1.) Honda Pilot - The Pilot resides at the top of this list more for sentimentality and the memories I have of the Pilot. I took the 7-passenger Pilot across country on a trip to the East Coast, including New York City. The Pilot did everything I asked of it and kept my passengers (teens and tweens) as happy campers. I even managed to get 25.5 mpg out of my tester.
2.) Ford Flex - I would not have guessed that initially I would have put the Flex on this list. Before driving the Flex, I was not necessarily a fan of the looks or its boxy styling. However, on a weekend jaunt to the mountains, packed full of passengers and supplies, the Flex proved its value and earns the spot for winning me over, not just the looks, but the confident performance.
3.) Dodge Durango - The Durango is what this category is all about. Big, powerful performance and interior luxury makes the Durango a complete SUV. Powered by a 5.7-liter V-8 Hemi, my tester was the top-of-the-line Citadel trim, which offered luxury inside, including a rear DVD system, making the Durango all things to all people.
1.) Audi A6 - For three straight weeks, I drove an Audi (the A6, A7, A8). And honestly, any of these three would warrant the top spot. But as to not show an Audi bias, I’m going to select only one, and that’s the A6. Sport styling, supercharged V-6 engine, 8-speed transmission, all-wheel drive, the list goes on and on. And that’s why the Audi A6 is my favorite vehicle of 2012.
2.) Jaguar XF - If you’ve never driven a new-model Jaguar, put that on your list
1.) Mazda3 - A new engine and new transmission yield big improvements for this compact car. Mazda debuted its new fuel-saving technology called SkyActiv in the Mazda3, and I appreciated the combination of ample power and fuel savings in this car.
2.) Chevrolet Sonic - The bar was very low for the Sonic to improve upon its predecessor, the Aveo. But Chevy took this compact car to a new level by adding horsepower and a new transmission and offering high-quality interior materials. They did so by keeping the Sonic priced below $15,000. I especially enjoyed of things to do. The XF epitomizes the luxurious driving experience. And the V-8, supercharged engine makes 470 horsepower, which is gluttonous but so much fun.
3.) Mini Cooper S Coupe - In my review of this little two-seater, I compared the S Coupe to a go-kart. It’s a fair analogy. With a turbocharged 4-cylinder engine, the S Coupe makes a “mere” 181 horsepower seem like so much more. Who doesn’t like go karts anyway? the looks of the hatchback.
3.) Volkswagen Beetle Turbo - This iconic vehicle is sometimes considered tragically hip. But with the redesigned look, Volkswagen managed to add masculine touches (shorter, squattier and Porschier). They also threw in a turbo for 200 horsepowerworth of fun driving.
1.) Chevrolet Volt - I love technology, and the Volt was named 2011 Car of the Year for a good reason. The plugin technology found in the Volt is uber-cool. And what’s even cooler is the 35+ miles of gas-free driving you get from the Volt. And when it loses its charge, it seemlessly switches over to an efficient gasoline engine. No range anxiety, cool looks and great technology make this my favorite hybrid of 2012.
2.) Toyota Prius c - The Prius family expanded this model year. Adding a bigger, station-wagon-like Prius v and a smaller hatchback Prius c diversified Toyota’s preeminent hybrid line. The Prius c, though small, gave me more than 50 mpg in a week’s worth of driving, and it was just punchy enough to get out of its way, so it makes this list.
3.) Kia Optima Hybrid - You’ll soon notice my fondness for the entire Optima line. There are 206 reasons why the Optima hybrid makes this list, and that’s the horsepower it creates, making the Optima still a punchy yet efficient hybrid. Now that’s what I’m talking about.