Mercedes Benz CLS 500 | $67,000 base
Described by its maker as a “four-door coupe,” the Mercedes-Benz CLS500 is the most visually stunning car from the three-pointed star in 50 years.
Built on the E Class platform, this four-door indeed sports the sleek lines of a coupe, yet manages to provide sufficient room in back for two full-grown adults, thanks in part to scooped-out backs on the front seats. Once inside, you will be comforted by copious amounts of leather and wood trim, as well as four-zone climate control. If the looks don’t get you, Mercedes’ workhorse 5-liter, aluminum V-8 will. This smooth-sounding 24-valve unit delivers a seemingly low 302 hp, but thanks to a flat torque curve, it delivers more than enough power, especially off the mark with a 0 to 60 time of 5.9 seconds. The engine is mated to Mercedes’ ground-breaking 7-speed automatic transmission, which delivers smoother acceleration and better mileage. All of this rides atop 18-inch, low-profile, Continental run flat tires.
In the end, though, the CLS500 is as much about looks as anything else. And we can attest that it attracted more compliments and white-glove treatment from valets than just about any car we’ve tested in the last couple of years. It always feels good to be noticed.
Maserati Quattroporte | $101,000
The 2005 Quattroporte offers voluptuous curves reminiscent of another great Italian export: Sophia Loren. For that you can thank Sergio Pininfarina, who has put his ageless design skills back to work on a Maserati for the first time in 50 years.
The designer of every famous Ferrari for the past six decades, Pininfarina mixes equal parts elegance and aggression to create an instant classic. The power comes from a 4.2-liter, aluminum V-8 that delivers 394 hp and 333 lb.-ft. of torque, enough to launch its 4,255 pounds from 0 to 60 in 5.2 seconds. Top speed: 171 mph.
BMW 3 Series | $31,000 base
A collective sigh of relief greeted the unveiling of the long-awaited fifth generation of the best-selling luxury car in the world. On the outside, the new 3 Series balances tradition with the new BMW look. Underneath, it reraises the bar with a more powerful inline six-cylinder engine tuned differently for the 325i and 330i models. The use of magnesium the only large-scale production engine to do so helps lower the engine’s weight 30 percent. Overall length is up by 2.2 inches (including 1.4 inches in the wheelbase), while width has grown a healthy 3 inches.
Chevrolet Corvette Z06 | $66,000 base
With 505 hp, a top speed of 198 mph and a 0 to 60 time of 3.6 seconds, the new Z06 is the fastest, baddest ’Vette ever. Those numbers put it on even footing with the Ford GT and the new Ferrari F430. But at about $70,000, you could have a pair of Z06s for the price of the other supercars, if you could even get one. The Z06 was designed side-by-side with the C6R race car and thus shares much of its technology and construction tricks. All that speed comes from a new 7.0-liter, small-block V-8 that delivers 407 lb. ft. of torque at 4800 rpm and a weight of only 3,147 pounds.