There are as many different ways for drivers to get from point A to point B as there are automakers. That being said, while each individual car company might have its own ideas on the best vehicle to get you where you are going, many of the cars they build resemble each other to such a great degree that entire classes have sprung up around basic transportation concepts. Classic examples include the pickup truck, the minivan, and the convertible.
In fact, with today’s increasingly specialized vehicle niches, there are enough cars and trucks out there to offer a surprising number of different ways to achieve your daily commute – no matter what type of terrain you might need to cross, how quickly or comfortably you need to get there, or how many people you need to bring with you. Let’s take a look at seven automobiles that offer a unique way to get you from point A to point B.
The 2011 Chevrolet Volt represents the next generation of plug-in hybrid cars that are just beginning to make their mark on America’s highways. The Volt provides compact sedan accommodations wrapped around a 149 horsepower electric drivetrain that is unassisted by a traditional internal combustion engine. Instead, the Volt cruises along on its battery for up to 40 miles per charge – a range that is extended by the presence of a gasoline engine that can generate another 300 miles of electrical power on a single tank of fuel.
The gasoline engine is not connected to the drive wheels, making the Chevrolet Volt the first electric vehicle of its kind to be mass produced in the United States. The Volt is designed to have its battery topped up overnight by way of a specialized home charging station, meaning that theoretically, those with round-trip commutes of less than 40 miles may never need to stop at a gas station during their entire ownership of the vehicle.
The 2012 FIAT 500 joins the swelling ranks of subcompact cars that have shed the segment’s image of bargain bin driving appliances. The Fiat 500 is meant to provide low-buck transportation (with a starting MSRP of $15,500) without sacrificing style or a pleasurable experience behind the wheel. The two-door hatchback not only offers an attractive Euro-look exterior and reasonable interior accommodation for as many as four passengers, it is also thrifty at the fuel pump. The Fiat 500’s 101 horsepower, 1.4-liter four-cylinder engine has been pegged at 30-mpg in city driving and 38-mpg on the highway. The vehicle can also be had as a specially-tuned Sport model that dials up suspension response and adds a number of more aggressive touches to the hatchback’s interior and exterior trim.
Sometimes, the road from point A to point B is littered with obstacles – and sometimes there isn’t a road there at all. The 2011 Jeep Wrangler is in many ways the perfect off-road transporter, capable of fording streams, climbing rocks and ascending steep ridges and hills without breaking a sweat.
The 2011 Wrangler is powered by a 3.8-liter V-6 engine that offers up 202 horsepower and a stout 237 lb-ft of torque, which is more than enough to help plow through even the trickiest terrain. Available in both two and four-door trim, the Wrangler SUV comes with a rugged four-wheel drive system as well as numerous available trail-ready features such as skid plates, rock rails, an electronically-disconnectable front anti-roll bar, electronically locking front and rear differentials and a tall ride height.
The 2011 GMC Yukon Hybrid offers all of the features and capability of a full-size sport-utility vehicle without the high monthly fuel bill that have traditionally gone hand-in-hand with a truck of its size. The GMC Yukon Hybrid provides seating for as many as eight passengers, 109 cubic feet of cargo space with those rear rows out of the picture and the ability to tow 6,000 lbs thanks to its 332 horsepower, 6.2-liter V-8 engine.
What it doesn’t bring to the table is a thirsty appetite for gasoline, thanks to the twin electric motors that work in tandem with its eight-cylinder engine to help reduce fuel consumption. The GMC Yukon Hybrid’s mileage is rated at 20-mpg in city driving and 23-mpg on the highway, which is a huge improvement over the 14-mg city and 18-mpg highway of the gasoline-only 6.2-liter engine found in the standard Yukon. The Hybrid model can even travel for short distances on electrical power alone at speeds of up to 25 miles per hour, and four-wheel drive is also available as an option.
The 2011 Ford Flex hails from the crossover segment of automobiles – vehicles which combine the passenger and cargo capacity of an SUV with the driving characteristics, comfort and fuel economy of a large sedan. The Flex manages to achieve each of these targets well, swallowing either seven passengers or 83 cubic feet of gear with aplomb while offering the availability of front or all-wheel drive in a chassis that is shared with the Ford Taurus.
Unlike other crossovers in its class, the Ford Flex also comes with the choice of a higher performance edition – the Flex EcoBoost – which makes use of a 3.5-liter, twin-turbocharged V-6 engine that generates 355 horsepower while returning almost identical fuel mileage when compared with the base model Flex.
The 2011 Chevrolet Camaro cuts a profile that is impossible to ignore. This muscle car coupe (also available as a convertible) draws heavily from the Camaro’s extensive design heritage. Fortunately, this heritage has been updated with hard angles and aggressive flaring, which gives the Camaro an eye-pleasing mix of both modern and retro aesthetics.
It’s also difficult not to notice the symphony coming from the Camaro’s twin tailpipes once the 6.2-liter V-8 engine found under the hood of the SS model springs to life, as the mill offers a bracing 426 horsepower and 420 lb-ft of torque. Even the base V-6 found in the 2011 Chevrolet Camaro puts out 312 ponies – and delivers 28 highway miles per gallon – giving retro car lovers on a budget the chance to park a potent combination in their driveway.
There was once a time when domestic luxury cars were the longest, heaviest and most ornately decorate vehicles on the road. The 2011 Cadillac Escalade might not be a car, exactly, but this full-size premium SUV carries on a proud tradition of over-the-top opulence and undeniable presence. The eight-passenger Escalade can also be had in an extended wheelbase edition, and it comes with features that include three zones of automatic climate control, HID headlights, heated leather seats in the first two rows, a voice-controlled navigation system and power-adjustable pedals. Some of the most intriguing options that can be found on the Escalade are listed as an active suspension system, a DVD entertainment system, LED headlights and 22-inch alloy wheels.
The 2011 Cadillac Escalade also comes with plenty of power to go with its lap of luxury accommodations. The SUV offers a 6.2-liter V-8 engine that cranks out 403 horsepower and 417 lb-ft of torque. This power is sent to either the rear or all four wheels (if optional all-wheel drive is ordered) through a six-speed automatic transmission.