2012 10Best Cars

welcome to 10best. Cars here don’t have to be the newest, and they don’t have to be expensive—nothing over $80,000 is allowed. they just have to satisfy our abundant needs while satisfying all our desires. these are the best cars on the market.

the winners:

audi a6 / a7 3.0t quattro

Passion and persistence win. always.

Reading: Car and driver reviews 2012

It’s easy for romantic relationships to wither as the odometer of life ticks off the years. But our passion for the Audi A6, a two-time comparative test winner in its former form, has now turned into the kind of fiery affair that would have led Humbert to nail a ring to each of Lolita’s 10 dainty digits. For 2012, the A6 enjoys its seventh new version, with all of its most lovable features (current power, rewarding steering, unwavering build) present and considered. This is a car that waltzes over the hills because it’s so forgiving, so informative, so easy to drive to the limit. At its heart still beats a supercharged 3.0-liter V-6 engine, making 310 horsepower, now paired with a ZF eight-speed automatic transmission. Audi gets a double here because the $9350 more expensive A7 “four-door coupe” is a mechanical clone that also shares the A6’s cabin furnishings. What the A7 lacks, one less seat back, it makes up for spectacularly with sleek, sloping-back styling, 0.93g of grip, and an electric hatchback that wraps up 25 cubic feet of storage space. The A7 is so good that it already beat, in a comparison, the Mercedes-Benz CLS550 with V-8. these two invaders from ingolstadt absorb their pilots in a quiet and comfortable saloon cockpit. and both offer such exciting value for money that it’s only fair to label them convenient buys.


vehicle typefront-engine, 4-wheel drive, 4-5 passenger, 4-door sedan or 5-door wagon

base price$50,775-$60,125

engine typesupercharged and intercooled dohc 24 valve v-6, aluminum block and heads, direct fuel injectiondisplacement183 cu in, 2995 cc power310 hp @ 6500 rpmtorque325 lb-ft @ 2900 rpm

8-speed automatic transmissionwith manual shift mode

dimensionswheelbase: 114.6-114.7 in length: 193.9-195.6 in width: 73.8-75 in height: 55.9-57.8 curb weight: 4050-4250 lb

epa fuel economycity/highway: 18-19/28 mpg

bmw 3 series / m3

3 is still one.

The competition should have figured out a way to beat the BMW 3-Series by now. It’s not for a lack of trying: every once in a while, another automaker throws a worthy competitor into the mix, but none have been able to topple to series 3 from its pedestal or even maintain its constant brilliance. After 21 straight years on the top 10 list, BMW continues to evolve the 3 Series towards a platonic ideal of sportiness. You don’t notice the seats, steering, suspension, or brakes because it all feels natural. everything feels good. And how has no other automaker ever matched the silkiness of BMW’s straight-six engines? Don’t forget the M3, either, which is still magnificent in the twilight of a celebrated life, thanks in no small part to that bracing 414-hp, 8300-rpm V-8. The 3-series sedan is on hiatus until a new model comes out in February. In other words, even as the entire current 3-Series lineup is walking out the door, it still roasts the competition. The biggest threat to its dominance comes not from another automaker, but from BMW itself. An increased focus on gizmology has robbed a pair of recently introduced BMWs of the connected, athletic feel that made the old slogan of the ultimate driving machine ring so true. here’s hoping bmw doesn’t screw up the best.


type of vehiclefront-engine; rear or 4 wheel drive; 4-5 passengers; 2-door coupe, 2-door convertible or 5-door wagon

base price$38,125-$71,125

enginesdohc 24-valve 3.0-liter inline-6, 230 hp, 200 lb-ft; turbocharged and intercooled dohc 24-valve 3.0-liter inline-6, 300 or 320 hp, 300 or 370 lb-ft; dohc 32 valve 4.0 liter v-8, 414 hp, 295 lb-ft

transmissions6-speed manual, 7-speed dual-clutch automatic with manual shift mode, 6-speed automatic with manual shift mode

dimensionswheelbase: 108.7 in length: 178.6-181.9 in width: 70.2-71.5 in height: 54.0-55.8 laden weight: 3350-4150 lbs

epa fuel economycity/highway: 13-19/20-28 mpg

cadillac cts-v

the ace, king and queen of the American fleet.

let’s remove the achilles heel of the cts-v first: it’s useless as a getaway car. If you’re planning on tearing down a liquor store, we recommend choosing something other than one of these superheroes as your ride. because while they have the ability to quickly reach escape velocity (of the six we’ve tested, the slowest clocked 0-60 in 4.3 seconds), they all record indelible retinal images. Chainmail grilles, shark-fin taillights, 19-inch wagon wheels, and center-exit tailpipes (coupe only) make these cars notoriously easy to spot for the dumbest eyewitness. Except for that one flaw, the V trio (coupe, sedan, and wagon) is blessed with more than its fair share of virtues. think corvette with extra seats. During our most recent Lightning Lap Show, we declared a CTS-V Coupe track-ready in no small part due to its Nordschleife-proven Brembo brakes and near-Porsche-grade steering. The magnetorheological dampers on this cart work so well that Audi and Ferrari use versions of them. The handling is forgiving, the ride is supple, and the high-speed stability makes it the unlikely king of the freeway. But the clincher is each V’s 556-hp supercharged and intercooled V-8. do your part to “save the manuals!” ordering your cts-v with stick shift.

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type of vehiclefront-engine; rear wheel drive; 4-5 passengers; 2-door coupe, 4-door sedan or 5-door wagon

base price$65,390

engine typesupercharged and pushrod intercooled 16-valve v-8, aluminum block and heads, port fuel injectiondisplacement376 cu in, 6162 ccpower556 hp @ 6100 rpmtorque551 lb-ft @ 3800 rpm

transmissions6-speed manual, 6-speed automatic with manual shift mode

dimensionswheelbase: 113.4inlength: 188.5-192.0inwidth: 72.5-74.1inheight: 56.0-58.0 laden weight: 4250 -4450lbs

epa fuel economycity/highway: 12-14/18-19 mpg

ford spotlight

street fighter.

Two boxing terms seem appropriate here: “rope-a-dope” (Ali’s ploy to sit on the ropes and take a beating for what seemed like a decade, then punch out once the other guy was exhausted) and “hit above your weight class”, its meaning is obvious. The Ford Focus embraces these two concepts so much that it should be wearing silk shorts. After nearly a decade of waning prominence, the Focus breaks loose with several unexpected combinations: a sensational balance of ride and handling, an admirable power/mpg rating, and fantastic interior materials and utility. This is one of the best front-wheel drive chassis on the road right now, supple yet precise, and it allows the focus to drift for many pricier, more powerful, more overtly sporty cars on a twisty stretch. It is both a sports sedan and an economy sedan. still, like most boxers, he has his vices. no, not petting lions nor taste for ear meat. The approaches, at least, are avoidable: no version with the frustrating Myford Touch infotainment system should be ordered. And no serious driver should buy an Focus with the clunky but somehow mushy dual-clutch automatic transmission. We recommend the Focus SE with the fancy manual transmission and the SE Sport Package. it’s the sweet spot of the line of focus and some awesome science.


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vehicle typefront-engine, front-wheel drive, 5-passenger, 4-door sedan or 5-door wagon

base price$17,295-$23,495

engine typedohc 16 valve inline-4, aluminum block and cylinder head, direct fuel injectiondisplacement122 cu in, 1999 ccpower 160 horsepower at 6,500 rpmtorque146 pound-feet at 4,450 rpm

transmissions5-speed manual, 6-speed dual-clutch automatic

dimensionswheelbase: 104.3 in length: 171.6-178.5 in width: 71.8 in height: 57.7 laden weight: 2950-3050 lbs

epa fuel economycity/highway: 26-28/36-40 mpg

ford mustang gt / chief 302

sounds pretty awesome and it is.

what boss 302 did for the mustang gt isn’t much different than what the stradivari family did for the violin. the basic instrument (fiddle, mustang gt) was already pretty good. close to perfection. So someone (a stradivari, ford mustang engineers) managed to create a new standard for all other luthiers and/or muscle car makers. they are more or less the same people. okay, they’re not, but the point is, nothing can touch the $41,105 boss. With its powerful 444-hp, 7,500-rpm 5.0-liter V-8, it will hit 60 mph in four seconds, do the quarter mile in 12.4 seconds at 117 mph, stop from 70 in 155 feet, and hold the road at 0, 95g. If you’re wondering, those numbers are on par with the more expensive $20,970 BMW M3 Coupe. And don’t forget the Boss 302 Laguna Seca Edition, good for a second around its namesake track. Our biggest complaints are that the steering wheel lacks a telescoping feature and that steering feedback is vague at best. We got through it, and you can too. Plus, as one of us found out, his partner may have trouble riding in a car that has “boss” stamped on the side. Then again, if 40 grand is too rich, the stang gt doesn’t disappoint. It has a short 32 horsepower and lacks the boss’s track-ready suspension, but it’s an amazing instrument in its own right.


vehicle typefront-engine, rear-wheel drive, 2 or 4-passenger, 2-door coupe

base price$30,105-$48,100

engine typedohc 32 valve 5.0 liter v-8, aluminum block and heads, port fuel injectiondisplacement302 cu in, 4951 cc power412 hp @ 6500 rpm or 444 hp @ 7400 rpmtorque390 lb-ft @ 4250 rpm or 380 lb-ft @ 4500 rpm

transmissions6-speed manual, 6-speed automatic with manual shift mode

dimensionswheelbase: 107.1 in length: 188.1 in width: 73.9 in height: 55.1-55.8 weight at curve: 3600-3650 lbs

epa fuel economycity/hwy: 17-18/25-26 mpg

sling deal

old school sling goodness.

The four-cylinder Accord proves that when Honda plays to its strengths, it’s better than anyone at producing vehicles with an unearthly fine balance of attributes. The fact that this remains true, while it is widely recognized that Honda has lost some of its product magic, highlights the overall excellence of the four-cylinder Accord. This is a full-size sedan (no moonroof, roomy enough to reside in the EPA’s full-size sedan category) that’s lighter than many sport coupes I could mention. The primary controls are so seamlessly blended together that this not-exactly-sporty-looking sedan can walk the tightrope of your favorite backroad with precision and utter predictability. It will return 33 mpg on the highway; A well-appointed EX version is just a fine dining-plus $25,000 (a bit more for the coupe); And it’s a more natural heel-and-toe enabler than most sports cars. that’s an unparalleled breadth of talent and kindness. Unlike previous years, Accords with V-6 technology do not share this 10Best award. Competitors, notably the VW Passat V-6, play a more convincing premium family car riff. Whether this deal becomes the guiding light for Honda’s future or is simply a star that hasn’t quite died out yet, we don’t know. For now, it shines as brightly as ever.

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vehicle typefront-engine, front-wheel drive, 5-passenger, 2-door coupe or 4-door sedan

base price$22,150-$28,325

engine typedohc 16 valve inline-4, aluminum block and cylinder head, port fuel injectiondisplacement144 cu in, 2354 ccpower 177 hp @ 6500 rpm or 190 hp @ 7000 rpmtorque161 hp @ 4300 rpm or 162 lb-ft @ 4400 rpm

transmissions5-speed manual, 5-speed automatic with manual shift mode

dimensionswheelbase: 107.9-110.2 inlength: 191.0-194.9 inwidth: 72.7-72.8 inheight: 56.4-58.1 laden weight: 3250-3450 lb

epa fuel economycity/highway: 22-23/32-34 mpg

sling in shape

small on the outside. brimming with awesomeness on the inside.

excellence comes in many sizes, but when the fit first made its way onto our top 10 list in 2007, it only offered that quality in the b-segment, a size class that was largely an idea Last minute on the go-go stuff. Now the class is packed with diminutive legitimate threats from Hyundai, Mazda, Ford and Chevy, but Honda still wins with best-in-class passenger space and cargo capacity. it also offers the most throwable chassis and a five-speed manual transmission that is among the great ambassadors of the stick. That transmission would certainly sway even more if it had a sixth gear to calm the engine down on the highway. Overall though, the fit isn’t just a triumph over other small cars, it’s a triumph of engineering. It makes the minds behind other cars look lazy. There are so few intrusions into the roomy interior that you’d think the structure consisted of a thin layer of aluminum foil stretched over a few toothpicks, even though this bodywork is amazingly rigid. All hatchbacks offer fold-down seats, but the adjustments create a completely flat load floor and open up 57 cubic feet of cargo volume, 13 more than you’d get if you dropped the back row in a Ford Explorer. in other markets, this diminutive Honda is being sold as jazz, which is fitting: it exudes all the unflappable coolness and versatility of a session drummer.


vehicle typefront-engine, front-wheel drive, 5-passenger, 5-door wagon

base price$15,945-$17,680

engine type16 valve inline-4, aluminum block and cylinder head, port fuel injectiondisplacement91 cu in, 1497 ccpower117 hp @ 6600 rpmtorque106 lb-ft @ 4800 rpm

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transmissions5-speed manual, 5-speed automatic with manual shift mode, 5-speed automatic

dimensionswheelbase: 98.4 in length: 161.6 in width: 66.7 in height: 60.0 laden weight: 2500-2600 lbs

epa fuel economycity/hwy: 27-28/33-35 mpg

mazda mx-5 miata

the inimitable imitator.

in 1962, lotus released a diminutive 1515-pound roadster called the elan. it was equal parts ecstasy (light, fast, deliciously agile) and nightmare (leaky, brittle, often set on fire). That impractical dream was so captivating that when Mazda released the first Miata in 1989 (as a ’90), essentially a tribute to note-for-note enthusiasm, albeit with Japanese build quality and a top that didn’t wet your panties, the world opened up. a path to your door. Here was an affordable roadster with no drawbacks, a compact slingshot more fun than many cars that cost twice as much. The 2450-pound, $23,985 MX-5 reminds you equally of that early Miata and Lotus’s flammable little heartthrob, as evolution hasn’t dampened the car’s genius. Rear-wheel drive is standard, along with non-stop brake feel and wonderfully lively steering. The 7,200-rpm 2.0-liter four-cylinder offers 167 horsepower and 140 pound-feet of torque, or just enough oomph to get you into trouble. Racers love the MX-5’s balanced and endlessly forgiving chassis; Little old ladies love his spunky charm and dependability. Like the BMW 3 Series, the MX-5 is a practically perfect answer to a very simple question. Unlike the BMW, however, the Mazda isn’t surrounded by imitators; in 22 years, no one else has sourced the ingredients quite as well, and most have simply given up trying. who can blame them?


vehicle typefront-engine, rear-wheel drive, 2-passenger, 2-door roadster

base price$23,985-$29,455

engine typedohc 16 valve inline-4, aluminum block and cylinder head, port fuel injectiondisplacement122 cu in, 1999 ccpower 158 hp at 6700 rpm or 167 hp at 7000 rpmtorque140 lb-ft at 5000 rpm

transmissions5- or 6-speed manual, 6-speed automatic with manual shift mode

dimensionswheelbase: 91.7 in length: 157.3 in width: 67.7 in height: 49.0-49.4 weight in curve: 2450-2550 lbs

epa fuel economycity/hwy: 21-22/28 mpg

porsche boxster / alligator

baby porches, all adult.

A sports car should be a means of transportation for both spirit and body, and few sports cars offer a more transcendent driving experience than these fraternal mid-engine twins. Whether in roadster or hatchback form, they are distinguished by exceptional balance, enthusiastic responses, and a bond between car and driver that’s free of excessive leaks. civilized, yes but not at the expense of purity. Over the years, the tendons of the Porsche entry-level pair have gotten stronger and more flexible; The power of its flat-six engines has risen to 330 horsepower in the new Cayman R; And its styling has become less 911-derived. Another trait that dwarfs the 911 is the practicality of the twins: yes, they give up their big brother two seats suitable for store-bought or small dogs, but in exchange they offer covered storage. in the front and back. There was a time when we also used the word “affordable” in relation to these two. But with the least expensive roadster starting at $49,050, that’s no longer true. On the other hand, it’s the most affordable Porsche, almost $31k less than a base 911. The boxster has now made 12 Top 10 appearances since his debut in 1998, and this will be the sixth in a row for the alligator. Porsche will unveil a new Boxster in the spring; we can’t wait to meet you.

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vehicle typemid-engine, rear-wheel drive, 2-passenger, 2-door roadster or 3-door hatchback

base price$49,050-$67,250

enginesdohc 24-valve 2.9-liter flat-6, 255 or 265 hp, 214 or 221 lb-ft; dohc 24 valve 3.4 liter flat-6; 310, 320 or 330hp; 266 or 273 pound-feet

transmissions6-speed manual, 7-speed dual-clutch automatic with manual shift mode

dimensionswheelbase: 95.1 in length: 172.1-172.3 in width: 70.9 in height: 48.5-51.4 weight in curve: 2950-3250 lbs

epa fuel economycity/highway: 19-20/26-29 mpg

volkswagen golf/gti

through the hatch.

in its quest to sell, volkswagen is prepared to “pull a porsche” and sell vehicles that aren’t quite in step with the kinds of tight-lipped, driver-focused machines that made enthusiasts fall in love with the brand In the first moment. place. The Volkswagens we love aren’t gone, but we thought we’d take a moment and raise a glass to two VWs that refuse to accommodate the lowest common denominator, top 10 Golf and GTI winners. We’d like to thank you Golf for your reluctance to associate cheapness with boring, for the sporty steering feel, odd number of rattling cylinders and humming diesels. we celebrate its expensive and refined demeanor, its taut frame, its rich and comfortable interior, and its knack for bringing great pieces of furniture back from the megastores. And then there’s the GTI. You might be a golfer in a muscle shirt, but you pull it off. actually, you look better than any two-box shape has a right to. Highly adaptable, you entertain people who love to drive and convert those who don’t. You can start your day as a gas-drinking kid, but turn into a turbocharged fiend on the way home. you accept the punishment without even doling it out. You are the car that every hatchback would like to be when they grow up. you are a 10best winner. Regards.


vehicle typefront-engine, front-wheel drive, 5-passenger, 3- or 5-door hatchback

base price$18,765-$25,465

Engine typedohc turbocharged and intercooled, 16-valve, 2.0-liter, diesel inline-four, 140 hp, 236 lb-ft; dohc 20-valve 2.5-liter inline-5, 170 hp, 177 lb-ft; turbocharged and intercooled dohc 16-valve 2.0-liter inline-4, 200 hp, 207 lb-ft

transmissions5- or 6-speed manual, 6-speed dual-clutch automatic with manual shift mode, 6-speed automatic with manual shift mode

dimensionswheelbase: 101.5 in length: 165.4-165.9 in width: 70.0-70.3 in height: 57.8-58.2 laden weight: 3000-3200 lbs

epa fuel economycity/highway: 21-30/31-42 mpg

the nominees

nominees are all-new cars, 2011 Top 10 winners, cars that weren’t available for the 2011 competition, and those with significant updates. all cars must be below our base price cap of $80,000 and be on sale by January a6/a7 • audi tt rs • bmw z4 sdrive28i • bmw 1-series m • bmw 3 series/m3 • bmw 528i* • buick lacrosse eassist • buick regal gs • buick verano • cadillac cts/cts-v • chevrolet camaro convertible • chevrolet sonic • chevrolet volt • chrysler 200 • chrysler 300 • dodge avenger • dodge charger • fiat 500 • ford focusford mustang gt/boss 302honda accord • honda civic • honda fit • hyundai accent • hyundai elantra • hyundai genesis • hyundai sonata • hyundai veloster • infiniti g25 • infiniti m35h • kia optima hybrid • kia rio • lexus ct200h • lotus evora s • mazda mx-5 miata • mazda 3 skyactiv • mercedes-benz c-class • mercedes-benz cls550 • mercedes-benz c63 amg • mercedes-benz e-class* • mercedes- benz slk-class • mini cooper coupe • mitsubishi i* • nissan versa • porsche boxster/boxster spyder/cayman/cayman r • scion iq* • scion tc • subaru impreza • toyota camry • toyota prius v* • toyota yaris* • volkswagen beetle • volkswagen golf/gti • volkswagen golf r* • volkswagen jetta gli • volkswagen passat • volvo s60 r-design *these cars met our eligibility requirements but were not available for evaluation.

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