Yesterday, Dan Roth and I spent the day at Consumer Reports' Auto Test Center in East Haddam, CT. The occasion was the publication's annual Press Day, during which members of the media are given a tour of their expansive (and very impressive) facilities, demonstrations of some of the tests they perform, and finally, the formal announcement of their annual top 10 car picks.

It was fun and informative, and we walked away with a real appreciation of Consumer Reports' testing methodology. Speaking as someone who was admittedly not a big believer in CR's ratings versus say, those of an enthusiast mag, I can report happily that the men and women involved with Consumer Reports' auto testing and reporting are very serious enthusiasts themselves. This is not the toaster brigade running the tests, these are real car people through and through. We'll put together a proper feature for you on our day at CR -- complete with photos and video -- in the near future.

Without further ado, however, it's time for the news of the day.

Consumer Reports Top Picks for 2007
[Source: Consumer Reports]

Four Toyotas, three Hondas, a pair of Infinitis and a Mazda -- the Germans and Americans are conspicuously absent. The last German to make the list was the BMW 530i in 2003, and the last American cars to make the list were the Ford Focus Sedan and SVT Focus in 2004. (The Focus got its 2005 "Top Pick" award stripped after it came up short in crash test following that issue's publication.) In CR's overall new-car reliability rankings, Lincoln and GMC showed significant improvement. Ford stayed the same, Chevy and Buick improved slightly, while Jeep suffered a significant drop in the standings. Last place? That dubious honor belongs to Mercedes-Benz, whose new or redesigned-for-'06 cars' reliability is described as being "far below average."

To illustrate this, David Champion, CR's Sr. Director of Auto Testing, told us they found that the 1998 Lexus LS400 exhibited fewer problems last year than the 2006 Mercedes ML 500. Interesting tidbit, for sure. We'll talk about the CR visit in detail at a later date. For now, let's hear your opinions on the top picks in the comments.

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