Ask it to do anything
No matter how much pleasure we derive from sporty cars, there's no denying the usefulness of a utility vehicle. Having lived with an Odyssey -- an All-Star winner last year -- in our Four Seasons fleet for eight months, we've had plenty of time to examine the minivan's finer points. We've also had plenty of time to confirm our initial impressions. No surprise, then, that this minivan earns another All-Star award for 2012.
Power sliding doors, a power tailgate, and rear-seat entertainment systems are widely available in the minivan set, but the Odyssey shines in the details. The interior is flexible enough to haul four-by-eight-foot sheets of plywood or move up to eight people -- many vans seat only seven. Honda was first to offer a DVD entertainment system in a minivan back in 2002. Now, the Odyssey's 16.2-inch screen raises the standard with an HDMI input and split-screen viewing, so siblings have one less thing to fight about on a long trip. Premium materials in top-spec models elevate the Odyssey to luxury-car levels of comfort.
However, what really makes the Honda Odyssey stand out from the rest of the minivan segment is how well it drives while executing the usual chores. Steering weight and feel are about as good as it gets for a van, as are ride and handling. Honda's Variable Cylinder Management system enables the 3.5-liter V-6 to run on as few as three cylinders, resulting in an EPA rating of up to 28 mpg on the highway.
One of our drivers called our Four Seasons Odyssey "the best family road-trip vehicle" in the fleet, but that's just one of the many hats this Honda can wear, including cargo van, soccer shuttle, pulse accelerator, and sensible commuter. Capability, capacity, comfort, and efficiency in the same package? An All-Star, indeed.
-- Phil Floraday
BASE PRICE RANGE: $29,035-$44,485
ENGINE: 3.5L V-6, 248 hp, 250 lb-ft
Range Rover Evoque
Staking a claim
are you old enough to remember when new cars weren't intended to become and weren't regularly identified as iconic -- that is, being emblematic of a whole time or movement? Cars like the original Volkswagen Beetle, the gull-wing Mercedes-Benz, and the Lamborghini Countach were admired, but only time could tell us that these were machines that would stake eternal claims on our consciousness. Today we are impatient, and when not copying and cribbing shamelessly from the past, we often prematurely pronounce iconic status for new cars. Then again, we've seen enough icons by now -- real and pretend -- that we've grown pretty good at calling them on arrival.
That's why we dare broach the dreaded I-word in connection with the new Range Rover Evoque. For one thing, icons are something Land Rover has specialized in. From the earliest mud-pluggers to the latest third-generation Range Rover and the Range Rover Sport, the company has demonstrated an uncanny ability to find increasingly small, sometimes tiny, holes in the market and fill them with capable off-roaders whose style expertly complements their serious substance.
Like the Range Rovers that -- image-wise, at least -- tend to make high-priced BMW and Mercedes SUVs seem second-place swanky, the Evoque has arrived out of nowhere to create its own sub-sub-genre in the "compact" SUV class. It makes similarly priced X3s and GLKs look like yesterday's gruel. Welcome, then, the luxury four-cylinder SUV that delivers 28 mpg and rides as well as many cars yet has considerable off-road skill and timeless looks. Possibly iconic looks, even.
The Evoque is first and foremost a design triumph. Easily the best work credited to designer Gerry McGovern's studio, it telegraphs the new truck's off-road chops while carrying a heavy load of aspirational snob appeal. Only time will tell if the Evoque becomes a real member of the enduring line of icons, but right now we're saying to this All-Star, welcome to the family.
-- Jamie Kitman
BASE PRICE RANGE: $43,995-$52,895
ENGINE: 2.0L turbocharged I-4, 240 hp, 251 lb-ft