Saturday, June 30, 2012

2012 10Best: 10 Favorites Over $80K

We set our 10Best Cars price cap at $80,000 for a few reasons. At just more than two-and-a-half times the average transaction price of a brand-new car in the U.S., 80 large retains some promise of save-all-your-pennies attainability. More important, the relationship between what you pay and what you get goes exponential above our threshold—a bunch of extra cash doesn’t necessarily result in substantive improvements in the $80K-plus stratosphere. Still, our price cap locks out some exceptional machines. Here are our 10 favorite cars that embody the same all-around excellence as our standard 10Besters, at a higher price of admission.
A fusion of investment-banker extravagance and marathoner athleticism, the ultra-Audi is the best combination of luxury and sport in the big-sedan segment. Go big with the 372-hp, V-8–powered $85,575 A8L.
“Everyday supercar” is a hackneyed phrase but not quite so hackneyed as “textbook example.” Ironically, together these tired tags perfectly describe the ever-fresh, $118,450 R8. Its sci-fi bodywork is shrinkwrapped around mechanicals that are both user-friendly and rewarding to all the senses. Yep, even taste.
Value isn’t the first thing that springs to mind in something that stickers at $113,500, but the ZR1 outperforms cars that cost more than twice as much. And it is unapologetically American, faults and all.
Reality rarely meets expectation; the 458 exceeds it. Every bit as spine-tingling as you’d imagine, with seemingly impossible levels of performance, the Italia will haunt your dreams. And your bank account, should you try to finance the $236,182 base price.
For $393,695, the Aventador ought to be incredible. Fortunately it is, from its carbon-fiber chassis to its 691-hp V-12. It’s so cool even Batman is driving one this summer.
The carbon-fiber MP4-12C radiates the obsessive-compulsive nature of McLaren boss Ron Dennis. That means it’s not only one of the quickest and fastest cars on the road, it’s also comfortable for long-haul driving. If you’re sensing a theme, yes, greatness comes at a price of $231,400.
Big performance done right, these fraternal twins move with a litheness that belies their big curb weights. The stylish CLS63 carries a $6000 premium over the sensible $89,775 E63 sedan, and the $92,375 E63 wagon is the nonconformist’s choice. If the new M5 can top these two, then it is a good time to be alive.
The lone entry from Japan on this list, “Godzilla” offers stunning performance and high technology for only $90,950, a mere 11 grand above our 10Best cutoff. And Nissan continues to make small but meaningful improvements to the GT-R each year.
Some call the rear-engine 911 an anachronism, an evolutionary dead end. But drive any of the nigh-countless variants, and you’ll be glad Porsche remains devoted to this car, if for no other reason than to set a benchmark for perfect steering feel. We know, we know: The 911 Carrera starts at $79,950 without floor mats—a model surely more rare than the $245,950 GT2 RS.
Purists see this five-door as an abomination. Get behind the wheel, though, and the Panamera is difficult to hate. It’s a large luxury sedan that feels like a Porsche—a sports car despite its big bones and ungainly rear. This is what God would drive if he had money. A V-8–equipped Panamera 4 starts at $80,775, and a Turbo optioned up to the Big Guy’s requirements can touch $200,000.

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