Sure, it looks like the go-to vehicle for a galaxy far, far away, but will it get you from here to there on planet Earth? Damn straight.
By Bill Heald

T-Rex 14RR
Engine 1,400-cc inline four
Horsepower 197
0-60 3.92 seconds
EPA milage to be determined
Base price $51,199

If you’re hankering to replace your four-wheeler with something new and edgy, why not really take a walk on the wild side and go for three wheels? The T-Rex is best seen rather than described, for it gives the appearance of a backward rickshaw from hell with serious performance credentials and a peerless “What the hell was that?” presence when you motor by ordinary vehicles. You can whip through traffic with the lithe chassis and scurry down narrow alleys like a mechanical spider in true Dark Knight style. You may recall the Can-Am Spyder we told you about awhile back, which moves like crap through a goose and you sit on it like a motorcycle. This beast has a similar layout, but you and your passenger sit side-by-side, and instead of handlebars you have an automotive-style steering wheel. The T-Rex comes in two models: the 14R and 14RR. Both are powered by a 1,400-cc Kawasaki inline four that pumps out just under 200 horsepower, and launches the 1,040-pound vehicle to 60 mph in less than four seconds. Yeehaw! The transmission is a six-speed sequential unit and the final drive is via chain, so there is some motorcycle in this machine after all. The 14RR has additional performance goodies, like fully adjustable suspension components, and both variants have optional motorcycle-style saddlebags for last-minute road trips. If your companion hates the open air, you’ll want to take a pass on this one, but otherwise you won’t find a more unique ride this side of Pluto, or a more entertaining way to roll.

Hyundai Equus
Engine 4.6-liter V-8
Horsepower 385
0-60 6.39 seconds
EPA milage 16 city/19 highway
Base price $58,000

You gotta love Hyundai. Years ago they started out with less-than stellar offerings here in the states, but these days the company has not only been building exciting, innovative high-quality machines, it’s literally been poking its corporate fingers in the eye of the competition with its latest offerings. Things really took off with the rear-drive Genesis sedan and coupe, which delivered both performance and luxury at a price that dramatically undercut the competition. Now Hyundai has its sights set on the Lexus LS and Mercedes-Benz S-class with the Equus sedan, which is as big as a house (you could almost get a horse in the backseat, which may explain the name) and packed with tons of high-tech luxury hardware. A 385-horsepower Tau V-8 engine rockets the big sedan around on its electronically controlled Air Suspension, with Sport and Normal settings to suit your mood of the day. Icing on the cake? Every Equus comes with an iPad interactive owner’s manual, so you get a great tablet device and a fantastic car to drive.

Chevrolet Volt
Engine Electric motor, 1.4 litre inline four gas generator
Horsepower 149(motor), 84(engine/generator)
0-60 Under 9 seconds
EPA milage To be determinded
Base price $41,000 (less tax rebate of up to $7,500)

To say that the Chevy Volt plug-in hybrid sedan is important to General Motors is an understatement, because the company is taking a chance with the first mass-produced electric car with an onboard generator to extend its range. The Volt’s drivetrain is powered by an electric motor that plugs in overnight to charge the lithium-ion batteries, and then, de pending on conditions, you can drive 25 to 50 miles on electric power alone. When that’s done, the gasoline engine fires up to charge the batteries and get you another 300 miles or so. At any point when you stop, you can plug in the car and save more fuel, which makes the four-passenger Volt one miserly vehicle. You can plug it into any 120-volt outlet and recharge the depleted batteries in 10 to 12 hours, or you can get the 240-volt home charger ($490) to do it in about four hours. The interior is as futuristic as its powertrain, and should appeal to geeks as well as greenies (or anybody who is tired of supporting the oil companies).

Jeep Grand Cherokee
Engine 3.6-liter V-6, 5.7-liter V-8
Horsepower 360 (V-8)
0-60 7.6 seconds
EPA milage 13 city/19 highway(V-8 four-wheel drive)
Base price $32,995

We all want to get dirty occasionally; the trick is to do it and still stay presentable. The Jeep Grand Cherokee has always been off-road capable, but it never really had that “conquer the jungle while you’re wearing a tux” aura that has been Range Rover’s bailiwick. The all-new Cherokee is armed for bear in terms of bushbounding prowess, but at the same time is seriously focused on firing on all cylinders in a luxury sense. Behold the option of two-wheel or three different four-wheel drive systems, as well as Quadra-Lift sus pension that boasts five settings that can lower the vehicle for easy loading, or raise it for up to 10.7 inches of ground clearance. And you can get the Selec-Terrain traction control that optimizes drive/suspension systems for sand and mud encounters or sporty on-road driving. All this happens in a sturdy unit-body chassis, with an interior appropriate for a country club (complete with a bevy of “infotainment” choices).

Jaguar XJ
Engine 5-liter supercharged V-8
Horsepower 510
0-60 4.7 seconds
EPA milage 18 combined
Base price $110,200

If you haven’t experienced one of the Big Cats, you haven’t really sampled one of the finer experiences found in motoring. Do I sound like a British advertising guy? Probably. But that’s because my experience with Jaguars has always left me smitten with the machines, and for good reason: They really do have a feel and attitude all their own. The new XJ sedan is but another expression of fine British coachmanship, but the reason this is such a hot ticket is the engine you must select. Skip over the standard mills and opt for the Supersport version with the delicious supercharged V-8. This puts serious predator claws into this feline, yet as always it purrs like a kitten for the owner (and lucky passengers), with the finest in accommodations and a certain quiet, elegant class you can’t find elsewhere. The passenger compartment radiates class, starting with a standard panoramic glass roof that adds a sense of space. I could go on about the lovely, contemporary electronics, but I honestly think that’s not what this Jaguar is all about. Power. Comfort. Class. ‘Nuff said.

Audi R8
Engine 5.2-liter V-10
Horsepower 525
0-60 3.7 seconds
EPA milage 12 city/20 highway
Base price $147,500

There are a fair number of dead-sexy supercars out there, and most of them come from Italy. However, Audi has created something truly hot and bothered in their R8—a supremely beautiful machine with magnificently seductive styling backed up with some heavyweight German engineering and technology. There are two engines available, but are you going to spend more than 100 grand and opt for the smallish V-8? No way. The R8 5.2 has the mill you want: a 525-horsepower mid-engine V-10 that lights up the tarmac and can be seen in all its glory under its clear cover. But the engineering eye candy is just the beginning. The hand-built R8 is a veritable R&D laboratory on wheels, which shouldn’t be surprising, as many of its technologies come straight from the Audi Motorsports program. All that delicious V-10 power is channeled through Audi’s extremely gripping quattro all-wheel drive system, and a suspension that Audi calls “Magnetic Ride.” The makers explain it thusly: “Using a magnetically charged fluid inside the damper reservoirs, Magnetic Ride is able to adapt continuously to driver style and road conditions in just fractions of a second.” Good thing, too. In a car with a top speed just a hair under 200 mph, things tend to happen quickly. I should note that Audi is bringing over a Spyder R8, adding a convertible to the family. But you lose the transparent engine cover, so we say stick with the hardtop. It’s just too beautiful to pass up.

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