10 Cars That Worry the Competition
New or recently redesigned cars that just might be up to the task of toppling the leader in their respective classes.
Automakers are locked in a popularity contest every day. They wrangle with each other for the hearts, minds and money of car-hungry consumers, and their popularity ebbs and flows as they continually develop their vehicle lineups to better appeal to the American masses. Cars must have an ideal mix of styling, reliability, utility and value to rise to the head of their respective classes. As long as those best-sellers maintain that delicate mix, they tend to stay in the top spots for years — that is, until a new or completely overhauled model comes along to challenge their supremacy. Here, we examine 10 all-new or seriously refreshed machines destined to challenge the sales leaders for dominance in their respective classes.
Challenger: BMW X3
Class: Premium compact crossover utility
Class leader: Audi Q5
The X3 kicked off this class when it was introduced for the 2004 model year. Sales were strong for a couple of years, but then took a nose dive because of consumer concerns over ride harshness, interior quality and back-seat room. The arrival of serious challengers from Acura, Audi, Mercedes-Benz and Volvo didn't help, either. According to data provided by Automotive News, only 6,075 X3s were sold in 2010, a quarter of what the class-leading Audi Q5 sold. However, a 2011 redesign that addressed the X3's former issues put it back in the game. The availability of a turbocharged 6-cylinder engine also gives the X3 more power than ever, making it our choice as the most engaging vehicle in this segment.
Challenger: Chevrolet Cruze
Class: Compact car
Class leader: Toyota Corolla
The compact-car market has seen a flood of new products in the past year, and just about all of them raise the quality bar for the class. The Chevrolet Cruze is a prime example. Compared with Chevy's previous compact offering, the Cobalt, the Cruze has a sportier, more refined character, much improved fuel economy and a far more upscale interior. The performance of its automatic transmission remains an issue; even so, this is General Motors' best compact car ever. Also watch out for the new Ford Focus and Hyundai Elantra.
Challenger: Dodge Grand Caravan
Class leader: Chrysler Town & Country
While there are only five players in the minivan segment, every one underwent a redesign or update in 2010, and that is sure to affect the status quo in this segment. The 2010 leader was the Chrysler Town & Country, with around 112,000 sales. The Honda Odyssey followed closely, at 108,000, and the Dodge Grand Caravan came in third with 103,000 units sold. Sure, the Caravan and the class leading Town & Country are siblings. And yes, both received updates for 2011 that gave them nicer interiors, better handling and a more powerful and efficient engine. However, a shift in market positioning means that the Town & Country's price tag now starts at more than $30,000, while the Grand Caravan sells for less than $30K. We think this will tip the scales in favor of the more affordable Dodge.
Challenger: Ford Explorer
Class: Midsize crossover utility
Class leader: Ford Edge/Chevrolet Traverse
The Ford Explorer changes classes for 2011, from the midsize SUV segment to midsize crossover utility. The all-new sport-utility vehicle is better in almost every way; it handles much better, it has improved interior materials and cutting-edge tech features, and it gets much better fuel mileage. Plus, despite the changes, it maintains some impressive off-road ability, thanks to a Land Rover-derived terrain-management system. Given those strengths, the Explorer should vie with the Ford Edge and Chevy Traverse for the lead in its class.
Challenger: Ford Fiesta
Class: Subcompact car
Class leader: Honda Fit
The Ford Fiesta is a true upstart in this class. Depending on how you define the subcompact-car class, the Fiesta is either a shoo-in to lead the class in sales or a strong contender. Last year, the segment was led by either the Honda Fit, with 54,000 sales, or the larger Nissan Versa, with close to 100,000 sales. After the first three months of 2011, the Fiesta is selling better than the Fit, but it trails the Versa by about 10,000 units. We think all three are strong, fun-to-drive offerings in a class otherwise known for budget-minded cars that lack passion.
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To WS6 Trans Am,
Being in the military and working for the government I know for a fact that all vehicles purchased with government accounts have to be made in america. That is why police use GM, Ford, and Dodge. Not that Import vehicles would fall apart but rather they have to support the economy. You know in your heart of hearts as well as everyone on here that imported vehicles are very well built. If GM was so good they wouldn't have needed a bailout.
I own a 2001 Ford Focus and it's been one of the best cars I HAVE EVER OWNED.
Ford has gotten a lot better.
To the Ford hater,
The Mustangs are lagging in sales not performance. The Ford Mustang out performs the Camaro (sorry) in every aspect including 0-60 (4.2 sec.); 1/4 mile (12.7); and wait-for-it......HANDLING (.98 g), despite the solid axle you mock at! Wow, ignorance really is bliss!
Reference the Mustang/Camaro debate, by far the car magazines have gone head to head with them and the Mustang has come out on top in most reviews. Both are good vehicles and neat to have back but the new technology used in the new Ford engines are superior.
As far as the Corvette goes, try to find any super car that will perform with the 'Vette for the money and, by God, it is made in America!!!!