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The Best Cars We Drove In 2012

by Ryan ZumMallen on

New Year’s Eve is a time for reflection, so join us as we gaze back upon the best cars we drove in the past twelve months.

Acura ILX (Base price: $25,900)

Acura turned a new page with the 2013 ILX, a luxury sedan with sharp styling and sharp steering that won’t break your wallet. The new ILX is the ubiqituous car of the year for a customer base that increasingly wants fuel-efficiency, performance and clean styling in an affordable package. Read the review here.

Audi A5 (Base price: $37,850)

It’ll face new competition next year from the BMW 4-Series, but in 2013 the Audi A5 continued its reign as the best affordable luxury coupe available. With a few new upgrades and even greater refinement, we demonstrated the best way to enjoy driving the new A5 in this review. Read the review here.

Buick Regal GS (Base price: $35,875)

If you aren’t on the Buick bandwagon by now, you’re late, and the 2012 Regal GS is the car that should convert any non-believers. A boost-heavy engine and high-class refinement will make you smile on the inside and outside, something this brand has been waiting to say for a long time. Read the review here.

BMW 3-Series (Base price: $36,500)

No surprise here, but the 2012 BMW 3-Series is simply one of the best cars that money can buy. It does everything well and with a new look, new engine and new eight-speed transmission, it stays atop the four-door sports sedan pack. Read the review here.

Cadillac XTS (Base price: $44,075)

If you were wondering whether the striking design of modern Cadillacs would ever wear off, the 2013 XTS should be proof that those looks are going to last. Armed with a true luxury ride quality and Magentic Control Damping that makes it surprisingly athletic in the turns, the XTS is a flagship vehicle in the truest sense of the word. Read the review here.

Dodge Dart (Base price: $15,995)

The U.S. auto industry has been flirting with good-looking, performance-inspired small cars with affordable pricetags for years, but the 2013 Dodge Dart is the car we’ve all been waiting for. The Dart is proof that Chrysler can adapt to the times with better fuel efficiency and build quality than ever, and hints that the brand has big plans for the future. Read the review here.

Ford Fusion (Base price: $21,700)

Speaking of brands that revamped their image, the 2013 Ford Fusion is single-handedly redefining the way that American sedans should look. Its resemblance to a certain British luxury brand has been well-documented, but what wins you over is the way it drives. Read the review here.

Lexus GS (Base price: $46,900)

Lexus is trying to turn a new page with exciting driving dynamics and amped-up design, but it comes off a little desperate with the ES and LS. With the 2013 GS, though, it fits quite nicely and makes you think that Lexus may be able to ditch its sleepy reputation, after all. Read the review here.

Lotus Evora (Base price: $67,275)

If you want to feel a real, physical connection to your car and the road, there’s simply no better tool than the 2012 Lotus Evora. A scalpel in a world full of sledgehammers, the Evora stays true to its heritage and when you think about the fun packed into that little chassis, a pricetage under $70,000 seems like an absolute steal. Read the review here.

Mazda CX-5 (Base price: $20,995)

You may have noticed a trend of fun-to-drive cars on this list, so seeing an SUV front and center may be a surprise. Climb behind the 2013 CX-5 though, and you’ll be an instant believer thanks to a suspension that wants to be pushed and fuel efficiency that can’t be beaten in the segment. Read the review here.

Nissan Altima (Base price: $22,280)

The second best-selling car in America doesn’t rest on its laurels, with a sculpted design that’s both exciting and lighter than ever. The 2013 Nissan Altima delivers a truly fun driving experience, in a segment that doesn’t really need to be this much fun. Read the review here.

Scion FR-S (Base price: $25,092)

The biggest debut of the year easily goes to the FR-S, a lightweight track star that overcomes an underpowered engine with incredible driving character. We tested it in the real world, on a canyon-carving camping trip, and found it shines even brighter when you focus on fun and not lap times. Read the review here.

SRT Viper (Base price: $101,990)

What’s better than a new Viper? Nothing, as we found in this test drive that pushed the All-American superstar to its physical limits, and discovered that the Viper is as athletic as ever but with a level of refinement you may not be expecting. Read the review here.

Toyota Avalon (Base price: $30,995)

The 2013 Avalon may not look like a thrilling car at first, but Toyota went to great lengths to build a car that looks current with the four-door coupe style, and handles better with new suspension and a rear cross-brace. These changes have trade-offs, and the Avalon isn’t perfect, but it has something that the formerly sleepy sedan hasn’t had in some time: character. Read the review here.

Volkswagen Jetta GLI (Base price: $23,945)

Shoehorn the 2.0L turbo-four GTI engine into a Jetta, and you have one of our favorite vehicles of the year. The Jetta GLI boasts all the reliability you’d expect from a Volkswagen, plus exciting performance that doesn’t sacrifice ride quality. Read the review here.

Volvo S60 R-Design (Base price: $43,375)

What M5? The 2012 S60 R-Design may be the best value on this entire list, with distinctive styling that doesn’t blend in and performance that will make you wonder why more people don’t opt fo the Scandinavian sleeper. Read the review here.

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