Sporty Guide

Sportiness is like art: you know it when you see it. This category includes roadsters, coupes, and sedans with temptingly low 0-to-60-mph times. They range from super hot dream cars to the reasonably accessible. You’d have fun in any of them.

Nissan Altima

Year: Starting at $21,500 MPG 27-38 The 2013 Nissan Altima is shaking up its considerable competition in the mid-size sedan segment with new sheet metal, a revamped cabin and a revised four-cylinder engine that’s more powerful and efficient. A new grille and projector-style headlights give the Altima a more dramatic face, with LED taillights standard on uplevel models. The Japanese automaker has carried over the 270-horsepower 3.5-liter V6 engine in the Altima, but has revised the 2.5-liter four-cylinder, increasing output from 175 to 182 horsepower. A redesigned Xtronic continuously variable transmission boosts fuel economy in both engines – to 27 mpg in city driving and 38 mpg on the highway on the four-cylinder, according to the EPA. The Altima’s cabin gets dolled up with a new articulated seat design, available in cloth or leather, as well as a new advanced Drive-Assist Display. The Altima offers good handling and a compliant ride. Nissan expanded the Altima range with seven trim levels for 2013.The four-cylinder models get either 16-inch steel wheels or 17-inch alloy rims, while the six-cylinder models come with 18-inch alloys. Available safety technologies are plentiful and include blind-spot warning, lane-department warning and moving object detection. The Altima’s changes are impressive, but the mid-size sedan wars are heating up, with the debut of a redesigned 2013 Ford Fusion and 2013 Honda Accord. …
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Audi A7

Year: Starting at $60,100 MPG 18-28 Audi’s A7 may be the most unconventional car in its lineup, offering a breath of fresh air from the rest of Audi’s bold-but-similar sedans. The A7 stands out from the crowd because it pairs excessive speed with an unexpected hatchback. No need to worry that Audi has somehow created a dowdy car – the hatchback fits with the A7’s sleek lines and does nothing to slow this car down. The 2013 model will have a top speed electronically limited at 130 mph, while a brand new S7 model is limited to 155 mph. That’s fast enough to make you consider running from those flashing red lights. Audi didn’t skimp on the interior, either. The 2013 A7 will seat five for the first time with a new middle seat in the second row. Audi’s trademark Google Earth map technology is available, as is an excruciatingly pricey Bang & Olufsen stereo. The A7 will save some fuel with new technology that turns the engine off while the car stands at a stop, and seamlessly back on again when you start rolling. With everything the A7 offers it’s hard to imagine wanting anything else. Except maybe a half-off coupon. …
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Aston Martin Virage

Year: Starting at $207,895 MPG 13-18 The Virage burst onto the scene in 2011 holding down middle ground in the model lineup. The Virage is clearly related to its older Aston Martin siblings, but it has its own refined exterior styling. In the Virage you’ll find plenty of thoughtful touches including Aston Martin’s staple hand-stitched leather. The Virage captures the whole package of that will take you to sports car heaven. The engine package – a 5.9-liter V12 — has power that’s wedged evenly between the DBS and the DB9. The Virage has more substantial 20-inch wheels, carbon-disc brakes and a ten-setting adaptive Bilstein suspension. What this translates to is a hot sports car that handles with confidence, class, and style. …
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Cadillac ATS

Year: Starting at $33,095 The ATS is an important car for Cadillac—as you probably realize if you saw any of the elaborate series of adventure-driving commercials featuring the ATS on TV this summer. Cadillac is promoting this car in grand style, aiming it at people who would otherwise be looking at German performance cars. In fact, Cadillac has had BMW’s 3 Series and other German sport sedans in its sights for years. With the ATS, which it tested at Germany’s Nürburgring racetrack, among other places, it may have hit the target. What’s most interesting about the ATS? It weighs less than 3,400 pounds, pretty slim for its size. It is a traditional rear-wheel-drive sport sedan, but all-wheel drive is also available. Cadillac makes much of the car’s 50/50 weight balance, ultra-efficient and driver-adjustable sport suspension, Brembo brakes, and long, sleek body on a 109.3-inch wheelbase. But what you’ll notice even before you take off are the interior elements. There’s carbon fiber, wood, and metal plate trim, a wraparound instrument panel with LED lighting on the gauges, and a full palette of color schemes. You can dress it up with Bose stereo, navigation, the Cadillac User Experience (CUE) information and entertainment system with eight-inch touchscreen, and performance seats with power-adjustable bolsters. Safety options are the complete package, too: intelligent brake assist, forward collision alert, lane departure warning, a rear-vision camera, and side blind zone alert, among others. But what Cadillac wants you to take most to heart is a thrilling driving experience from the 272-horsepower four-cylinder turbo engine. …
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Aston Martin Rapide

Year: Starting at $207,895 MPG 13-19 The Rapide is the only Aston Martin in which double dates are possible. Two couples can go out to dinner in chic style. Of course, the couple in the backseat should be of the petite variety, because the legroom in the Rapide is minimal. But what’s on the inside of the cabin is gorgeous – embodied in the sculptural shape of the Rapide’s gauges. The Rapide Luxe adds even more stylish pizzazz with a six-piece luggage set, ventilated seats, glass switchgear and a rear entertainment system. The Rapide is a leaner interpretation of a four-door super car, especially when pitted against the brawny Porsche Panamera. It’s a four-seat that has retained its elegance. DB9 DNA is carried over in the 6.0-liter V12 engine that produces 470 horsepower and climbs from 0 to 60 mph in 5 seconds. It also has a top speed of 183 mph. In this car, your petite friends can ride in style, while you can enjoy being seen behind the wheel of an Aston Martin. …
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Jaguar XK-Series

Year: Starting at $84,500 MPG 16-24 The XK is the product of a match made in Jaguar heaven. Here you’ll find tiny bits of the Jaguar DNA that stole our hearts in the 1961 Jaguar E-Type in nuanced, refined curves that cast a diamond-drop silhouette. The 5.0-liter V8 engine seems to soar, eliciting a staggering 550 horsepower in a choreographed dance with the six-speed automatic transmission. Last year the XK had a minor face-lift, lowering its grille and rear fascia. The headlights are slimmer and seem to glimmer as you leave the competition in the dust. Inside, there is a mod touch in the Phosphor blue illumination that highlights the instrument panel. While the XK is the slinkiest of the Jaguars and speaks the design language of a classic British sports car, the XKR-S emphasizes model’s speedier side with the addition of a sportier front grille and enhanced side panels. The heady XKR-S is the perfect way to experience the giddy feeling of driving this frisky feline as it zooms from 0 to 60 mph in 4.2 seconds. If, by chance, you hear this wildcat roar, don’t run the other way! Only 100 XK coupes and convertibles are available for purchase. …
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Mercedes-Benz SL-Class

Year: Starting at $105,500 MPG 16-24 In creating a new-generation SL-Class, Mercedes engineers devoted an inordinate amount of effort to making the car lighter. The aluminum body weighs 275 pounds less yet provides better crash protection and is stiffer than the previous steel body, which results in superior ride and handling characteristics. That’s like finding a pair of lightweight shoes that are comfortable and good-looking. The SL is a hardtop coupe and open-top roadster with a power top that folds away in 20 seconds, but when it’s up, the optional Magic Sky Control lets occupants control the darkness of the glass panel’s tint. For top-down comfort, vents in the seats deliver heat around your neck during the fall color tour. As beautiful as the SL is on the outside, it’s every bit as alluring and voluptuous inside. The seats are heated and actively ventilated (optional) for comfort. Nearly every driver assist and active safety feature you could think of except incoming missile avoidance is included. Under the long, creased hood is the SL550’s turbocharged 4.6-liter V8 making 429 horsepower; this is outfitted with automatic start/stop for fuel economy purposes. Pusillanimous V8 and V12 units are in the two AMG models. A seven-speed automatic harnesses the output of all three engines. …
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Scion iQ

Year: Starting at $15,385 MPG 36-37 At first glance, it’s easy to mistake the Scion iQ for the Smart ForTwo. Both are tiny city cars with high gas mileage and relatively few practical uses outside the urban center. The iQ has improved upon some of Smart’s drawbacks, however, and has the dubious honor of being the smallest four-passenger car for sale in the United States. The iQ is often marketed as a 3+1 car instead of a four-seater, because the front driver’s seat is positioned further back than the passenger seat, eating up much of the rear legroom on that side. The Scion earns essentially the same gas mileage as the Smart, with 36 mpg in the city and 37 on the highway, but where it really shows its advantage is in the ride. Despite its short wheelbase, the iQ doesn’t jostle you over every bump in the road. It is also extremely maneuverable, with a turning radius almost three feet shorter than the Smart’s. If you’re looking for an ultracompact car with a little more legroom, the Fiat 500 is a safer bet, but the iQ has the rest of the bases covered. …
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Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class

Year: Starting at $42,900 MPG 22-32 The SLK shows how Mercedes-Benz has refined the luxury roadster experience. It’s available with three powertrains, which emphasize characteristics ranging from frugality to brutality. Yes, just like a trip to Walmart! The lowest-priced SLK250 has a turbocharged four-cylinder and standard six-speed manual transmission that yields 31 mpg/highway. On the other hand, the SLK55 AMG must be gagging on the huge 5.5-liter V8 under its hood: the 415-horsepower car roars from zero to 60 mph in just 4.5 seconds. Of course the V8, being equipped with cylinder deactivation and automatic start/stop, tries its best to achieve polite fuel economy. In between, a 3.5-liter V6 makes 302 horsepower and sends the SLK350 off with a nice growl. The V6 and V8 are paired with a seven-speed automatic. The SLK plays twin roles as a suave hardtop coupe and sporty roadster thanks to the power-foldaway top. The optional Airscarf--vents in the seats--delivers warm air around your neck on cool rides. The SLK is as beautiful as other Mercedes-Benzes on the inside when optional wood trim is added. Now add the mbrace2 telematics feature to a host of safety and driver assist features, and techno-wizardry joins other existing characteristics. …
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Aston Martin V12 Vantage

Year: Starting at $180,535 MPG 11-17 The Vantage is the Topshop of the Aston Martin lineup – very Kensington meets Kate Moss. In the gold plated garage of super cars, the Vantage is nothing to sneeze at. In fact, it somehow manages to come off as more posh than some of its older, pricier and overloaded siblings. It’s more petite than a DBS, and therefore spunkier. Driving the Vantage is all fun and games with the ability to go 0 to 60 mph in 4.7 seconds. If you bump up to the powerful 510-horsepower V12 Vantage, you’ll have to brush up on your standard driving skills, whereas the V8 is offered in both a six-speed automated manual and a six-speed manual transmission. The tradeoff for that tomfoolery at the wheel is an interior that fits like a pair of skinny jeans. …
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