Lexus CT 200h — Hybrid mileage in luxury clothes

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

Lexus’ second attempt at a pure hybrid vehicle, the 2011 CT 200h, is a step forward from its first effort, which came to market in the 2010 model year and sells as the HS 250h.

But the tuned suspension in Lexus’ newest effort, pointing toward the sporty side, is virtually lost in the typical hybrid performance, which is tepid at best even in what is optimistically called the sport mode.

Lincoln MKS — Where luxury meets EcoBoost

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

In a month gone is the gigantic Lincoln Town Car, for decades the personification of American luxury sedans. The big, comfortable cruiser is still the staple of many limousine fleets across the country, but for the family man seeking plush, soft-sprung luxury the Town Car era has passed.

Lincoln devotees today have two choices to fill the void, the large MKT crossover, a contender for the livery business and the top-line MKS sedan now in its third model year since its introduction in 2008 as a 2009 model, and the only vehicle Lincoln has to offer the traditional American large luxury sedan buyer, although it has neither the size nor the softness of ride of the Town Car.

Ford F-150 EcoBoost — Gas saving performance

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

Being a segment leader for a year is a noteworthy achievement and shows an automaker’s ability to provide a product that people desire. Being a segment sales leader for decades is quite another thing, demonstrating that an automaker is savvy enough to indefinitely stay ahead of the competition.

So it is with Ford and its F-Series pickup.

Hyundai Equus — Moving on up

 By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

Hyundai broke into the U.S. car market with a roar in 1986 when it sold more than 100,000 sub-compact Excels at a bargain-basement price.

Although the South Korean automaker — which starting building cars in the late ’60s — had gained an instant foothold, its North American existence was threatened with shoddy build quality and unreliability. Hyundai eventually got things sorted out, and in an effort to overcome its dubious reputation it initiated an unprecedented-for-the-time 10-year, 100,000-mile drivetrain warranty.

Chevrolet Volt — A charge to drive

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

Although we had not driven General Motors’ revolutionary extended range electric car in the first months of its new life, we had reached the conclusion that its cost far exceeds the benefits it provides in gas savings.

We reasoned that numerous vehicles from established hybrids to the new plug-in hybrids soon to hit the market to the new high-mileage compact vehicles now in showrooms provide considerably more bang for the buck than the Volt, which is also of compact size.

There is still much truth in that opinion, at least for time being.

Porsche Panamera — The all sports car, frugal luxury sedan

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

A decade ago the thought of Porsche building a four-door sedan was, well, just crazy. The mention of such a move was sacrilege.

It was about that time that the Porsche sport utility vehicle — which too was much maligned, but  has proven a giant success for the German sports car builder — hit the market. The popularity of the Cayenne SUV paved the way for the Panamera sedan, which arrived in 2009 as a 2010 model and has given Porsche another shot in its sales arm.

Lexus LS 460 — Carries on its luxury tradition

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

The Lexus LS 460 has been rather derogatorily called soft and unexciting — devoid of passion and driving dynamics — when compared to the more sports-orientated luxury cruisers such as the Jaguar XJ, BMW 7-Series and the Mercedes S-Class.

As members of the automotive writer clique we find ourselves among the ranks of the BMW 7-Series and Jaguar XJ aficionados who enjoy a more engaging ride. That’s 180 degrees from the average Lexus customer who cries out for powerful, plush, soft and quiet.

Hyundai Sonata Turbo — A step up to sensible performance

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

Fans of the Hyundai Sonata were no doubt thrilled last year when they first caught a glimpse of the stylish, trend-setting 2011 sedan. But for some, their enthusiasm may have waned when they learned there would be no V-6 engine available to compete with the bigger engines in the Honda Accord, Toyota Camry, Ford Fusion and Nissan Altima.

Mazda CX-9 — Seven go Grand Touring

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

The CX-9 entered the marketplace the same year as the much ballyhooed GMC Acadia, Saturn Outlook and Buick Enclave although the GM assemblage has gone through some changes. The Outlook is gone with the rest of Saturn and the Chevrolet Traverse now fills out the GM threesome.

And as with the GM segment entries, the CX-9 carries on in a very acceptable and rewarding manner based on the two weeks we spent in a loaded 2011 Grand Touring all-wheel drive model.

Infiniti G25 — Think G37 light, refreshing, less filling

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

If horsepower isn't everything in your driving life, but you crave luxury and style in your motorized transportation even on a modest budget, we have a suggestion. Give the all-new 2011 Infiniti G25 a test drive.

It's what you might call G37 light, Infiniti's answer to the Lexus IS250, the Mercedes C300, the Acura TSX and the BMW 328i. It has the same interior, exterior and similar standard features as the G37 and is available in three trim levels — G25, G25 Journey and G25x Journey AWD.