Another year, another round of new cars hits the market. We've seen this before, haven't we? Maybe, maybe not.
The first products designed after the global recession hit a few years ago have just begun to arrive in showrooms. Instead of warmed-over efforts designed to save a little fuel, the latest new cars have been designed from the ground-up to better correspond with the needs of drivers today.
That means that they're all way more fuel efficient than their predecessors. But more importantly, they're universally better to drive. We put our heads together to come up with a list of 10 new or substantially-revised-for-2013 cars that you must drive. We considered only cars that are currently available (or will be in the next few weeks)... while there are some pretty exciting cars coming up, we can't recommend them yet.
Buy one, borrow one, convince a dealer that you're a legitimate customer (hey, you might need to brush your hair and tuck your shirt in!). Any way you can, get behind the wheel of these. Our team of reviewers has sampled each one and we agree that they're all important new cars. Here's why.
10 New Cars You Must Drive
BMW M5. Arguably BMW's performance flagship (even though the M3 sells in higher volume and the M6 is sexier), the M5 has long carried the torch for the vaunted Motorsports division in Munich. This latest M5 sheds two cylinders but adds power. It's nothing like the (too) tame 528i – it's a ferocious machine that gives us renewed faith in BMW's M division.
Cadillac ATS. To take on European rivals, Cadillac needed a smaller car. Enter the slinkily-styled ATS. Skip the base 2.5-liter version for the sweet 2.0-liter turbocharged model with either a manual or automatic transmission. A brilliantly balanced chassis gives it handling that eclipses European rivals. No Cadillac has truly out-handled a BMW until now, but the ATS goes even further with a very nice interior. GM no longer needs to make excuses.
Dodge Dart. Chrysler hasn't fielded a truly world-class compact car in, well, ever. But the Alfa Romeo-derived Dart changes things. Riding on a chassis that speaks more Italiano than Inglese, the Dart isn't a styling knockout inside and out, but it is remarkably roomy and especially upmarket to drive. We've likened it to a miniature Mercedes-Benz E-Class, at least in terms of its sublime steering and suspension.
Ford Fusion. Whooo-weee! Ugly Betty has emerged as a budget-price Aston Martin. Sure, the new Fusion's look is hardly original, but this four-door sedan is nonetheless the class supermodel. Everything else looks pretty dowdy now. Moreover, a pair of turbocharged four-cylinders provide good grunt and the Fusion is genuinely enjoyable to drive. The best part? Enthusiasts can order a decently-optioned one with a stick shift, something that can't be said about most midsize sedans.
Ford Shelby GT500. The current generation Mustang's swansong tops out at over 200 mph, Ford says. Truth be told, we haven't tested one to that speed, but we're still more than a little impressed by Ford's ability to wring this much power (and commendable handling) out of a platform in its twilight years. Be careful!
Honda Accord. Get used to seeing lots of redesigned Accords as they make their way into new owners' hands this year. In addition to better looks from a more compact overall package, the new Accord shines in terms of high-tech value. That's something we've never said about notoriously stingy Honda before. We dig the standard high-resolution screen in the center of the dash, but we're mixed on the usefulness of a lane departure camera that displays in the same spot.
Hyundai Santa Fe Sport. It's no secret that Hyundai has figured out how to make attractive, high-value cars, but the Santa Fe is the automaker's first “no excuses” car. It's absolutely at the top of its class in terms of value, style, perceived quality and... driving dynamics. Previous Hyundais have looked good but revealed their heritage when pushed. Not the five-seat Santa Fe Sport, especially with its turbocharged engine.
Nissan Altima. It's going to take a little while for anyone in the midsize sedan class to top the Nissan Altima's highway fuel economy rating of 38 mpg. And that's for every four-cylinder Altima with the CVT, not just some special high-buck trim levels. Moreover, the new Altima boasts a class-up feel inside and out that makes it a serious contender among midsize sedans.
Ram 1500. Though the 2013 Ram 1500 doesn't look new, it's what's underneath that counts. Chrysler's excellent 3.6-liter V6 channels power through an eight-speed automatic transmission for the first time ever. For the way most buyers seem to use their trucks, the up-to-25 mpg Ram delivers midsize V6 sedan fuel economy with a trunk the size of a Manhattan apartment. Did it just become green to drive a full-size pickup?
Scion FR-S/ Subaru BRZ. Enthusiasts rejoice! Not since the original Mazda MX-5 Miata's arrival more than 20 years ago has a legitimate bargain-basement sports car arrived (in two identical flavors, to boot). Though the Sciubaru (that name may not stick) isn't going to win a drag race, it sends what power it delivers through the correct wheels. Add in excellent balance and highly-communicative steering and these little two-doors are just begging for a track day.