Best of the Best 2002: Autos: Best Coupes

  • Paul Dean and Mike Nolan

Lines and Redlines

If only for its dramatic lines and exquisite proportions, any coupe or convertible in the Jaguar XK lineup would be the pick of the British carmaker’s litter. While today’s XK series cannot duplicate the aesthetic immortality of the XK120—not many cars can—the current crop offers a level of performance that matches its looks. And none drive more quickly and easily than the supercharged Jaguar XKR.

The car would be a 370-hp brute (a zero-to-60 sprint at a whisker over five seconds certainly justifies the animal comparison) if its rush wasn’t so smooth, quiet, and tempered by Jaguar’s wonderful use of woods, leathers, and rich carpeting, all of which combine to create an illusion of unhurried pace.

If that’s not enough, Jaguar is offering customers a limited edition XKR100 coupe (30 for the United States, 70 for the rest of the world) commemorating the 100th birthday of Jaguar founder Sir William Lyons. In terms of proper tributes, we’ll always choose an elegant, fast-moving coupe over an unmoving statue or plaque. —paul dean  

Jaguar, www.jaguar.com

Technology Test

From the outside, the Mercedes-Benz CL600 looks like a clean-lined coupe, but its simple, tasteful design hides a machine that is teeming with technology. The CL600’s Active Body Control (ABC) suspension system adapts to the car’s every move and vibration, correcting the Mercedes’ trajectory. Choose ABC’s Sport mode, and you can eliminate body roll, enter corners at a flatter angle, and make the handling response even sharper.


On the highway, activate the Distronic Adaptive Cruise Control, which will set your cruising speed to maintain the desired distance between you and the vehicle ahead. If you want to adjust the air-conditioning, skip a track on the CD, or check the GPS-navigated map, access the COMAND unit, which centralizes most every interior function.

The beauty of the CL600—in addition to the interior’s leather, walnut, and suede and the exterior’s curved shell and expansive hood—is that the technology is invisible. The systems and devices work together smoothly so that all you notice is the 5.8-liter, 362-hp V-12 launching you forward, the 5-speed automatic upshifting seamlessly, and the body flowing through turns. —mike nolan

Mercedes-Benz, www.mbusa.com  

Love It or Leave It

Derision of the Lexus SC 430 can be nasty. Some critics say the car’s back end is a bloated, overweight appendage. Others smugly claim confusion about which direction the car is heading when the hard top is up. But a smooth and robust powertrain, a premium level of luxury, and yes, the styling, have produced a cadre of SC 430 devotees.

There is much to like here. Push a button to lower the aluminum hard top, and the resulting 25 seconds of whirring, flowing, mechanical ballet rivals anything seen at Lincoln Center. Polished wood and deep leather seats add a sense of refinement, and the SC 430 is among the quietest of automobiles, even with the top down.

The SC 430’s fans delight in the fun created by the car’s performance. The 5.9-second trip from zero to 60 is smooth. On twisty roads, the 4.3-liter, 300-hp V-8 and the car’s racing suspension provide a formidable level of handling and balance. Based on the car’s performance and appearance, the critical swipes seem to lose relevance with each ride in the SC 430. —m.n.

Lexus, www.lexus.com

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