Friday, September 23, 2011

Lots to like in 2012 motor vehicle offerings

Sacramento, California – The freshened, restyled and new motor vehicles for 2012 are starting to show up in numbers, and while no single model seems to stand out from the rest at this point, there are some eye-catchers.

The one arguably creating the most buzz is one of the smallest – the Fiat 500 (pictured).

What’s not to like? The tiny Italian is critically cute, a dedicated fuel-sipper and totally fun to drive on city streets and country roads. It will be interesting to see how Fiat sales go in this year’s final quarter.

What else out there is worthy of your attention? Here’s a rundown:

• The previously reviewed, redesigned-for-2012 Mercedes-Benz CLS500 is a four-door cruiser dripping with class and horsepower. Here’s a car that makes you want to drive more often and worry about the gasoline bill later.
• The 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8 is an SUV on highway-burning steroids. If you thought an SUV was a practical vehicle for hauling family and cargo, step on the gas in this SRT8 and feel your heart race.
• The new Hyundai Veloster is a hatch with hot-rod attitude and stuffed with high-tech entertainment goodies to please both kids and adults. Can Hyundai be cool? Darn right it can!
• A super hot-looking ZL1 version of the Camaro is ready to make its debut. The horsepower output is somewhere in the 550 range. Enough said.
• The 2012 Chevrolet Impala gets styling and engine upgrades, adding some appeal to an American model that long lit up the sales charts.
• The latest version of Volkswagen’s venerable Beetle drops the “New” name and gets decidedly more macho with more-aggressive exterior styling and muscular engines. One test drive and you’ll forget that these cars once came with a standard flower vase.
• Another SRT8 mind-blower arrives with the 2012 Dodge Charger. It looks capable of walking away from a NASCAR Sprint Cup car. While you might not get the chance to try that out, the power plant lays down enough oomph to let you fantasize about the possibilities.
• The 2012 Audi A6 is a study in primo fit and finish on a four-door sedan. The optional, supercharged V-6 engine puts out 310 horses.
• Don’t forget that BMW’s 6 Series is redesigned for 2012, and these are more than minor tweaks. The cars are bigger inside and out, and more-powerful engines are part of the mix.
• The all-new 2012 Buick Verano shapes up as an affordable, feature-loaded, practical-size sedan. A 2.4-liter in-line 4 has max horsepower of around 180, but look for more robust engine offerings up the road.

That’s it? Not by a long shot. Stay tuned for more reviews of 2012 hardware. Trust me, I’m test driving as fast as I can.

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