Perodua Alza SR

 
Perodua has rolled out an additional variant of the Alza – the Alza SR – which will be in the showrooms from Thursday, February 2, 2012. According to Perodua MD Datuk Aminar Rashid Salleh, this new variant (the ‘SR’ is said to stand for ‘Smart Ride’) will make it even more affordable for Malaysian consumers looking to upgrade to a more spacious vehicle. 
“It is aimed at young families who want a flexible compact MPV with sedan features. The Alza SR is indeed ideal for those who want the extra space for daily usage as well as for balik kampung trips,” he said, adding that the company is offering this more affordable variant to meet the expectations of the customers in line with Perodua’s slogan “You Matter Most” in tandem with the brand statement of “Building Cars, People First”.
The Alza SR is available for booking at all its 178 showrooms nationwide and is priced between RM53,013.50 and RM56,513.50 (on-the-road in Peninsular Malaysia), depending on specifications. Since its launch, the cheapest Alza variant (GX manual) has been priced at RM55,503.50; now there’s an even cheaper variant.
Buyers can order the new Alza SR in one of 3 colours: Glittering Silver, Ivory White and a new colour, Mystical Purple. For customers who prefer the mounted handbrake feature, Perodua has also made it available in the automatic variant of the Alza SR. Also installed are separate front seats instead of the bench type in the automatic variant.
 
The Alza is the most popular MPV in Malaysia with 81,000 units sold to date since its launch in November 2009. Perodua expects to sell about 400 units of the Alza SR monthly which will account for around 13% of the model’s sales.
 

Porsche 911 Turbo S

 

Porsche has uprated the 911 Turbo, taking it deeper into Supercar territory. David Vivian drives it.


What is it?
Porsche’s response to customer demand for a faster, more focused version of what already ranks as the fastest and most accelerative car in its range, the four-wheel drive 911 Turbo. If it steals back a little business from the ever-keen independent tuning outfits, so much the better. It costs £123,263. 

Technical highlights?
Reworked turbos and higher boost pressure lift power and torque to 523bhp and 516lb ft, gains of 30bhp and 37lb ft respectively, but the Turbo S is no thirstier with a combined consumption of 24.8mpg. Porsche Torque Vectoring, which varies the drive to each individual rear wheel to achieve a more neutral cornering balance and enhanced traction when pressing on, is standard on the S. It also gets the SportChrono pack - which includes launch control and gives keener throttle, damper and stability control settings at the touch of a button - and dynamic engine mounts for improved rigidity and transitional handling characteristics. Ceramic stoppers, dynamic cornering headlights, two-tone leather carbon-shelled sports seats and 19-inch RS Spyder alloy wheels are all included in the S spec. And’s there’s no manual option – it’s 7-speed PDK and paddles or nothing. 

What’s it like to drive?
If acceleration, grip and stopping power are priorities, pretty damn awesome. The 911 Turbo S is as quick to 60mph as a McLaren F1 and is only half a nose behind at 100mph. Hugely torquey engine and lightning-fast PDK double-clutch shifts combine to deliver massive, horizon-hauling thrust in return for a modest flexing of your right ankle. The engine note is more whoosh than wonderful and the whole driving experience lacks the intimate precision, instant agility and bristling tactile and sonic feedback of the GT3’s but there’s no denying the Turbo S’s blistering pace on any type of road, wet or dry. Or the relatively modest demands on driver talent needed to achieve it.

How does it compare?
If you’re looking for the purest and most exhilarating 911 experience, we’d have to point you in the direction of the GT3 RS. The Turbo S feels like a relatively blunt object by comparison. You’ll pocket a tidy saving as well. Ferrari’s more expensive 458 Italia has a much more engaging supercar vibe and a real sense of F1 technology transfer. But it can’t live with the Porsche’s pace.

Anything else I need to know?
All this comes in £130,791 soft-top form as well which, in the final analysis, probably tells you all you need to know about the Turbo S – an engine tweak and options bundle rather than a thoroughbred, but a crowd-pleaser all the same.


Suzuki Swift Sport

I sat in the new Swift Sport at the Frankfurt motor show a couple of months ago. This wasn’t a particularly professional moment. There’s no time for indulgences such as this on the press day of this sprawling German show, even if you do happen to like the car. I glanced around the bonsai cabin and noted the new dash, the contrasting stitching and a general, pleasing absence of bling. Six speeds on the shift, I noted, wondering if they’d shortened the gearing to give it more fizz and then banged on a ludicrously overdriven top ratio to keep emissions and consumption down (they have).
I liked the old model, a giant-killing act of some aplomb. While it couldn’t match the sheer brio and firepower of today’s Renaultsport Clios, it was a fine warm, rather than hot, hatchback. This is a type of affordable, everyday car with enough vim to bring a smile to your face when the road starts to curl and curve. Funnily enough, Renault used to produce the best-ever warm hatch in the Nineties, the Clio RSi; bad name, great car, terrific prices.
I had wondered what might happen to cars like the Swift when Volkswagen, which owns a fifth of Suzuki, started throwing its weight around. The Germans wanted the Japanese to do as they were told, mop up VW’s surplus capacity in engines and suspensions and give VW the key to Far Eastern markets such as India, where Maruti Suzuki is the leading brand. It was all one-way traffic and VW sniffily dismissed any suggestion that it could learn something from Suzuki about making small cars. Finally, at this year’s Frankfurt show the Japanese signalled that they had had enough of this patronising – the deal is currently being unwound. Which leaves Suzuki independent, with the world’s most eclectic model range and the Swift Sport unmolested by Germany’s finest.
The new car is slightly larger and heavier than the old, but retains the Nautilus-style wraparound windscreen and Giugiaro-inspired window line. The 1.6-litre twin-cam fizzes out slightly more power with better emissions and its 136bhp with 118lb ft of torque is enough to throw this one-ton, three-door hatch up the road at a top speed of 121mph and accelerate from 0-62mph in 8.7sec, yet give a Combined fuel consumption of 44mpg and Band F CO2 emissions of 147g/km.
Climb inside and it’s hard to avoid a nostalgic rush as you contemplate the old-school plastic trim and simple two-dial binnacle. Only the piano-black centre console pumping Metronomy instead of Duran Duran reminds you this isn’t the Eighties and this isn’t a Peugeot 205 GTi. Even the seats are those tight-fitting buckets that make you feel like a rally star but attack your spine after half an hour.
The steering wheel is, wait for it, perforated leather; how Young Guns is that? No, you aren’t going to be very comfortable in the back seats and the boot is small, but that’s not what this car is about.
Fire it up and it’s hard not to blip the throttle as it warms, except at my age people might assume I’ve stolen my son’s car. The little mill fizzes through the frame and the rev-counter bounces around like a demented space hopper. The new gearbox doesn’t have the mechanical-feeling change of the old one and that’s a shame, but it slots cleanly and fast, which is what you need to keep this engine on the boil. The clutch is absurdly light.
Pull away and the lack of low-down torque isn’t as bad as you expect, well not quite. A complicated two-stage intake system and variable valve timing give a boost to the mid-range, but this engine is really all about revs. Which makes it surprising that the Japanese have given it a long stroke, so from 6,000rpm it labours on to a peak of 7,000rpm with all the spring of a climber negotiating Everest’s Hillary Step.
That takes away a bit of the joy, but not much. This little car is a perfect hoot. Well planted, but with a fine ride quality and accurate steering, it’s a smashing thing to drive fast. The body does roll a little, but that’s also part of the fun, when the inside front wheel starts to lose traction and you feather the throttle, holding a big screaming slide out of the corner. There is an electronic stability system, but it’s as discreet as Jeeves.
The main trait is understeer, but you can kick the nose into line with a lift of the throttle, although the mechanical grip from the 195/45/17in tyres and chassis dynamics means it never hangs its tail out like the infamous 205 GTi of yesteryear. The brakes are strong and linear so you can dance around the pedals pushing the car along like a football in the yard, with a grin as wide as the goalposts.
At £14,250, this is automotive fun of the type that should be driven to the V&A Museum and parked in a big glass case. The glass you’ll see it through, however, is the showroom window in January. Nip down there after Christmas and I guarantee that New Year will never have looked as good.
THE FACTS
Suzuki Swift Sport
Tested: Three-door hatchback with 1,586cc, four-cylinder petrol engine, six-speed manual transmission, front-wheel drive
Price/on sale: about £14,250/January
Power/torque: 136bhp @ 7,000rpm/118lb/ft @ 4,400rpm
Top speed: 121mph
Acceleration: 0-62mph in 8.7sec
Fuel economy: 33.6mpg/44.1mpg (EU Urban/Combined)
CO2 emissions: 147g/km
VED band: F (£130)
Verdict: A lovely little car, with fizzing performance, a good ride and fine build quality. Chassis not quite as agile as some rivals but it’s still great fun.




Nissan GT-R R35


We all thought the new-generation Nissan GT-R that lobbed here a few years ago was brilliant.

But then the bar has been raised by the R35-series GT-R, which offers more power, more down force, more grip and more excitement than its predecessors.Super quick and fast, bristling with clever stuff. Ugly but tough looking — something to aspire to for sure.

Nissan engineers have been able to make all of this more accessible to enthusiast drivers, fulfilling the promise of `anyone, any time, anywhere' for its most sporting model.
In a major evolution of the model, every aspect of the R35 has been enhanced and improved in its third iteration.
VALUE
Priced at $168,800 it is the most efficient yet. LED daytime running lights,  remodeled bumpers, extended diffuser, new tail-pipe finish and LED fog lamps proclaim the first major revision of the R35 model.
Inside, a number of refinements have been made to enhance the sports luxury feel. They include new Recaro-designed seats with heating, new higher-quality finishes for many interior surfaces and softer seat belt material.
DESIGN
Subtle exterior revisions have given the GT-R a new look and improved the car's already slippery aerodynamic performance. The GT-R stands out from its predecessors with its 14 per cent larger front grille opening. Downforce has improved by about ten per cent while the car's drag co-efficient has been lowered from 0.27 to just 0.26 Cd a figure most small economy cars would be proud of.
TECHNOLOGY
Power from the 3.8-litre, twin-turbocharged, V6 engine has been boosted 33kW to 390kW, while maximum torque developed from 3200-6000 revs is now 24Nm more at 612Nm.
Optimising this increased power through the R35's six-speed dual clutch transmission and permanent four-wheel-drive system by selecting R-Mode and VDC-R allows the Nissan GT-R to accelerate from 0-100km/h in a blistering 3.0 seconds.
Meanwhile recalibrating the engine's control module, modifying the exhaust system and fitting a new catalyst have improved both fuel economy and emissions by 3.5 per cent.
DRIVE
A series of subtle, but significant chassis changes to the Nissan GT-R's chassis, including new lightweight aluminium shock absorbers, have sharpened the model's already-impressive handling without any sacrifice in riding comfort.
New tyres, lighter wheels and bigger brakes have also enhanced the car's unique supercar driving experience.
VERDICT
In bang for your buck terms, few - if any - cars come near the new GT-R. It is something really special.
NISSAN GT-R R35
Price: from $168,800
Engine: 3.8 litre twin-twin-turbocharged V6 engine
Body: Two door coupe
Transmission: six-speed dual clutch manual, all-wheel drive



2012 All new Kia Rio

All-new Rio has its own interpretation of Kia’s signature grille, integrated with the headlamps to give a new twist on the Kia family look.  In profile, the body to glass ratio and its strong wedge form give new Rio a dynamic sporty stance.  The balance of the window graphic, wheelbase and overall proportions generates a ‘premium presence’ which is rare in this segment.  Overall, new Rio combines European finesse with Korean spice to create a form language that communicates Latin flair.
The new model features a wheelbase extended by 70 mm (to 2,570 mm) and promises greater passenger space and comfort, together with increased cargo capacity to 292 liters (hatchback) and 390 liters (sedan).  Exterior dimensions changes include: +55 mm (overall length), -15 mm (height) and +25 mm (overall width) to enhance the feeling of sportiness.
Inside, the new model will deliver a high level of quality previously associated with larger models – together with a wide selection of trim options.
Kia’s B-segment newcomer will be manufactured with an extensive range of six fuel-efficient and low-CO2engines – from a 1.1-liter diesel unit generating 70 ps in Europe, up to a 1.6-liter GDI gasoline engine producing 140 ps for North America – with the powertrain selection tailored to best suit individual markets and local consumer preferences.  An all-new, high-performance 1.2-liter Turbo Gasoline Direct Injection (GDI) will also be available in Europe from 2012.
Since its launch in 2005, global sales of the current-generation Rio have totalled more than 860,000 units.  It was the company’s third best-selling vehicle in overseas markets during 2010 with sales of more than 219,000 units.
The world premiere of the new Kia Rio will be celebrated at the Geneva International Motor Show on Tuesday, March 1, 2011 – alongside another all-new product for Kia, the next generation Picanto city car – during its press conference, taking place at 16.15 (CET) on the Kia stand in Hall 6.  Also being displayed at Geneva, and making its European debut, is the innovative hybrid version of Kia’s stunning Optima sedan, scheduled to go on sale in 

2012 Hyundai Accent


We’re getting used to the idea of desirable small cars, but the notion of a desirable Hyundai still feels crisp and fresh. (The 2011 Sonata was the first Hyundai ever to land on our 10Best Cars list.) The latest creation churned out of the invigorated Korean company is a car hoping to marry these two novel desirabilities. The Accent, stylistically, is an evolution of the corporate countenance that debuted on the Sonata, although it looks less “faces of Volkswagen CC” on this smaller package.
As it was in its previous generation, the Accent will be available as a four-door sedan or with an odd number of doors. This time around, the latter goes from three-door hatch to five-door hatch/wagon. (The five-door, as is the case with most compacts today, looks better than the sedan.) In a role reversal, the sedan is now the cheaper of the two body styles, with the wagon being between $600 and $2150 dearer than the four-door, based on trim. Overall length now stands at 172.0 inches for the sedan and 162.0 for the wagon. Both ride on a 101.2-inch wheelbase, which is 2.8 inches longer than the outgoing models’. Width is up 0.2 inch, to 66.9. (Equally important is the platform’s 22-percent increase in rigidity compared with its predecessor.)
The standard height-adjustable driver’s seat means that even fugitive circus freaks will be comfortable upfront. Although the 0.6 inch the sedan’s back-seat passengers sacrifice in headroom doesn’t have a meaningful impact on interior-volume calculations, it’s a critical loss for taller riders. Another reason to favor the hatch is cargo volume. It can accommodate 21 cubic feet behind its rear seat, compared with 14 swallowed by the sedan’s trunk. Hyundai says that 14 cubic feet are enough for four sets of golf clubs; that might be the case only if they’re loose. The sedan’s rear seatback folds in a 60/40 split to accommodate longer items, but you can haul 48 cubic feet if you drop the rear seats in the wagon.

Who Stole My Sorority Letters?
Under the hood lives a new 1.6-liter four-cylinder—dubbed Gamma, in Hyundai’s books— that will also see duty beneath the bonnet of the upcoming Veloster. An aluminum block helps the new engine undercut its predecessor’s weight by 40 pounds. With variable timing on the intake and exhaust camshafts and direct injection, the four makes 138 hp and 123 lb-ft of torque, both figures handily outranking those of most of its competitors. The Honda Fit musters 117 hp, the Ford Fiesta 120, the new Nissan Versa 109, and the featherweight Mazda 2 a piddling 100. (Only the 2012 Chevrolet Sonic can compare, getting 138 hp from either of its engines.) At an estimated 2450 to 2650 pounds, the Accent line doesn’t have to lug around much (if any) more weight than that crowd. Power flows through an automatic or manual transmission—both with six speeds—to the front wheels. The automatic comes with hill-start assist to prevent it from rolling backward when stopped, a feature far more useful with manuals but not offered on the stick-shift Accent.
On our brief drive, we didn’t get a chance to sample the automatic transmission but found the manual to be halfway satisfying. The shifter is light and crisp with appreciably brief throws, but the clutch is a disappointment. It offers nearly zero feel—although it isn’t as empty and soulless as a Toyota clutch—and uses only the top two or three inches of its long travel. Still, Hyundai claims that about 20 percent of Accent buyers opt to row their own. They might not be kicking the most rewarding clutch in the business, but we tip our hats to those customers nonetheless. Cars with either transmission get an eco mode, which alters the shift points in the automatic; manual drivers get an arrow in the IP that prompts them to upshift entirely too early.
Hyundai touts the Accent’s class-leading power-to-weight ratio, but the engine doesn’t quite have the effect we hoped for. Like almost all similarly diminutive engines, the 1.6 doesn’t do much until higher rpm. Power builds smoothly, though, and the engine sounds happy enough being wound out. The Accent achieves EPA fuel-economy numbers of 30 mpg city and 40 highway regardless of transmission choice, although the manual gets 1 more mpg in the EPA’s combined test: 34 versus 33. Hyundai says the car should need 9.4 seconds to get to 60 mph with a manual and 9.8 with an automatic. We can neither confirm nor deny this, as we started to nod off at 49 mph, but we estimate the cars will be slightly quicker, at 8.0 and 8.3 seconds. Cars in this class aren’t meant to be rocket sleds, of course, and the Accent will be sufficiently peppy for most buyers. But its pace is a reminder that it is, in fact, an economy car.

Pretty on the Inside
Drivers might need that reminder, as this doesn’t feel like an economy car on the inside. Its interior is typical of Hyundai’s current cars, with ritzy materials throughout. The satin silver and piano black on top-level models are stylish enough to make the inside of a Dumpster feel cosmopolitan. Note that we are not calling the Accent a Dumpster; even in lower trim levels unavailable with the silver-and-black combo, upmarket materials and thoughtful design make the car feel much richer than its low price tag might suggest.
The seats are quite comfortable, with soft bolsters that are so nonintrusive we didn’t realize they were there until we felt ourselves leaning on them in corners. Then again, the lateral demands placed on the bolsters will never be very high. With MacPherson struts upfront and a torsion-beam suspension at the rear, the Accent is competent and smooth, but almost to a fault. Although it is wonderfully relaxed on the highway, the spongy springs struggle to control body motions. During aggressive cornering, body movements seem to boss the torsion beam around, compromising path control. Hyundai, however, probably wouldn’t try to tell you that this is an economy car for the enthusiast. The Accent is a serene and relaxed form of affordable transportation. Leave the sportiness to the Honda Fit—or a used GTI.

Warning: Long Lists Ahead
From an equipment standpoint, Hyundai is leaving almost nothing to its competitors. The list of standard and optional gear reads as though product planners went through similar documents for every single competitor and said yes to everything. Standard stuff on the $13,205 base GLS sedan includes adjustable active front headrests; four-wheel disc brakes; a tilting steering wheel; a six-way-adjustable driver’s seat; power locks; and front, front side, and two-row curtain airbags. The automatic transmission comes as part of a $2750 upgrade that includes air conditioning, power windows and mirrors, and an uplevel stereo with six speakers, a CD player, satellite radio, and USB and auxiliary input jacks. Minus the automatic, all of that can be added to the manual car for $1750.
The five-door starts with the $15,355 GS trim, which includes everything from the basic sedan plus the upgraded stereo; power windows, mirrors, and locks; and keyless entry. An automatic is a $1200 option on the GS hatch and also nabs cruise control. At the top of the pyramid is the SE wagon, which adds cruise control, steering-wheel-mounted audio controls, Bluetooth, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, the stylish piano-black interior accents, 16-inch aluminum wheels, and a rear spoiler. The automatic is a $1000 stand-alone option on the SE.
Although our perfect compact car would be a bit stiffer and more responsive, the new Accent should leave its buyers wanting for very little. It’s attractive—and we appreciate the deep blue, vibrant red, metallic brown, and electric-green paint options—well equipped, and among the most affordable new cars on the market today. In other words, it’s yet another desirable small car, and yet another desirable Hyundai.

2012 Ford Mustang GT 5.0

Until now, we have only had details on the 2012 Mustang Boss 302 and the 2012 Mustang Shelby GT500. We think it’s high time we find out what the 2012 model year will bring for the Mustang GT 5.0.
A leaked ordering guide suggests that the 2012 GT 5.0 will carry over mostly unchanged, with just a few tricks made in order to keep the car fresh. The list of new options include a new exterior color Lava Red Metallic that replaces the current Sterling Gray Metallic. The list of new options include selectable effort electric power assist steering (EPAS), sun visors with a multi purpose storage system, and illuminated vanity mirrors.
Everything under the hood remains unchanged. Customers will get the same 302 cubic inch 32 valve V8 that puts out 412 HP and 390 lb-ft of torque while returning a very economical 25 MPG on the highway.
Hit the jump to read more about the 2012 Ford Mustang GT 5.0.
 
Exterior and Interior
The 2012 Mustang GT 5.0 will look unchanged for 2012. It will be distinguished by the other Mustangs in the line-up by a dark chrome pony in the grille, dual bright rolled exhaust tips, LED sequential tail lamps a rear spoiler, and 18 x8" Wide Spoke Painted Aluminum Wheels. The interior gets bucket sport seats and different chrome accents.
The Mustang GT 5.0 will also get a new exterior color (Lava Red Metallic) that replaces the current Sterling Gray Metallic. The list of new options include selectable effort electric power assist steering (EPAS), sun visors with a multi purpose storage system, and illuminated vanity mirrors.

 

The Engine 

Under the hood there will be the same 302 cubic inch 32 valve V8 that makes 412 HP and 390 lb-ft of torque while returning a very economical 25 MPG on the highway. The engine is mated to a standard 6-speed manual, but also a 6-speed automatic is offered as an option.


The Competition 

The most obvious competitor for the Mustang GT 5.0 is the Chevrolet Camaro SS. Like the GT 5.0, the Camaro SS is powered by a powerful 6.2L V-8 engine with an output of 422 HP. With 10 extra horsepower, the Camaro seems have a slight advantage over the Mustang, but with the right driver, that won’t amount to much. Plus the Mustang GT 5.0 handles better, looks better, and has better quality material. Oh, and we can’t forget about the fact that it is also cheaper.

 

When Can I Buy One? 

Expect the 2012 Mustang GT 5.0 to make debut in early 2011 with sales to begin shortly after. Pricing for the car will come with a $500 discount from the previous year’s model. This year, the 2012 model will come with a $29,995 price tag, falling under the $30,000 mark. Unfortunately, the Premium GT model will see a price increase of $200 from the previous year, which isn’t all that high, while the Premium GT Convertible will also carry a $700 increase from last year’s model.

Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X



As the name implies, the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X is the 10th evolution of the Japanese automaker's high-performance sedan, dating back to its inception in 1992. If extreme performance at the cost of comfort and economy don't sound good to you, consider the Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart.
The Evo X is offered in two trim levels. The entry-level GSR is offered with a five-speed manual transmission, Recaro Sport seats and Enkei wheels, as well as optional spoiler, HID headlights, and upgraded sound system.
The upgraded MR includes Mitsubishi's new Twin Clutch Sportronic Shift Transmission (TC-SST), Eibach springs and Bilstein shock absorbers, lightweight brake rotors and BBS forged-alloy wheels, and extra sound insulation, as well as optional navigation, upgraded audio with Sirius Satellite reception, and leather seats.
Both trim levels feature the new all-aluminum 2.0 liter turbocharged four-cylinder MIVEC4 motor producing 295 horsepower and 300 pound-feet of torque and Super All Wheel Control (S-AWC) drive system.
The S-AWC system, which regulates torque and braking at each wheel includes a bevy of acronyms: ASC (Active Stability Control), ACD (Active Center Differential), AYC (Active Yaw Control) and Sport ABS, an ABS system designed for aggressive driving. The biggest difference over the outgoing car is the large number of yaw sensors included in the system, all designed to keep the Evo X on its intended path. The S-AWC system can be set for three different road surfaces: tarmac (standard), ice and gravel
The Twin Clutch SST on the MR appears similar to Audi/VW's DSG system; even and odd gears are on separate clutches for rapid-fire shifting and no torque loss between gears. Shifting of the TC-SST is controlled by alloy paddles on the steering wheel or the gear shift lever when in manual mode, and by the engine computer in automatic mode. The system has three modes: Normal, Sport and S-Sport, the latter providing the most aggressive, fast shifts.
Safety measures include the Reinforced Impact Safety Evolution (RISE) unibody system to disperse energy in front and side impact collisions and protect the fuel system from rear impact, and front and side impact air bags, plus a driver's knee air bag.
Key competitors
Without a doubt, the long-term rival Subaru Impreza WRX STI Hatchback is the biggest competitor for the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X, but the Mazda Mazdaspeed3 and new Ford Focus ST are strong competitors as well, although they forgo all-wheel drive for front-wheel drive.


2012 Mini Cooper

The 2012 Mini Cooper ranks 13 out of 40 Affordable Small Cars. This ranking is based on our analysis of 61 published reviews and test drives of the Mini Cooper, and our analysis of reliability and safety data.

The 2012 Mini Cooper packs great driving dynamics and good fuel economy into a small frame, but uncomfortable rear seats and a small trunk are also part of the package.

The 2012 Mini Cooper doesn’t have a perfect interior. Its small frame makes seat comfort hit-or-miss for most adults, and there’s barely any cargo space with back seat passengers. The cabin is well-made, but reviewers think that its retro-inspired dashboard is hard to use, especially for the driver. If you want a subcompact European car that’s more practical than the Cooper, reviewers think the FIAT 500 is a better option.

But for most reviewers, those ergonomic issues are null and void once you press the gas pedal because the 2012 Mini Cooper is one of the best-performing vehicles in the class. The base Cooper isn’t nearly as powerful as the Cooper S or John Cooper Works models, but it has enough punch to satisfy most drivers as they head to and from work, and has great cornering abilities for those occasional twisty roads. If an agile and zippy small car is at the top of your shopping list, reviewers think few small cars dominate the 2012 Mini Cooper.

Other Cars to Consider

Like the Mini Cooper, the Volkswagen Golf is known as a top performer with sleek looks and a nice interior. Some reviewers consider the Mini Cooper a better-performing car, but if you need more interior space, the Golf is the better option. It has spacious rear seats and more cargo space.

For 2012, the small car class welcomes a new European model into the mix, the FIAT 500. Reviewers have spent some time comparing the Mini Cooper and the FIAT 500, and have decided that the model you choose depends on what you’re looking for. The FIAT 500, for example, is less powerful, but the driver has a more commanding view of the road and there is more cargo space, making the 500 more practical than the Cooper. But if you want more horsepower and great corning abilities, go for the Mini Cooper. Even the base model won’t disappoint.

Details: Mini Cooper

The 2012 Mini Cooper is sold in several trims. The base model is the Mini Cooper Hardtop. Next up is the performance-oriented Mini Cooper S. Both of these models are also available as convertibles. A top-of-the-line John Cooper Works model is also available as a hardtop and convertible.

For 2012, the Mini Cooper receives new standard wheels and new customization options.

2011 BMW Z4 sDrive35is

The good: The BMW Z4 sDrive35is' adaptive suspension responds well whether cruising through the city or carving the canyons, and the dual-clutch transmission makes fast shifts. Available cabin tech includes an excellent navigation system.
The bad: The retractable top folds into the trunk, which limits cargo capacity and messes with the weight distribution. The transmission's sport setting could be more aggressive.
The bottom line: Although not as hard-edged as some sports cars, the 2011 BMW Z4 sDrive35is provides plenty of driving fun and, except for the lack of cargo capacity, makes a fine daily driver.
BMW must think its recent cars strayed too far from its sports car ethos, as it is bringing back the "s"--denoting sport--to select models. We previously reviewed the 2011 BMW 335is, and now get a look at the new sport roadster, the 2011 BMW Z4 sDrive35is.
This roadster comes loaded to the gills with BMW's performance technology, all surprisingly standard for a company that charges extra for every little convenience feature. But the Z4 sDrive35is also makes a few compromises for comfort that undercut its sporting nature.
The Z4 is a good-looking little roadster, and we noted a lot of attention from bystanders. Its retractable hard top is a best-of-both-worlds solution, offering the security and weather protection of a hard top plus the fun of open-top driving. The top folds into the trunk with Transformers-like mutability.

 
The retractable hard top is a miracle of engineering.
The retractable top doesn't come without consequences, however. First of all, when folded away into the trunk there is very little storage space left, and what there is can be explored only with the type of robotic equipment being used on BP's Gulf oil gusher.
And although BMW takes its sports car dynamics very seriously, the retractable top throws off the car's balance one way or another. If BMW engineered the car for a 50/50 weight distribution with the top up, the front will be light with the top down, and vice versa. A soft top would have had less impact on the car's weight distribution.
BMW compensates for the weight change with its dynamic suspension, an option on just about every other BMW car, including the M models, but standard in the Z4 sDrive35is. When set to Sport or Sport Plus, the suspension lowers by almost half an inch. This suspension uses sensor input to adjust each of its dampers independently, making them softer or more rigid depending on the road and what the driver is asking of it.

 
These buttons cycle through Normal, Sport, and Sport Plus modes.
As with other recent BMWs we've tested, the Z4 sDrive35is exhibits a dual character; it's perfectly comfortable to drive over a variety of roads on a daily basis, and is willing to get down and act mean on a track or in the twisties. In Normal mode, the suspension is loose and compliant, but far from soft. Going to Sport or Sport Plus mode, we didn't notice a sudden, dramatic difference, but the car becomes more rigid.
We threw the Z4 sDrive35is into corner after corner, finding that it offered so much grip and such good control that we could maintain very high speeds. The car encouraged us to push harder and harder, and we were impressed by how well it stuck to the pavement, without allowing much of the tail wag that larger BMWs use to rotate in a turn.
But getting close to the limit, we repeatedly found understeer; the car headed toward a wall or cliff instead of going in the direction we pointed the wheels. This was surprising, and not something we would expect in a BMW. As it happened with the top up and down, we ascribe it to BMW finding a less-than-perfect compromise to the moveable top's weight distribution changes.
Twin turbochargers
Along with suspension settings, the Sport and Sport Plus modes put the throttle at a more aggressive level, the latter also turning down traction control. The Z4 sDrive35is gets the same engine as the 335is, a 3-liter direct-injection straight-six with twin turbochargers. Each low pressure turbocharger forces air into a set of three cylinders.

 
M sport wheels come standard on the Z4 sDrive35is.
Tuned for the Z4 sDrive35is, this engine produces 340 horsepower and 332 pound-feet of torque, which is significantly more than the standard Z4's 306 horsepower. And like the 335is, the Z4 sDrive35is has an overboost feature, which temporarily pumps the torque up to 369 pound-feet, putting 0-to-62 mph acceleration at 4.8 seconds.
The exhaust note was higher pitched than that of the 335is, and was not to everyone's liking on the Car Tech staff. It is quite distinct.
Another surprising standard feature is the seven-speed double-clutch transmission (DCT). A traditional manual transmission is not even available in the Z4 sDrive35is.

2012 Subaru Impreza WRX - STI

While the pedestrian Subaru Impreza sedan and hatchback were thoroughly updated for 2012, the hot-rod Impreza WRX and STI models soldier on with the older and proven body style for another year. Both were restyled last year, with more aggressive styling and substantial suspension and running gear changes, so they're far from outdated.
The 2011 wide-body look includes bulging fenders front and rear, a brawny lower-body look, a macho grille and front-end treatment, and four exhaust tips coming out the back. The new wide-fender styling benefits the four-door sedan most, removing its slab-sided economy-car aspect, whereas the five-door hatchback was always sportier looking. Inside, the trim and upholstery, instrument clusters, and even the audio systems were updated to match.
Both the WRX and STI are offered in either body style. The differences between the two models, though, belie their similar appearances even though they're only apparent once you get behind the wheel.
The 2012 WRX continues with the 265-hp, 2.5-liter horizontally opposed engine, mated to a five-speed manual transmission and Subaru's characteristic all-wheel drive. The STI comes with an even beefier turbocharged flat four, putting out 305 hp, and powering the all-wheel drive through a six-speed manual. Nope, no automatics in the lineup. If you want an automatic, you may not be a suitable WRX or STI buyer. Sorry.
The two engines are only 40 hp apart, but they're tuned quite differently. The WRX is more tractable in all-round usage, with smooth torque coming on fully 1000 rpm lower than its big brother. The slightly larger gaps between each of its five gears makes it feel more flexible, docile even, though in the end less aggressive than the STI.
The STI is jaw-droppingly quick, but can feel flat at low revs until the driver floors it. Once that happens, the engine begins a rising howl and the car rockets forward in a frenzy of acceleration and engine noise. An SI-Drive controller giving the driver the choice of three different tunes--Intelligent (I), Sport (S), or Sport Sharp (S#)--is limited to the STI model. Along with that level of control come stiffer springs, bushings, and stabilizer bars.
A center console switch offers no fewer than six settings to control the lockup behavior of the central differential, and a Super Sport ABS system controls each rear wheel individual to reduce understeer. There's even a "traction" mode in the stability control system, really only meant for track use, that brakes for stability but doesn't cut the throttle at the same time (the system can also be turned off entirely). Larger Brembo performance brakes haul everything down to normal speeds again.
The simpler WRX has fewer of these systems, but is still just as fun to drive--and perhaps easier for mere mortals. With experience, drivers know to blip the throttle while braking, drop a gear, and simply accelerate out of the turn with all four wheels pulling you forward. You can even learn how to make the car induce a little four-wheel slide, very neutral and easily controlled. Both the STI and WRX ride surprisingly well, soaking up ruts, potholes, and other bumps with confidence. And despite their power, the cabin is remarkably quiet inside, though Subaru's traditional weak spot--side mirror noise--is present.
The racing-style bucket seats hold the driver and front passenger firmly in place, but the fixed headrests project forward at an uncomfortable angle.The STI models get fancier black Alcantara trim and upholstery with red stitching, front and rear, though the rear seats remain the standard-issue item from the regular Impreza. Rear-seat space is remarkable for a compact car, with oceans of headroom even for those with tall torsos. From behind the wheel, the instruments are clear--dominated by the central tachometer--and thankfully are for adults, without boy-racer graphics or odd background lighting.
Years ago, the Subaru STI was an economy car with a remarkable engine, all-wheel drive, and handling. Its interior was basic, and it was meant for serious drivers who could put up with some crudeness and a lack of features. Today, WRX buyers would like some of the STI's features, and STI buyers may be eying BMWs or even Porsches in comparison. So Subaru has added options like leather upholstery and a moonroof, satellite radio, and other quasi-luxury features. Increasingly, these set it apart from its arch-rival, the Mitsubishi Ralliart and Evolution models.

2011 Porsche 911 GT3 RS 4.0

Enough with the leaks and speculation. Here it is. The 2011 Porsche 911 GT3 RS 4.0. The ultimate naturally aspirated 911 and the 997's motorsports-infused swan-song.

As the name would suggest, this latest limited-edition 911 packs a 4.0-liter flat-six derived from the 911 GT3 RSR racer, complete with forged pistons, titanium connecting rods and a crankshaft pulled directly from its track-bred descendent. The result is the most powerful normally aspirated 911 to date, with 500 horsepower peaking at 8,250 rpm and maximum torque – 339 pound-feet – coming in at 5,750 rpm.

That massive engine partnered with a host of lightweight kit (carbon fiber buckets, front fenders, luggage compartment lid and "weight-optimized" carpets) allows the 2,998-pound (wet, mind) GT3 RS 4.0 to run to 60 mph in 3.8 seconds, crack 124 mph in less than 12 seconds and top out at 193 mph.

A six-speed manual is the only gearbox available and the Carrara (their spelling) White paint comes standard, along with central twin exhausts, massive rear wing and the first production application of air deflection vanes on both sides of the front bumper (dubbed "flics") to improve stability and exert an extra 426 pounds of downforce at speed.

And before you ask, the RS 4.0 ran the Nürburgring in 7 minutes and 27 seconds, putting it in contention for one of the fastest production cars ever run around the Nordschleife.

If you've got $185,000 laying around in your hedge fund, get your orders in now. Only 600 will be produced when sales begin later this year. Full details in the press blast after the jump.

2012 Audi R8 V10


When the Audi R8 was first introduced in 2007, many observers argued a more powerful motor might be needed to unlock the true potential of the car. Fast-forward a few years, and considerably more powerful R8 V10 coupe and convertible models are a reality.
Powered by a Lamborghini-sourced V10, the latest R8 sends 525 horsepower to all four wheels thanks to a sophisticated quattro all-wheel-drive system. The car was introduced to the public at the 2009 North American International Auto Show in Detroit.
Though sporting two more cylinders and a little more grunt mid-ship, the V10-powered R8 doesn't feature too many visual differences from its V8 sibling.
More air is fed to the ten-cylinder through larger side scoops, which jut out sharply from the body-side, adding a more aggressive stance to go with its increased power. The lower side sill also get an extra flare which runs along the wheelbase, adding further visual cues that this is the true uber- Audi. The changes are subtle enough to be obvious only to those in-the-know, thus keeping the R8's clean lines as uncluttered as possible.
However, some subtle changes from the standard R8 will include dual oval exhaust outlets, bigger side air intakes, a revised front and rear fascias and larger brakes. The V10 version also sports unique LED headlights and a rear diffuser.
Prior to the car's launch, rumors were swirling that Audi would name the V10-powered R8 the R10 or RS8, but the more technical "5.2 FSI" designation was used.
The V10 is the same 5.2L FSI powerplant found in the new Lamorghini LP560-4, albeit detuned to 525 horsepower and 390 pound-feet or torque to keep the R8 out of the Gallardo's territory. But despite being down a bit on grunt, the R8 V10 can still rocket from zero to 62 mph in 3.9 seconds, on its way to a top speed of 196 mph.
Sending power to all four wheels is the buyer's choice of a six-speed manual or a six-speed single-clutch automated manual transmission. Fuel economy with the stick is rated at 11/20 mpg, while opting for the slightly jerky automated transmission ups efficiency to 13/21 mpg.
Uber-Audi Features
Befitting the car's considerable price, the R8 V10 comes standard with a host of features including a navigation system with 3D maps and a 6.5-inch LCD display, a 465-watt Bang & Olufsen sound system with 12 speakers, fine nappa leather sports seats, a rear parking camera that pairs with ultrasonic sensors and Bluetooth connectivity with seatbelt-mounted speakers for easy hands-free communication.
Occupant Safety
The R8 V10 includes dual front, knee and seat-mounted head and thorax airbags in addition to traction and stability and traction control systems.
Key Competitors
Rivals to the R8 V10 include exotics like the blindingly quick Porsche 911 Turbo S, the elegant, old-school Aston Martin V12 Vantage and the Formula 1-inspired Ferrari 458 Italia.



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