BMW 6 Series Gran Coupe
“Gran Coupe” variants are newly added to the 6 Series line for 2013 as part of the current “four door coupe” craze. Unlike the two-door versions, the Gran Coupe can seat four passengers in some degree of comfort. As with the rest of the line, the 640i comes powered by a sufficiently lively 3.0-liter 315-horsepower turbocharged six-cylinder engine, while the 650i packs a 4.4-liter V8 that generates a quicker 445 horses. A quick-shifting six-speed manual transmission is standard on the 650i, with an eight-speed automatic optional there and standard with the 640i. Handling is sufficiently sporty, with an array of advanced chassis control systems on hand to help the car maintain its poise in even the most demanding situations. Options include both active steering and rear-wheel steering to further improve the car’s stability and cornering abilities.
Scion FR-S/Subaru BRZ
Developed in a partnership between Toyota and Subaru, the FR-S (pictured) and BRZ are mechanically and stylistically similar “back to basics” rear-drive sporty coupes with sleekly cast exteriors. Each pack a Subaru-derived 200-horsepower 2.0-liter “boxer” four-cylinder engine that that configures the cylinder banks in horizontal opposition, as opposed to conventional inline or V-shaped arrangements. Subaru uses this design in all its models -- Porsche is the only other mainstream automaker to feature horizontally opposed engines, mainly because it helps a car maintain a lower center of gravity which, in turn, contributes to superior handling characteristics. A six-speed manual transmission is standard with a six-speed automatic optional. The interior is nicely and simply designed with large gauges and straightforward controls; back seat room and cargo space are scarce, however.
Both sleek and muscular looking, BMW’s new subcompact crossover SUV is likewise quick and agile. It’s a slightly smaller and less expensive alternative to the automaker’s popular X3. The X1 shares its powertrains with the current-generation 3 Series sedan, which means a choice of a turbocharged four-cylinder with 240 horsepower or a faster 300-horsepower turbo inline-six; the base engine includes a start-stop function to help boost fuel economy by automatically depowering while at idle. An automatic transmission is standard across the line. Included with the six-cylinder 35i and optional with the four-cylinder 28i is BMW’s advanced xDrive all-wheel-drive system that enhances the vehicle’s handling abilities on either wet or dry roads.
The first serious small car contender from Dodge since the Neon is the all-new Dart. With mechanical and design lineage coming from Italy’s Alfa Romeo, it’s a stylish and economical package with a particularly noteworthy interior design that looks and feels like it should be in a more expensive car. There’s a choice of three four-cylinder engines that range from 160- to a lusty 184-horsepower; buyers can opt for a six-speed manual, six-speed automatic or six-speed automated manual transmission. A European-tuned suspension delivers a smooth ride with tenacious handling abilities. The Dart can be customized by an assortment of dealer-installed accessories that include a built-in Wi-Fi hot spot and a wireless charging station for mobile phones. It’s one of the least-expensive models to offer a blind-spot monitoring system for added safety.
This all-new seven-passenger luxury crossover SUV features dramatic exterior styling, with a spacious and elegantly cast interior, flexible seating and assorted advanced safety features. It comes powered by a 265-horsepower 3.5-liter V6 engine that’s mated to a gearless CVT automatic transmission. A Drive Mode Select feature lets drivers tailor the vehicle’s throttle response and shift points for a smoother or sportier driving experience, or for driving in snowy conditions. The JX’s handling is more responsive than with most large SUVs, with all wheel-drive optional to provide added traction on wet roads. A new Backup Collision Intervention system will automatically engage the brakes to help prevent a collision with vehicles and objects crossing its path while in reverse gear the driver either can’t see or isn’t reacting quickly enough to avoid.