Savor the 2012 Car Models

A Moveable Feast
by James T. Hurst

U.S. auto sales should climb to 14 million units this year, according to J.D. Power and Automotive News. Some of the biggest gains in consumer interest for 2012 are due to the variety of small fuel-efficient cars loaded with technology. In the past, Detroit struggled to catch up with the European and Asian companies that introduced the world to small, efficient automobiles. Today, we have many more American-made models that are exciting and fun to drive. With fuel-efficient engines and hybrid technology here to stay, it seems the voice of the consumer is finally being heard. Exciting times!

Fiat 500
Travel+Leisure named the new 2012 Fiat 500 “Best Car” in its eighth annual Travel+Leisure Design Awards recognizing new products that improve the travel experience through thoughtful design. The Fiat 500 was acclaimed for its “effortless combination of compact practicality with a real sense of style, speed, and fun,” said Luke Barr, Travel+Leisure’s news director. The 2012 Fiat 500 offers a high level of safety, fuel economy, and quality enhanced by an all-new fuel-efficient 1.4 liter MultiAir engine with the eco:Drive software application, seven air bags, and available TomTom Navigation with standard BLUE&ME Handsfree Communication technology. This efficient automobile adds open-air freedom with the Fiat 500 Cabrio, a multi-position powered retractable cloth top. Other models are available starting at $15,500.

Available from these OutSmart Community-Supportive Dealerships:
Clear Lake Fiat, I-45 South, Clear Lake Exit, 888.433.5111, www.ClearLakeFiat.com
Helfman Fiat, 7720 Katy Freeway at Silber, 888.290.4448, www.HelfmanFiat.com
Northside  Fiat, 1501 Lake Robbins Drive, The Woodlands, 281.761.7568, www.NorthsideFiat.com
Mini Roadster

The sixth Mini variant, compliments of BMW, now comes in a new topless package. Although it has gained about 90 pounds, the new Roadster is very appealing to the senses. With a price range of $25,050 to $35,200, the new Mini once again offers lots of behind-the-wheel pleasure, comfortable seats, and a navigation system that is easy to use even with the sun on the screen. Three versions of the Mini are offered: the 1.6 liter four-cylinder 121 hp (naturally aspirated), the 181 hp turbocharged S version, and the 208 hp higher output turbo with a six-speed manual gearbox (standard) or a six-speed Steptronic automatic. The Mini experience can be described as quick on its feet, responsive, and very stylish.

Available from this OutSmart Community-Supportive Dealership:
Momentum Mini, 10000 SW Freeway, 800-557-5374, www.MomentumMini.com
Land Rover Evoque

New for 2012 is the Evoque, the small luxury SUV from Land Rover. It comes in an array of new colors and finishes based on three distinct designs: Pure, Prestige, and Dynamic. Advanced technologies include enhanced suspension performance, fixed panoramic roof, lightweight aluminum chassis components, hill assist control, and terrain response. The 2012 Evoque delivers more-than-adequate power via a Ford-sourced 2.0 liter direct-injection four-cylinder engine. It is rated at 240 horsepower and 270 pound-feet of torque.

Available from this OutSmart Community-Supportive Dealership:
Land Rover Houston Central, 7019 Old Katy Road, 713.293.6100, www.LandRoverHouston.com,
BMW 3 Series

The 2012 BMW 3 Series offers a completely redesigned exterior and interior with a significantly higher level of standard equipment. This includes Bluetooth connectivity, 8-speed automatic transmission, Automatic Start/Stop, and Dynamic Driving Control with ECO PRO Mode and Brake Energy Regeneration.

Both the 328i Sedan, with its Twin Power Turbo four-cylinder, and the 335i, featuring BMW’s Twin Power Turbo 3.0 liter inline six, will be available in the Sport Line, Luxury Line, and Modern Line. Prices range from $35,795 for the 328i to $43,295 for the 335i.

Available from this OutSmart Community-Supportive Dealership:
Advantage BMW, 1305 Gray at Caroline, 713.289.1200, www.AdvantageBMW.com
Kia Optima Hybrid

This is the second year for the 2012 Kia Optima Hybrid that borrows its drivetrain from the 2012 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid. This 2.4-liter engine with a six-speed transmission is combined with a 30-kw electric motor and lightweight lithium polymer battery to produce 206 horsepower. The Kia Optima can run on the gas engine, the electric motor, or a combination of both. EPA mileage is rated at 35 mpg city, 40 mpg highway, and 37 mpg combined. The hybrid version of the Optima features unique exterior refinements along with a long hood, raked windshield, and short rear deck to produce a low drag coefficient of 0.26.

Available from this OutSmart Community-Supportive Dealership:
Westside Kia, Katy Freeway , at Grand Parkway, 281.392.5858, www.WestsideKia.com
Ford Fusion

Ford is offering a stunning new exterior design for this midsize sedan. Available only as a four-door sedan, the 2012 Ford Fusion offers either four-cylinder or V-6 power, front- or all-wheel drive, and is available as a gas-electric hybrid model rated at 41 mpg city and 36 mpg highway. The cabin mirrors the exterior’s blocky edges and is roomy enough for four adults. The quality is solid and comfortable, and amenities include high-tech gizmos such as an interactive instrument cluster, Ford’s Sync multimedia control system with USB adapter, and even a Blind Spot Information System with Cross Traffic Alert.    

Available from this OutSmart Community-Supportive Dealership: Champion Ford, 12227 Gulf Freeway, 713.875.2086, www.Cruz@AutoNation.com

Acura MDX

The Acura MDX sets the standard for the industry with an array of technology, performance, and versatility. The 2012 MDX sports a 3.7 liter, 300-hp V6 engine with 270 pounds of torque and a Drive-by-Wire throttle control. The EPA-estimated fuel mileage is 16 mpg city and 21 mpg on the highway. This translates to Super Handling All-Wheel Drive (SH-AWD), 5,000-lb towing capacity, available Blind Spot Information System (BSI), and available Collision Mitigation Braking System (CMBS). The refined MDX seats seven in supple leather, has a Premium Audio system with seven speakers, tri-zone climate control, rearview camera, and available DVD Rear Entertainment System.

Available from this OutSmart Community-Supportive Dealership:
Sterling McCall Acura, 10455 SW Freeway, 713.596.2300, www.SterlingMcCallAcura.com
Porsche 911

New for 2012, the 911’s wheelbase has grown by almost four inches while the overall length has only grown by two inches. Moving the engine and transmission forward translates to more intrusion into the interior, so to increase passenger space, the A-pillars and windshield have been pushed forward, translating to a more rounded windshield and creating the new 911 evolution. This new design makes extensive use of aluminum reinforced with steel. Porsche introduces electric power steering for the first time in 2012, stating that its efficient design draws power only when needed. Engine choices are a 3.4-liter base and a 3.8-liter flat 6, both gaining horsepower thanks to technology and seven-speed transmissions. Beginning at $82,100 and reaching up to $172,100, Porsche enthusiasts will have to consider more than just emotions.

Available from this OutSmart Community-Supportive Dealership:
Porsche West Houston, 11890 Katy Freeway, 281.249.4700, www.PorscheWestHouston.com
Audi A6

The 2012 Audi A6 is fully redesigned, offering increased interior room, lighter curb weight, and new technological features. Audi offers a choice of two energetic engines—a 310-hp supercharged V6 and a 211-hp turbocharged inline 4-cylinder, new to the A6, with an emphasis on fuel economy. Audi continues to offer high-tech gadgetry such as available heads-up display, an adaptive suspension, automatic parallel parking, night vision with pedestrian detection, mobile Internet, and full LED headlights. The 2012 A6 is a midsize luxury sedan available in five trim levels: 2.0T Premium, 2.0T Premium Plus, 3.0T Premium, 3.0T Premium Plus, and 3.0T Prestige.

Available from this OutSmart Community-Supportive Dealership:
Audi West Houston, 11850 Katy Freeway, 281.899.3400, www.AudiWestHouston.com
Chevrolet Cruze

Chevrolet has hit a home run with the global platform called the Cruze. This compact sedan features two new small-displacement four-cylinder engines: a 140-hp 1.4 liter turbo, or a 138-hp naturally aspirated 1.8 liter. Options and trim level vary from a six-speed manual transmission to a six-speed automatic front wheel drive. EPA mileage is estimated to be 25 mpg city and 36 mpg on the highway. The Cruze is priced from $16,212 to $22,146. It can be equipped with features such as heated leather power seating, sunroof, satellite radio, navigation system, and automatic climate control.

Available from this OutSmart Community-Supportive Dealership:
Westside Chevrolet, Katy Freeway , at Grand Parkway, 281.392.3200 , www.WestsideChevrolet.com


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James T. Hurst

James Hurst is a regular contributor to OutSmart Magazine.

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