Drive To The Top

Looking for the best car to meet your needs? Stop here for direction.

Like the clothes you wear, the car you drive says something about you. These days there is such a wide selection of cars available within any price range, you can make your own personal vehicular statement. That expression may vary anywhere from “I don’t care about cars,” to “I’ll sacrifice anything to have this set of wheels.”

Automotive designs don’t always follow the theme originally intended. The sport-utility vehicle was invented to transport people and cargo across unfriendly terrain. These days that terrain is most likely an urban thoroughfare, and the payload is the brawny image the vehicle projects. At the other end, that nimble sports car likely spends more time stuck in traffic than jetting through a mountain motorway.

There are as many reasons for choosing cars as people who buy them. Most prospective buyers must weigh what they want against what they really need. A bigger budget certainly helps. But with relentless competition in the marketplace, even the most affordable levels of transportation have much to offer.

When choosing a car, four factors are paramount: style, function, performance, and value. Let’s take a closer look at each of these categories and the vehicles BE believes best represent them.

STYLE
If the appearance of a car doesn’t attract a buyer then a relationship never begins. Automakers put as much effort into a vehicle’s looks as they do its mechanics. Pontiac’s quite functional but homely Aztek failed to attract even half the hoped for number of buyers after critics referred to it as one of the most unappealing vehicles on the market. Despite its innovative, quasi-SUV style, the Aztek has experienced a major failure in sales. Having learned a hard lesson, Pontiac looked deeper at its intended audience to come up with the style for its latest model, Vibe, an apt name for a vehicle creating a buzz among style-conscious young people. This tall, yet small, wagon introduced a new category of vehicles that has yet to be defined.

Perhaps no car is more graceful than Audi’s TT with its simplistic yet sporty design. But if aesthetics are foremost, any Jaguar will do. For more than 60 years, Jaguar has been considered the embodiment of style. From the sleek X-Type to the stunning XKR, Jaguars are always pleasing to the eye.

While luxury and sports cars typically define automotive beauty, monster SUVs are the latest trend to hit the industry. Unfortunately, this has led to excess, such as the Ford Excursion and Lincoln’s chrome-laden hulk, the Navigator. Cadillac rode the bandwagon for a while, but its latest version of the Escalade is less gaudy and sets a sharper-edged direction that its passenger cars will soon follow.

Boutique cars such as Volkswagen’s New Beetle and Chrysler’s PT Cruiser have also become increasingly popular. This spring, BMW plans to reintroduce the Mini Cooper, a classically designed roadster with fun and style as its main themes. Beware though: People get tired of novelty.

FUNCTION
For many people, a vehicle is a tool with a job to perform. Only when specific needs are

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