Critics' Picks: Great Performances Without the Guilt

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ENGINES are getting smaller, with V-6s replacing V-8s in many car and truck lines, and 4-cylinder power plants showing up even in large luxury sedans. But while fuel economy is rising, as automakers prepare for strict mileage standards that take effect over the next 12 years, enthusiasts' fears have proved unfounded: exciting, fun-to-drive cars hardly seem endangered.

Indeed, some of the standouts among new models combine blistering performance with respectable economy, thanks to turbochargers, supercharging, weight-reducing diets and sophisticated multispeed transmissions.

Or, in the case of the battery-powered Tesla Model S, excitement comes with electrification. The Model S's arrival caused a sensation in the automotive press, earning several "car of the year" awards and a glowing review in this space. But the Tesla story remains unfinished, given that test cars are not yet widely available in most of the country and that the company's proprietary charging network is still in its infancy.

As in past years, writers for these pages have picked the 10 cars and trucks they remember most fondly from the previous 12 months. The lists this year show more agreement than usual, with three No. 1 votes for either the Scion FR-S or Subaru BRZ, two mechanically identical sports cars jointly developed by Subaru and Toyota. In keeping with the times, the twins deliver outstanding performance with respectable mileage (up to 30 m.p.g.) at a recession-appropriate price around $26,000.

There was uniformity, too, on the redesigned Porsche Boxster, now with a more substantial appearance resembling its big brother, the 911. And in a year that brought several revamped midsize sedans, including the Chevy Malibu, Ford Fusion and Nissan Altima, the most impressive entry was the 2013 Honda Accord, a selection of all three critics.

autonews

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.


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