In the end, the car we buy comes down to the value we get for the dollars we spend. It's a nebulous floaty-thing of a word, to be sure -- one that means a combination of everything good - but even still, value defines the difference between a good purchase and one solely based on sheet metal, horsepower and heart. Not that horsepower is a bad thing. Or fancy options. It's just that great performance and trendy design must be accompanied by a strong value statement: will this car get it done for me? After all, we buy cars to drive to work and home and to the store, so it's important to find the best combination of style, features, price and warranty. From a practical perspective, then, the most important auto show vehicle debuts are the cars and trucks that provide the most value.
There's that word again - value. Truth is that the value of a vehicle can't truly be defined until it's been thoroughly tested. Until, then, however, it's possible to make a pretty good guess based on price, features, style and the automaker's reputation for reliability and dependability. With these criteria in mind, we've selected the 10 best buys that debuted at the Los Angeles, Detroit, Chicago and new york auto shows. Some are commuters, some are performance cars, but all provide a strong value to buyers.
In a year or less, these are the cars you should have on your short list:
2006 Chevrolet Corvette Z06: If you find yourself looking for a performance vehicle with a strong personality, the Corvette Z06 is a very strong - and much improved -- contender.
2006 Ford Fusion: Here is the hope of sedans for domestic automakers. Seriously. A strong car built off of the same platform as the Mazda 6, the Fusion combines a nicely executed design with what should be strong performance, inside and out.
2005 Ford Mustang Convertible: Just as great as the coupe, plus sunshine and at a really nice price. Available now, this is one of the few realistic 2+2 convertibles on the market.
2006 Ford Shelby Cobra GT500: Ford is taking their Mustang to new limits with a racer design and an estimated 450-horsepower. This may be the best weekend sweetheart on the road, this time next year.
2005 Honda Ridgeline: Okay, so it's not going to replace the F-150. But this is the ultimate suburban truck - just enough for everything you will ever need to haul or tow. With Honda engineering, count on plenty of innovative features.
2006 Hyundai Azera: Hyundai's replacement for the XG350 is a serious car that will likely do serious damage to upscale sedan competitors. Count on a well-equipped driver with a great interior, and enough power to move ya.
2006 Hyundai Sonata: The new Sonata announces Hyundai's intention to play with big boys like the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry. With features such as side curtain airbags and loads of interior space, there may well be a new sedan King before long.
2006 Infiniti M: Tired of choosing between BMW, BMW and BMW for your luxury sedan? The M puts together the best of what Infiniti does: a great engine, snappy design, and plenty of groovy technology features.
2006 Lexus IS: Neckties are getting tighter for the Bavarians. The 3-Series has some serious competition with this new, emotive and much improved IS 250 or 350.
2007 Toyota FJ Cruiser: Youthful design that harkens back to the FJ40, a sub-$20,000 price tag and typical Toyota reliability, the FJ Cruiser is sexy and sensible - and will surely give small-to-mid SUVs a major headache.