New Car Review: 2012 Nissan Murano

The 2012 Nissan Murano.

There is a drawback to getting it right the first time. You change at your own risk. It's often better to sit still. But then you sort of fade from consciousness.

Case in point: The 2012 Nissan Murano, which looks an awful lot like the 2002 Nissan Murano...because, well...because they got it right ten years ago. In fact, the Murano really showed the way for the entire crossover segment. To tamper with it would be to mess with success, so Nissan has simply refined the Murano constantly along the way.


New Car Review: 2012 Chevrolet Volt

Front 3/4 view of silver 2012 Chevrolet Volt parked on a bluff overlooking the sea
The 2012 Chevrolet Volt.

Quick. Name a car George Bush (either one) owned before or after the presidency. How about Bill Clinton (okay, an El Camino with Astroturf in the rear bed is kinda hard to forget)? Ronald Reagan? Jimmy Carter? Gerald Ford?

Presidents aren't usually car guys. But President Barack Obama today (2/28/12) said when his term in office is over, he's buying and driving a Chevy Volt.

Obama's previous car choices have sent mixed signals. His last car before becoming Commander In Chief was a Ford Escape Hybrid (also a recent Bill Clinton choice)...but until he announced his candidacy in '07, Senator Obama drove a Chrysler 300C...with a Hemi...leading us to believe he might be lusting in his heart (to borrow a Jimmy Carter-ism) for the new SRT8.

But let's take the Prez at his word. What kind of car is the Volt to live with and drive?


New Car Review: 2012 Chrysler 300 SRT8

Front 3/4 view of white 2012 Chrysler 300 SRT8 in front of bridge
The 2012 Chrysler 300 SRT8.

It's been almost three years since our last test of a Chrysler 300 SRT8. Normally, that wouldn't allow for much in the way of changes, but the 2012 SRT8 is soooo much more car than the '09.

6.1 liters worth of V8 Hemi muscle has become 6.4. 425 horsepower is now 470 (with 470 pounds per foot of torque to back it up). The "Wow!" that involuntarily escaped your lips last time around is now more like "Whooooooaaaaa!". 60 miles an hour comes up in under 5 seconds.


New Car Review: 2012 Toyota Prius

Front three-quarters view of white 2012 Toyota Prius next to green rolling hills
The 2012 Toyota Prius.
Fifty. Five-Zero.

If there's a number that's caused great consternation among Prius drivers since the car was launched, it's the number 50.

That's the miles per gallon that people seem to expect to get from the now-veteran (12 years and counting) Toyota hybrid. And it's the number people rarely have gotten.

I've driven several Priuses (Priii?) a year for each of those 12 years. My personal best has been 48...a number that I would average with some regularity for the first several years. Lately, it's dropped off to 45 or 46.

But in the 2012 Toyota Prius that just left my care this morning.....I averaged 50.4 miles per gallon.

New Car Review: 2012 Nissan Versa 1.6 S Sedan

Front three-quarters view of a gray 2012 Nissan Versa being driven on an urban street
The 2012 Nissan Versa.

Sometimes my fellow automotive journalists are just the biggest whiners in the world. Reading their reviews of the new for 2012 Nissan Versa, I was braced for a new miserable experience, one lending new meaning to the words "ugly", "uncomfortable" and "cheap".

Did all of them have Porsche 911s the week before or something?

Now, I know I have a somewhat higher tolerance for basic transportation than some folks in this profession...but that doesn't mean that the car doesn't deserve to be judged on its merits. And frankly, the 2012 Nissan Versa 1.6 S Sedan surprised me.


New Car Review: 2012 Volvo S60 T6 AWD R SR

Front view of red 2012 Volvo S60 T6 AWD R SR being driven on winding road
The 2012 Volvo S60 T6 AWD R SR.

In the Swinging 60s, "Sweden" and "Sexy" were synonymous. But by 1968, Volvo was adding "Safe" and "Sensible" to the Swedish image.

It's been that way for so long that you have to be of a certain age to remember the "Sexy Swede" thing. Volvo wants to fix that with the S60.


New Car Review: 2012 Mazda 3 Skyactiv i Grand Touring

Front 3/4 view of 2012 Mazda 3 Skyactiv i Grand Touring driving on two-lane road
The 2012 Mazda 3 Skyactiv.
Five weeks ago, we gave you our first impressions based on a very short (fewer than 100 miles) time behind the wheel of the Mazda 3 Skyactiv. Bottom line for the link-averse, it was all good things we expect from Mazda in general and the Mazda 3 in particular, with some promising gas mileage figures (we averaged 29.5 miles per gallon, the EPA estimates are 28 city, 40 highway).

The first car was a bare-bones stock model...zero options, with a price tag of $19,300 plus delivery charges.

This time around, things were different. Mazda USA's press folks sent an i Grand Touring model with Skyactiv. Base price $4,000 higher at $22,300...and there were options.


New Car Review: 2011 Kia Forte SX 5 Door

Front 3/4 view of 2011 Kia Forte SX 5-door
The 2011 Kia Forte SX 5-Door.
Hatchbacks never went out of favor in Europe, but somehow, in the early-mid 80s, Americans rejected them as too low-rent. Shortsighted, because hatches offer enormous versatility, combining the best attributes of sedans and wagons without having to permanently commit to either.

There have been signs recently that the US ice is breaking when it comes to hatches, and the Kia Forte 5-Door should go a long way toward the thaw. Every bit as good as the Forte sedan we loved so much two years ago, with the enhanced utility of that fifth door in back.