Every year the entire Car and Driver staff gathers at a rural site about 30 miles west of our home office in Ann Arbor, Michigan for a week of evaluating all the new cars and, hopefully, avoiding cops. We judge the cars in three general areas: First, how well the car performs its intended functions. We expect sports cars to be fast and exhilarating, while we presume a family sedan will be practical. Second, we show a preference for the more engaging cars in each category; be it better driving manners, a double-take-inducing look, or a powerful engine. Finally, we are suckers for a good deal, so an inexpensive car that’s fast, fun, and practical will certainly rise to the top of our list.

The invite list works as follows: Last year's winners are automatically invited back, as well as other all-new or significantly upgraded machinery for 2007 -- each car gets only one shot at making our 10Best list, but many stay on the list for years. This year, all cars had to have a base price no higher than $71,000, which is 2.5 times the average new-vehicle transaction price as of August 2006. Eligible cars must be on-sale no later than January of 2007, and the manufacturer must, of course, deliver an example for our evaluations.

Read on to see the 10 we selected for 2007:

2007 BMW 3-series: We first voted the BMW 3-series to our 10Best list in 1992. That car was the 325i, and in 3-series genealogy, it was two generations older, or the grandfather, of today's model. With 189 horsepower generated from its 2.5-liter six-cylinder engine, the '92 325i hit 60 mph in 6.9 seconds and cornered at a well-balanced 0.80 g.

Today's most powerful equivalent is the 335i, with a 300-hp twin-turbo 3.0-liter version of the classic six. It zips to 60 in 4.8 seconds and corners at 0.89 g while offering more luxury and space and delivering better fuel economy and a quieter, more comfortable ride than its forebear.

Each year, the 3-series has gotten a bit more power, an upgraded suspension, a stiffer structure, or a new body style to keep it fresh and current. These constant upgrades have kept the 3-series on our 10Best list for a record 16 consecutive years.

And although the car has grown about six inches and 500 pounds in the intervening years, the 3-series remains the definitive sports sedan, delivering the driving satisfaction of a sports car in the body of a practical machine. For a car enthusiast, everyday drivers don’t come any better.

VEHICLE TYPE: front-engine; rear or 4-wheel-drive; 5-passenger; 2-door coupe, 4-door sedan, or 5-door wagon

BASE PRICE: $33,095 - $41,295

ENGINES: DOHC 24-valve 3.0-liter inline-6, 230 hp, 200 lb-ft; twin-turbocharged and intercooled DOHC 24-valve 3.0-liter inline-6, 300 hp, 300 lb-ft

TRANSMISSIONS: 6-speed auto with manumatic shifting, 6-speed manual

DIMENSIONS:

Wheelbase: 108.7 in

Length: 178.2 - 180.3 in

Width: 70.2 - 71.5 in

Height: 54.1 - 55.9 in

Curb weight: 3400 - 3800 lb

FUEL ECONOMY: 19 - 21 mpg (city driving)

2007 Chevrolet Corvette: In its sixth generation, the Corvette retains strong ties to the five generations of star-spangled sports cars that preceded it. Power still comes from a V-8 equipped with pushrods and two valves per cylinder, just like the original 1955 small-block Chevy V-8. Modern technology extracts copious power and excellent fuel economy while reducing the original V-8's light weight and tidy size.

The Corvette's composite body also hearkens back to the seminal 1953 model. But here again, newer materials, such as the balsa-core composite panels used in the floor panels, combine with a sophisticated structure to yield one of the few cars that haven’t grown heavier over time, despite the pound-packing pressures of stricter safety standards, higher power, bigger brakes, and grippier tires.

This combination of heritage and sophistication gives the Corvette a uniquely American blend of performance, swagger, and everyday livability -- characteristics that are all amplified in the 505-hp Z06 version. And in one final bow to tradition, the Corvette delivers this virtue at a price vastly lower than any of its competitors'.

VEHICLE TYPE: front-engine, rear-wheel-drive, 2-passenger, 3-door hatchback or targa or 2-door roadster

BASE PRICE: $44,995 - $70,000

ENGINES: pushrod 16-valve 6.0-liter V-8, 400 hp, 400 lb-ft; pushrod 16-valve 7.0-liter V-8, 505 hp, 470 lb-ft

TRANSMISSIONS: 6-speed auto with manumatic shifting, 6-speed manual

DIMENSIONS:

Wheelbase: 105.7 in

Length: 174.6 - 175.6 in

Width: 72.6 - 75.9 in

Height: 49.0 in

Curb weight: 3150 - 3300 lb

FUEL ECONOMY: 16 - 18 mpg (city driving)

2007 Chrysler 300: Conventional wisdom holds that the Chrysler 300 owes its success to its boisterous, larger-than-life styling, and a lot of owners will confess to being drawn to the big sedan’s standout sheetmetal. But the 300 also offers fine steering and an excellent blend of ride and handling, as you’d expect from a vehicle that employs major suspension components from the Mercedes E-class sedan of the mid-’90s.

Under its hood buyers can choose from mild and wild Hemi V-8s, with up to 425 horses coupled to a five-speed automatic with manual control. Also available are a pair of smooth V-6s for delivering a more sedate blend of mileage and performance.

The 300 has a huge back seat (even huger in the new-for-'07 long-wheelbase versions), a capacious trunk, and fold-down rear seats to provide cargo utility. The cabin is structurally rigid, free of road-induced vibrations, and impressively quiet.

Finally, this goodness comes at prices that make the 300 a standout in today's crowded automotive landscape. Whether you judge a car by its looks, speed, practicality, quality, or value, the 300 remains the best big mainstream sedan on the market.

VEHICLE TYPE: front-engine, rear- or 4-wheel-drive, 5-passenger, 4-door sedan

BASE PRICE: $24,555 - $41,095

ENGINES: DOHC 24-valve 2.7-liter V-6, 190 hp, 190 lb-ft; SOHC 24-valve 3.5-liter V-6, 250 hp, 250 lb-ft; pushrod 16-valve 5.7-liter V-8, 340 hp, 390 lb-ft; pushrod 16-valve 6.1-liter V-8, 425 hp, 420 lb-ft

TRANSMISSIONS: 4-speed auto, 5-speed auto with manumatic shifting

DIMENSIONS:

Wheelbase: 120.0 - 126.0 in

Length: 196.8 - 202.8 in

Width: 74.1 in

Height: 57.9 - 58.4 in

Curb weight: 3750 - 4300 lb

FUEL ECONOMY: 14 - 21 mpg (city driving)

2007 Honda Accord: As you gaze at this face, are you experiencing a haunting sense of "Haven't we met before"? Of course you are, and of course you have, right here in these pages, almost every January since 1983. So that Yogi Berra sense of "déjà vu all over again" is justified. In all those years, the Accord has missed the 10Best cut just four times: '92, '93, '96, and '97. In 25 years, it has accumulated 21 trophies, despite platoons of attractive challengers every year.

What's the secret? This question comes up at every 10Best evaluation, and every time we reach the same conclusion: all-around excellence. It's the family-sedan equivalent of a utility infielder who makes the all-star squad. In a given year, the Accord may not be the fastest or most agile or roomiest or sexiest. But when it’s not first in a particular category, it's most likely second, and it is always at the top of the charts in fit and finish, ergonomics, road manners, reliability, and resale value.

Stir in a high value factor, plus a strong fun-to-drive quotient, and you have the essence of Honda's winning formula. Seems simple enough, doesn't it? But no one else achieves it nearly so consistently.

VEHICLE TYPE: front-engine, front-wheel-drive, 5-passenger, 2-door coupe or 4-door sedan

BASE PRICE: $19,220 - $31,685

ENGINES: DOHC 16-valve 2.4-liter inline-4, 166 hp, 160 lb-ft; SOHC 24-valve 3.0-liter V-6, 244 hp, 211 lb-ft; hybrid drive system: SOHC 24-valve V-6, 237 hp, 212 lb-ft, and AC electric motor, 16 hp, 100 lb-ft

TRANSMISSIONS: 5-speed auto, 5- or 6-speed manual

DIMENSIONS:

Wheelbase: 105.1 - 107.9 in

Length: 187.8 - 191.1 in

Width: 71.3 - 71.6 in

Height: 55.7 - 57.3 in

Curb weight: 3150 - 3650 lb

FUEL ECONOMY: 20 - 28 mpg (city driving)

2007 Infiniti G35 Sedan: "Supple ride. Balanced, agile handling." You probably associate those lyrics with the BMW 3-series. That's understandable. You've been hearing them every year at this time since 1992. But here's a different tune. The composers of the second-gen G35 were clearly influenced by the themes that have kept the BMW 3s at the top of the hit parade for so long, but they’ve given it subtle Asian phrasing. The finished piece is supple and agile but a shade more aggressive than the German opus.

The styling element of the makeover is subtle, but the hardware upgrades are compelling: stiffer structure (by 40 percent), improved steering feel, terrific brakes, a snick-snick six-speed manual. More power never hurts, and there’s an abundance of that from the revised 3.5-liter V-6: 306 horses, 268 pound-feet of torque, 0-to-60 in the very low five-second bracket.

The G35's visible updates are most apparent within -- improved materials, great seats, and a more attractive design. But the most attractive element will be the numbers on the window stickers. We expect the new sedan to cost about the same as a BMW 328i -- around $33,000, at least $5000 below the 335i. There's a tune that's easy to appreciate.

VEHICLE TYPE: front-engine, rear- or 4-wheel-drive, 5-passenger, 4-door sedan

ESTIMATED BASE PRICE: $33,000 - $35,000

ENGINE TYPE: DOHC 24-valve 3.5-liter V-6; 306 bhp @ 6800 rpm; 268 lb-ft @ 5200 rpm

TRANSMISSIONS: 5-speed auto with manumatic shifting, 6-speed manual

DIMENSIONS:

Wheelbase: 112.2 in

Length: 187.0 in

Width: 69.8 in

Height: 57.2 - 57.8 in

Curb weight: 3600 - 3700 lb

FUEL ECONOMY: 19 mpg (city driving)



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