The import market used to boil down to two things: inexpensive commuter cars and high dollar luxury. Over the past 15 years, Asian and European automakers have managed to develop fully-featured vehicle lineups that offer almost every type of automobile imaginable, from subcompacts all the way up to full-size pickups and everything in between. This type of variety would have been unimaginable in the 1990’s, when the concept of a German SUV or a large Japanese pickup truck had yet to resonate with drivers in the United States.
Let’s take a look at some of the most appealing options available to new import car fans, moving from smallest to largest.
The 2011 MINI Cooper offers subcompact car buyers a more stylish and performance-oriented vehicle choice when matched against the competition. The vehicle’s higher price and longer list of available features hints at its premium aspirations, but although the MINI Cooper might include a stiff suspension and the availability of a navigation system and heated seats, its 1.6-liter, 121 horsepower engine doesn’t shirk from providing the fuel economy that buyers in this segment crave – the 2011 MINI Cooper offers 29-mpg in the city and 37-mpg on the highway when equipped with the standard six-speed manual transmission. A six-speed automatic is also available, as is a convertible body style and two different turbocharged editions of the car (Cooper S and John Cooper Works).
The 2011 Honda Civic is a versatile compact option that offers new car buyers the choice of sedan, coupe, hybrid and natural gas models. This gives the Civic several different dimensions: practical daily driver (sedan), sporty-looking two-door (coupe) and environmentally-conscious fuel saver (Hybrid and GX trims).
The 2011 Honda Civic Hybrid offers fuel mileage of 40-mpg city and 45-mpg highway, but even the base Civic DX provides 36-mpg highway from its 140 horsepower, 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine. For those interested in squeezing more performance out of their compact car, the Civic Si trim (available as both a coupe and a sedan) comes with a larger, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that is good for 197 horsepower, matched with a unique six-speed manual transmission.
There was a time when compact performance sedans had no chance of taking on pricier dedicated sports coupes, but vehicle like the 2011 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution have helped to change that. Drawing on Mitsubishi’s extensive experience in World Rally Championship competition, the Lancer Evolution features a turbocharged four-cylinder engine good for 291 horsepower and 300 lb-ft of torque. An advanced, computer-controlled all-wheel drive system channels this output for maximum traction, and the vehicle also offers a six-speed automated manual transmission as an option. The vehicle can hit 60 miles per hour from a standing start in less than five seconds, which places it in the company of automobiles costing twice its MSRP.
The 2011 Toyota Camry has become the quintessential family car thanks to its good interior room, solid power and fuel economy and reputation for reliability. The mid-size Camry sedan comes in four different trim levels and also provides a dual drivetrain attack consisting of both four and six-cylinder options. The vehicle’s entry-level 2.5-liter four-cylinder provides 169 horsepower and 33-mpg during highway driving, while an optional 3.5-liter V-6 generates 268 horsepower and returns 28-mpg during highway cruising. Each engine can be matched with a six-speed automatic, with four-cylinder models also benefiting from the availability of a six-speed manual – a rarity in the mid-size four-door segment.
The 2011 BMW 5 Series is a mid-size sedan that has managed to maintain a consistent edge over luxury sport competitors in its price range. Owners frequently cite its well balanced handling, availability of a long list of luxury equipment and an array of engines that includes a twin-turbo six-cylinder unit (pumping out 300 horsepower) and a 4.4-liter V-8 that also employs turbo power to generate 400 horses and 450 lb-ft of torque. Backing up the acceleration capabilities of the BMW 5 Series are features such as adaptive suspension, optional all-wheel drive, a six-speed manual transmission and even an available eight-speed automatic unit that makes use of steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters.
The 2011 Mercedes-Benz GLK might represent the starting point of the Mercedes-Benz SUV lineup, but it’s still a hefty vehicle when compared to a mid-size sedan. The GLK features bold and muscular styling that does well to paint the brand’s larger SUV cues on a smaller canvas. The Mercedes-Benz crossover offers seating for five as well as the availability of 54.7 cubic feet of cargo space with the rear seats folded forward. All-wheel drive is available as an option, but all versions of the GLK come with a 268 horsepower, 3.5-liter V-6 engine paired with a seven-speed automatic transmission that together return fuel economy of 23-mpg in highway driving.
The 2011 Jaguar XJ full-size luxury sedan – available in both standard and extended wheelbases – is one of the largest four-door cars on the road today. Completely redesigned for the current model year, the Jaguar XJ extends the British brand’s dominance in the field of top level premium vehicles while updating its appearance and technology to a more modern standard.
The 2011 Jaguar XJ starts out with a 385 horsepower, 5.0-liter V-8 engine that is also good for 380 lb-ft of torque. Moving up to the XJ Supercharged edition adds an additional 85 horsepower, while the XJ Supersport turns up the boost to squeeze out 510 total horsepower and 461 lb-ft of torque. Each engine is fitted with a six-speed automatic gearbox, and despite its size and weight the XJ Supersport can reach 60 miles per hour from a standing start in just 4.7 seconds.
The 2011 Honda Pilot is a large mid-size crossover vehicle that offers seven passenger seating across three rows of accommodations. In addition, its roomy interior also provides as much as 87 cubic feet of storage space with the rear seats out of the picture. The top level Honda Pilot Touring comes with a number of luxury items, including heated leather seats, three zones of automatic climate control, a voice-activated navigation system and a DVD entertainment system for rear occupants.
Although the Pilot is the largest people mover in the Honda stable, it manages to offer sedan-like handling and reasonable highway fuel mileage of 23-mpg. The Pilot is motivated by a 3.5-liter V-6 engine that generates 250 horsepower, and it comes with a five-speed automatic transmission and the option of all-wheel drive.
The 2011 Toyota Tundra is one of the best examples of how the size of import vehicles has grown over the years. The Tundra is a legitimate full-size pickup contender, offering a number of different cargo bed lengths, up to 10,400 lbs of towing capacity and trail-ready equipment packages like the TRD Rock Warrior and the TRD Off-Road options.
In addition to coming in three different body styles – Regular, Double Cab and CrewMax – the Toyota Tundra also makes substantial V-8 power a priority. A 270 horsepower based V-6 engine is of course available on entry-level trucks, but additional utility opens up through the choice of either a 310 horsepower, 4.6-liter V-8 or a 5.7-liter, eight-cylinder unit that generates 381 horsepower and 401 lb-ft of torque. Transmission options for the Tundra include a mix of five and six-speed automatics, and four-wheel drive is also available with the truck.