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transmission. Base price (incl. destination): $34,500 Base engine (hp): 3.6-litre SOHC V6 (292) Optional engines (hp): 5.7-litre OHV V8 (370); 6.4-litre OHV V8

(470) l/100 km (city/hwy): 12.3/7.6 (3.6 8AT) Town & Country Positioned as the luxury choice for Chrysler-minivan buyers, the

Town & Country trumps its Dodge Grand Caravan sibling in fea- ture count and comfort. The available Stow ‘n Go second-row bench seat has been redesigned with improved comfort in mind and now more easily folds away. The standard third-row bench seat can be power folded (optional) to create a flat load floor.For 2012, those situated in the rear will have a standard DVD enter- tainment unit that can simultaneously play from different video and audio inputs. All Town & Country models get leather-covered seats for 2012, too. Base price (incl. destination): $41,400 Base engine (hp): 3.6-litre DOHC V6 (283) l/100 km (city/hwy): 12.2/7.9

DODGE Avenger After wisely retuning the way the Avenger sedan looks and

drives, Dodge is also bringing back the R/T with even more atti- tude. Dodge claims the interior is one of the quietest in the seg- ment, thanks to 45 new sound-deadening “treatments.” The Avenger’s stance has been lowered, the track width has been in- creased by 2.5 centimetres and most of the suspension bushings have been changed out to improve ride and handing. Base price (incl. destination): $21,400 Base engine (hp): 2.4-litre DOHC I4 (173) Optional engine (hp): 3.6-litre DOHC V6 (283) l/100 km (city/hwy): 9.9/6.7 (2.4)


Simplified two-model nomenclature hopes to keep sales up while a Fiat-based replacement is devised; retuned CVT the only noteworthy mechanical update. One standard and one optional four-cylinder engine carry over for the 2012 model year, as does a base five-speed manual transmission and optional continuous- ly variable unit. Practical wagon-style body can pack plenty of stuff, especially with the rear seats folded flat.For even more room the available folding front-passenger chair can double as a work station. And all models still get a four-bottle beverage chiller locat- ed inside the cavernous glove box. Base price (incl. destination): $16,400 Base engine (hp): 2.0-litre DOHC I4 (158) Optional engine (hp): 2.4-litre DOHC I4 (172) l/100 km (city/hwy): 8.5/6.1 (2.0, MT)


After some Mustang and Camaro-matching upgrades for the 2011 model year, the Challenger is cooling its heels for 2012; SRT8 392 is stout, but how does Dodge intend to deal with the 580- horse Camaro ZL1? A 3.6-litre V6 tuned up to 305 horsepower to get closer to the Camaro and Mustang; 375 horses with the base Hemi V8; 470 sounds right for the SRT8 392. Base price (incl. destination): $28,400 Base engine (hp): 3.6-litre DOHC V6 (305) Optional engines (hp): 5.7-litre OHV V8 (375); 6.1-litre OHV V8

(470) l/100 km (city/hwy): 11.7/7.3 (3.6) Charger 500

Plenty of Italian and charm in a small, classy package that also acts as an entry model for Chrysler;added convertible and upcom- ing performance Abarth model.The sub-compact class is heating up with excellent new entrants from Chevrolet, Ford, Hyundai, Kia, Nissan and Toyota. And, although aging quickly, the Honda Fit is still clever and fun enough in this group.Bringing the darling of Europe, the popular 500 (a throwback to the original Fiat mod- el from the 1950s) is a calculated risk.There’s not a lot of connec- tion to the car on this side of the pond, even if it did help resurrect the Italian automaker following the end of the Second World War. So, how does this work? North American drivers can sample the tiny hatchback’s delights through a separate dealer network set up in conjunction with Chrysler, not unlike Mini stores nested with- in BMW dealerships. Base price (incl. destination): $17,400 Base engine (hp): 1.4-litre SOHC I4 (101) l/100 km(city/hwy): 6.7/5.1 (MT)


For 2012, Ford is taking a risk and offering an optional 2.0-litre turbocharged EcoBoost engine that promises to save money at the gas pumps, but at a cost.The four-cylinder produces 240 horse- power, down 45 on the base 3.5-litre V6. But it does have more torque, so it’s probably not much slower. EcoBoost fuel economy is 9.9 l/100 km city and 6.6 highway, compared to 11.1/7.2 for the base V6.However, the the EcoBoost model is only available with front-wheel drive.The real question comes from the price, which is somewhat more at each trim level than the base V6. Base price (incl. destination): $29,400 Base engine (hp): 3.5-litre DOHC V6 (285) Optional engines (hp): 3.7-litre DOHC V6 (305); 2.0-litre DOHC I4, turbocharged (240) l/100 km (city/highway): 11.1/7.2 (3.5)


After a successful launch, Fiesta now offers new visual packages; high-performance ST version on the way. In launching the Fiesta, Ford delivered on its pledge that we can enjoy the same firm-rid- ing, precise-handling, fuel-sipping vehicles that others around the globe have been enjoying for years. The Fiesta’s design is Euro sleek and fashionable, topped off with a set of truly beautiful head- light pods.The base manual transmission is a slick shifting five- speed.Spunky 120-horsepower 1.6-litre four-cylinder is mated to a five-speed manual transmission, or optional fuel-saving six- speed direct-shift gearbox that doesn’t use a torque converter; Ford will add a turbo to make 175 horses when ST model debuts. Optional is a six-speed direct-shift (automated manual) gearbox that functions without a traditional torque converter. Base price (incl. destination): $14,400 Base engine (hp): 1.6-litre DOHC I4 (120) l/100 km (city/highway): 6.8/4.9 (MT)

Flex After last year’s addition of the luxurious and exclusive Titanium

After some serious sheetmetal and chassis changes for 2011, the Charger (and its Chrysler 300 cousin) finally get to express their inner hooligans with the reintroduction of the muscle sedan, the SRT8.Aside from the added aggression to the unique grilles, fas- cias, lights and wheels, the performance machine gets the same 6.4-litre Hemi (392 cubic inches) V8 found in the Challenger. Pushing out 470 horsepower (beating out the previous 6.1 by 45 horsepower), it turns the Charger into a brash cruiser.Thankfully, the brakes are larger and the ride height is lowered and suspen- sion firmed up to make sure the SRT8 turns and stops well as it accelerates. Base price (incl. destination): $31,400 Base engine (hp): 3.6-litre SOHC V6 (283, est.) Optional engines (hp): 5.7-litre OHV V8 (380, est.) l/100 km (city/hwy): 11.7/7.3 (3.6, 5AT); 10.9/6.4 (3.6, 8AT)


Seven-seat Dodge Durango is what the old Jeep Commander should have been; spacious, efficient and great off the beaten path. The Hemi-equipped Durango can tow heavy loads up to 3,365-kilograms (2,820 kilograms for the V6) and can also carry up to seven passengers when using all three rows of seats, al- though second-row twin high-back bucket seats will make an ap- pearance later in the 2012 model year. And since the same de- signers who penned the GC’s interior also created the Durango’s interior, comfort and roominess are also first rate. Base price (incl. destination): $39,400 Base engine (hp): 3.6-litre DOHC V6 (290) Optional engine (hp): 5.7-litre OHV V8 (360) l/100 km (city/hwy): 13.0/8.8

Grand Caravan

With new product offerings from Honda, Toyota and Nissan that bend preconceptions of what a minivan can look like, the Grand Caravan still looks like a minivan should. It now drives a little dif- ferently with a revised suspension topped with low-rolling-resist- ance tires to help prop up fuel economy. Inside, you’ll find the usu- al dozen or so cupholders plus a variety of small-item bins and pockets (including dual glove boxes) that showcase the vehicle’s utility.The standard third-row bench seat can be power folded (op- tional) to create a flat load floor. Base price (incl. destination): $29,400 Base engine (hp): 3.6-litre DOHC V6 (283) l/100 km (city/hwy): 12.2/7.9


Refreshed for 2011, the Journey finally found itself as a real contender.The excellent interior update is complemented by fresh- ened front exterior styling and “split crosshair” grille for all mod- els.The Dodge Boys updated the interior with new materials and relocated the shift lever and cupholders for more hassle-free op- eration. As before, there’s standard seating for five people, al- though there’s an available two-place third-row 50/50 split bench. There are also some other clever interior storage options such as a front passenger seat with a flip-forward hinged cushion that’s

package, the useful Flex sits unchanged for 2012. Two versions of the same V6 in fuel-thrifty mild and twin-turbo wild. With most of its showroom siblings getting updated looks in the last year or two, the Ford Flex might be starting to show its age just a tad. But the box-on-wheels shape is still startling in its simplicity, yet the detailing, including a bold, three-bar chrome grille and grooved sheetmetal extending along both front and rear doors, gives the Flex an abundance of character.None of the up to seven passen- gers will feel cramped or claustrophobic in this ride, regardless of which of the three rows of seats they’re occupying. Base price (incl. destination): $30,400 Base engine (hp): 3.5-litre DOHC V6 (262) Optional engine (hp): 3.5-litre DOHC V6, twin-turbocharged

(355) l/100 km (city/highway): 12/6/8.4 (FWD) Focus (New for 2012!) FIAT

ideal for concealing cameras, purses and other valuables. Base price (incl. destination): $22,400 Base engine (hp): 2.4-litre DOHC I4 (173) Optional engine (hp): 3.6-litre DOHC V6 (283) l/100 km (city/hwy): 10.8/7.5 (2.4)


Parked alongside its Fiesta relation, the Focus looks positively

aggressive with its wide-open-mouth air intake and more planted stance. But for those who just can’t get with the sleek-looking hatchback, the sedan offers a more conservative silhouette. It’s also the only style available if you order the price-leader “S” that comes with manual climate control, tilt and telescopic steering wheel and basic four-speaker audio system and 15-inch steel wheels.The SE sedan and hatchback add Ford’s Sync voice-ac- tivated communications and entertainment system plus some mi- nor interior/exterior upgrades, while SEL versions improve on the basics with a six-speed automated manual transmission, dual- zone climate control, ambient lighting and 16-inch alloy wheels. The top-rung Titanium’s full-load content includes touch-screen au- dio and climate controls, push-button start, 10-speaker Sony sound system and a sport-tuned suspension with 17-inch wheels. All models arrive with torque vectoring, which is a system that ap- plies light braking pressure to slow down the inside wheel when the car is turning. This helps the Focus attack the corners with more precision by reducing the tendency to plow straight ahead (referred to as understeer). In the works is an electric Focus that features a 93-kilowatt (123-horsepower) motor and lithium-ion battery pack. Base price (incl. destination): $17,500 Base engine (hp): 2.0-litre DOHC I4 (160) Optional engine (hp): electric motor (123) l/100 km (city/highway): 7.2/4.8 (MT)

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