Vaughan: Here’s Honda’s luxury sedan for the un-rich. The recipe: take a Civic, stretch the nose, shorten the tail, add a decent interior, drop in a slightly larger engine and then reach into a bag of letters for a name. Voila, the CSX is dead, long live the ILX. Acura has produced some remarkably ugly vehicles in the last few years but this is not one of them. You could argue it’s under-powered and overpriced but because it’s the best-looking Acura in ages, it made the list.
Vaughan: The Buick revival continues with the 2013 Buick Encore, which is about to hit showrooms. Hoping to take on premium competitors like BMW X1 and Audi Q3, this new compact wagon shows how far Buick has come from the big, soft boats that grandpa used to drive. Encore is a tidy, little front- or all-wheel-drive hatchback with a turbo four-cylinder engine and six-speed automatic. It has a luxurious interior and handles crisply, just like a Buick Verano or Regal. See, I told you Buick’s rejuvenated.
Cato: Buick survived General Motors’ bankruptcy in 2009, and with good reason. GM sells hundreds of thousands of Buicks every year to Chinese buyers who equate Buick with cutting-edge design, technology and status. In other words, China subsidizes Buicks for North America. The upside of this is we’re starting to see some darn good Buicks here. The Verano is one of them. Sure, the mechanical bits and pieces are shared with the downmarket Chevrolet Cruze, but the Verano is no Cadillac Cimarron. This compact Buick is quiet and has a lovely cabin. The design is elegantly simple, too. Somehow, Buick needs to figure out how to spin up some buzz about Buick, in particular the Verano.
Vaughan: German premium brands have been stealing Cadillac’s customers for decades and Caddy has finally fought back. The 2013 ATS is Cadillac’s BMW 3 Series fighter – they actually tell you that – and it has to be taken seriously. Entry-level luxury cars are big money-makers and this one puts Caddy back in the game. The ATS is front-engine, rear-drive just like the Bimmer. Great suspension, brakes, classy interior and lots of engine choices. Cadillac has to hope that potential customers will at least try it out before going to the Germans.
Vaughan: Year after year, now I suppose it’s decade after decade, the venerable 3-Series hits the tops of the lists. Now we’re into the sixth-generation 3 and the news is the return of a four-cylinder engine, just like Audi and Mercedes. The turbo four in the 328i cranks 241 hp replacing the beautiful 230 hp, 3.0-litre inline six. BMW offers countless option packages to run the price up although the base price this year is almost unchanged. There’s great competition, but in Canada the 3-Series nearly always outsells the other compact luxury cars. Gen Six – déjà vu all over again.