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!
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-4Power: 201 hp @7000 rpmTorque: 170 lb-ft @ 4400 rpmTransmission: 6-speed manualDrive: Front-wheelBase price: $30,095As-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-8Power: 450 hp @8250 rpmTorque: 317 lb-ft @ 4000 rpmTransmission: 7-speed automaticDrive: 4-wheelBase price: $69,795As-tested: $75,820
"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-8Power: 420 hp @ 6400 rpmTorque: 406 lb-ft @ 1400 rpmTransmission: 7-speed automaticDrive: 4-wheelBase price: $79,695As 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-6Power: 300 hp @ 5800 rpmTorque: 300 lb-ft @ 1200 rpmTransmission: 6-speed manualDrive: Rear-wheelBase price: $43,295As 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-8Power: 560 hp @ 6000 rpmTorque: 500 lb-ft @ 1500 rpmTransmission: 7-speed automaticDrive: Rear-wheelBase price: $92,095As 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-4Power: 240 hp @ 5000 rpmTorque: 260 lb-ft @ 1250 rpmTransmission: 8-speed automaticDrive: 4-wheelBase price: $33,245As 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-literPower: 272 hp @ 5500 rpmTorque: 260 hp @ 1700 rpmTransmission: 6-speed manualDrive: Rear-wheelBase price: $44,315As tested: $45,9102013 Cadillac ATS 3.6 Premium
Engine: 3.6-liter DOHC V-6Power: 321 hp @ 6800 rpmTorque: 275 lb-ft @ 4800 rpmTransmission: 6-speed automaticDrive: Rear-wheelBase price: $44,315As 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-8Power: 580 hp @ 6100 rpmTorque: 556 lb-ft @ 3800 rpmTransmission: 6-speed manualDrive: Rear-wheelBase price: $56,295As 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-4Power: 160 hp @ 6400 rpmTorque: 148 lb-ft @ 4600 rpmTransmission: 6-speed manualDrive: Front-wheelBase price: $21,785As tested: $25,065
"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-4Power: 160 hp @ 5500 rpmTorque: 170 lb-ft @ 2500 rpmTransmission: 5-speed manualDrive: Front-wheelBase price: $22,700As tested: $25,200
"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-4Power: 252 hp @ 5500 rpmTorque: 270 lb-ft @ 2500 rpmTransmission: 6-speed manualDrive: Front-wheelBase price: $24,495As 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-4Power: 178 hp @ 5700 rpmTorque: 184 lb-ft @ 2500 rpmTransmission: 6-speed manualDrive: Front-wheelBase price: $24,495As tested: $26,0402013 Ford Fusion Titanium AWD
Engine: Turbocharged 2.0-liter DOHC I-4Power: 240 hp @ 5500 rpmTorque: 270 lb-ft @ 3000 rpmTransmission: 6-speed automaticDrive: 4-wheelBase price: $32,995As 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 motorPower(engine/ electric motor): 141 hp @ 6000 rpm/ 118 hp @ 6000 rpmTorque (engine/ electric motor) 129 lb-ft @ 4000 rpm/ 117 lb-ftTransmission: Continuously variableDrive: Front-wheelBase price: $27,995As 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-4Power: 185 hp @ 6400 rpmTorque: 181 lb-ft @ 3900 rpmTransmission: 6-speed manualDrive: Front-wheelBase price: $24,180As tested: $24,180 2013 Honda Accord EX-L Coupe
Engine: 3.5-liter SOHC V-6Power: 278 hp @ 6200 rpmTorque: 252 lb-ft @ 4900 rpmTransmission: 6-speed manualDrive: Front-wheelBase price: $33,140As 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-8Power: 303 hp @ 6200 rpmTorque: 274 lb-ft @ 3600 rpmTransmission: 6-speed automaticDrive: Rear-wheelBase price: $47,745As 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-4Power: 155 hp @ 6000 rpmTorque: 150 lb-ft @ 4000 rpmTransmission: 6-speed automaticDrive: Front-wheelBase price: $27,840As 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-8Power: 429 hp @ 5250 rpmTorque: 516 lb-ft @ 1800 rpmTransmission: 7-speed automaticDrive: Rear-wheelBase price: $106,405As 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-4Power: 181 hp @ 5500 rpmTorque: 177 lb-ft @ 1600 rpmTransmission: 6-speed manualDrive: Front-wheelBase price: $28,050As tested: $33,650
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-4Power: 182 hp @ 6000 rpmTorque: 180 lb-ft @ 4000 rpmTransmission: Continuously variableDrive: Front-wheelBase price: $24,880As tested: $27,005 2013 Nissan Altima 3.5 SL
Engine: 3.5-liter DOHC V-6Power: 270 hp @ 6000 rpmTorque: 251 lb-ft @ 4400 rpmTransmission: Continuously variableDrive: Front-wheelBase price: $31,580As 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-sixPower: 315 hp @ 6700 rpmTorque: 266 lb-ft @ 4500 rpmTransmission: 6-speed manualDrive: Rear-wheelBase price: $61,850As 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-sixPower: 400 hp @ 7400 rpmTorque: 325 lb-ft @ 5600 rpmTransmission: 7-speed automaticDrive: Rear-wheelBase price: $97,350As 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-fourPower: 200 hp @ 7000 rpmTorque: 151 lb-ft @ 6400 rpmTransmission: 6-speed manualDrive: Rear-wheelBase price: $26,265As 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-ionMotor: Three-phase, four pole AC induction motor with copper rotorPower: 416 hp @ 5000 rpmTorque: 443 lb-ftTransmission: Single-speed transaxleDrive: Rear-wheelBase price: $93,570As tested: $102,270