I want to preface this list by saying that there were many factors going into the reasons as to why each one of these cars made the cut. Some of you will agree with my choices and others will not. You see, when I do a list like this I don’t just go with who’s got the highest hp numbers, or which is the best car from 60-0. I try to be objective and look at things like, everyday usage, price, reliability, performance and roominess. I look at these cars from the vantage point of using them as an everyday driver, which means 24/7/365. Yes, some will be pricey and deservedly so and others will be more budget oriented. So, now that you know the parameters, lets get down to business.
1. 2010 Ford Taurus: $25,000 – $45,000
The Ford Taurus is no new kid on the block and has been around since 1985. When it debuted some 25 years ago, it became the darling of the American automotive press. It was good looking, performed well and had enough room to be a great family car. Now in its 6th Generation, the new Taurus gets back to basics by providing the American public with a new updated version of the car they originally fell in love with over two decades ago.
Not only is the new Taurus a good looking machine, but it’s unbelievably functional as well. For 2010 Ford has integrated such features as its SYNC system, which features everything from adaptive cruise control with collision warning, to hands free calling, voice activated navigation, real time traffic reports and much more. The one that I think most people will opt for is the SEL model – think of this as the “everyman” model. Price it out and for just a tick under 30k you get a 263 hp V6, AWD, the SYNC System, comfy room for four adults and a car that is not only good looking but will deliver you 24 mpg on the hwy. Nice job Ford.
2. 2010 Hyundai Genesis: $33,000 – $44,000
Released in 2009 the new Hyundai Genesis Sedan is the companies first real run at building a full size luxury car. Sure, they’ve had pseudo luxury models in the past like the Azera, but nothing that could possibly be an alternative for a BMW or Lexus, that is, until now.
Choose the basic 3.8 liter V6 and you’ll be rolling in a front engine, rear-wheel drive automobile that produces 290 hp / 264 lb-tq. while delivering 18 mpg city and 27 mpg on the hwy. Good numbers considering it weighs in at almost 3800 lbs. From a technology standpoint the Genesis fairs just fine, offering everything from satellite navigation and heated seats to a backup camera. It also, and this is a biggie, gives you the best warranty in the business – 10 years or 100,000 miles. Interior room is very good offering true 5-passenger seating for adults. This is a great car with the only problem being its’ name… Hyundai. I think it’s going to be interesting to see how these things sell, as Hyundai is not a name largely associated with luxury vehicles. Look at what Toyota and Nissan did – they created their own separate luxury brands in the form of Lexus and Infiniti. Time and sales figures will dictate if Hyundai needs to do the same.
3. 2010 Chrysler 300: $28,000 – $49,000
Chrysler had a lot riding on the 300 Sedan when it debuted in 2005. The 300 represented the first in a new line of cars from the DiamlerChrysler merger and were to be known as the “LX Series” of automobiles. This series also encompassed the current Dodge Charger and recently discontinued Dodge Magnum. These cars are good, very good, as they were built with components utilized in the W210 Mercedes-Benz E-Class, which was produced from 1996-2002. The suspension, all-wheel drive system and transmission are all derivatives of Mercedes components and help lend to the upscale feel and performance of Chryslers flagship.
Big powerful looks, combined with a low-slung roofline and horsepower ratings ranging from 190-425 hp, ensure that there is a 300 to meet the needs of all those wanting a big, American made, rear wheel drive sedan. On the inside the 300 is spacious, providing ample room for 4 adults. Yes, a 5th can also be sat in the rear, but no one wants to be that guy in the middle so lets just say, it is really comfortable for four grown-ups. Interior materials can tend to be a bit on the plasticky side, but this is one of the main reasons for the lower cost rating. A totally maxed-out 300 SRT8 will run almost 50k, but if you look at other cars with similar performance ratings you’ll note that the 300 is a downright bargain.
Now keep in mind that a new Chrysler 300 is on the horizon, due out by the end of 2010. The chassis will be a reworked version of the current design and the exterior will receive a refresh as well. This however, shouldn’t dissuade you from checking out those 300’s that are still currently in showrooms. Again, they offer big styling and performance for a price that is thousands less than its Bavarian counterparts.
4. 2010 Cadillac CTS: $38,000 – $64,000
In the early part of the 2000’s Cadillac was desperately trying to revamp their image to become more in touch with a younger, more performance oriented buying group. They already had begun the conversion with the Cadillac Catera in 1997. This was built on a retagged version of GM’s European only Opel Omega. The Catera was supposed to be an option for buyers going for the BMW 3 series or C-Class Mercedes, however, looks, build quality and performance just couldn’t compete with its German rivals.
Enter 2002 and the new Cadillac CTS. This was the sedan that helped move Cadillac forward. Not only was it good, it was named the North American Car of the Year. Now fast-forward to 2010 and the second generation CTS. Cadillac has shed that “driving to deaths door image”, and is now regarded as one of the best sports sedans on the market. It won Motor Trend’s Car of the Year in 2008 and then was selected to Car and Driver’s Ten Best List – this was also accomplished in 2009 and 2010. Talk about a brand doing a 180-degree spin.
Keep in mind that the CTS is a sports sedan. It’s a not a full-on family car like some of the others on this list. It has room for four average size adults, not four, 6’4”, 245 pounders like me. Luggage space is adequate and makes the CTS a great car for the young couple that is looking for a ride to use as a daily driver. Another note: the new CTS-V is considered to be one of the best cars ever produced by any American car company. It was built, as a direct rival to Europe’s finest. I would categorize it as a mid-size sedan. From a performance standpoint, even the base 258 hp V6 will impress while the CTS-Vs supercharged V8 pumping out 556 hp, will simply astound you. The CTS is the car that helped Caddy turn the corner from a company that produced rolling caskets to one that now produces tire-scorching fun. By the way… you can also get it with AWD… that make’s it even cooler now right?
5. 2010 Mercedes S-Class: $87,000 – $201,000
What you are looking at here is the big gun in Mercedes arsenal. It’s the gold standard, the car that all but invented the high-end family class sedan. These cars ladies and gentleman are simply spectacular. Make no mistake, these are expensive cars, but my God are they worth it.
I’ll tell you a quick story. In the summer of 2008 I partook in a cross-country rally that shall remain nameless. During that time I had the pleasant experience of finding myself behind the wheel of a current generation Mercedes S-550. At one point during this escapade, we ran from Los Angeles, CA – Las Vegas, NV. Now for those of you who have never made this run, the long and short of it is, we ran through Death Valley and it was hot, like holy shit it’s 112 degrees outside hot. Inside the big Benz we had four adults (one sleeping), all seated comfortably with room to spare. The air-conditioning was on and pumping a nice cool breeze through the perforated leather seat for which I sat upon. The radio belted out various tunes from Aerosmith, life was good, very good. The best part however was the fact that the cruise control had been on and holding us at a steady pace for the last 21 minutes. That pace was 130 mph… We continued on until our radar detector went off, at which point we slowed to a more respectable 85 mph. The amazing part of this story however, is that the big Benz would have done that all day long. No drama. No issues. No complaints. It is by far one of the best open road cars I have ever driven.
6. 2010 Honda Accord Cross Tour: $29,500 – $36,500
Right. So now you’ll ask me how can you follow-up a Mercedes S-Class with the new Honda Accord Cross Tour? Well, let me explain. Where the big Benz is luxury and performance incarnate, the Honda is practicality and versatility. The Accord is a staple on American roads. They’ve been around forever and for good reason, Honda builds one hell of a good car. For 2010 Honda gives us the Cross Tour, their first crossover vehicle and one that I think is going to do very well.
The reason for this is that Honda is smart – they build cars that people want and incorporate everything you need and nothing you don’t, at a reasonable price point. What I like about the Cross Tour are the real world applications that you can put this car to use in. It’s perfect for the start-up family (seats 5), it’s sporty enough for the weekend warrior by offering FWD and a 276 hp V6 and it has all the electronic techno-goodies utilized in a system that doesn’t require a degree from NASA to operate. Combine that with the added storage room the Cross Tour offers over the standard Accord and you’ve got a great formula.
7. 2010 Mazda6: $19,300 – $31,000
I’ve always been a fan of Mazda’s and why not they make great cars. Go into any other car in this price point and check out the interiors. No one, except maybe Honda, even comes close to the build quality and materials used. The Mazda6 is a sports sedan, and was built to be a fun 4-door for singles, couples and small families to go and enjoy the world in. It’s good looking as well, with a new shape that utilizes integrated rear exhaust ports, stylized front fenders (you can see cues from the RX-8) and an interior layout that’s sporty and inviting.
Powered by either a 170 hp 4-cylinder or a 272 hp six, the Mazda6 is not only capable of performance, but economy as well, with 4-cylinder models pushing 30 mpg on the hwy. Seating is like that of the Cadillac CTS, meaning it’s comfortable for four average sized adults, if you’re big, either in height or girth, you may want to look elsewhere. What I really like about the Mazda6 though, is that it is an alternative in a market segment that is otherwise boring. It’s got the performance, looks and build quality that make you feel like you’re driving a car costing much more.
8. 2010 Infiniti M35 / M45: $45,000 – $65,000
For those of you living under an automotive rock for the last 20 years, Infiniti is Nissan’s upscale model line. Situated somewhere between a 5-series BMW and an Audi A6, Infiniti’s M-cars have been able to carve themselves out a nice little niche by offering a well built, luxury oriented, Japanese alternative.
Infiniti prides itself on using organic shapes and contours in both vehicle interior and exterior designs. One look at the M and you’ll notice that it is an elegant looking automobile; in fact I don’t think there is one harsh line on the entire car. The interior of the M is very welcoming; almost living room like. Big analog gauges present the driver with a clear view of what’s going on performance wise, while a beautifully sculpted dash flows throughout the rest of the cabin. This is a Japanese car and a high-end one at that so expect every available electronic option and gizmo the market has to offer. Power comes from either a 303 hp V6, or a 325 hp V8. This is a different type of car, with a different goal then BMW or Audi’s current offerings. It’s an automobile that wants you to be relaxed. It wants your journey to be comfortable and quiet and does not exhibit the rougher, harder edges of its competition. It’s a car for the driver that’s looking for tranquility, more than the curvature of the road ahead.
9. 2010 Audi A8: $74,000 – $86,000
Where the above-mentioned Infiniti is all about elegance, the Audi A8 is built for those who want to play in the corners. It is a true sports sedan and one that rewards the driver with a wonderful experience both inside and outside the cabin. One look at the big Audi and you know that it was build for performance. From the standard 4.2 liter V8 to it’s legendary Quattro AWD system the A8 delivers on all levels.
Audi has also made the A8 a very welcoming and comfortable car to drive. It’s big in both front and rear seat accommodations and has trunk space large enough to contain almost anything you can think of. Every available piece of automotive technology on the road today is neatly concealed under that beautiful body. This car is an autobahn cruiser much like the big S-Class Mercedes. Where the driver of the big Mercedes may be more accustom to long straight line runs, drivers of the Audi A8 will most likely be looking for the road less traveled.
10. 2010 Chevrolet Malibu: $21,825 – $31,250
A Chevy Malibu? Yep… a Malibu. Understand this car represents a big turn for GM and the way in which they are trying to obtain customers. The Malibu was designed for a decidedly younger audience and you know what, it looks it. Look at this car from any angle and you’ll notice it really doesn’t have a bad line on it. Seriously, it’s a very nice looking automobile.
The interior is decidedly GM, but that’s a good thing, as they have been improving on interior fit and finish year after year. Like the other mid-size sedans the Malibu is more a four-seater than a five. It’s also a simple car… do you have any idea how refreshing that is? Climate and audio controls are well laid out, easy to read and operate. Dash gauges are also nice and clear – a speedometer, tachometer, fuel and temperature gauge are present. Everything you need is right where it should be… perfect. The Malibu is a stylish car with the mission of providing consumers with an a American made, well built automotive option. It’s good looking, performs nicely, delivers good fuel economy and is reasonably priced… after all what more does anyone really need?