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Top 10 Most Popular Car Reviews Of 2012

Each year we review dozens of new cars, encompassing everything from the cheapest subcompacts to the most powerful supercars. This year was no different, as our staff spread out across the globe to drive brand-new cars, updated cars, and occasionally cars that hadn't changed at all for several years. Some car reviews proved more popular than others, as evidenced by this list of the top 10 most popular new-car reviews we published in 2012.

The 2013 Hyundai Genesis coupe enjoyed several important powertrain tweaks. The 2.0-liter turbo-four engine saw output climb from 210 hp to 274 hp, the 3.8-liter V-6 gained direct injection to bump power from 306 hp to 348 hp, and an eight-speed automatic transmission replaced the old five- and six-speeds. The result, along with new fascias and front dampers, is the Genesis remains a competent and exciting sports coupe, yet it still lacks the nuance and precision of other entries in its segment.

"It's the four-cylinder Genesis that has benefitted the most from this mid-cycle freshening. The engine can still be a little raspy if you really cane it, but in normal daily driving, it's now quite an agreeable powertrain. Shifts are quick and precise, and the steady stream of torque from 2000 to 4500 rpm makes it easy to dart through traffic, accelerate down on-ramps, and ascend through the mountainous roads leading west out of Vegas without having to crank the stereo to mask engine noise…The Genesis still understeers resolutely in tight turns, so you learn to back off the throttle and feather the car through. Bigger, wider corners are far more fun: the limited-slip rear diff comes beautifully into play, and you might start imagining yourself as a skilled drifter. Or not." --Joe DeMatio

The previous Nissan Altima was one of the best-selling cars in the nation, so the 2013 model received only mild changes. It's a little larger, a little more fuel efficient, and has more equipment like standard push-button start and a clever camera with lane-departure and blind-spot warnings. The styling hasn't change much inside or out, but comfortable seats and a generous amount of cabin and cargo space should keep the Altima's appeal high.

"Back-road prowess generally isn't a primary purchase consideration for mid-size sedans, but at least the Altima's chassis is capable of hustling when it has to. In fact, the only place it really disappoints is in its looks. Nissan's goal was to "advance the segment's styling," but the Altima does no such thing. The exterior is a collection of disparate design cues, none of which match the others or come across as particularly original." -- Jason Cammisa

Audi updated the Q5 crossover with a new smooth, refined hybrid powertrain, as well as a supercharged V-6. Otherwise, the car received only minor tweaks for the 2013, including electric power steering, a new grille and new rear bumper, new headlights, and an updated infotainment system with Google Maps and a Wi-Fi hotspot function. For 2014, the Q5 will also gain a 3.0-liter TDI V-6.

"The big news is that Audi is bringing to the United States the hybrid powertrain that debuted in the Q5 last year in Europe. It pairs the 211-hp 2.0-liter TFSI turbo four-cylinder -- which carries over as the base engine -- with a 40 kW electric motor… Audi's midsize crossover seems poised for continued sales success, even if buyers' powertrain decision is about to get more difficult." -- Joe Lorio

The popular Lexus ES was dramatically revised for the 2013 model year. For starters, it switched from the Toyota Camry to the larger Avalon platform, giving it more interior room. And the styling has ditched its dull late-90s aesthetic for a modern, wind-cheating look that better matches the rest of the Lexus lineup. The standard V-6 model is a powerful, smooth operator; the new hybrid version borrows its gas-electric powertrain from the Camry and is less exciting to drive, but an important model for fuel-conscious Lexus.

"While the ES aesthetic has been rebooted with the 2013 model, the driving experience hasn't changed substantially. This is still the comfortable, nicely appointed, affordable luxury car it has always been. The ES's humble roots leave little room for massaging the car into a performer to match the brand's aspirations. We have no doubt that the ES will continue to contribute generously to Lexus's bottom line." -- Eric Tingwall

We had long anticipated the 2013 Ford Focus ST for two reasons: not only is it the first Ford hot hatch in the States since 2004, the ST also promised to take on the mighty Volkswagen GTI at its own game. The Ford makes a strong case for itself thanks to a punchy 2.0-liter turbo-four engine, eager handling, aggressive spoilers and wings, and snug Recaro seats. It's perhaps not the perfect hot hatchback, but the Focus ST sure is a lot of fun to drive.

"It also is a rapid machine. On dry blacktop, the ever-eager compact will zip in 6.5 seconds from 0 to 62 mph and on to a maximum of 155 mph…The Ford ST is not exactly a world-beater in terms of refinement, handling balance, or ergonomics. But it does offer a lot of car and performance for the money, it scores an undisputed ten on the entertainment scale, and it won't fall apart when pushed to the limit. All that distances the high-performance Focus from real greatness is some fine-tuning." --Georg Kacher

The first version of the Acura RDX was a bit too sporty to appeal to mainstream customers, so even though the 2013 RDX is less impressive as an entry-luxury crossover, it's a better vehicle overall. A tamer, more refined V-6 engine with better fuel economy; a better all-wheel-drive system; and a new noise cancellation system impressed us and give the 2013 Acura RDX a more well-rounded feeling.

"Do we, as enthusiasts, miss the snort of the turbocharged four-cylinder, or the way the SH-AWD system allowed the RDX's rear to rotate into tight corners? Perhaps -- but the vast majority of shoppers in this segment won't. Instead, they'll find Acura finally has a stylish, sophisticated crossover that drives as nicely as it looks -- or, put another way, one that finally competes head on the big boys." -- Evan McCausland

We admired the tightened styling and more dramatic interior of the 2012 BMW 335i, but kept wondering whether buyers would be just as happy with the 328i. Certainly in a straight line there is little separating the two versions of BMW's sports sedan, but it's the difference in the engines' natures that helps better distinguish them. Despite lackluster steering, the 335i impressed with its eager handling and broad, sonorous torque curve.

"As you turn into corners, [steering] effort builds somewhat naturally (more so in the car's sport modes, which reduce steering assistance), but at no point will you feel through your hands what the front tires are doing -- you'll need your butt for that….Still, the 335i acquits itself surprisingly well on a race track, with great body control, lots of grip, and brakes that are easily up to the task -- even at Laguna Seca, a track notoriously hard on brakes." -- Jason Cammisa

The 2013 Ford Mustang received a long list of minor updates, beginning with a new front fascia and LED taillights, and culminating with a wider available of performance packages on cheaper cars. The result was a fresher pony car that would allow buyers to get racy options like Recaro seats and Brembo brakes even on, say, an automatic convertible. While the overall changes weren't dramatic, the 2013 Ford Mustang remains a reliably entertaining and reasonably affordable sports car.

"Though it's nigh on impossible to discern a two-percent power increase, the V-8 engine in a manual-transmission test car was just as strong and flexible as we remembered. The Mustang ripped through each gear with ease, hurtling toward and past the speed limit in seconds -- and frequently triggering the traction-control light on rain-slicked roads outside Portland, Oregon." -- Jake Holmes

When we first drove the original Ford Escape back in 2000, we quickly christened it the new gold standard of small SUVs, owing to its wonderful driving dynamics. But the Escape was left mostly unchanged until last year, when Ford finally introduced the all-new 2013 model. Blessed with modern, aggressive styling; a pair of fuel-scrimping turbocharged engines; and a host of new infotainment features, Joe DeMatio found plenty to like about the new Escape. He applauded the smart interior, comfortable ride, and gutsy turbo engines.

"The completely redone 2013 Escape is certainly capable of filling its predecessor's big shoes, partly because it's based on Ford's excellent global C1 platform, which also underpins the Focus. So the basic ingredients of good driving dynamics -- crisp and precise steering, responsive, smooth and energetic engines, and a chassis tuned equally for athleticism and comfort -- are present and accounted for." -- Joe DeMatio

The 2013 Porsche Boxster wasn't simply an updated version of the roadster, but an all-new car with more muscular styling, more powerful engines, and a switch to electric power steering. Even though he criticized the new steering setup for offering less of the "crackly" communication of the old car, Ben Barry called the 2013 Porsche Boxster "a truly sensational sports car."

"The Boxster is still a very connected, very visceral drive, no matter what all the improvements to ride quality and refinement might lead you to expect. We're left unsupervised on the track for a couple of hours and, frankly, it's gut-wrenching to hand back the keys." -- Ben Barry

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