Large Suvs/trucks

Austin American-Statesman - - D STATESMAN CARS - Fa­vorites

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.

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