It’s time for OutSmart’s annual review of the best new cars for 2010–2011
by James T. Hurst
Today’s cars are truly getting better with each passing year—something I couldn’t say just a decade ago. It seems that every new vehicle we drive is more powerful, more fuel-efficient, and has more high-tech gadgetry than its predecessor. This year’s lineup is certainly more comfortable, more refined, and more fun! Choosing a good car is easier than ever, but choosing the best car can still be tricky.
This set of wheels from Sweden is arguably one of the most beautiful cars ever built. Combining a dashing coupe and a dazzling convertible into one dream car, this Volvo makes the drive a whole lot of fun. With the push of a button, the retractable hardtop slides effortlessly into the trunk so the wind can blow you away. The newly redesigned C70 comes with Volvo’s advanced safety technology, fuel efficiency, and a green design that facilitates recycling at the end of its useful life.
Volkswagen introduced the concept of the hatchback to the world, and with the all-new 2010 GTI they are still setting the standards for people who want speed, handling and big-time performance. The new GTI is certainly fun to drive, thanks to its excellent German-tuned suspension and speedy Volkswagen DNA. Its $24,000 price tag includes three years of free maintenance, and buyers will also appreciate the steadily improving quality and workmanship.
Ford Fusion Hybrid
The Fusion Hybrid has been a long time coming. It gets the best fuel economy of any mid-size hybrid sedan—up to 41 mpg in the city, beating out the Toyota Camry Hybrid and the Nissan Altima Hybrid by a sizable margin. The hybrid drivetrain yields superior drivability, and the customized dash display will literally entertain you “green,” being the first in its class to show growing leaves as you drive more efficiently. With options like SYNC voice control for your iPod, navigation, and phone, it’s clear that Ford has created a fine hybrid car for 2010.
For 2010, the all-new S4 has lost a couple of cylinders and now packs a 333 hp-supercharged V-6, just seven fewer horses than the previous V-8. This new engine has better low-end grunt and 27 percent better fuel economy. According to Audi, the 3,850-pound S4 will scoot to 62 mph in 5.1 seconds—even quicker than the V-8 model. Inside, Audi has designed a quality driver-oriented cockpit including sport seats to keep you firmly planted as you cruise the road.
Mercedes Benz S400 Hybrid
The first hybrid from the German automaker has emerged in the form of this S-class sedan. It downsizes the S550’s 382 hp V-8 to a combined output of 295 hp, supplied by the corporate 3.5 liter V-6 and an electric motor. The S-class is transformed into a mild hybrid with the addition of a 65-pound 0.9-kilowatt-hour lithium battery pack hidden under the hood, a 50-pound electric motor sandwiched between the engine, and a seven-speed automatic transmission. Despite the additional weight, the S-400 is the lightest ninth-generation S-class to come out of Germany. Fuel economy jumps from 15 mpg city and 23 highway to 19 and 26, respectively. Of course, it remains the luxo-barge with all the amenities that Mercedes Benz has come to be known for—a great car with an even better ride.
New for 2011, Buick has introduced an all-new midsize sport sedan, scheduled to be in dealerships this May. The Euro-inspired Regal shares a platform with the European Opel Insignia, which is the best-selling sedan in Europe. Power comes from a 220hp dual-scroll turbocharged 2.4l SIDI VVT engine—in other words, the power of a V6, but with only four cylinders. From the sculpted aerodynamic styling to the ergonomically designed driver’s cockpit, you will really enjoy being seen in a Buick—who would have thought?
Let’s cut to the chase: 300 hp for $23,000, or 426 hp (from a proper Corvette-sourced V8, no less) for $31,000, translates to a lot of fun and bang-for-the-buck. Camaro has returned from the ’70s, and is proving that awe-inspiring design, performance, and efficiency can coexist. The classic muscle car has been resurrected at a price that is within reach. I think Chevy’s message here is that it’s possible to have a Camaro as your computer’s screen saver and one parked in your driveway.
The Porsche Boxster began its life more than 10 years ago. The 2010 version effectively bridges the gaps between utility, hardcore sports performance, and luxury. The powerful engine options and German-engineered handling provide a complete package that’s fun to drive. Exterior design is sleek, eye-catching, and grounded. This Porsche comes in two forms—the droptop Boxster and the metaltop Cayman. Both deliver unparalleled driving experiences no matter where you might find yourself driving. These unique Porsche models come with two cargo trunks, leather seating, mid-engine
stability, and loads of livable fun.
Now in the second year of production, the Jaguar XF receives some noteworthy changes for 2010. This XF establishes a new stylistic direction for Jaguar. The base model remains the same, but is now joined by the XF Premium and its new 5.0 liter V-8, an XF Supercharged blown version of that 5.0-liter engine, and the ultra-high performance XFR, which adds another 40 hp to that supercharged V-8. This midsize luxury sedan delivers the “refined Jaguar ride” we have come to expect: sporty handling, seductive design, and a well-crafted interior featuring “Jaguardrive selector” that rises out of the center console, surrounding you with beautiful phosphor blue lighting.
The Hyundai Genesis is an extraordinary car. Kudos to the Korean automaker for creating a luxurious rear-wheel-drive sedan in the $30,000 price range. Hyundai offers the longest warranty of any upscale midsize car, and a cabin that wouldn’t be out of place in a Lexus or Cadillac. The Genesis has the size, features, and engine power to compete in the large luxury car class. For 2010, Genesis carries significant upgrades such as re-tuned suspension to improve handling, an improved touch-screen navigation system, and intelligent cruise control. The Genesis should be seriously considered by anyone looking for an entry-level luxury sport sedan.
BMW has introduced the 335is coupe for 2010 to fill a gap between the 300 hp 335i and the 414 hp M3. Although conceptually similar to the previous generation’s 330 performance package, this new model ups the sportiness quotient by producing 320 hp and 332 lb-ft of torque from the twin-turbo 3.0 liter inline-six engine, and an overboost turbo providing a seven-second blast of 370 lb-ft of additional torque. This new 335is has a noticeable hum from the revamped exhaust system, which is now less restrictive. The $50,525 starting price makes the 335is coupe $8,750 less than the BMW M3 coupe. The convertible version starts at $59,075 and arrives in April.
The Honda Element is known for its versatility—allowing you to flip, fold, or take out the rear seats to create up to 64 different space options. There is no need to worry about dirt, sand, food, or even pet spills because the seat fabric is water-resistant and the floor is scratch-resistant—all completely “wipe-downable.” Honda has also introduced the “Pet Friendly Element” for 2010. This unique package includes a kennel behind the rear-seat, pet bed, spill-resistant water bowl, leash, tote bag, and even an electric fan to help keep Fido cool on those hot summer days. By the way, the Element SC was named a “Top Safety Pick” by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.