Another (but better) Best Cars of 2009 List

We can call it the “Jgoods Top 7,” because I think 10 is too many and 5 too few. These cars, all priced under $100,000, represent my idea of the best in category. Like all such lists, this one is pretty subjective. I put it together after looking at many others, some of which are referenced in the links.

The Cadillac CTS-V should have made everyone’s list, but it was on surprisingly few. Virtually all who have driven it (I have not) applaud its first-class handling, supercharged V8 power, and tremendous value (prices begin around $60,000). This is one of a small number of product successes GM should be proud of in 2009.

2009 Jaguar XF RCompetition (sort of) for the CTS-V with more of a luxurious, European feel comes from the Jaguar XF R, a car that finally revives the company’s sporting lineage and does so in a beautiful package. Performance is all you could want, with 510 bhp and 461 lb-ft of torque, a ZF six-speed auto/manual transmission, and electronically controlled shocks. Jaguar’s long-suffering days under Ford and after are now behind them.

For the money (around $70K) the Porsche Cayman S PDK may be the best sportscar in the world. Reviewers consistently use words like “harmonious” and “balanced” to describe the driving experience. Some think it beats the 911. There has been near-universal praise for the double-clutch PDK gearbox, which puts the old Tiptronic to shame, and a great new engine that really sings.

To have fun at a much lower cost, consider the MAZDA3, which has impressed most everyone who has reviewed it. The car has power and refinement at the same time, performance and practicality, and an appeal to young and old. (Yeah, we don’t like that grinning grille either.) egmCarTech is polling to see which competing car you would prefer—the MAZDA3, Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla, or VW Jetta. We know which one we’d choose.

The Ford Fusion Hybrid makes most everybody’s top ten. The reason is that it’s a more substantial driver’s car than the Prius with mileage that’s nearly as good (and better than the Camry Hybrid’s). It has a refined powertrain and finish throughout and is a standout success for Ford. One reviewer compared its powertrain and driveability to those of the $107,000 Lexus LS 600h.

BMW has always taken a different approach, still banking on the diesel and not just in Europe. The 335d has made many top-ten lists because it represents the ultimate refinement of twin-turbo diesel power with torque and luxury in abundance. And the car gets 36 mpg on the highway and will earn you a federal tax credit. Yeah, I think it looks stodgy, too, but finally we have a real diesel performance car.

Last but hardly least is the VW GTI, the hatchback sports car that has beaten the pants off competing cars around the world. Full disclosure: Alert CG readers will note that I own a 2003 GTI, but the new one is vastly improved and has placed on many top-ten lists. NY Times carman Lawrence Ulrich noted, “The GTI starts at barely $24,000 and tops 30 m.p.g. on the highway, yet this practical hatchback is as thrilling to drive as many sports cars.”

Why do you think I’ve got so many German cars on this list? Does that make sense to you?

—jgoods

4 Comments

  1. I have no clue why you have so many German cars listed and quite frankly could care less. My dear jgoods Camelot died on November 23, 1963, yet you, like countless other magazine scribes, continue to live the dream of what was once promised, but never delivered. For the life of me I continue to be amazed that you, like the aforementioned auto “enthusiasts”, continue to dwell on the human aspects of what is just a machine. A machine has no human qualities, yet to read you guys wax poetic just drives me crazy. If its thrills that you want “to get your heart pumping and your blood boiling”, pay your $200K and sit atop the space shuttle, or dive off the cliffs at nearby Tijuana. You can’t get that “high” driving a 911 or a Lamborghini.

    Yes, the Germans probably do everything humans desire in an automobile better than anyone else, but do you have to remind us every single month?
    Not an issue ever goes by in a magazine or blog that doesn’t remind us that German is better. That is just plain obvious. There are other vehicles that people want to know about. Most buyers can’t afford the kinds of machines you obsess over and most are practically inclined to purchase something “less”. It is hard to obsess about a Milan, Fusion, Malibu, Sonata, Camry, Accord, etc., but even though we’d all like to drive the latest BMW, Mercedes, Infiniti, Lexus, etc, we end up buying “less”.

    You’d think after a decade or more of declining sales and dwindling readership that the auto industry analysts and testers would tone down the testosterone in regards to trying to sell the “dream”. The affluent will always buy what you guys obsess over, but reality would seem to dictate that covering the “lesser” cars would garner more eyeballs and interest than the exotics you folks like to obsess over. More coverage of “lesser” cars would probably mean more ad dollars and more skeptics, like myself, visiting my favorite blog site. Looking at the “comment” area would seem to support my thesis, as there is a dearth of comments for what should be one of the internet’s most interesting and relevant site.

    You guys do a hell of a job researching your topics but it pains me to see the lack of commentary on your work. Perhaps, the questions could be phrased differently and perhaps your editorial positions could become a bit more controversial and less PC. Also, in light of our economic difficulties perhaps more “domestic” content would generate more eyeballs. Keep up the good work.

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