2013 Land Rover LR2

MONTREAL, Quebec — It has often been said that Land Rovers are the Swiss Army knives of the automotive world, albeit it with a British accent. You can rock climb, go for a leisurely drive, wade through bodies of water or just sit in your own driveway listening to classical music through orchestral hall-quality speakers…all in the comfort of your own vehicle. This was emphasized  in Montreal and northern Quebec driving the 2013 Land Rover LR2.

Buick Verano Turbo — Energetic performance

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

For the first time in nearly 15 years a small Buick returned to the fold last year slotting into the new Buick lineup of smaller, firmer cars with European design and flare. Buick completed its transformation introducing an entry-level luxury car that rivals anything in its class. The compact Verano offers handsome styling, a comfortable ride; an attractive and quiet interior loaded with quality materials; nimble handling; and fuel efficiency.

2013 Buick Encore

ATLANTA — Luxury in a small, fuel-efficient package is the new hot commodity in the automotive world. We want our good stuff, but we want it in a tidy container that makes us feel good about saving precious resources and disposal income that otherwise would land in the pockets of big oil. In this vein, Buick is offering up for 2013 the very tidy and compact crossover Encore.

Nissan 370Z Roadster — Affordable open air fun

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

The just-right vehicle for a mid-life crisis may be the 2013 Nissan 370Z Roadster. The drop-top Z-Car offers muscular styling, thrilling performance, exceptional handling, and a price point that won’t break the budget.

The Z-Car is not only fun to be seen in — a trait necessary for mid-life crisis appeal — but it produces breath-taking straight-line performance while delivering a more satisfying driving experience.

2013 VW Beetle convertible

LOS ANGELES — Few of us were around in 1949 when the type 15 Convertible was introduced by Volkswagen. In essence it was the first Beetle convertible and over a 32-year span the company produced more than 330,000 of the popular little cars. With a salute to the past, the third-generation Beetle convertible, introduced at the L.A. Auto Show, has three specific editions that harken back to the three distinct decades of the iconic vehicle in American history: the ‘50s, ‘60s and ‘70s.

Chevrolet Spark — A miniature delight

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

Not long ago tiny cars were seldom seen on American roads. U.S. automobile buyers had placed a big "not sold here" sign on the little guys, rejected as too small and too slow to fit into the wide open spaces of America.

But times have changed thanks to ever-increasing gas prices, the need to preserve shrinking family income, and the feverish rush by automakers to raise their corporate mileage to meet government mandates.

Hyundai Veloster Turbo — Pleasing performance

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

We were intrigued by the futuristic looking Hyundai Veloster with its sporty demeanor, hidden third door and useable hatch when we first saw it; but after 30 miles behind the wheel our excitement over this unusual car was melting faster than a snowman on a warm spring afternoon.

What cooled off our enthusiasm was the 1.6-liter 138-horsepower four-cylinder engine, the only one available. Adequate, yes, but we felt the small four was more suited to the entry-level Accent in which it also resides, not a car that looks like this with such sporty pretensions. The performance didn't match the persona. To Hyundai's credit it wasted little time upgrading the Veloster with an engine that should have been available from the get-go, a turbocharged version of the 1.6-liter pumping up horsepower to 201 and torque to 195 pound-feet — running on 87-octane gas.

Ford Fusion — As good as it looks

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

When we got our first look at the 2013 Ford Fusion at the Detroit auto show last January we were astounded. What a great-looking mid-sized sedan. But, we thought, will this turn out to be just a fancy new wrapper for the same old contents?

After spending time with two EcoBoost engines that are the heart and soul of the new Fusion and perhaps the most engaging mid-sized hybrid sedan so far in the 21st century we can report the Fusion's new beauty extends far beyond styling.

2013 Toyota Avalon

SAN ANTONIO, Texas — We give Toyota designers a standing ovation for their work with the 2013 Toyota Avalon, which turned a predominately senior citizen's entry-level-luxury sedan into a vehicle that should appeal to a wider — and younger — audience. Toyota officials say this is their new design direction for the entire fleet.

Honda Accord — Big step forward

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

Honda has done a creditable job with the all-new Accord, a sedan that should keep it at or near the top of the sales charts in the mid-sized segment. The 2013 Accord features a fuel-efficient drivetrain that offers solid performance, better handling traits than its predecessor, stretch-out room — front and back — for full-sized adults, and an overall pleasing driving demeanor.