58 contenders. $2.5 million total. 12,000 test miles logged. The ultimate quest to find the year’s greatest cars.
This year, for the 28th running of our annual 10Best competition, the rules were simple. First, we raised the price cap from $71,000 to $80,000 (roughly three times the average transaction price of a new car) in the belief that 80 grand is the current point of automotive excellence s diminishing returns. Cars get more expensive than that, but they don t get much better. More important, raising the cap makes eligible nominees in two other vital categories: luxo-sport GTs and luxury sedans. Never mind that only two new cars qualified (and one was about to be replaced in a few months, so we left it out).
Second rule: As is the norm, we invited back 2009 s 10Best winners and all the new or significantly altered cars for 2010. Every qualifying vehicle must be on sale no later than January 2010, ergo the complete absence of vaporware.
In all, we hosted a total of 58 automobiles at our secret base hidden amid the farm plots of southeast Michigan. We flogged the cars for a week over our long-standing route, which serves up everything from smooth curves to pockmarked apexes to first-gear corners to high-speed straights to elevation changes.
There, we sought answers to the following questions: 1) How well does this car perform its intended mission? Does a given luxury car, for example, ride harshly? Does it sacrifice rear-seat headroom for an aggressive tumblehome? 2) Is this a highly engaging, fun-to-drive vehicle in its category? Does it compel the driver to get in and enjoy it? And 3) What kind of value does it represent? How much goodness does it deliver for its price?
The cars on the following pages max out in all three areas. These are the machines that have cracked the greatness code. The overwhelming consensus in our results, arrived at by a diverse array of drivers and their biases, has convinced us that these are the 10 worthiest cars on the American road. And their average base price of just over $35,000 was far below our $80,000 cap.
The nominees are listed below. They consist of all-new cars, 2009 10Best winners (called out in bold ), cars that were not available for the 2009 competition, and those with significant updates. All cars must fall under our base-price cap of $80,000 and be on sale in January 2010.
Acura TL 6-sp manual Acura ZDX Audi A5 2.0T Audi A6 3.0T Audi S4 Audi S5 Cabriolet Audi TTS BMW Z4 BMW 3-series/M3 Buick LaCrosse Cadillac CTS/CTS- V Chevrolet Camaro Chevrolet Corvette /Grand Sport/Z06 Ford Fusion/Fusion hybrid Ford Mustang/Shelby GT500 Ford Taurus/Taurus SHO Honda Accord Honda Fit Honda Insight Hyundai Genesis coupe Infiniti G37 Jaguar XF /XFR Kia Forte/Forte Koup Kia Soul Lexus HS250h Lexus IS convertible Lincoln MKS EcoBoost Lotus Evora* Lotus Exige S 260 Sport Mazda MX-5 Miata Mazda 3/Mazdaspeed 3 Mercedes-Benz E-class Nissan Cube Nissan 370Z Pontiac G8 GXP* Pontiac Solstice coupe* Porsche Boxster/Cayman Porsche 911 Carrera Subaru Legacy Subaru Outback Suzuki Kizashi Toyota Prius Toyota Venza Volkswagen Golf* /GTI
* These cars met our eligibility requirements but were not available for evaluation.