Best of the Best 2008: Sedans

  • Paul Dean and Matthew Phenix

Finally, a Jaguar that embraces the purity of its past and just might rekindle devotion to a brand following a decade of confusion and disappointments.

What elevates the Jaguar XF (www.jaguarusa.com) are the 300 hp V-8 engine borrowed from the far heavier, more ponderous XJ8; charming gadgets better than most anything from Sharper Image; and elegant, curvy styling that is far removed from excesses of the past. Other attributes include a comfortable interior with blue accent lighting that evokes a lounge more than it does an automobile, and doors that close like a Jaguar, not a Ford Taurus.

Prices of $50,000 for the base model and $63,000 for a supercharged version take the XF upmarket, which is where Jaguar needs to be to escape its recent past. The XF’s modern amenities include touch-sensitive light switches, a voice-activated media system, and blind-spot monitoring radar. And it drives like a sports car within a sedan. Welcome back, Jaguar. —P.D.

A swift and sensual four-door sedan explores its dangerous side—and returns to our Best of the Best list—as the new Maserati Quattroporte Sport GT S (www.maseratiamerica.com). Dark chrome and bold new exhaust outlets give the glamorous Pininfarina shape a dash of menace, and inside, carbon-fiber trim complements Poltrona Frau hides and Alcantara suede. The car sits almost half an inch lower than the regular Quattroporte, atop a stiffened suspension and wider Pirelli tires on new, seven-spoke, dark alloy wheels. The Sport GT S is also equipped with innovative, Brembo-developed, dual-cast brake discs, which combine a durable, cast-iron rotor with a lightweight, aluminum hub. The 4.2-liter V-8 and 6-speed automatic remain unaltered, but no one is likely to complain. The Ferrari-built engine produces 400 hp, enough to launch the $128,165 Sport GT S to 60 mph in 5.5 seconds and push it to a top speed of 165 mph. —Matthew Phenix

After more than two decades, BMW’s M3 remains the very model of a thoroughbred sporting car, a motorsports-inspired Bavarian giant-killer whose brilliance has more to do with finesse than with brute force. Now, on the heels of the much-ballyhooed new M3 Coupe, comes the decidedly more sensible—but no less sensational—BMW M3 Sedan (www.bmwusa.com). The $53,800 M3 is the first four-door M3 to reach America since 1998. Like its two-door sibling, the M3 Sedan carries beneath its swollen hood a 4-liter V-8 engine with eight individual throttle bodies, variable valve timing, and an 8,400 rpm redline. Matched to an infallible 6-speed manual (the quick-shifting, dual-clutch, paddle-operated transmission is due later this year), the engine’s silken 414 hp and 295 ft lbs of torque are sufficient to propel the sedan to 60 mph in 4.8 seconds. —M.P.

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