Friday, December 2, 2011

The Short List

Auto shows are great places in which to kick a lot of tires and meet knowledge experts from the whole spectrum of brands, without any sales pressure. I attend the New York International Auto Show every year, and this year scored a VIP tour before the show opened to the public. This gave me my first glimpse into the candidates for my next purchase.

A few weeks ago, I brought my family to a smaller show, near our "country" home, to get their feedback on the vehicles on the short list.

Here's what we like, in no particular order:

2012 Kia Optima SX GDI
I've been watching Kia since Audi designer, Peter Schreyer, joined the firm as design lead. His influence is groundbreaking. Different from Hyundai's trendy, polarizing Korean aesthetic, Schreyer has given Kia a more European flavor that I believe will endure. Combine that with the astonishing level of content for the price and a lengthy warranty, and it seems hard to go wrong. The Optima is gorgeous. In SX trim it packs 275 horsepower but serves up 34 mpg (highway). It can be had with navigation, panoramic glass roof, and heated seats for all four outboard positions for about $31,000.

2012 Buick Regal GS
My Dad was a Buick guy. But his was a whole different kind of Buick. This brand has undergone a metamorphosis from floaty, couches-on-wheels for the 70+ crowd to driver-centric cars with flowing designs and beautiful interiors. The Regal GS is an Americanization of the European Opel Insignia. It has a 270 horsepower turbo four cylinder in a taut package that fits like a glove. Careful selection of options puts it in the right price point for our purposes.

2012 Volkswagen Passat
Volkswagen's new design language is all about conservative elegance. The new Passat is (visually) the understated big brother of the new Jetta. Its clean lines and massive rear leg room stood out to me. While I'm reluctant to by any car, especially a VW, in its first year of production, my experiences with the previous model leave me wanting to give it a try.

2012 Dodge Charger AWD
When I first saw the 2012 Charger at the NY show, it took me five minutes to take it all in. It's a seriously badass car. To some, it might seem a waste to forgo the Hemi - as it looks like it's BEGGING to be driven fast. But we're interested in the V-6 with all-wheel-drive. The interior is the Charger's shortcoming. The dash is uninspired. But we'll reserve judgment until we drive one.

2012 Volvo S60 T5
This one is pushing the price point. But Volvo has done an excellent job at implementing its new, flowing design language into a beautifully sculpted sedan with gorgeous interior treatments. Volvo leases include basic maintenance and the warranty covers wear and tear. From past experience, however, I'd never own another Volvo that's out-of-warranty. Price for entry in the repair shop for the last Volvo I owned rarely dropped below four digits.

Let the test drives begin!

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