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.
Competition (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?