2011 New Cars: Europe

September 28, 2010
The 2011 model year is looking like a fairly quiet one for the major European players. The Volkswagen group has new bookends, with a redesigned Jetta and the Sybaritic Bentley Mulsanne- plus a fresh Audi A8 in between. Both Swedish carmakers enter 2011 with new owners and new sedans- the Saab 9-5 and the Volvo S60- to celebrate their new leases on life, and, of course Fiat returns with its tine 500.
2011 Audi A8 Side In Motion
Aston Martin Rapide
2011 Aston Martin Rapide Side
New: An Aston Martin for the (small) family.
Noteworthy: Gorgeous styling has allowed Aston Martin's first four-door in ages to avoid any controversy about adding a sedan to its sports car lineup. The Rapide's rear seats, however, aren't exactly commodious -- tight head- and legroom make the rear seats cramped for adults of any size, and slipping gracefully through the small door openings takes serious practice. From the driver's seat, though, it's hard to argue with the stylish Rapide's swift acceleration and excellent handling.
On sale: Now
BASE PRICE: $201,300
Specs: 5.9L V-12, 470 hp, 443 lb-ft; rear-wheel drive
The Twitter Feed:
Envious, Porsche Panamera?
Aston Martin V12 Vantage
2011 Aston Martin V12 Vantage Front End In Motion
New: A V-12 engine shoehorned into the Vantage's engine bay.
Noteworthy: Aston's V12 Vantage will cause you to seriously question that DBS purchase you were contemplating. Both cars use the same twelve-cylinder engine, but the newest Aston is $90,000 cheaper and runs to 62 mph 0.1 second faster, stopping the watch at 4.2 seconds. You also have to love the fact that Aston Martin refuses to sell the V12 Vantage with an automatic transmission.
On sale: Now
BASE PRICE: $181,345
Specs: 5.9L V-12, 510 hp, 420 lb-ft; rear-wheel drive
The Twitter Feed:
Move over, DBS! The smallest Aston is now also the fastest, thanks to your V-12.
Audi Q5 2.0T
2011 Audi Q5 2 0 T Side In Motion
New: Two more gears; two fewer cylinders.
Noteworthy: The tree huggers might be glad that you chose the compact Q5 over the obese Q7, but the 3.2-liter V-6 under the hood still slurps down the dinosaur juice. That's solved for 2011 with the addition of a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder and an eight-speed automatic. EPA ratings jump ten percent -- from 18/23 mpg to 20/27 mpg city/highway.
On sale: Now
BASE PRICE: $36,075
Specs: 2.0L turbo I-4, 211 hp, 258 lb-ft; 4-wheel drive
The Twitter Feed:
2011 is the year of the eight-speed automatic at Audi. You'll see it in A4, A5, and Q5 four-cylinder models and in all Q7s and A8s.
Audi Q7
2011 Audi Q7 Front Tree Quarters
New: A single engine to replace the V-8 and the V-6.
Noteworthy: For 2011, Audi will jettison its V-6 and V-8 engines in the Q7 and replace them with a single engine offered with two different outputs. Using its 3.0-liter supercharged V-6 in 272-hp and 333-hp strengths, Audi will simplify the powertrain lineup while preserving the idea of a base engine plus a more powerful step-up option. In high-output trim, the 3.0T is down 17 hp versus the old 4.2-liter V-8 but matches the 325 lb-ft torque rating. Thanks to the versatility of a new eight-speed automatic, the Q7 never feels lacking in forward thrust. Both versions of the 3.0T are projected to use less fuel than the engines they replace, but exact EPA numbers aren't yet available. The Q7's third powertrain, the turbo-diesel V-6, carries over, and it also receives the eight-speed automatic for 2011.
On sale: October
BASE PRICE: $46,575
Specs: 3.0L supercharged V-6, 272/333 hp, 266/325 lb-ft; 3.0L turbo-diesel V-6, 225 hp, 406 lb-ft; 4-wheel drive
The Twitter Feed
Audi's 3.0T strategy closely follows that of the 2.0T: several applications with multiple outputs to establish powertrain hierarchy.
Audi R8 Spyder
2011 Audi RS Spyder Front Convertible Top
New: A wind-in-your-hair option.
Noteworthy: Audi's R8 is now available with a soft top, a surprise to exactly no one. The big question was how the supercar's designers would deal with the side blades, the R8's trademark styling elements. Turns out that they simply removed them, and-who knew?-somehow the R8 is no less visually striking. The Spyder is available now with the 525-hp, 5.2-liter V-10 whose 8700-rpm shriek can shatter windows from a block away. The 420-hp, 4.2-liter V-8 from the base R8 coupe will join the lineup in early 2011 and its 8250-rpm music is just as symphonic. All R8s come with a six-speed manual gearbox with a gated aluminum shifter or a single-clutch automated manual that's decidedly five years ago.
On sale: Now/Early 2011 (5.2/4.2)
BASE PRICE: $162,250 (5.2)
Specs: 4.2L V-8, 420 hp, 317 lb-ft; 5.2L V-10, 525 hp, 391 lb-ft; 4-wheel drive
The Twitter Feed:
For attention seekers who love being seen-and heard.
Bentley Continental Supersports Convertible
2011 Bentley Continental Supersports Convertible Side
New: The ultimate droptop Continental ushers out the current-generation car in style.
Noteworthy: As the Continental nears retirement (look for its replacement at this fall's Paris auto show), the last of the special variants, the ultra-hard-core Supersports, migrates to the convertible. As a coupe, it was a two-seater (to save weight); here, the rear seats remain. Again there's an awesome, 621-hp twin-turbo W-12; black, twenty-inch wheels; a lowered suspension; and racing-style seats upholstered in quilted Alcantara. Sure, an open car contradicts the Supersports mission, but it's really all about exclusivity-and maintaining interest until the new Continentals arrive.
On sale: Now
BASE PRICE: $285,595
Specs: 6.0L twin-turbo W-12, 621 hp, 590 lb-ft; 4-wheel drive
The Twitter Feed:
The last of the current Contis is visually arresting, but we'd wait for its successor, which should be out later this year.
Bentley Mulsanne
2011 Bentley Mulsanne Front
NEW: Modern megabuck sedan to replace the Arnage.
Noteworthy: Compared with the aged Arnage, the new Mulsanne makes a big leap in size (nearly seven inches longer overall, with a six-inch-greater span between the axles), in price (some fifty grand dearer), but most of all in credibility. This all-new sedan retains all the handcrafted, old-world charm but makes no apologies in terms of performance or equipment. The performance comes via a reworked version of the traditional V-8 (updated with variable valve timing and cylinder deactivation), now paired with an eight-speed automatic. The V-8 remains a low-revving torque monster that can effortlessly accelerate this heavy car to 60 mph in just 5.1 seconds, and the big Bentley displays remarkable athleticism for its size and heft. Suspension tuning and steering effort are driver-adjustable. The interior can be fitted with myriad choices of leather and wood veneers; the exterior can be painted any color (or colors) you choose.
On sale: Now
BASE PRICE: $287,595 (plus gas-guzzler tax)
Specs: 6.8L twin-turbo V-8, 505 hp, 752 lb-ft; rear-wheel drive
The Twitter Feed:
The Mulsanne is the first Bentley in decades that isn't based on another company's car.
Essentially an X4 with a familiar nameplate.
2011 BMW X3 Rear In Motion
An enduring personality is no BMW birth-right. Graphic proof is the X3, which has been the family's troubled child since it debuted seven years ago with a brutal ride, an austere cabin, cramped accommodations, and a high price. Numerous course corrections have helped, but what this compact SUV really needed was a clean-sheet redesign. Thankfully, one is due in March -- in the nick of time before BMW's smaller X1 arrives.
Along with a jump from the old to the new 3-series platform (E46 to E90 for you code mavens), BMW has shifted production from Austria to its Spartanburg, South Carolina, assembly plant, where the X5 and the X6 are also manufactured.
The new 2011 X3 is roughly the same size as the original X5. Overall length is greater by more than three inches. The wheelbase is 0.6 inch longer; width grows by 1.1 inches. More aluminum in the suspension and a body shell made of thinner-gauge high-strength steel yields a slightly lighter curb weight. We're being vague here because BMW won't release final figures until the new X3 debuts at this fall's Paris auto show.
Nor will BMW spokespersons confirm rumors of turbo-diesel and four-cylinder gasoline engines planned for the U.S.-market X3. The two engines initially on tap are normally aspirated and single-turbo versions of BMW's direct-injected, Valvetronic 3.0-liter in-line six. Expect 240 hp for the X3 xDrive28i and 300 hp for the X3 xDrive35i.
Today's six-speed manual transmission is hors de combat. A ZF eight-speed automatic with a manual mode and optional paddle shifting will be the sole U.S. gearbox. A standard all-wheel-drive system shared with the X5 uses a computer-controlled clutch to deliver torque to the front axle on demand with an initial 40/60 front/rear torque split. In lieu of limited-slip differentials, the new X3's stability control system is programmed to apply individual brakes and to summon more power -- when required -- to manipulate traction and handling.
The revised exterior proportions are more attractive but still recognizable as BMW's junior SUV. Inside, the hard-plastic days are gone. The optional leather trim is lavishly French seamed with contrasting stitches. There's an electronic display screen atop the dash -- with and without navigation -- and a standard iDrive controller surrounded by seven support buttons. Bluetooth, iPod, and auxiliary hookups are also standard. The wider tracks and larger door openings yield easier entry, more space between the front passengers, and ample room for two adults (or three in a pinch) in back.
A short on- and off-road drive in one camouflaged preproduction X3 revealed major improvements in ride quality. The new suspension takes potholes and pavement joints in stride, yet body roll during abrupt maneuvers is tightly contained. Steering effort builds predictably. According to chassis development guru Heinz Krusche, the credit is due to more resilient suspension systems, a stiffer body shell, and more linear damper calibrations. The outgoing X3's mushy brake pedal is also gone.
BMW hopes to hold the line on price so the base X3 can squeak under the $40,000 barrier.
On sale: March 2011
BASE PRICE: $40,000 (est.)
Specs: 3.0L I-6, 240 hp, 230 lb-ft; 3.0L turbo I-6, 300 hp, 300 lb-ft; 4-wheel drive
The Twitter Feed:
BMW may have been first to the luxury compact crossover segment, but it'll take a full reboot of the X3 to remain competitive.
BMW 335is
2011 BMW 335is Rear Three Quarters
New: An even sportier variant of the 3-series coupe and convertible.
Noteworthy: The 335is ("s" for sport) brings the 3-series coupe and convertible closer to the M3 in looks, performance-and price. The 335is retains the twin-turbo six, here with 20 more hp and an additional 32 lb-ft of torque. An overboost function, however, can push peak torque from 332 to 370 lb-ft. Enhanced cooling and a snarling exhaust are exclusive to this car, as is the optional paddleshifted dual-clutch gearbox. The suspension and the brakes, however, are stock 335i items, and the appearance tweaks are largely those of the M Sport package. You can look at the 335is's price pessimistically or optimistically -- as a $7000 premium over a 335i or as a $7000 to $10,000 discount versus an M3.
On sale: Now
BASE PRICE: $51,400/$59,950 (coupe/convertible)
Specs: 3.0L twin-turbo I-6, 320 hp, 370 lb-ft; rear-wheel drive
The Twitter Feed:
The ever-improving 3-series coupe takes another fratricidal swat at the M3.
2011 BMW 5 Series Front Three Quarters
NEW: The sixth generation of BMW's luxury sport sedan.
Noteworthy: BMW continues to emerge from the visual nightmare of its "flame surface" styling, with the 5-series being the latest beneficiary of skillfully resculpted sheetmetal, which is laid over a 3.2-inch-longer wheelbase. Below the surface, the 5 switches from a strut-type to a control-arm front suspension and electric rather than hydraulic steering assist; there's also optional four-wheel steering. Straight sixes still feature prominently, powering the 528i (3.0 liters, 240 hp) and the 535i (3.0-liter turbo, 300 hp); the 550i uses a twin-turbo V-8 (4.4 liters, 400 hp). The last two models still offer a stick shift or an eight-speed automatic; the 528i is automatic only. The mile-long list of options can make the 5-series as luxurious -- and expensive -- as a 7-series, with which it shares many parts and styling cues. One thing you can't get is the 5-series wagon, which is no longer offered to Americans, as BMW thinks we'd rather have the 5-series Gran Turismo. BMW should think again.
On sale: Now
BASE PRICE RANGE: $45,425-$60,575
Specs: 3.0L I-6, 240 hp, 230 lb-ft; 3.0L turbo I-6, 300 hp, 300 lb-ft; 4.4L twin-turbo V-8, 400 hp, 450 lb-ft; rear- or 4-wheel drive
The Twitter Feed:
There's a lot to be said for design that doesn't need to be explained.
2011 BMW X5 Front Three Quarters
New: Six-cylinder and V-8 engines -- and that's about it.
Noteworthy: BMW's stalwart SUV has undergone a midcycle freshening that sees efforts concentrated in the area BMW knows so well: the engine room. The base 3.0-liter straight six gains a turbocharger and a not-insignificant 60 hp; it's now as quick as the previous V-8. The new V-8 goes down in size but gains two turbos. Both engines get a new eight-speed automatic. The diesel and the 555-hp X5 M continue.
On sale: Now
Base Price Range: $46,675-$86,375
Specs: 3.0L turbo I-6, 300 hp, 300 lb-ft; 3.0L turbo-diesel I-6, 265 hp, 425 lb-ft; 4.4L twin-turbo V-8, 400/555 hp, 450/500 lb-ft; 4-wheel drive
The Twitter Feed:
Turbos arrive for both the standard six and the optional V-8, earning new model designations: xDrive35i and xDrive50i.
BMW 740Li
A budget-friendly Bimmer?
2011 BMW 740Li Front Three Quarters
For about $12,500 less than a V-8 BMW 750i or 750Li, frugal shoppers can now park a six-cylinder 2011 7-series in the garage. The addition of the 740i and the long-wheelbase 740Li to BMW's flagship lineup shouldn't let the recession's sour taste seep into the mouths of Bimmer fans, though. After all, the 7-series was offered solely with six-cylinder power from its U.S. introduction in 1978 until the second generation debuted in 1988. And although BMW of North America hasn't imported a six-cylinder 7 since 1992 (the 735i), the direct-injected, twin-turbo straight six in the new 740 is clearly worthy, what with its 315 hp and 330 lb-ft of torque.
Most important, the 740s are darn quick. In fact, according to BMW, the six-cylinder models give up only 0.7 second in the sprint to 60 mph compared with twin-turbo V-8-powered 750s of matching wheelbases (5.8 seconds for the 740i versus 5.1 seconds for the 750i). During a test-drive of a 740Li, we were particularly impressed that the six-cylinder car exhibited less turbo lag off the line and provided smoother, more linear acceleration. The 740, which is about 220 pounds lighter than the 750, retains the luxobarge's impressively sporty handling. Both 740s are rated at a respectable 17/25 mpg city/highway, a few ticks better than V-8 cars.
The junior edition keeps all of the 750's high-tech options, too, but all-wheel drive isn't available. The standard features list remains long, although the entry-level 740 lacks the base 750's soft-close doors, power-closing trunk, keyless start, Nappa leather upholstery, and "multicontour" front seats. Only observers who notice the badging and different wheels will detect the cylinder subtraction. Still, BMW estimates that only ten to fifteen percent of 7-series shoppers will spring for possibly the smartest buy in BMW's lineup. A bit of a shame, no?
On sale: Now
Base price: $71,025/$75,425 (740i/740Li)
Specs: 3.0L twin-turbo I-6, 315 hp, 330 lb-ft; rear-wheel drive
So many Sevens
If you add up all the 7-series models from the last twenty years, you probably won't count as high as the number of new models currently sitting at your local BMW dealer. At the moment, thirteen different 7-series variants are available, thanks to a choice of two wheelbases (normal and long), two drive configurations (rear- or all-wheel drive), four twin-turbo engines (an in-line six, two V-8s, and a V-12), a hybrid version, and an Alpina model. From our perspective, the choice is easy: if you live in a region where you need four-wheel drive, get a 750i xDrive. Otherwise, the six-cylinder is all the 7 you'll ever really need.
The Twitter Feed:
A little bit of lost prestige at a very good price. Some $15,000 cheaper and nearly as efficient as Mercedes-Benz's S400 Hybrid, too.
BMW Z4 sDrive35is
Algebra, BMW-style: s = 35 hp + 69 lb-ft.
2011 BMW Z4 Sdrive35is Turn In Motion
It's appropriate that BMW has bestowed perhaps the most extreme example of its ridiculous new naming convention-sDrive35is-upon the most extreme version of its Z4 sports car. The "s" suffix stands for "sport," and it definitely means business.
The current Z4 debuted with the top model-the Z4 sDrive35i-powered by BMW's venerable 300-hp, 3.0-liter twin-turbo in-line six-cylinder (code-named N54). The sDrive35i, as opposed to all other BMW "35i" vehicles, stands pat for 2011 and doesn't get BMW's new N55 single-turbo 3.0-liter straight six. Likewise, the sDrive35is gets a more heavily boosted N54, which results in jumps of 35 hp and 69 lb-ft of torque -- and also results in the nose of the car jumping upward during hard acceleration.
It's therefore easy to believe BMW's claim that the Z4 sDrive35is (henceforth referred to as "35is") can sprint to 60 mph in 4.7 seconds-0.3 second quicker than the $9150-cheaper sDrive35i (heretofore "35i") with a dual-clutch automatic. The transmission qualifier is important because, unlike the 35i, the 35is comes only with a seven-speed dual-clutch unit. That may sadden traditionalists, but at least the gearbox is incredibly responsive. It's unfortunate, however, that BMW designed each wheel-mounted shift paddle to handle both upshift and downshift duties. Once behind the wheel of a 35is at New Jersey Motorsports Park, though, we were content to leave the transmission in its automatic sport mode and simply savor the car's gobs of power and nice steering.
A number of visible changes differentiate the 35is from its lesser siblings, including silver sideview mirrors, carbon-fiber-like interior trim, and special front and rear fascias. We'd still love to see BMW build an M version of the Z4, but it's hard to argue with the 35is's fast formula.
On sale: Now
BASE PRICE: $61,925
Specs: 3.0L twin-turbo I-6, 335 hp, 369 lb-ft; rear-wheel drive
The Twitter Feed:
Don't worry, Porsche Boxster, you're still our favorite. But watch out for the Z4 at the drag strip . . .
Chassis development engineer Heinz Krusche is responsible for making BMWs feel like BMWs.
Heinz Krusche Headshot
What are your ride and handling essentials?
We establish a basic concept for the vehicle and then design its weight, weight distribution, center of gravity, body stiffness, and basic dimensions to achieve our goals. We strive for lightweight suspension systems with high-quality wheel control to meet comfort and handling requirements.
How long does it take to calibrate a suspension?
We work in teams of four to eight engineers per model range. Following the simulation stage, tuning the first new model prototype requires more than a year.
How does BMW achieve such excellent steering?
The body must be stiff overall as well as stiff at the attachment points. The roll rate of both axles and the tuning of the springs and dampers are important. To achieve some low-frequency feedback with minimal kickback and high-frequency vibration, we refine the steering-gear hardware and software.
What roles do springs, dampers, and antiroll bars play?
We select different spring and damping rates to establish the car's character. Damping can be linear or gradually diminishing. Every suspension component has an influence on dynamics. Overall, we prefer well-defined body control with minimal pitch and roll.
Why does BMW favor run-flat tires?
They provide several advantages, including more precise steering and handling.
Bugatti Veyron 16.4 Super Sport
2011 Bugatti Veyron 16 4 Supersport Front End In Motion
New:The world's fastest production car.
Noteworthy: With the Super Sport, Bugatti has reclaimed its world record for the fastest production car with a max speed of 267.9 mph. To top the standard Veyron's 253.8 mph, Bugatti has employed larger turbochargers and intercoolers, raising output of the sixteen-cylinder engine to 1200 hp and 1106 lb-ft of torque. For the thirty cars that Bugatti will sell, though, top speed will be limited to 258 mph to protect the tires. The Super Sport can be ordered with a clear-coated finish to highlight the carbon-fiber body, which has been modified to reduce drag and retain downforce.
On sale: Now
BASE PRICE: $2 million
Specs: 8.0L quad-turbo W-16, 1200 hp, 1106 lb-ft; 4-wheel drive
The Twitter Feed:
It's no surprise that the Veyron's graceful exit from the market will be a fast one.
Ferrari 599 GTO
2011 Ferrari 599 GTO Front Side Three Quarters
New: Maranello has lost its mind. Hallelujah!
Noteworthy: Some of the best things in the world happen when the Italians let loose -- and this time, even Ferrari's engineers worried that they had gone too far. Relax, guys, there is no such thing -- the 599GTO is a masterpiece of modern engineering. It combines some of the best mechanical bits ever made with some of the best software ever written for a vehicle, resulting in a car that actually helps you have more fun. Ferrari is building only 599 of these GTOs. They were all sold even before going into production -- and that's before any rich dudes heard the 661-hp V-12.
On sale: Too late-sorry
BASE PRICE: $440,000 (est.
Specs: 6.0L V-12, 661 hp, 457 lb-ft; rear-wheel drive
The Twitter Feed:
It kicked the Enzo's ass around Fiorano by a full second, and this time, the pope doesn't get one for free.
Fiat 500
2011 Fiat 500 Front Side Three Quarters
New: After a twenty-six-year hiatus, a Fiat sold in the United States.
Noteworthy: Fiat hopes to capture the magic of Mini with the arrival of its cute and quirky 500 subcompact. When it arrives in December, the tiny four-seater will look almost identical to the 500 that's been on sale in Europe for three years, but it will actually be riding on a new platform that's both lighter and stronger. Power will come from a 100-hp, 1.4-liter four-cylinder that uses a throttle-less, infinite valve-lift system, or MultiAir in Fiat lingo. The 500 should be good for about 40 mpg on the highway.
On sale: December
BASE PRICE: $16,000 (est.)
specs: 1.4L I-4, 100 hp, 95 lb-ft; front-wheel drive
The Twitter Feed:
Sorry, Tony. Fiat has fixed the products and the business plan and is bringing its cars back to the U.S.
Jaguar XJ
2011 Jaguar XJ Rear Three Quarters
New: A fresh Jaguar flagship highlighted by a clean-slate design.
Noteworthy: The XJ is derived from the outgoing XJ8 and its engines are lifted from the smaller XF sedan, but the end result is hardly a patchwork vehicle. Meticulous attention to the steering calibration and suspension tuning infuse the XJ with the agility we've come to expect from Jaguar. All three V-8s are lively and sound fabulous, but the 510-hp Supersport is utterly intoxicating. The XJ boasts a striking, comfortable cabin, but the electronics are still slow and clumsy. Long-wheelbase models add 5.2 inches of rear legroom.
On sale: Now
BASE PRICE RANGE: $72,500-$113,000
SPECS: 5.0L V-8, 385 hp, 380 lb-ft; 5.0L supercharged V-8, 470/510 hp, 424/461 lb-ft; rear-wheel drive
The Twitter Feed:
It's got an all-new look, but from behind the wheel, the XJ possesses the same rewarding Jaguar character
Mercedes-Benz E350 4Matic wagon
There's nothing "Family Truckster" about it.
2011 Mercedes Benz E350 4matic Wagon Three Quarters
The Station wagon, as epitomized by Clark Griswold's wagon-queen family Truckster (which was really a Ford Country Squire) in National Lampoon's Vacation, was once the most unglamorous car on wheels. Today, America's Griswolds have decamped for minivans, SUVs, and crossovers, leaving the few remaining wagons -- most of them sleeker and European -- to a much different clientele. Sales volumes are tiny, but wagon buyers are loyal and loaded-none probably more so than Mercedes-Benz E-class wagon owners (one in four of whom has an annual household income of more than $500,000). For 2011, the E350 wagon undergoes the same revamp the sedan got for 2010. That means a fresh suit of sheetmetal (in essentially the same size), an all-new interior, and a host of new high-tech features. The novel Attention Assist system, which detects driver fatigue, is standard, as is a backup camera. New options include adaptive high beams, lane-departure warning, blind-spot warning, and a night-vision system.
The 3.5-liter V-6 returns, again paired with a seven-speed automatic and all-wheel drive. (For now at least, an E63 AMG version is not available.) The E350's 268 hp is less than you'll find in the Cadillac CTS wagon or the Audi A6 Avant. Acceleration is adequate, if not superlively. The well-mannered seven-speed automatic has a sport mode that changes the shift logic (and throttle mapping), but it's barely discernable. The powertrain's 16/23 mpg city/highway EPA numbers are far better than in the R-class or the ML but can't match the Cadillac or Audi wagons. Buyers choose Luxury or Sport trim. An AMG body kit distinguishes the Sport, which has a firmer suspension with a lower ride height and the option of eighteen-inch wheels. Even with the eighteens, the Sport has very good ride quality, and the steering effort is just right. While not a canyon carver, the E350 is far more pleasant to maneuver than a bulkier crossover or SUV. The E-class wagon is also more expensive, which should help keep this wagon away from the likes of Walley World.
On sale: Now
BASE PRICE: $57,075
Specs: 3.5L V-6, 268 hp, 258 lb-ft; 4-wheel drive
And then there was one
Many of today's adults grew up riding in a station wagon's third seat, but wagons have become rare in the U.S. market-and wagons with a third-row seat have become rarer still. In fact, only one remains: the Mercedes-Benz E350. (Volvo was the other holdout, but it dropped the option with the new V70 and XC70 in 2009.) The standard rear-facing third seat gives the E350 nominal seven-passenger capacity -- but the two in back can't be more than 55 inches tall or 110 pounds. Watching the world unspool behind them, those kids are getting an old-school automotive experience that their peers plugged in to videos while riding in minivans will never know.
The Twitter Feed:
Clark Griswold would be (metallic pea) green with envy.
Mercedes-Benz S63 AMG
2011 Mercedes Benz S63 AMG Front Three Quarters
New: AMG's new twin-turbo V-8 in old metal.
Noteworthy: Like the CL63, the S63 AMG upgrades to the new twin-turbo 5.5-liter V-8 and a performance seven-speed automatic transmission. The rest of the S63 is largely the same S-class we've known since 2005. Despite its age, this is a car to care about, because this is the powerplant that will eventually replace the normally aspirated 6.2-liter V-8 in all of the AMG "63" cars.
On sale: November
BASE PRICE: $134,000 (est.)
SPECS: 5.5L twin-turbo V-8, 536/563 hp, 590/664 lb-ft; rear-wheel drive
The Twitter Feed:
AMG's latest mill is even further from the historic 6.3-liter displacement, but that won't deter Mercedes from putting a "63" badge on every car.
Mercedes-Benz CL
2011 Mercedes Benz CL Three Quarters In Motion
NEW: Stronger, more chiseled lines and powertrain updates.
Noteworthy: The entry-level CL550 4Matic uses a new 4.6-liter twin-turbo V-8, while the CL63 AMG receives a 5.5L twin-turbo V-8 that will eventually proliferate throughout the "63" AMG lineup. In base form, the new AMG engine makes 536 hp and 590 lb-ft of torque, but an optional performance package raises output to 563 hp and 664 lb-ft. The CL63 also adopts the seven-speed automatic found in the SL63 AMG; the CL550 uses a conventional seven-speed automatic. Changes to the CL65 AMG's V-12 are more subtle, with power increasing by 17 hp and torque remaining unchanged. The CL600's V-12 is also untouched, and both V-12 models retain their five-speed automatics. Mercedes-Benz's active safety features find their way into the CL with lane-departure and blind-spot monitoring systems that use the brakes to keep a driver from veering out of his or her lane.
On sale: November
BASE PRICE RANGE: $112,000-$209,000
SPECS: 4.6L twin-turbo V-8, 429 hp, 516 lb-ft; 5.5L twin-turbo V-8, 536/563 hp, 590/664 lb-ft; 5.5L twin-turbo V-12, 510 hp, 612 lb-ft; 6.0L twin-turbo V-12, 621 hp, 738 lb-ft; rear- or 4-wheel drive
The Twitter Feed:
Freshened, but not simplified, the CL still has at least one more powertrain than it needs.
Mini Countryman
2011 Mini Countryman Front Three Quarters
NEW: An SUV for Mini, the brand previously seen as the anti-SUV.
Noteworthy: The new Countryman stretches the definition of Mini. Compared with the hatchback, it's nearly a foot and a half longer and six inches taller, and it sits astride a four-inch-longer wheelbase. The cabin is familiar Mini (giant central speedometer, overdone circular design theme), only writ larger. Four adults can fit (but not five, as the rear seats are buckets) and, unlike in the Clubman, conventional rear doors make access easy. The Countryman comes as a Cooper and a Cooper S, which use updated 1.6-liter engines-other Minis get them starting this fall.
The base engine increases to 122 hp, while the turbo produces 184 hp and is available with all-wheel drive. In our initial drive of the Countryman, it was slower than its siblings (no surprise, given its extra weight) but still managed to be fun and tossable despite being a bigger and taller Mini.
On sale: Early 2011
BASE PRICE: $26,500 (est.)
SPECS: 1.6L I-4, 122 hp, 118 lb-ft; 1.6L turbo I-4, 184 hp, 192 lb-ft: front- or 4-wheel drive
The Twitter Feed:
Yes, it will be anathema to some Mini loyalists, but the Countryman is more Mini than SUV.
Porsche 911 GT2 RS
Hail to the new king of Porsche performance.
2011 Porsche 911 GT2 RS Front Three Quarters
In Porsche-speak, RS means a roadway 911 with a ravenous track day appetite. To close out the 997 generation, a new 911 GT2 RS rolls forth this fall as the fastest, most powerful production car ever to wear a Porsche crest.
The prospect of 600-plus horsepower restrained by less than 3100 pounds conjures up vintage 911 horrors: scary handling, a tail itching to wag the dog, speed and sensibility grossly out of sync. Early 911 RSs were rightly called widow makers by their keepers. Yet, while whistling through Germany's Black Forest on rain-drenched roads and while lapping the LUK Driving Center, the eleventh RS in a line that dates to 1972 demonstrated impeccable behavior-sensational speed, unshakable poise, and electric reflexes. This is the 205-mph 911 you can trust, even in dicey conditions.
To reach fighting weight, the RS has several carbon-fiber patches stitched into its skin. The hood, front fenders, parts of the front splitter and rear wing, several of the air-inlet and -outlet slats, and a panel surrounding the tailpipes are all molded in the light, stiff composite. The relatively flat panels are clear coated to let their weave shine through.
Other weight-saving measures include carbon-ceramic brakes, a lithium-ion battery, aluminum doors and suspension components, a single-mass flywheel, a titanium muffler and exhaust pipes, and specially wound suspension springs.
The interior is all business. There are no cupholders, steering wheel buttons, back seats, noise insulation under the rear carpets, or door handles. (Door latches are operated with red pull straps.) If you fancy the roll cage, track-ready bucket seats, and plastic windows that the Porsche Motorsport department engineered for this car, you'll have to use the buy-and-bolt-on approach, because they don't comply with U.S. safety standards. The radio and A/C system are delete options.
The heart of the beast is a 3.6-liter twin-turbo flat six with a lineage to the 1998 Le Mans-winning GT1's engine. Unlike the current 911 Carrera engine, this powerhouse has a four-piece cylinder block, port fuel injection, and dry-sump lubrication. Modern touches are variable lift and timing for the intake valves, an intake manifold that uses expansion to cool induction air, and variable-geometry turbos. Maximum boost pressure is 23.2 psi, exactly twice the boost available in a 911 Turbo. The intercoolers are thicker than those fitted to the regular GT2. From 2250 to 5500 rpm, this engine produces 516 lb-ft of torque. The power curve peaks with a hearty 612 hp at 6500 rpm just before the rev limiter kicks in at 6750 rpm. That's more than enough to induce rapture during the 3.5-second run from rest to 62 mph.
Chassis tweaks include a half-inch-wider front track, metal-to-metal suspension pivots in most locations, a lower ride height, nine-inch-wide front wheels, and twelve-inch-wide rims at the rear. Two-position active dampers and a three-mode stability control system are standard. Adding lips to the front air dam and rear wing increased the aerodynamic downforce by 60 percent over a standard GT2.
2011 Porsche 911 GT2 RS Passenger Three Quarters
According to Porsche Motorsport manager Andreas Preunin-ger, the RS was conceived nearly four years ago as a skunk-works effort. The 727 code number selected for the project corresponds to the Nissan GT-R's lap time around the Nürburgring's Nordschleife. When the dust settled, Porsche test driver Timo Kluck had eclipsed that target by an impressive nine seconds.
Considering that it's the race-bred pole-sitter of the 911 family, the GT2 RS handles civilian driving with amazing grace. At low speeds, the loudest noise is the shuffle of transmission gears excited by the engine's undamped torsional vibrations. With two large turbos doing double duty as mufflers, the engine note is a distant whoosh that varies little with rpm or throttle setting. The most vivid sensation is the heavy back massage triggered by each brush of the throttle.
Turn-in is so crisp and quick that the RS seems to intercept instructions from your brain before they reach your wrists. Programmed to work with you instead of against you, the stability control system came into play only once, when the throttle was hammered exiting a wet bend in second gear. One touch of a button disables stability control and two deactivates traction control. Bumps broadcast some noise through the cabin, but most of the harshness is soaked up by the active dampers. Left in their normal setting, you've got all the control you'll need to lap the Nordschleife. Switching to the sport mode tightens up the suspension to suit smoother and flatter circuits.
Although the shifter is a bit heavy-handed, there's little chance of losing your way or missing a gear in the notchy and metallic-feeling six-speed gearbox. The brake and throttle are perfectly positioned for heel-and-toe footwork, and both are calibrated to respond linearly to subtle pressure adjustments.
Black is the dominant interior color, but there are many swatches of red Alcantara to relieve the monotony. The grippy steering wheel is a great place to hang on, although its small diameter blocks the top of the tachometer. The only notable impediment to outward visibility is the small airplane hovering over the deck lid.
Living proof that no car is perfect, we discovered two flaws in the GT2 RS's otherwise impeccable ointment: If you opt out of air-conditioning, there's no means of ridding the windshield of condensation on rainy days. And a $245,950 base price means that only undeserving journalists and the filthy rich will ever experience this Porsche.
On sale: October
BASE PRICE: $245,950
Specs: 3.6L twin-turbo flat-6, 612 hp, 516 lb-ft; rear-wheel drive
The Twitter Feed:
This is the Porsche that finally eclipses the Carrera GT both on and off the racetrack.
Porsche Boxster Spyder
2011 Porsche Boxster Spyder Rear
New: Porsche managed to eliminate 175 pounds from the already lithe Boxster S by ditching the power top, radio, and air-conditioning. And then it stiffened the dampers.
Noteworthy: The weight trimming was so obsessive that even the interior door handles are gone, replaced by red nylon pulls. The two-piece manual top is a bit cumbersome to put up and take down, but it also adds to the Spyder's unique look. To further drop the weight-to-power ratio, Porsche has added an additional 10 hp and 7 lb-ft of torque to the flat six.
On sale: Now
BASE PRICE: $62,150
SPECS: 3.4L flat-six, 320 hp, 273 lb-ft; rear-wheel drive
The Twitter Feed:
It's really, really good.
Porsche Cayenne
2011 Porsche Cayenne Three Quarters
New: The biggest, heaviest Porsche has gotten with the green zeitgeist in its second generation.
Noteworthy: An increased use of aluminum and changes to the all-wheel-drive system have shaved nearly 400 pounds off certain models, and a new hybrid gets 20 mpg in the city and 23 mpg on the highway. Those who don't want to be one of Captain Planet's Planeteers can still opt for a 500-hp twin-turbocharged V-8. The Cayenne's wide-and odd-range of engines speaks to the breadth of the Volkswagen Group. In addition to a VW-sourced VR6 and two Porsche V-8s, there's now a hybrid that uses the Audi S4's 3.0-liter supercharged V-6, and a 3.0-liter turbo-diesel for Europe. All the Cayenne needs now is a Lamborghini V-12 and the Bugatti Veyron's W-16.
On sale: Now
BASE PRICE RANGE: $47,675-$105,775
SPECS: 3.6L V-6, 300 hp, 295 lb-ft; 3.0-liter supercharged V-6/electric hybrid, 380 hp, 427 lb-ft; 4.8L V-8, 400 hp, 369 lb-ft; 4.8L twin-turbo V-8, 500 hp, 516 lb-ft; 4-wheel drive
The Twitter Feed:
The concept of a Porsche SUV may still seem like an oxymoron, but it's hard to fault the new Cayenne's execution.
Porsche Panamera
2011 Porsche Panamara Rear Three Quarters In Motion
NEW: A V-6 model debuts for 2011.
Noteworthy: The direct-injected 3.6-liter engine -- not to be confused with the VR6 in the Cayenne -- puts out 300 hp and gets a very respectable 27 mpg on the highway. The Panamera has already become Porsche's highest-volume model, handily outselling the 911 through the first half of 2010.
On sale: Now
Base price range: $75,350-$136,250
Specs: 3.6L V-6, 300 hp, 295 lb-ft; 4.8L V-8, 400 hp, 369 lb-ft; 4.8L twin-turbo V-8, 500 hp, 516 lb-ft; rear- or 4-wheel drive
The Twitter Feed:
We wonder if buyers will want to spend $75,000 on a V-6 Porsche sedan. But then, the Panamera has already proven doubters wrong.
Saab 9-5
2011 Saab 9 5 Three Quarters In Motion
New: At (very) long last, a new 9-5.
Noteworthy: It almost didn't make it, but the new Saab 9-5 is finally here, and it's a great way for Saab to kick off its next chapter. The 9-5 has moved up in size and price for greater separation from the 9-3. The Aero (turbo V-6, all-wheel drive) actually arrived this past summer, and it's joined this fall by the 2.0T (turbo four-cylinder, front-wheel drive). The latter benefits from the choice of a manual gearbox as well as an automatic; it's also much lighter than its porky stablemate. A 2.0T/AWD combo is likely for next spring, when the SportCombi (wagon) also will arrive.
On sale: Now
BASE PRICE RANGE: $39,995 (est.) - $49,990
SPECS: 2.0L turbo I-4, 220 hp, 258 lb-ft; 2.8L turbo V-6, 300 hp, 295 lb-ft; front- or 4-wheel drive
The Twitter Feed:
Despite being developed under the General Motors regime, the new 9-5 is a surprisingly convincing Saab.
Smart ForTwo Electric Drive
America's smallest car plugs in.
2011 Smart Fortwo Rear Three Quarters
The tiny Smart ForTwo looks like it should be an electric car. But the ForTwo, which has been sold (in Europe) since 1998, didn't offer its first EV until 2007, when a small test fleet was let loose in London. A second generation, with a lithium-ion battery supplied by Tesla, became available in Germany last November, and now the Smart ForTwo Electric Drive is coming to the United States.
The 40-hp (dropping to 27 hp during continuous full-load operation) electric motor puts out 89 lb-ft of torque. Smart engineers claim that the Electric Drive has a range of roughly 80 miles-or four to five hours of low-speed city driving. A full recharge, via a 220-volt source, takes eight hours. Despite carrying an extra 308 pounds, the electric Smart should equal the gasoline-powered car's 6.5-second time from 0 to 60 kph (37 mph). Top speed is limited to 62 mph. Clearly, this vehicle is not meant to be a highway star.
The electric Smart's advantage is its single-speed transmission, which means that it doesn't suffer from the slow and jerky shifts of the standard car's automated-manual gearbox. Starting from rest is odd, however; the Smart Electric Drive doesn't creep, and tip-in is such that nothing happens at first, so then you have to depress the accelerator pedal farther until it finally reacts, making parking a rather irksome affair. Once underway, the motor whines like a golf cart's. As in the standard Smart, the tiny wheels and ultrashort wheelbase make for a stiff, bouncy ride on mean city streets.
A total of 250 ForTwo Electric drives-coupes and cabriolets, all white and green-are headed our way. Of those, some 80 percent will be funneled to corporate buyers. The rest will go to the general public in select cities. The cars are available only for lease, at $599 per month for 48 months.
Once those 250 cars are gone, that's it. True series production doesn't begin until 2012, at which time we should see more potent batteries and, presumably, more widespread availability.
On sale: October
BASE PRICE: $599/mo for 48 months
SPECS: Liquid-cooled DC motor, 40 hp, 89 lb-ft; lithium-ion battery, 16.5 kWh; rear-wheel drive
The Twitter Feed:
The ForTwo is so quirky that it should have been battery-powered from the start. Smart now?
Volvo S60
2011 Volvo S60 Rear Three Quarters
New: Replacement for Volvo's mid-size sedan.
Noteworthy: The long-awaited new S60 is sleeker and sportier than its underachieving predecessor. Despite retaining the coupelike profile, there's a much-needed increase in rear-seat legroom. The Dynamic suspension setup is standard; a softer Touring suspension is an option; or, for those who can't decide, the adjustable FOUR-C Active chassis is available as well. Volvo is launching the car in T6 form, with the high-horsepower turbo six and all-wheel drive. Look for a more modestly priced version to follow this spring, with a direct-injected 2.0-liter turbo four (200 hp) teamed to a dual-clutch automatic and front-wheel drive.
On sale: Now
BASE PRICE: $38,550
Specs: 3.0L turbo I-6, 300 hp, 325 lb-ft; 4-wheel drive
The Twitter Feed:
Safety in the cell-phone era: Volvo's Pedestrian Detection with Full Auto Brake keeps distracted drivers from mowing down clueless walkers.
Volkswagen Jetta
Putting the Volk in Volkswagen.
2011 Volkswagen Jetta Three Quarters In Motion
The Jetta has been an afterthought since day one-it has been little more than a trunk grafted onto the back of a made-for-Europe Golf hatchback-and yet it's been Volkswagen's best-selling model in the United States for some thirty years. Of course, its sales still pale in comparison to the huge number of Honda Civics and Toyota Corollas consumed by sedan-loving American compact-car buyers.
These buyers are different from traditional VW customers. They're highly price sensitive, and they're more concerned with interior room and styling than Mercedes-quality materials and BMW handling. The sixth-generation Volkswagen Jetta is the first to be tailored specifically to appeal to them. To that end, it's cheaper, bigger, and far better looking than the model it replaces. Understatedly elegant both inside and out, it looks twice as expensive as any of its competitors. The back seat is enormous, with nearly as much legroom as a BMW 7-series-at least on paper.
So, how could it possibly be cheaper than its predecessor? Well, it's cheaper in base price only. And when VW identified the things Americans like best (such as free scheduled maintenance and one-touch power windows), it also considered the things we don't notice-at least not on an initial test drive. Don't bother, then, honking the Jetta's pathetic horn -- whispering a barely audible " excuse me" might be more effective. And when you touch the Jetta cabin's rich-looking soft plastics, you'll notice that they're not actually that soft. The navigation system won't let you scroll on the map and doesn't zoom out far enough, and you can no longer get HID headlamps or an upgraded stereo. The decontenting is particularly shocking from a company that, only a few years ago, aimed its sights at Mercedes-Benz.
Even more shocking is what's under the hood of the base Jetta S: the 115-hp snoozer that Vee Dub enthusiasts know as the "two point slow" lives on, eighteen years after its first appearance. Perhaps because they're embarrassed by the engine's underendowment, the last Jetta's self-opening hood struts have split. Paired with the automatic transmission, the eight-valve, 2.0-liter's acceleration is spectacular. Spectacularly slow, that is, with 60 mph arriving in eleven uninvigorating seconds.
It remains to be seen whether you'll actually be able to find a Jetta S at VW dealerships-we suspect it serves more of a marketing function (to advertise a low base price) than it does to meet customer demand. The Jetta SE, powered by the familiar 2.5-liter five-cylinder, costs $2200 more. Compared with the four-banger, horsepower goes up by 50 percent, but fuel consumption drops by only 1 mpg in EPA combined testing. A worthwhile trade-off, no? Of course, if you really care about fuel economy, the frugal Jetta TDI, with its 140-hp oil burner, is back.
2011 Volkswagen Jetta Front Three Quarters
The truth is, once you look past all the options package revisions, the new Jetta isn't actually any cheaper, price-wise, than the old Jetta. And, despite the cost-cutting, the 2011 Jetta likely still has the best-looking and highest-quality interior of any car in its class. And it drives nearly as well as last year's Jetta, even though its steering has lots of on-center play and the rear suspension has reverted to a non-independent torsion beam. In fact, the Jetta is quite good when we look at it not compared with its predecessor, but from the perspective of a Corolla or Civic buyer.
That's not something we're used to doing. Historically, VW buyers have been willing to pay a premium for quality and performance-and to them, this Jetta might be disappointing. Volkswagen wisely circumvents that problem by splitting the new Jetta into three submodels: the elegant and competent sedan; the Jetta SportWagen, which continues on the previous-generation platform, replete with the Golf's high-quality materials and independent rear suspension; and a GLI version of the new Jetta sedan that arrives next summer.
We've seen the Jetta GLI in the past-it's the high-performance Jetta, or a GTI with a trunk, if you will. The new GLI will continue that tradition: it gets the 200-hp, turbocharged 2.0T four-cylinder but also has its very own higher-quality dashboard and the independent rear suspension its more discerning buyers expect.
We can't argue with Volkswagen's logic. Recognizing that the American car-buying public is deeply divided, the automaker is trying to make its volume nameplate appeal to people of every stripe. Then again, for a company that's named after the people, you'd think VW would have figured this out long ago.
On sale: October
BASE PRICE: $16,745
Specs: 2.0L I-4, 115 hp, 125 lb-ft; 2.5L I-5, 170 hp, 177 lb-ft; 2.0L turbo-diesel I-4, 140 hp, 236 lb-ft; front-wheel drive
The Twitter Feed:
The price for the base model drops $1740, but that car loses a cylinder, twelve valves, and 55 hp.
Volkswagen Touareg
2011 Volkswagen Touareg Front Three Quartes
New: Just about everything.
Noteworthy: There's an all-new Touareg for 2011, and it didn't come a second too soon. There's nothing wrong with the current one that a huge crash diet couldn't fix, and although we're still waiting on final specs, we know that the 2011 Touareg lost about a million pounds. OK, maybe that's a slight exaggeration, but only just. More in line with the times, the slightly larger Touareg no longer gets a V-8. The base 3.6-liter narrow-angle V-6 and 3.0-liter V-6 turbo-diesel engines return, but they're joined by a hybrid version that combines a supercharged 3.0-liter V-6 with an electric motor for a total system output of 375 hp and 428 lb-ft of torque. That's a lot.
On sale: Late 2010
BASE PRICE: $42,000 (est.)
Specs: 3.0L turbo-diesel V-6, 225 hp, 406 lb-ft; 3.6L V-6, 280 hp, 266 lb-ft; 3.0L supercharged V-6/electric hybrid, 375 hp, 428 lb-ft; 4-wheel drive
The Twitter Feed:
The Touareg is all about huge numbers-450-pound weight loss, great diesel fuel mileage numbers, and huge hybrid power.


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