Yes, the world economy stinks, and war, disease and pestilence have not been eradicated from the earth. The auto industry, vibrant for so long, has itself fallen into a bit of slumber, awaiting a re-awakening of consumer confidence. Yet, that being said, the industry is still producing a wide variety of cars that make us glad we drive. We could pontificate more, but let’s get right to the top five vehicles we are thankful for this Thanksgiving week:
1. Audi S4
More powerful and better looking than ever, the new Audi S4 makes yet another run at the BMW 3 Series. As the sportier version of the already sporty A4 sedan, the S4 offers a 3-liter, 333-horsepower supercharged direct-injection V-6 sitting where a 2-liter engine normally resides. It’s all-new seven-speed S tronic dual-clutch automatic lets you shift for yourself and offers slightly better fuel economy than the manual. Plus, the S4 offers standard Quattro all-wheel drive to handle all that horsepower and torque. Not only is performance covered, but the S4 is a delight to look at -- inside and out.
2. BMW 335d
One of the most satisfying driver’s cars we’ve piloted this year is a diesel. Yes, a diesel! The builder of “the ultimate driving machine” knows how to build diesel engines that are right in line with its sporty persona, so the newly available BMW 335d is not only a diesel but a 3 Series, which means it is the epitome of a driver’s car. It offers 265 horsepower from its twin-turbocharged 3-liter inline six, but it also features an amazing 425 pound-feet of torque, which means the 335d has excellent acceleration. Happily, the 335d is also a wonderfully comfortable place for a driver and three passengers.
3. Cadillac CTS-V
Mothers, hide your children! The Cadillac CTS-V is in town, and it’s like no Cadillac you’ve ever driven. Those who grew up in the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s will find it hard to imagine a Cadillac muscle car, but that’s exactly what the CTS-V is. It’s a romping rear-drive sports sedan that has elite cars like the BMW M5 and Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG dead in its sights. With 556-horsepower from its supercharged 6.2-liter V-8 engine, the CTS-V has the goods to play and win in that stratospheric company. Offering a zero-to- 60 sprint in less than four seconds, this Cadillac is faster than fast.
4. Chevrolet Camaro SS
After a long, long seven years, the Chevrolet Camaro is back, and Camaro fans have reason to rejoice. Not only does the new Camaro look every bit as hot as the show car on which it was based, but it offers the performance to back it up. We think the 300-horsepower V-6 version of the car will surprise people with its overall balance of acceleration, handling and fuel economy, but our true love was the SS. With its 426-horsepower LS3 V-8 and six-speed manual transmission, it will jet from zero to 60 mph in just 4.4 seconds. And because of its sophisticated multi-link rear suspension, rack-and-pinion steering and meaty tires, the 2010 SS handles better than any Camaro in our long memory. Amazingly, the SS also offers a very comfortable, quiet ride. We’ve come a long way since 1967.
5. Ford Flex
Some love it, some hate it, but no one can ignore the Ford Flex. This seven-passenger crossover has a boxy, straightforward style all its own, and now Ford has added a distinctive new drivetrain. The 3.5-liter EcoBoost V-6 engine delivers V-8-like power while maintaining the fuel economy of a V-6. The magic is in the combination of twin turbochargers and direct fuel injection in an all-wheel drive configuration that delivers 16 miles per gallon in the city and 22 mpg on the highway along with 335 horsepower. And while the drivetrain is remarkable, so is the Active Park Assist feature that will find parking spaces and then allow you to parallel park hands-free.