2013 Automobile Of The Year: Let The Testing Begin

Automobile Staff
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It's that time again. No, we're not talking college football, major-league baseball post-season action, or even habitual trips to the cider mill for freshly-pressed juice and sugary treats. It's time for Automobile's editors and contributors to break out of the offices, retreat to a secretive spot in western Michigan, sample some of the latest and greatest sheetmetal on the market, and ultimately name one vehicle as the 2013 Automobile Of The Year.

Our testing and deliberation runs this entire week, and here's a quick peek at what cars we're bringing along in tow. One of these contenders will ultimately be named the 2013 Automobile of the Year. We won't publicly name a winner until November, but if you want to keep tabs on our testing and thought process, you're in luck. Turn to Automobile's Facebook page, or follow us on Twitter (look for the #AMAoY hashtag) to come along for the ride!

2013 Acura ILX Premium

The manual transmission is one of the best to come from Honda to date -- the clutch is perfectly weighted and boasts linear take-up, and shift throws are smooth, short, and positive."

Engine: 2.4-liter DOHC I-4
Power: 201 hp @7000 rpm
Torque: 170 lb-ft @ 4400 rpm
Transmission: 6-speed manual
Drive: Front-wheel
Base price: $30,095
As-tested: $30,095
 
2013 Audi RS5 Coupe

"With its silky engine, lively differential, and stout brakes, the RS5 is every bit worthy of the RS badge."

Engine: 4.2-liter DOHC V-8
Power: 450 hp @8250 rpm
Torque: 317 lb-ft @ 4000 rpm
Transmission: 7-speed automatic
Drive: 4-wheel
Base price: $69,795
As-tested: $75,820
 

2013 Audi S7

"Luxury, performance, and style -- the S7 delivers everything the A7 does, only with a sportier edge. We're still smitten with the less powerful, more efficient supercharged V-6 in the A7, but the twin-turbo V-8 is similarly sweet for those who demand more."

Engine: Twin-turbo, 4.0-liter DOHC V-8
Power: 420 hp @ 6400 rpm
Torque: 406 lb-ft @ 1400 rpm
Transmission: 7-speed automatic
Drive: 4-wheel
Base price: $79,695
As tested: $86,170
 
2013 BMW 335i Sport Line

"In the 335i, you revel in the engine's noise. Its broad, flat torque curve means you don't have to rev the engine -- but you want to. You want to hear it, you want to feel it, and you wind up loving it. More so than ever, it's an emotional decision rather than a rational one -- but with three pedals in the driver's footwell, there's still no sport sedan better than a BMW 335i."

Engine: Turbocharged 3.0-liter DOHC I-6
Power: 300 hp @ 5800 rpm
Torque: 300 lb-ft @ 1200 rpm
Transmission: 6-speed manual
Drive: Rear-wheel
Base price: $43,295
As tested: $55,745 
 
 
2012 BMW M5

"The M5's got almost all of the refinement of the current 5-series, all of the tech features, gorgeous styling, and elegant interior. And then it's got razor-sharp handling and the best steering we've seen in a 5-series in a long time, if not ever. And then it'll rip that smile off your face with outrageous acceleration."

Engine: Twin-turbocharged 4.4-liter DOHC V-8
Power: 560 hp @ 6000 rpm
Torque: 500 lb-ft @ 1500 rpm
Transmission: 7-speed automatic
Drive: Rear-wheel
Base price: $92,095
As tested: $106,695
 
2013 BMW X1 xDrive 28i

"Getting some seat time in the X1 reminded us just how much better the old 3-series worked. Sure, it doesn't have quite as many gadgets and gizmos -- and neither the 1-series, the X1, nor the old 3-series is as pretty as the new 3-series -- but those earlier cars have a fundamental, built-in "just right" factor. The steering, the brakes, the ride, the handling, and all the secondary controls and instruments just feel perfect."

Engine: Turbocharged 2.0-liter DOHC I-4
Power: 240 hp @ 5000 rpm
Torque: 260 lb-ft @ 1250 rpm
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Drive: 4-wheel
Base price: $33,245
As tested: $45,095
 
2013 Cadillac ATS 2.0T Premium

"The ATS is a solid effort that at last puts a Cadillac on par with the German competitors it has fixated on for so long."

Engine: Turbocharged 2.0-liter
Power: 272 hp @ 5500 rpm
Torque: 260 hp @ 1700 rpm
Transmission: 6-speed manual
Drive: Rear-wheel
Base price: $44,315
As tested: $45,910
2013 Cadillac ATS 3.6 Premium

Engine: 3.6-liter DOHC V-6
Power: 321 hp @ 6800 rpm
Torque: 275 lb-ft @ 4800 rpm
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
Drive: Rear-wheel
Base price: $44,315
As tested: $45,910
 
2012 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1

"By the spec sheet alone, the result of the engineers' efforts reads much like a CTS-V: 6.2-liter supercharged LSA V-8, magnetorheological dampers, limited-slip differential, and a tad too much weight. But with the Camaro, engineers sacrificed some of the Cadillac's civility to place greater emphasis on tuning the ZL1 for days at the track and nights at the drag strip."

Engine: Supercharged 6.2-liter OHV V-8
Power: 580 hp @ 6100 rpm
Torque: 556 lb-ft @ 3800 rpm
Transmission: 6-speed manual
Drive: Rear-wheel
Base price: $56,295
As tested: $58,335
 
2013 Dodge Dart Limited

"The Dart's Italian DNA is perhaps most visible to the driver. While the steering rack isn't especially communicative, it makes up for it with a quick ratio, a natural feeling of heft, and excellent straight-line stability."

Engine: Turbocharged 1.4-liter SOHC I-4
Power: 160 hp @ 6400 rpm
Torque: 148 lb-ft @ 4600 rpm
Transmission: 6-speed manual
Drive: Front-wheel
Base price: $21,785
As tested: $25,065
 

2012 Fiat 500 Abarth

"The turbo four blats to life with a distinct and characterful exhaust note (fitting, given that aftermarket exhaust kits were one of the Abarth company's earliest and most successful products). The exhaust is quite loud under acceleration but the noise fades almost completely when you're just cruising."

Engine: Turbocharged 1.4-liter SOHC I-4
Power: 160 hp @ 5500 rpm
Torque: 170 lb-ft @ 2500 rpm
Transmission: 5-speed manual
Drive: Front-wheel
Base price: $22,700
As tested: $25,200
 

2013 Ford Focus ST

"The Focus ST is not exactly a world-beater in terms of refinement, handling balance, or ergonomics. But it does offer a lot of car and performance for the money, it scores an undisputed ten on the entertainment scale, and it won't fall apart when pushed to the limit."

Engine: Turbocharged 2.0-liter DOHC I-4
Power: 252 hp @ 5500 rpm
Torque: 270 lb-ft @ 2500 rpm
Transmission: 6-speed manual
Drive: Front-wheel
Base price: $24,495
As tested: $28,170
 
2013 Ford Fusion SE

"Much has been made of the new Fusion’s styling, which completely walked away from the previous version, instead embracing elements from Aston Martin (the front end), the Audi A7 (the tapered tail), and the Hyundai Sonata (the side view). That may be a disparate trio, but the result is a cohesive whole, and one with an undeniable family resemblance to other recent Fords."

Engine: Turbocharged 1.6-liter DOHC I-4
Power: 178 hp @ 5700 rpm
Torque: 184 lb-ft @ 2500 rpm
Transmission: 6-speed manual
Drive: Front-wheel
Base price: $24,495
As tested: $26,040
2013 Ford Fusion Titanium AWD

Engine: Turbocharged 2.0-liter DOHC I-4
Power: 240 hp @ 5500 rpm
Torque: 270 lb-ft @ 3000 rpm
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
Drive: 4-wheel
Base price: $32,995
As tested: $37,670
 
2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid

"Ford understands that in the hybrid arena, it’s all about the MPGs. Thus, the company is justifiably proud that the new Fusion Hybrid brought home EPA ratings of 47 mpg city and 47 mpg highway, numbers that not only well surpass the 41/36 mpg ratings of the previous model but, more importantly, solidly beat the target Toyota Camry Hybrid’s 43/39 mpg—not to mention the also-ran Hyundai Sonata Hybrid’s 35/40 mpg."

Engine: 2.0-liter DOHC I-4 w/ electric motor
Power(engine/ electric motor): 141 hp @ 6000 rpm/ 118 hp @ 6000 rpm
Torque (engine/ electric motor) 129 lb-ft @ 4000 rpm/ 117 lb-ft
Transmission: Continuously variable
Drive: Front-wheel
Base price: $27,995
As tested: $30,975
 
2013 Honda Accord Sport sedan

The four-cylinder Honda Accord, despite its copycat styling, suffers from very little in the way of drawbacks. In fact, it's good enough for us to say it has squeaked past the Toyota Camry and regained its spot at the top of the class.
Engine: 2.4-liter DOHC I-4
Power: 185 hp @ 6400 rpm
Torque: 181 lb-ft @ 3900 rpm
Transmission: 6-speed manual
Drive: Front-wheel
Base price: $24,180
As tested: $24,180
 
2013 Honda Accord EX-L Coupe

Engine: 3.5-liter SOHC V-6
Power: 278 hp @ 6200 rpm
Torque: 252 lb-ft @ 4900 rpm
Transmission: 6-speed manual
Drive: Front-wheel
Base price: $33,140
As tested: $33,140
 
2013 Lexus GS350 F Sport

"The new GS350, particularly the F Sport, shows real progress in making a more rewarding driver’s car." 

Engine: 3.5-liter DOHC V-8
Power: 303 hp @ 6200 rpm
Torque: 274 lb-ft @ 3600 rpm
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
Drive: Rear-wheel
Base price: $47,745
As tested: $55,869 
 
2013 Mazda CX-5 Grand Touring

"The CX-5 is a flexible, thoughtful, sharp-looking vehicle that has been crafted from the ground up to give its all in the service of those who love to drive."

Engine: 2.0-liter DOHC I-4
Power: 155 hp @ 6000 rpm
Torque: 150 lb-ft @ 4000 rpm
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
Drive: Front-wheel
Base price: $27,840
As tested: $29,165
 
2013 Mercedes-Benz SL550

"The new SL's interior is more opulent than that of any previous SL; every last piece is high-style, from the dash vents to the small, leather-lined, embossed shifter. The aging Comand system feels unnecessarily complicated compared with newer systems from other makers, and the gauges themselves look slightly plasticky and cheap, but overall, this is Benz's most glamorous and well-constructed interior."

Engine: Twin-turbocharged 4.7-liter DOHC V-8
Power: 429 hp @ 5250 rpm
Torque: 516 lb-ft @ 1800 rpm
Transmission: 7-speed automatic
Drive: Rear-wheel
Base price: $106,405
As tested: $123,445
 
2012 Mini Cooper S Roadster

"Turbo lag is not an issue, and this engine gleefully zings the Roadster down urban freeways and rural two-lanes, accompanied by a snarling exhaust note -- and the occasional racy popping through the exhaust on throttle lift-off."

Engine: Turbocharged 1.6-liter DOHC I-4
Power: 181 hp @ 5500 rpm
Torque: 177 lb-ft @ 1600 rpm
Transmission: 6-speed manual
Drive: Front-wheel
Base price: $28,050
As tested: $33,650
 

2013 Nissan Altima 2.5 SV

It's the Altima's bells and whistles that Nissan hopes will lure customers away from the Camry -- and this new Nissan is packed full of tech goodies aped from more expensive vehicles. All Altimas are equipped with a keyless push-button ignition, and most trim levels include remote starting.

Engine: 2.5-liter DOHC I-4
Power: 182 hp @ 6000 rpm
Torque: 180 lb-ft @ 4000 rpm
Transmission: Continuously variable
Drive: Front-wheel
Base price: $24,880
As tested: $27,005 
2013 Nissan Altima 3.5 SL

Engine: 3.5-liter DOHC V-6
Power: 270 hp @ 6000 rpm
Torque: 251 lb-ft @ 4400 rpm
Transmission: Continuously variable
Drive: Front-wheel
Base price: $31,580
As tested: $32,135
 
2013 Porsche Boxster S

"The Boxster is still a very connected, very visceral drive, no matter what all the improvements to ride quality and refinement might lead you to expect. We're left unsupervised on the track for a couple of hours and, frankly, it's gut-wrenching to hand back the keys."

Engine: 3.4-liter DOHC flat-six
Power: 315 hp @ 6700 rpm
Torque: 266 lb-ft @ 4500 rpm
Transmission: 6-speed manual
Drive: Rear-wheel
Base price: $61,850
As tested: $85,410 
 
2012 Porsche 911 Carrera S

"If you've ever driven a Porsche 911, you'll immediately know that the 991 is different. In quantifiable terms, it's leaps and bounds better than any previous 911. It sounds even better, it rides even better, it feels even better, it's even more comfortable, better equipped, and it's far better looking."

Engine: 3.8-liter DOHC flat-six
Power: 400 hp @ 7400 rpm
Torque: 325 lb-ft @ 5600 rpm
Transmission: 7-speed automatic
Drive: Rear-wheel
Base price: $97,350
As tested: $124,910 
 
2013 Subaru BRZ Premium

The Subaru BRZ, however, is very much a sports car, and it’s the kind we don’t see much anymore: light, lithe, fun, and affordable. That’s an unusual formula in this age of overpriced, overpowered image machines. The BRZ offers a world of usable, accessible performance with a straightforward purity that’s rare today, and the car itself should be accessible to a broad swath of enthusiast drivers.

Engine: 2.0-liter DOHC flat-four
Power: 200 hp @ 7000 rpm
Torque: 151 lb-ft @ 6400 rpm
Transmission: 6-speed manual
Drive: Rear-wheel
Base price: $26,265
As tested: $26,265
 
2012 Tesla Model S Performance

"Pulling this handle, we slid into our red car, inhaling the rich aroma of Nappa leather upholstery and noting the low seating position. We gaped at the most overpowering feature, namely, the glossy, sports-bar-sized central touchscreen, which has more graphical modes than magicians have hats and rabbits. The driver's instrument display also made us blink and gape. There are no bezels, indicators, counters, gauges, or needles. Watchmaker Edmond Jaeger would weep at the sight."

Battery: 85-kWh, Lithium-ion
Motor: Three-phase, four pole AC induction motor with copper rotor
Power: 416 hp @ 5000 rpm
Torque: 443 lb-ft
Transmission: Single-speed transaxle
Drive: Rear-wheel
Base price: $93,570
As tested: $102,270 
 

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