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Automakers adding a dose of style, technology and fuel economy to new full-size models

For decades, Americans embraced the full-size car. It was the heart of the new car market. But in recent decades, it's been supplanted by the midsize car. Typically, these cars are front-wheel-drive and powered by four-cylinder engines, with the optional V-6 offered on many models. But the once-common V-6 engine is becoming scarce in these. Due to looming fuel economy standards, automakers are using V-6 engines only on their full-size cars. You won't find a V-6 on the midsize 2013 Chevrolet Malibu, 2012 Hyundai Sonata or 2012 Kia Optima. The 2013 Ford Fusion will have four cylinders under its hood. If you prefer a V-6, you'll have to opt for a large car. Several automakers have recently revealed newly revamped large cars that add a needed dose of style, technology and fuel economy in an effort to woo younger buyers. Take a look at a few.

'14 Chevrolet Impala

On sale next spring, GM is hoping to shed the Impala's rental fleet image with this dramatically redesigned model. A 195-hp 2.5 four-cylinder and a 303-hp 3.6-liter V-6 engine will be offered alongside GM's 2.4-liter mild-hybrid system used in the smaller Malibu. Chevy says the hybrid returns 35 mpg in highway driving. A six-speed automatic transmission will be standard. Adaptive cruise control, collision-mitigation braking, forward-collision alert, lane-departure warning, blind-zone alert, rear cross-traffic alert and a rear camera will be among the car's new options. A neat touch: the Impala's 8-inch touch screen — its first — flips open to reveal a concealed storage compartment.

Wheelbase: 111.7 inches

Length: 201.3 inches

Cargo space: 18.8 cubic feet

'12 Hyundai Azera

On sale now, the 2012 Azera shares its name with the anonymously styled 2011 model, but little else. This front-drive sedan gets a 293-hp V-6 mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. That's good for an EPA rating of 20 mpg city, 29 mpg highway. Like other cars in its class, the Azera can be outfitted with options typically reserved for luxury cars, such as side window shades and front seat cushion extenders for taller passengers. The car's kinetic style takes its cues from the company's "fluidic sculpture" design theme first seen on the Hyundai Sonata. Such niceties as touch-screen navigation with backup camera and a hands-free Bluetooth phone system are standard.

Wheelbase: 112 inches

Length: 193.3 inches

Cargo space: 16.3 cubic feet

'13 Toyota Avalon

Another car looking to change its image, the Avalon's new styling rides atop a wheelbase that's unchanged from 2012, although the 2013 car is 2.3 inches shorter and 120 pounds lighter than the 2012 model. Developed in the United States, the front-drive Avalon is the first vehicle in Toyota's U.S. line overseen by Toyota Motor Corp. President Akio Toyoda. The car's V-6 engine can be controlled through steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters and three drive modes: normal, eco and sport. Inside, the front seats get more aggressive side bolsters and a lower seating position. The center console is equipped with a USB port, auxiliary input and three power outlets, while the dashboard gets touch-sensitive switches. Look for it in the fall.

Wheelbase: 111 inches

Length: 195.3 inches

Cargo space: 16 cubic feet

'13 Ford Taurus

The 2013 Taurus is not a completely new design. Instead, it gets a facelift and some serious refinements under the hood. The front-drive Taurus' most fuel-efficient engine will be a 240-hp EcoBoost 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder, which Ford says delivers fuel economy of at least 31 mpg in highway driving. At the other extreme is the EcoBoost 3.5-liter turbocharged V-6, which pumps out a prodigious 365 hp. It's standard on the high-performance, all-wheel-drive Taurus SHO. Most Taurus models will use a non-turbo 288-hp 3.5-liter V6. An updated version of MyFord Touch is standard, while "Active Park Assist," which parallel parks the car automatically, is optional. SHO models get a unique grille.

Wheelbase: 112 inches

Length: 202.9 inches

Cargo space: 20 cubic feet

Automakers adding a dose of style, technology and fuel economy to new full-size models 06/14/12 [Last modified: Thursday, June 14, 2012 4:25pm]
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