Volvo S60 R-Design — Beyond safety

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman
Volvo engineering has always been front and center about safety; performance and style not so much, although Volvo has had a tad of success with both when you take a look back. For example Volvo seriously started playing with performance in the middle 1990’s with the 850-T5R, a smash hit with club racers and on the stock car circuit. Even everyday 850 owners got a kick out of the sportiness of the 850 with its additional 18-horsepower over the standard turbo engine.

Jeep Wrangler — Off-road master gets on-road improvements

 By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman
As much as we enjoy crawling over rocks and wading through muddy streams in a rugged four-wheel-drive truck, we like to have experts on hand or at least no more than 10 minutes away if trouble should rear its ugly head. We don’t want to damage a vehicle that has been loaned to us and perhaps more importantly, we don’t want to be embarrassed by having to call for help.

2012 Honda CR-V

SAN DIEGO — If you liked the previous Honda CR-V crossover you will surely be pleased with the all-new 2012 model. You probably won't detect much difference in performance or appearance — the powertrain is a carryover and the styling evokes the same theme as the third generation — but the 2012 Honda is decidedly more sophisticated with numerous technology upgrades, more standard equipment, a quieter interior and a smoother ride.

Acura TL SH-AWD — Impeccable performance

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

Styling sells cars. Look no further than current Hyundai and Kia products as evidence. The Korean automakers’ sales have skyrocketed as they bombard the auto-buying public with one piece of delectable eye candy after another.
But beauty is, as wise sages have noted, only skin deep and eventually inner beauty will triumph. And so it is with the 2012 Acura TL, perhaps the best all-around luxury sports sedan for under $50,000. BMW 3-Series and Infiniti G37 fanatics will argue, of course.

Volkswagen Passat — A new look and feel

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

 As limo and shuttle services phase out the venerable and soon-to-depart-the-scene Lincoln Town Car perhaps they should consider replacing it with the Volkswagen Passat.
Sounds a bit off the wall; replacing the spacious luxury of the $60,000 Lincoln with a 25 grand Volkswagen. In fact it strikes as being over-the-top ridiculous. But perhaps judgment should be reserved until you get the opportunity to visit the stretch-out rear-seat leg room of the 2012 Passat.

2012 Scion iQ

DETROIT — The quirky Scion family has just introduced its fourth vehicle and in doing so has created an entirely new segment — Premium Micro-Subcompact. The only other way to describe this 10-foot long vehicle is to call it the "world’s smallest four-seater.” At first glance the iQ looks more like an oversized golf cart. But the size of the vehicle makes it the perfect David Copperfield car because it, too, is an illusionist.

2012 Honda Civic Hybrid

GOLDSBORO, N.C. — We’ve been inundated these days with a host of economic plans designed to get the economy out of its significant rut. Perhaps the most ballyhooed is the 9-9-9 plan. Well Honda has an economic plan of its own. It's called the 44-44-44. Meet the 2012 Honda Civic Hybrid, designed to allow owners to keep more money in their pocket while driving a mainstream vehicle that does not scream, "Look at me, I am driving green."

2012 Buick Verano

NEW YORK — If Buick is as quiet in promoting its 2012 Verano compact luxury car as the vehicle’s interior is then nobody is going to hear about it. Buick pulled out all the stops, and interior noise to create a domestic vehicle that is set to take on the vaunted Lexus IS 250 and Audi A3 sedans. A dozen noise-reducing and noise-cancelling technologies are used in more than 50 areas of Verano’s body structure for increased cabin isolation and quietness.

Mercedes-Benz SLK350 — Rock solid roadster

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

We marveled at the retractable steel top when we first got our hands on a 1998 Mercedes SLK roadster in the fall of 1997. It was the first modern hardtop convertible we had encountered and we admired the German automaker’s ingenuity in manufacturing an open-air car that offered the quiet weather-tight cabin of a coupe while enhancing security.
The first edition, badged as the SLK230, came with a 185-horsepower turbocharged 2.3-liter that gave it a just-right roadster feel, a fun sporty open-air two-seater that featured precise steering and a road-carving suspension.

Audi A7 — Great looks with dynamics to match

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman
If we were forced to pick the best brand car-for-car — bottom to top — it would have to be Audi. The German company continually amazes with its quality vehicles from one end of its lineup to the other. Driving the stylish all-new 2012 Audi A7 fastback sedan only reinforced our opinion of the brand.
Audi has entered the relatively new segment of luxury hatchback sedans that has few members, namely the Porsche Panamera and the BMW 5-Series Gran Turismo. The Mercedes CLS550 has the same swept-back styling, but has a traditional trunk.