We’ve seen auto tech that’s faster, smarter, safer and more eco-friendly than ever before in 2012. See our top picks here.
Click here to see the gallery
Grand Award Winner: Tesla Model S
The Tesla Model S sets the standard by which all future electric vehicles will be measured. It’s faster than any other street-legal EV: The Performance edition, propelled by motors that generate a peak 416 horsepower, darts from 0 to 60 mph in a Porsche-rivaling 4.4 seconds and hits a top speed of 130 mph. The family-size sedan also travels farther on a charge than any electric car in historyaup to 300 miles on the optional 85-kilowatt-hour batteryaand recharges three times as fast as the industry standard. It’s not clear how many Americans will pay the Model S’s $59,000 to $107,000 price tag, but Tesla thinks so highly of the car that it’s betting the company on it: The carmaker has stopped building its famed Roadster and now produces only the Model S. TESLA MODEL S Range: Up to 300 miles (with 85-kWh battery) Seats: Five adults, two children (with optional jump seats) Price: $59,000 (base) to $107,000
As stricter emissions standards kick in, auto manufacturers are downsizing engines, which typically means less power. But the 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder in the new 328i—the first four-cylinder engine to go into a 3-Series since 1999—produces 10 more horses and 55 more pound-feet than the six-cylinder it replaces. That’s 240 horses and 255 pound-feet of torque, enough to accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in 5.7 seconds while achieving 34 mpg on the highway. From $37,395
2013 Ferrari F12 Berlinetta
To build the F12 Berlinetta, a road-going car that reaches 60 mph in just over three seconds and tops out at 211 mph, Ferrari engineers mounted a 730-horsepower, 6.3-liter V12 to a chassis made from 12 ultralight, ultrastrong metal alloys. The F12 isn’t all brawn, though; several efficiency-boosting tricks, including a stop/start system that cuts the engine at red lights, reduce fuel consumption and emissions by 30 percent compared with the F12’s predecessor, the 599 Fiorano. From $325,000
2013 Toyota RAV4 EV
With its Tesla-designed powertrain and 41.8-kilowatt-hour battery pack, the RAV4 EV is the first all-electric SUV built since the 1990s. In sport mode, the roomy RAV4 reaches 60 mph in about 7 seconds, with a 100mph top speed. Unlike many EVs, the Toyota can also rack up the miles. The EPA conservatively estimates a 103-mile driving range, but real-world drivers are easily logging 130 miles or more. From $50,610
2013 Ford Fusion
The 2013 Fusion is the only car to be offered in standard, hybrid, and plug-in hybrid versions—and all three are the most efficient models in their classes. The electrified versions get particularly good mileage. The 185-horsepower hybrid achieves 47 mpg overall, 4 mpg better than the competing Toyota Camry hybrid. The plug-in hybrid Energi, on sale in early 2013, has a range of 20 all-electric miles and will surpass 100 mpg equivalent, eclipsing the vaunted Chevy Volt’s federal efficiency rating. From $22,495
Street cars require more than 600 horsepower to reach 200 mph. The DeltaWing, a 1,250-pound Le Mans prototype, can get there with just 300 horsepowera€”the same amount of power in high-end family sedans. The Nissan-sponsored racer debuted at France’s 24 Hours of Le Mans this summer, competing against cars twice its weight. The Delta Wing didn’t finisha€”six hours in, a Toyota hybrid knocked it off the track, into a wall, and out of the racea€”but it ran long enough to prove itself the most efficient racecar in history. Nissan Delta Wing Weight: 1,250 pounds Engine: Turbocharged, direct-injection, 1.6-liter 4-cylinder Top Speed: Over 200 mph
Infiniti Back-Up Collision Intervention
Putting a big SUV in reverse is the first step in many a car accident. Infiniti’s Back-Up Collision Intervention, available on the JX 35 SUV, will stop the vehicle if it anticipates an impact with a moving or stationary object. When the driver shifts into reverse, radar and sonar sensors scan behind the car; flashing lights mounted next to the side-view mirrors indicate the presence of an obstacle. Ignore that message and the car automatically brakes.
MyLink replaces an expensive dashboard computer with a driver’s smartphone. Standard on the $13,000 Chevy Spark subcompact, MyLink pairs with an iPhone or Android device to send third-party navigation, Internet radio, and video to a seven-inch touchscreen in the dash. Unlike cars with difficult-to-modify in-dash computers, a MyLink-equipped vehicle gets an update every time the driver downloads new apps on his phone.
2013 Porsche Cayenne Diesel
Hybrids and plug-ins are ideal for saving gas around town. For long highway trips, however, a turbocharged diesel engine may be a more efficient approach, as the Cayenne Diesel shows. Porsche engineers squeezed 240 horsepower and 406 pound-feet of torque from a 3.0-liter turbo diesel engine using electronically controlled direct injection and dual turbochargers. It’s enough to push this SUV from 0 to 60 mph in 7.2 seconds—and we still got 33 mpg on the highway and 800 miles on a tank of fuel. From $56,725
Mercedes Benz Magic Vision Control
Magic Vision Control, available on the 2013 Mercedes Benz SL Roadster, adjusts washer performance to match the season and the driving situation. To prevent snow-and-ice buildup in cold weather, electric heating elements warm both the wiper blades and the fluid. The system also reduces the flow of fluid and sprays the windshield only during downward wiper strokes, keeping occupants dry when the driver puts the top down.