently got their hands on a BMW M3 Coupe and true to their reputation as tuners extraordinaire, they gave the German sports car a little identity modification.In the end, the M3 Coupe Guerrilla was born.Starting with a matte space-gray metallic foil called a Platinum Wrapping Film, Cam Shaft took the task of reinventing the M3’s sporty looks.

In addition to the foliation work, which by the way cost 2,500 ($3,100), Cam Shaft also installed a new front apron from Racing Dynamics, a new stainless steel exhaust system from Akrapovic, sills from Hamann, KW coil overs, and a new set of 19″ BBS-Le Mans rims. Inside, Cam Shaft treated the M3 Coupe’s interior with a number of new carbon fiber components and aluminum pedals.There doesn’t appear to be any performance modifications given to the M3 Coupe Guerrilla, but even in standard form, it still carries an impressive 4.0-liter V8 engine that produces 420 horsepower.

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BMW M3 Coupe design

2012 bmw m3 coupe guerrila

New BMW M3 Coupe Guerrilla

2013 Mercedes GLK-Class

New Mercedes GLK-Class

Mercedes-Benz has released official photos of the next generation GLK-Class in advance of its debut at the New York International Auto Show, and have confirmed that the line will include the GLK 250 BlueTec diesel and an updated GLK 350 powered by a gasoline V6, expected to go on sale in Canada by the end of this year as a 2013 model.

The exterior has been tweaked, with softer lines, noticably more complex headlights and an extra helping of chrome with the AMG package.

Highlights of the changes include a range of state-of-the-art assistance systems and comprehensive efficiency measures such as the standard start/stop function. BlueTEC diesel emission control is available for the compact SUV for the first time, allowing its import to North America.

The GLK 250 BlueTEC 4MATIC will feature the direct-injection engine 2.1-litre diesel four rated at 190 hp and 369 lb-ft of torque. The 3.5-litre V6 in the GLK 350 will be updated with direct-injection, bumping output to 302 horsepower and 273 lb-ft of torque (foremrly 268 hp and 258 lb-ft).

“In the GLK we have a dynamic lifestyle SUV offering a winning combination of intelligent technology and character in abundance,” says Dr Joachim Schmidt, Member of the Management Board of Mercedes-Benz Cars, Sales and Marketing. “It will further bolster our SUV portfolio, making a vital contribution to Mercedes-Benz’s global growth in this market segment.”

The GLK stakes its claim in the compact luxury SUV class with involving driving dynamics, excellent driving safety and ride comfort. In addition to rear-wheel drive versions, 4MATIC models with permanent all-wheel drive are available for those concerned with all-weather or even off-road traction.

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2013 Mercedes GLK-Class

2013 Mercedes GLK-Class images

2013 Mercedes GLK-Class design

2013 Hyundai Elantra GT unveiled

2013 Hyundai Elantra GT

The basic guts of the Elantra GT are shared with its two siblings, including the solid axle rear suspension, but the whole package works so much more proficiently in the GT than the other two cars – like how Khloe and Kim Kardashian come from the same lineage despite their wildly different physiques. While the other two cars resist being pushed hard (and don’t really prod the driver to do so), the Elantra GT is as comfortable motoring down the freeway as it is being grabbed by the scruff of its neck.

Hyundai had us drive the Elantra GT up and down a 5000 foot mountain pass, which did a good job of exposing both the highlights and the flaws that live within the car. The biggest impediment to going fast is the strange gap between second and third gear, no doubt a concession towards fuel economy. Running up and down the mountain at a spirited pace meant the car was often close to the rev limited in second. An upshift to third would bring the engine way out of the powerband, sapping whatever precious momentum we could extract out of the Elantra GT and its 148 horsepower 4-banger.

If you’re willing to keep it in second and let the revs fly, the Elantra GT is immensely rewarding. The chassis is responsive in a way that the Veloster and Elantra Coupe could only dream of. The brakes remained firm fade free during the whole route and the chassis inspires a ton of confidence, allowing you to push the car harder than the other two Hyundais driven that week. The steering, long a sore spot for the Koreans, is much crisper than any front-drive Hyundai vehicle in recent memory.

There was a lot of hoopla over the Driver Selectable Steering Mode, a steering wheel mounted button that lets you adjust the weight and resistance of the electric power steering. Many of my program participants insisted that the Sport mode (which did feel great) was the only way to go. There is a noticeable difference in weight between Comfort, Normal and Sport, but feedback remains the same no matter what. It’s ultimately a gimmick, though one that makes the driving experience better. It still can’t quite match the Mazda3 in sheer driving pleasure; the steering is just a little bit duller, the chassis slightly less enthusiastic (even though the Hyundai is 150 lbs lighter). But there are other benefits that make the Elantra GT a serious contender.

The Elantra GT is an elegant, mature looking vehicle without being dowdy. The Mazda3 looks absolutely heinous. Despite its many charms, the Mazda’s looks are enough to dissuade me from owning. The interior of the Elantra GT is also a much more pleasant place to be, with higher quality materials and a much more sophisticated design, which also manages to avoid being overly complex. The rear seats fold completely flat like a minivan, and the back seat is more spacious than one would expect. Up and down the mountain pass, with elevations reaching 5000 feet, the Elantra GT could handle whatever was dished out. Mid-corner bumps were absorbed gently without upsetting the car, and the brakes felt consistently strong despite substantial use. It was genuinely a joy to drive, despite being saddled with a gearbox that doesn’t flatter the engine’s modest output. The chassis is the real star of the show here, giving the driver lots of feedback, a high threshold for mistakes and the feeling that you’re going much faster than you really are.

Our tester was the $21, 145 Elantra GT equipped with the Style Package., The extra $2,750 nets you a large panoramic roof, leather seats, a power driver’s seat, 17-inch wheels and interestingly, stiffer rear springs. There were only a couple of base model Elantra GTs available at the event, so it was impossible to tell how much of an effect the Style Package has on handling.

Although the Elantra GT was sampled before the Veloster Turbo, not even the extra power and the supposedly sporty nature of the boosted hatch was enough to sway the decision.

It would be foolish to think that the Elantra GT will turn the tide on hatchback sales in the United States, but that doesn’t mean that Hyundai’s offering is any less competitive than the Focus, Mazda3 or even the Volkswagen Golf – which the Czech-built Elantra GT is arguably closest to in terms of overall character.

The Elantra GT wins not just on performance, but by offering an affordable yet mature looking proposition that works anywhere, whether it’s a golf game with someone important, a first date or hauling mountain bikes or skis. There are no extra options, engines or equipment packages needed to extract maximum fuel economy, and even though it’s a great value, you never feel like you’ve compromised on your vehicle due to your budget restrictions. The sedan and coupe versions should be this good.

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New Hyundai Elantra GT

2013 Hyundai Elantra GT images

2013 Hyundai Elantra GT interior

Military-Inspired 2012 Jeep Wrangler Freedom Edition Unveiled

2012 Jeep Wrangler Freedom Edition

In the early stages of the Second World War, the vehicle we’d come to know as the Jeep Wrangler was born as a go-anywhere, general-purpose military scout vehicle. The Jeep became an iconic symbol of the U.S. military through World War II and into theaters including Korea and Vietnam.

Today, the Jeep is retired from military service, but there’s no denying its born-from-conflict roots. In recognition of this, and to honor members of the U.S. military both past and present, Jeep is launching a special edition of the 2012 Wrangler and Wrangler Unlimited in tribute.

Dubbed the Wrangler Freedom Edition, the model comes in red, white or blue paint, and sports a military-themed star graphic on the hood and rear quarter panels. Gracing each front fender is a star-themed emblem with the slogan “Oscar Mike,” military jargon for “on the move.”

The Freedom Edition’s 17-inch wheels, as well as its grille and bumper inserts, are finished in Mineral Gray. Inside, black cloth seats sport the same “Oscar Mike” logo as the front fenders, and silver accent stitching is used for the steering wheel, door panels seats and armrests.

Based on the Sport trim level, Freedom Edition models start at $28,165 for a two-door Wrangler, and begin at $30,670 for a four-door Wrangler Unlimited variant. For each Freedom Edition model sold, Chrysler will donate $250 to charities for military families, including the Fisher House Foundation and the I Support Foundation.

Active and retired military members may even qualify for a $500 cash allowance, which means you’re getting an even better deal on an iconic SUV, and supporting charities that support our military at the same time. We’d call that a win for everyone.

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New Jeep Wrangler Freedom Edition

2012 Jeep Wrangler Freedom Edition images

2012 Jeep Wrangler Freedom Edition design

2014 Mazda CX-5 Behind the Wheel

2014 Mazda CX-5

The Mazda CX-5 has been an instant hit with demand outstripping supply from the day the new crossover was introduced.

Production has been increased three times to try to keep up and the CX-5 accounts for more than 15 per cent of the company’s global sales.

The CX-5 was the first Mazda to feature the full slate of the company’s new SkyActive technologies, including chassis, suspension, engine and transmission.

It brought hybrid-levels of fuel economy to the class while retaining the traditional Mazda fun-to-drive experience.

But the compact crossover class is one of the most important in the industry, one that is predicted to enjoy further growth as Americans discover what Canadians have known all along – compact vehicles can be fun and are no longer penalty boxes.

The compact CUV class has become one of the most competitive in the entire industry with major manufacturers introducing new entries every month. You snooze in this category and you loose.

For 2014, the CX-5 introduces Smart City Brake Support and gets a significant dose of steroids in the form of a second engine choice – a 2.5-litre version of the SkyActive four introduced with the CX-5 at the Los Angeles Auto Show last year.

The new engine offers 19 per cent more horsepower and 23 per cent more torque, addressing the only concerns raised about the 2.0-litre SkyActiv engine – a need for more power when carrying passengers or heavy cargo.

For 2014, the CX-5 continues to be available in GX, GS and GT trim levels. The base price remains the same. The GX comes with the 2.0-litre engine, six-speed manual transmission and front-wheel-drive. A six-speed automatic and all-wheel-drive are optional.

The GS comes with the new 2.5-litre engine and automatic transmission in either front or all-wheel-drive. The GT comes in only one configuration – a 2.5-litre engine driving all four wheels through the automatic transmission.

Standard equipment includes: remote keyless entry, push button ignition, heated mirrors, hill hold assist, cruise control, power windows and locks, cruise and audio controls on steering wheel, tilt and telescope steering wheel, and air conditioning.

Move up one step to the GS and you get the bigger engine, automatic transmission, power sun roof, blind-spot monitoring system, audio upgrade, automatic headlights, rear-view camera and display, heated seats and a power driver’s seat.

The new Smart City Brake Support (SCBS) system is included in a technology package available on the CX-5 GT. SCBS is designed to help prevent collisions at low speeds – 5-30 km/hr. It uses a laser positioned above the rear-view mirror to monitor the closing rate between the CX-5 and other objects, including oncoming vehicles.

Should it detect imminent contact the first step is to move the brake pads in closer proximity to the rotors to shorten brake activation time. If the driver does not take evasive action the brakes will automatically be applied.

The same technology package also includes an in-dash TomTom navigation system, automatic on/off, automatic levelling bi-xenon headlights with a pivoting adaptive system that turns the lights slightly in concert with the steering wheel and a six month subscription to satellite radio.

2012 Toyota Camry Atara S Sedan

Toyota Camry Atara S Sedan

Toyota is one of the world’s most successful automotive brands, and in the States, the Camry mid-sizer is their best seller. In Australia, it’s easily the de facto choice in its class for rental and taxi companies, government fleets and private buyers. Join us as we take the Australian-spec Atara S for one of our weeklong road test and reviews.

The AU$33,490 RRP Atara S is the second cheapest model in the 2012 Camry range and the obvious choice for the vast majority of private buyers (the Altise, at AU$30,490 RRP, is the mainstay of fleet operators).

The 2012 Camry feels large for a mid-sizer with a length of 4,815 mm (190 in.) and a wheelbase of 2,775 mm (109 in.). It’s also 1,825 mm (72 in.) wide and 1,470 mm (58 in.) tall.

It’s fine-looking looking from most angles though the styling is best described as evolutionary rather than revolutionary – a Toyota hallmark. It’s a shame that from the side it looks more like a minor facelift than an all-new model; the angular window-line seemingly unchanged from the previous generation.

Still, in Atara S guise the Camry comes with front fog lights and five spoke alloy wheels which help to alleviate many of the deign shortcomings. There’s also the expected assortment of three letter acronym safety equipment (ABS, EBD, traction / stability control etc.) resulting in a 5 star ANCAP rating. This alone should be a big incentive for many private buyer.

Unlike the majority of Atara S’s currently in Aussie showrooms, our press fleet vehicle came with a full leather interior and a power tilt/slide sunroof. Everything else – from the climate control air conditioning, electrically adjustable driver’s seat and touch-screen audio – is standard.

All the controls are clearly labelled and easy to use; a definite plus. One thing I didn’t like was the fact that the audio and climate controls are backlit in green; with the white instruments and blue touch-screen it seemed out-of-place and dated. The foot-operated handbrake is also an unusual touch in a car such as this. The air conditioning is fantastic and the front seats extremely comfortable.

The lack of automatic adjustment for the front passenger seat is disappointing though not unexpected. The steering wheel is nice and chunky and the interior material choices are – as to be expected from Toyota – of a very high standard. This is a no-fuss cabin that’s well designed and well-appointed for a car at this price range. The boot – which contains a full-sized spare – is easy to access and large enough to accommodate almost anything.

The Camry’s 133 kW (178 hp), 2.5-liter inline four delivers 231 Nm (170 lb. ft.) of torque through a 6-spd automatic gearbox. It’s an eager if somewhat pedestrian sounding unit that benefits greatly from an above average transmission. Smooth power delivery makes the Atara S a competent highway cruiser. Fuel economy seems to be about 10 L / 100 km around town and 7.5 L / 100 km on the open road.

The steering is a bit lifeless but otherwise I have few complaints about the Camry’s driving experience. It handles well, rides comfortably and is effortless to drive. The suspension setup is well adapted to Australian road conditions and the brakes work flawlessly. “Boringly competent” best describes the 2012 Camry’s on-road performance.

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New Toyota Camry Atara S Sedan

Toyota Camry Atara S Sedan images

Toyota Camry Atara S Sedan design