Whoever coined the phrase "beauty is in the eye of the beholder" probably wasn't thinking about cars at the time. But he could have been -- because, when it comes to auto design, one man's masterpiece can sometimes be another man's monstrosity.
Sure, some gorgeous body designs have come down the pipeline over the years that most folks agreed on. But, generally speaking, the notion of what constitutes a great-looking car is a matter of individual taste and preference. So, for our year-end list of the "Best Looking Cars" out there in showrooms today, we decided to give you, the readers, a chance to make your voice heard.
We've put together the list of nominees for the best-looking cars in each of seven different categories -- Super Luxury, Luxury Sedan, Family Sedan, Coupe, Sports Car, SUV and CUV. Weve picked three nominees in each category -- using our own particular tastes and expertise as a guidelines. (Someone has to be the gatekeeper, right?)
So, have a look at our nominees and vote for your favorite. We'll follow-up in January with a story on the results of this AOL Reader's Poll.
MSRP: $333,350 - $385,500
The price tag alone should alert you that the Rolls-Royce Phantom IV, an English beauty if we ever saw one, is a rarified high-luxury chariot. Cavernous and incredibly plush, the Phantom is powered by a 453-hp 6.8-litre V12 engine hitched to a six-speed automatic transmission. It now also comes in an extended-wheelbase version.
MSRP: $119,000 - $135,000
The Quattroporte is Maserati's ultra-luxury-sport sedan, and it's svelte but curvy profile makes it one of the sexiest-looking cars on the road. There are two versions -- the Quattroporte Executive GT, which stresses luxury enhancements, and the new-for-'08 Quattroporte Sport GT S, which flexes its muscle with copious high-performance features. Both are powered by a 400-hp Ferrari-designed V8 that's mated to a quick-shifting ZF six-speed automatic transmission.
MSRP: $221,990 - $263,990
The exotic and wildly expensive Arnage is the flagship of the iconic Bentley nameplate. The Arnage name carries a rich legacy, and has long defined Bentley's tradition as an ultra-luxury carmaker. The 6.8-liter V-8 engine in the R and RL models produces 450 hp, while the sport-tuned version in the T model delivers 500 horses.
MSRP: $32,245 - $36,445
The handsome, redesigned 2008 CTS is a luxurious, muscular and quick on its feet. The four-cam, variable-valve-timing 3.6-liter V6 delivers 263 hp, but a direct-injection version that cranks out 304 horses is a recommended option. And the new edition is even roomier than its predecessor.
MSRP: $46,280 - $53,700
The flagship of the Acura brand, the RL sports stylish lines that are the finest in the Acura staple. Under the hood is a 3.5-liter 290-hp V6 engine, which is given a nice boost from the optional 5-speed SportShift transmission with Overdrive.
The M5 is a limited-production number that not only looks great but has a beast under the hood -- a hand-built 500-hp 5.0-liter V10. Adding to its performance abilities are finely-tuned suspension and steering system. Plus, an MDrive button changes the settings to enhance its sport capabilities even further.
MSRP: $20,360 - $28,310
The venerable Accord has been redesigned for 2008, and now boasts a sleeker look. Buyers can choose between a 2.4-liter four-cylinder or 3.5-liter V-6 -- and also choose from among four trim levels -- LX-P, LX, EX, and EX-L.
MSRP: $24,595 - $33,815
The current Chrysler 300 turned heads when it debuted for the '05 model year, and strikes an imposing stance that's bolder than most sedans. Engine choices for the 300 include a 178 hp 2.7-liter V-6 or a 250-hp 3.5-liter V-6. Moving up to the pricier 300c edition gives you a stout 340-hp 5.7-liter Hemi V8.
MSRP: $19,345 - $26,345
Refreshed for the 2008 model year, the Malibu now looks sportier and more nimble. The standard engine is 164-hp 2.4-liter four-cylinder matched to a four-speed automatic transmission. But if you're up for a power increase, a 252-hp 3.6-liter V6 can be added as an option on the mid-line LT and high-end LTZ.
MSRP: $25,105 - $29,305
When the Sky rolled out for the '07 model year, Saturn definitely shrugged off its reputation as carmaker that only builds modest and economical sedans. The Sky is one of the most stylish-looking sports cars out there today, with flowing but sculpted body lines. A two-seat roadster, the Sky relies on a 172 hp 2.4 liter engine -- but the high-performance Red Line version kicks that up to 260 horses.
MSRP: $27,980 - $40,330
A popular and zippy model, the 350Z gives you five body styles to choose from, all of them lookers -- including five coupes and three roadsters. All are powered by the new 306-hp 3.5-liter V-6, and buyers have the option of a six-speed manual gearbox or a five-speed automatic with a manual mode.
MSRP: $45,400 - $70,175
The Corvette has always been one of the more eye-catching sportsters on the road, and current editions are even more striking, with its long, rocket-like body style -- although the present Vette also borrows some styling cues from its heritage. The coupe and convertible are powered by the LS3 6.2-liter 430-hp V-8 engine, while the Z06 has a 505 horsepower LS7 7.0-liter V8 monster that's just begging to be unleashed.
MSRP: $45,900 - $54,500
The BMW X5 is one of many SUVs that have hit the market in the last few years that combine agile road manners, swift acceleration and luxo-line interior touches. The X5 comes in two trim levels -- the 3.0si and 4.8i. The 3.0si relies on a 260 hp 3.0-liter V6, while the 4.8i gets it thrust from a brawnier 350-hp 4.8-liter V8. In both models, the engine is mated to a standard six-speed automatic transmission. AWD is also standard.
MSRP: $42,500 - $58,600
The Q7 is another full-sized entry that brings elegance and eye-pleasing lines to the sport-utility segment. It's available in two models -- the 3.6 and 4.2, which also come with premium trim levels. Under the hood of the 3.6 model is, naturally, a 3.6-liter V6 that provides 280 hp. The 4.2 is powered by a 4.2-liter V8 that cranks out 350 hp and also comes with a nice high-tech touch: Bluetooth connectivity.
MSRP: $55,010 - $57,565
The Escalade manages to look rugged, handsome and luxurious, all at once. The design sparkles with chrome and nicely sculpted lines, and it has been enhanced for 2008 with a more powerful engine -- a 403 hp 6.2-liter V-8 that is hitched to a six-speed automatic transmission. A hybrid Escalade uses a de-tuned version of the same plant, working in concert with an electric motor.
MSRP: $23,750 - $28,000
The CX-7 brings dynamic styling and curvy shapes to the CUV segment, while also retaining a sporty visage. That's fitting, because it handles in sport-like fashion as well, thanks in part to a zippy 2.3L turbocharged 4-cylinder engine that conjures 244 hp. Four-wheel-drive is standard, with AWD offered as an option. Safety features include antilock disc brakes with electronic brake-force distribution and electronic stability control with traction control.
Being a high-line nameplate, Infiniti always brings smarts, quality and eye appeal to the table, and the Infiniti FX45 is no exception. It combines aesthetic appeal with utility, and is a speedy number to boot: The FX45 is equipped with a 4.5 liter V8 that produces 320 hp. The good looks continue when you go inside, where the interior boasts aluminum and wood interior trim finish as standard equipment.
MSRP: $32,255 - $36,455
A newcomer to the crossover segment for '08 model year, the Enclave impresses immediately with its proud stance and windswept curves -- not to mention prominent fenders and natural-looking shapes. Meanwhile, the interior design borrows a few hints from GM's luxury SUVs. Enclave's power plant is a 3.6-liter V6 that delivers 275 hp. FWD is standard, AWD is optional.
MSRP: $86,035 - $92,035
With a body style that most resembles a svelte bullet -- in full "whoosh" motion -- the Jaguar XKR is a light aluminum performance sports car that also upholds the luxury standards implied by, and expected of, the Jaguar nameplate. Based on the XK, the XKR also comes as a convertible, and gets its power from a 4.2-liter 420 hp V8, tied to a six-speed automatic transmission.
MSRP: $95,300 - $187,200
This luxurious, sporty, windswept coupe actually comprises four different entries -- the SL550 and SL600 Roadsters, as well as the SL55 AMG and SL65 AMG. Depending on how much power you desire, you can choose from a range of burly engines -- from the 382-hp 5.5L V-8 in the SL550 on up to the 604-hp AMG-built biturbo 6.0L V-12 in the SL 65 AMG. In between those two are a couple of 5.5-L 510-hp numbers.
MSRP: $79,150 - $84,160
When Cadillac overhauled its luxury-car stable a few years ago to draw younger buyers, this edgy-looking rocket was one of the keys to that strategy. Finely-sculpted and low-slung, it's a real attention-getter. A high-performance number based on its Corvette cousin, the XLR takes full advantage of the 320-hp 4.6-liter Northstar V8 engine that purrs beneath the hood. Three editions are available -- Base, Premium and Alpine White.