OK, it's that time of year -- time to draft our late-December, end-of-year "best of" lists. So here are our picks for top sedans in the market today. We used the big-tent approach and included some of the more affordable choices in addition to the high-end chariots with eye-opening price tags that, alas, most us can only aspire to some day. But we can dream, can't we?
We took into account styling, value, performance, and the automaker's reputation for reliability, plus some subjectivity thrown in for good taste.
In no particular order our editors' picks for top sedans are:
MSRP: $86,700 - $194,000
The S-Class encompasses a wide range of high-end luxury sedans that ooze power and style -- including the top-of-the line S600, which is powered by an upgraded 5.5-liter twin-turbo 510 hp V12 engine; the S65 AMG, a performance-tuned version powered by a 6.0 612 hp V-12; the S550, which has a 5.5-liter 382 hp V8 under the hood; and the S63, with its 6.2-liter 525 hp V-8. As always with Mercedes, the styling, long-term dependability and plush refinements are world-class.
Performance enthusiasts love the BMW 760Li. The Bavarian company's flagship sedan is powered by a 6.0-liter V-12 engine that churns out 438 hp. But the 760Li's extended wheelbase also creates more interior space for passenger comfort, and the Li is loaded with various high-tech features like the 6-speed Steptronic transmission, iDrive, Logic7 audio system, ultrasonic parking distance control and cabin voice command. Best of all for speed demons: BMW boasts that the 760Li can do the 0-to-60 sprint in 5.4 seconds.
MSRP: $32,245 - $36,445
The redesigned 2008 CTS was named Motor Trend's Car of the Year, and for good reason: It's a nimble, maneuverable sedan that added more horsepower, pumped up the luxurious, yet muscular styling, created more interior space and comes in an all-wheel-drive edition. The interior is all new and proves Cadillac can hang with the best of them.The four-cam, variable valve-timing, 3.6-liter V6 delivers 263 horsepower and 253 pound-feet of torque. And buyers can opt for a direct-injection version of that engine that cranks out 304 horsepower and 273 pound-feet of torque. Other great features include a standard Bose audio system with eight speakers and both USB and auxiliary MP3-player jacks.
MSRP: $31,600 - $32,400
The Infiniti G35 is indeed a sedan, but with a 3.5-liter V6 engine that cranks out 306 horsepower, it delivers a driving experience more akin to that of sportier models. Plus, it boasts the luxury amenities that Infiniti is known for. The G35 sedan comes in four variations -- base, G35 Journey, G35x AWD, and G35 Sport, all powered by that 3.5-liter V6 plant. The five-speed automatic transmission is standard, and it comes with a manual mode for those who like to be in control.
MSRP: $24,595 - $41,585
The current Chrysler 300 made a big splash when it rolled out for the '05 model year, creating long waiting lists at dealerships and becoming a "must-have" for hip-hop celebrities. The 300 still casts a unique visage, with a more assertive stance and bolder styling than your typical sedan. Depending on power requirements, buyers can chose either the 178 hp 2.7-liter V-6 or the 250hp 3.5-liter V-6. Or, if you really want to go for broke, you can rev up to the 300C model, which is powered by a 350-hp 5.7-liter Hemi V8. Want even more power and exclusivity? Opt for the big-boy 300C SRT8 version with a whopping 425-hp.
MSRP: $19,345 - $26,345
Redsigned for the 2008 model year, the Malibu now boasts a sportier stance and more luxurious styling cues borrowed from some of GM's more high-end nameplates -- and was named as one of Car & Driver's 10 Best Cars of the Year. Buyers can choose from among four trim levels and a hybrid model. The standard power plant is a 169-hp, 2.4-liter four-cylinder matched to a four-speed automatic transmission. But a 252-hp, 3.6-liter V6 can be added as an option on the mid-line LT and high-end LTZ. The redesigned Malibu now comes with seat-mounted thorax airbags, side-curtain airbags, and anti-lock brakes.
MSRP: $20,360 - $28,310
The Accord has been a perennial top seller for years, and the 2008 redesigned model was also named to Car & Driver's 10 Best list. It's been refreshed with a new body style, a bigger engine, a roomier back seat and more safety features. The Accord -- which is also available as coupe -- gives buyers the choice of a 2.4-liter four-cylinder or 3.5-liter V-6 engine. Your head might spin from all the trim levels -- LX-P, LX, EX, and EX-L -- but it's nice to have choices, right? While cloth seats are standard, EX-L models come with a leather-covered steering wheel and leather seats.
MSRP: $18,570 - $28,120
Another high-volume sedan, the Toyota Camry has continued to impress buyers over the years with its quality, fuel economy and long-term reliability. The 2008 edition is a carryover from the '07 model, but offers two optional upgrade packages. In addition to being offered as a hybrid model, the five-passenger Camry comes in four other trim levels -- CE, LE, SE, and XLE -- which come with a 158-hp, 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine as standard equipment. However, for those who yearn to occasionally break free from the family-sedan routine, a 268-hp, 3.5-liter V6 is optional on the LE, SE, and XLE models.
MSRP: $14,075 - $16,375
This lower-priced entry is an excellent choice for a first-time car buyer or those on a budget. Restyled for 2008, the Focus' main claim to fame at present is the high-tech Sync system, which allows the driver to integrate and "synch up" the functions of various must-have electronic devices like mp3 players, cell phones, etc.,making it especially attractive to younger buyers. This system, the result of a partnership with Microsoft, sets the Focus apart from most other small sedans. The '08 adds some nifty styling touches like a larger chrome grille and a higher stance. The Focus continues to be powered by a 2.0-liter inline four cylinder engine with a choice.
MSRP: $13,895 - $19,895
The Mazda3 has been a favorite among driving enthusiasts since it was first launched in 2004, due to its sleek styling, deft road manners and zippy engine. The more fuel-conscious among us can go with the entry-level Mazda3 i model and its 2.0-liter, 148-hp plant, while the more sport-minded types will want to choose the 2.3-liter Mazda3 s edition and its 2.3-liter, 156-hp engine. It also comes with plenty of other choices: Buyers can opt for the either the Sport, Touring or Grand Touring equipment levels.