The 2012 AOL Autos Car Of The Year
A year ago AOL Autos selected its first ever Car of the Year, naming the Audi A7 for the first-year honor. This year, our editors have voted, and the winner is a very different kind of car.
AOL Autos editors drive pretty much every new car that comes along. Of course, we are not the only outlet choosing "Cars of the Year." Motor Trend and Automobile Magazines each surprised readers and the industry by naming the all-electric Tesla Model S Car of the Year.
Our editors did not have the Model S in our consideration set for the simple reason that not enough of our editors have been able to drive it. It is an exceptionally good car,and those of us who have been able to test drive it would stack it up against any gasoline-powered car for sheer fun and performance.
But having eliminated the Model S from our consideration (and let's face it, very few people are going to actually consider this car), we did come up with a very solid list of top five, with just one winning the top honor.
Each editor chose three cars they thought worthy of the honor, ranking them first, second and third based on preference. Every car that got ranked third, earned one point. Each that was ranked second got two points. And those that were rated first got three points.
Check out how the new cars fared, counting down from No. 5 to No. 1.
5. BMW 3 Series
MSRP: $36,500 - $47,600
Invoice: $33,580 - $43,790
Fuel Economy: 23 mpg City, 33 mpg Highway
The BMW 3 Series is perennially rates as the best overall four door car in the world. The Munich, Germany-based automaker has long treated the 3 Series like its favorite son because its the model that pays the bills as BMW's number-one sales leader worldwide.
What makes the 3 Series so good? Chiseled good looks, a fabulous set of choices on engines and a weight balance that BMW is masterful at producing. The weight is distributed just about 50-50 front to back.
The new BMW 3 Series as tossable around the road as every other 3 Series we have enjoyed. It comes with automatic parking assist to get you into a parallel parking space hands-free. The new four-cylinder is nearly as quick on its feet as the outgoing naturally aspirated six. And why shouldn't it be? BMW has been selling first-class four-cylinder engines in Europe for decade that we in the U.S. are only now getting to enjoy thanks to higher fuel economy regulations.
So why not rank it higher? The two items that left us wanting a little are the interior trim packages that are a bit iffy, and the stop-start system BMW employed. Stop-start is a great piece of fuel saving technology when applied well. It shuts down the engine at stop-lights, when the car is at idle, and even when you stop to make a left turn, say, and need to wait for an opening in the oncoming traffic. BMW's system we tested was rough and had too much delay to start the engine back up when you touch the gas pedal. Tweaks to the system are being made, but it was enough to knock it down a few points.
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4. Nissan Altima
MSRP: $21,760 - $30,560
Invoice: $20,356 - $27,929
Fuel Economy: 27 mpg City, 38 mpg Highway
In a year that saw six of the top midsize sedans undergo redesigns, the Altima might have emerged with the most to offer consumers. The third-best-selling car in America appeals to a lot of people who are searching to combine the practical aspects of a sedan with a degree of style and performance.
The biggest news in the redesign was an overhaul of the CVT (continuously variable transmission) that sets the stage for the next generation of Nissans, one that is far smoother than previous iterations. The Altima is available with either a four-cylinder, 182-horsepower, 2.5 liter engine or a 3.5-liter, 270 horsepower V6. Both provide class-leading fuel economy.
The exterior blends the Altima’s maturity with some style. You might even be tempted to think it looks a lot like a more expensive sibling from Nissan’s Infiniti brand.
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3. Cadillac ATS
MSRP: $33,095 - $47,795
Invoice: $31,275 - $45,166
Fuel Economy: 22 mpg City, 33 mpg Highway
Esquire billed the new ATS as perhaps "the most important domestic car since the Model T." That's overkill -- it's probably even not the best new domestic car this year. But it is certainly the best new Cadillac to roll off an assembly line in a long time.
It's capable of doing what Cadillac has failed to do for years – compete with premium German sport sedans. There are three engines that buyers can choose from, but either way, they'll like the formidable strength of the car and its sleek exterior.
If there's one concern, it’s the polarizing CUE infotainment system. There are some reviewers who like it, but others find it overly complicated and maddeningly unresponsive. Definitely something you want to test for yourself before plunking down your money.
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2. Subaru BRZ/Scion FRS
MSRP: $25,495 - $27,495
Invoice: $24,327 - $26,112
Fuel Economy: 22 mpg City, 30 mpg Highway
Most of the time, you can offer a prediction on Car Of The Year candidates purely based on what models are most highly anticipated at the outset of the year. Once in a while an unheralded car sneaks in under the radar and turns out to be so exquisite that it’s not only the car itself, but its dramatic ascension, that makes it so enjoyable.
This year, that car is the Subaru BRZ/Scion FR-S. A joint and perhaps unlikely collaboration between Japanese automakers Toyota and Subaru, the BRZ and FRS give both companies a stake in the sports car market.
And what a beautiful sports car it is … or, they are. Automatic and manual transmissions are available and we, of course, recommend the six-speed manual, which is mated to a 2.0-liter flat-four engine that Subaru says will form the basis of its next turbo motor.
The bottom line is that in the world of fun-to-drive sports cars, this collaboration is a breakthrough success.
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1. Ford Fusion
MSRP: $21,700 - $32,200
Invoice: $20,235 - $29,705
Fuel Economy: 22 mpg City, 34 mpg Highway
And our number-one new car of the year is the 2013 Ford Fusion--boldly redesigned to not only riase the bar from the original Fusion, but to meet the stalwarts of the category--Toyota Camry, Honda Accord and Nissan Altima--pound for pound and dollar for value for performance, value and quality. The Fusion is spacious, well-powered and more fuel efficient than some of its competitors. If the Fusion wasn't a top-tier contender in the sedan market before, it is now.
The bold styling is seen in the car's front-end, which is audaciously reminiscent of the Aston Martin Rapide (Ford until recently owned Aston Martin). It's offered with three engines, including a 2.5-liter four-cylinder automatic or a six-speed manual with a turbo 1.6-liter EcoBoost engine.
The range-topping Fusion Titanium (base price $30,200 plus $795 destination) is equipped with the 2.0-liter engine and automatic transmission as standard equipment, but buyers are offered a choice between front- and all-wheel drive to tackle more challenging climates. The premium trim is configured with standard equipment like dual-zone climate control, leather upholstery, push-button start (with remote ignition on the key fob) and 18-inch alloy wheels.
If there's a caveat to be offered to consumers, it is this: While we also like the Fusion Hybrid, that car has been called out by Consumer Reports for not living up to advertised fuel economy in real-world driving. We like both models, and won;t hold back out award for the alleged shortcoming of the Hybrid.
The point here is that Ford has not led the mid-sized sedan "family four-door" market in earnest since the mid 1980s and early 1990s when the Ford Taurus was dominating U.S. driveways. The first generation Fusion was competent if bland. The new Fusion is exemplary in styling, handling, interior packaging, as well as fit and finish.
The Fusion is a homerun.
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