2008 Automobile All-Star Runners Up

2008 Buick Enclave/GMC Acadia/Saturn Outlook - Jason Cammisa

The world's greatest cars have no ambiguity in their purpose. Everybody knows what a 911's purpose is. Or a 3-series'. Or an Accord's.

Too many SUVs have unclear goals. People buy them as tools to haul people around town, but they were actually designed to haul stuff off-road. You won't see shots of this big SUV crossing a stream in GM's advertising, and for good reason.

GM's Triplets (Buick Enclave, GMC Acadia, and Saturn Outlook) have no such ambiguity. Freed of the compromises of off-road prowess, they set a mission - to carry people and their belongings - and completely nail it.

You'll have a hard time finding a vehicle anywhere that can swallow as much stuff as the Triplets - and do it in style and comfort to boot. Forget about the complaints that their 3.6-liter V-6 isn't "up to task." That's true only if the "task" is racing a 911.

Unlike so many cars, the EnclAcadiOutlook's task is so clearly defined and so cleanly executed that it's a winner regardless of whether it's an All-Star.

2008 Honda Accord - Sam Smith

This - this, this, this - this is utter baloney. Horsehockey. Junk. (I'd be more explicit, but you're reading this on a family-oriented website.) If the Honda Accord isn't the most easily electable All-Star on the planet, then my name is Paris Q. Richie-Lohan-Fawcett-Majors the third. It's a good car; no, no, it's a very good car, one deserving of so much more. Leaving the Accord off Automobile Magazine's list of ten wonders of the automotive universe is like saying The Godfather is a lame little movie about some bickering Italians. It's just not right.

Why all the fuss? Simple: The Accord is a four-door family sedan that doesn't cost a gazillion dollars, it's roomy and spacious inside, it's got a decent amount of personality and a great engine, and it's actually somewhat entertaining to drive. (Take that, Toyota Camry.) Yes, the Accord is bigger than it used to be. (For reference, it's now closer in size to the bargelike Toyota Avalon than the original, first-generation Accord sedan.) And yes, interior quality - surprising for a Honda - isn't off-the-charts fantastic. But by and large, the Accord does what it does in a traditionally Hondaesque fashion: It seems indestructible, it revs like crazy, it's both comfy and a decent handler, and it's a relative bargain. Plus, it's deceptively fast. On our annual All-Stars drive through Ohio, the Accord was able to keep up with any number of faster, ostensibly "better" cars. (I'm looking at you, Volkswagen GTI.) I don't love the Accord, but I like it a lot. And, even though I'm only one of a handful of people who voted for it, it should have been an All-Star. There. I said it. Everyone else is wrong!

2008 Jaguar XK/XKR - Joe DeMatio

Oh, my. If there's a car that meets the needs of the Automobile Magazine fraternity, it would be the Jaguar XK and its supercharged sibling, the XKR. How my dear colleagues here failed to cast their ballots appropriately and bestow upon it the All-Star award it so richly deserves is beyond me. Stylish, sleek, powerful, and chic, it is the perfect grand tourer in the Jaguar tradition of pace and grace and all that business from Sir William Lyons.

What we have here is what the XJ should have been: a thoroughly modern Jaguar, not a throwback to the Twiggy era, one that takes the bonded and riveted aluminum construction that Jaguar pioneered four years ago with the old-looking XJ and wraps it in a contemporary and seductive package.

I will repeat here what I said in the logbook of our Four Seasons XK last summer: I came off a week when I drove the 2008 Dodge Viper, with 600 hp; a Lingenfelter Corvette, with 600-plus hp; and a Mercedes AMG V-12 coupe, with about 600 hp. Then I got into our Jaguar XK and feared that it would feel slow. Not a chance. It was as light and lithe and responsive as I had remembered. It's an All-Star in my book.

2008 Jeep Wrangler - Rusty Blackwell

Sports cars and luxury sedans are great; sure, fine, whatever. But most garages also require a utilitarian steed, a vehicle that can be depended on to take you places too rugged for your suave BMW 3-series while carrying things too bulky for your tiny Lotus Elise. The problem is that most pickups and SUVs that fit this bill - even the All-Star Mazda CX-9 to a lesser extent - aren't anywhere near as fun as the aforementioned sporty sweethearts. Enter the Jeep Wrangler.

For decades, the functionally fun Jeep has served everyone from soldier to Samaritan, hiker to homemaker. Heck, we even named its military forefather one of the twenty-five greatest cars of all-time in our September 2007 issue (page 120).

The newest generation of the basic Jeep, introduced in 2006, takes all of these talents and combines them in a package - the four-door Wrangler Unlimited - that's finally large enough to comfortably contain four adults and a weekend's worth of their gear for activities such as backwoods camping escapades, handyman construction projects, cross-country voyages . . . you name it. Meanwhile, Jeep purists can still buy a shorter-wheelbase, two-door model for less money.

The Jeep's updates haven't diminished the adventurous spirit of the versatile Wrangler. There's simply no other new vehicle in which you can tow your Jet Skis with the top down and the doors removed, all while rowing a satisfying, old-school stick shift.

I know, I know: the Wrangler isn't perfect. It's pricey, fuel economy is less than 20 mpg, the zippers-and-Velcro ragtop can be tricky to operate, and the primitive driving dynamics are - shall we say - exceptionally interactive. But the last two things are also part of what gives the Wrangler its charm. And when you're cruising through town or enjoying a moderate back-road blast, wind in your face, it doesn't get any better in SUV-land.

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