2012 Toyota Sienna

The 2012 Sienna is a 4-door, up to 8-passenger mini van, available in 10 trims, ranging from the FWD 7-Passenger I4 to the Limited AWD 7-Passenger V6.

Upon introduction, the FWD 7-Passenger I4 is equipped with a standard 2.7-liter, I4, 187-horsepower engine that achieves 19-mpg in the city and 24-mpg on the highway. The Limited AWD 7-Passenger V6 is equipped with a standard 3.5-liter, V6, 266-horsepower engine that achieves 17-mpg in the city and 23-mpg on the highway. A 6-speed automatic transmission with overdrive is standard on both trims.

The 2012 Sienna is a carryover from 2011. 



2009 Honda S2000

Roadsters tend to be narrowly focused on performance, sacrificing practicality in the name of merriment. There are many different flavors, though. Increased athleticism usually results in reduced comfort, so it's essential to know what you're willing to forgo. On one end of the spectrum, there are the luxury drop tops, replete with every conceivable option and modern appointment -- and on the other end, there are the performance-biased sporting roadsters that purists drool over. The 2009 Honda S2000 falls squarely into the latter category, somewhere in between the docile Mazda Miata and the hard-core Lotus Elise.

The S2000 delivers plenty of knife-edge excitement and very little else. In keeping with the traditional roadster mantra, weight is kept to a minimum, thanks in part to a distinct lack of creature comforts. Power is supplied by a high-strung naturally aspirated four-cylinder engine that's matched to a deliciously mechanical six-speed manual transmission. Precision handling dynamics are also part of the S2000's DNA, as this high-revving Honda evinces excellent balance during hard cornering with minimal computer intervention. Moreover, there's no cowl shake to speak of. Even after nine years on the market, this is one of the most rigid roadsters you can buy.

This year sees the continuation of the S2000 CR model, which was introduced last year. CR stands for "club racer," denoting this model's track-specific tweaks for reduced weight and sharper handling. The performance gap between the standard S2000 and the CR isn't readily apparent unless you're on a racetrack, but for those who enjoy the occasional track day, the S2000 CR is worth considering.

There are three main knocks against the 2009 Honda S2000. First, its appearance hasn't changed significantly since it debuted way back in model year 2000, so your shiny new S2000 will bear an uncomfortable resemblance to $15,000 used versions on Craigslist. Second, while its 2.2-liter VTEC four does a credible impression of a racecar engine above 6,000 rpm, there's little power to speak of at lower engine speeds. Finally, modern amenities like Bluetooth and a navigation system are simply unavailable on this spartan sports car.

Nonetheless, we're still fans of the S2000. Its mid-$30K price positions it well against the cheaper but less capable Miata and more expensive European offerings from BMW, Porsche and Lotus. If what you're looking for is a focused driving machine, the S2000 remains a compelling choice despite its advancing years.

2013 Audi A3

The forthcoming A3 will be based on the VW Golf. It would be nice if the U.S. got the hatch, but that's unlikely. We probably will get a diesel A3, though, and the four-door sedan will come in a hotter S3 version that's also a possibility for North America, though an ├╝ber-powerful RS3 is highly unlikely.

Hopefully the chassis that underpins the new Audi will be more modular than previous versions. That would allow integration of hybrid tech and front-drive or AWD setups that could shave weight on various Audis and Volkswagens, helping engineers to increase fuel economy while downsizing displacement



Dodge Ram Pickup 1500

There is an upside to the game of catch-up Chrysler is playing in so many segments: It gives the company an opportunity to try bold remakes that leap-frog the current benchmarks. We think the automaker chose wisely by doing this to its flagship Dodge pickup.

The Ram was due for a facelift, but rather than giving it a superficial makeover, Chrysler went for so many smart updates that Ford and GM will be chasing for their own answers. Start with aerodynamics, where Chrysler has altered the front wheel openings and given the truck's grille active shutters said to reduce drag by 3 to 5 percent. It added an eight-speed automatic transmission too, tied in electric power steering, and brought in start/stop technology to save gas in traffic.

All of these changes are included with any of the available engines, although the Ram's V-8s—the aging 4.8-liter and the 5.7-liter Hemi—are less noteworthy than the 3.6-liter V-6 that'll punch out 305 hp and 269 lb-ft of torque. Ford's EcoBoost V-6 is still more powerful, pumping out 365 hp and 420 lb-ft in the F-150. But the Pentastar engine, used already in the Jeep Wrangler and Grand Cherokee and now available in the Ram, could be the more fuel-efficient choice, especially when combined with all the other tech Chrysler has brought to bear. And because most of the Ram's torque is available nearly from idle, at just 1800 rpm, load-haulers won't miss the V-8 unless they tow serious weight.




Hyundai Veloster Turbo

Right now, the Veloster lacks the performance cred to back up its killer looks. But that will change once this 201-hp version hits the streets. The 45 percent boost in horsepower has most folks taking a second look at the Veloster, and hoping this Turbo is a signal that Hyundai is getting as serious about performance as it has been about quality and design over the last few years.

So far, though, signs remain cloudy—the stonking 1.6-liter motor with dual exhaust notwithstanding. Word is the Veloster Turbo gets the same suspension, which is disappointing. The stock Veloster is fun but stiff-kneed and less refined when compared to better-bred sporty cars like VW's GTI—or the Subaru BRZ, which is only somewhat costlier than what we're expecting to see from the Veloster Turbo. Also, ask Mini engineers about controlling torque steer in a 200-hp car with a short wheelbase. That, too, has probably made Hyundai sweat.

Even if the Veloster Turbo isn't perfection out of the gate, we hope it's a sign of better-performing Hyundais (and Kias) to come. 





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