2014 Lexus IS250: There was just something about the feel of this midsize sedan that impressed us. Sliding behind the wheel, you could be forgiven for mistaking the IS250 for a sports car. We also liked its athletic new look. Alas, the horsepower won't remind you of a sports car, but that just means Lexus can make an easy fix for the enthusiast.
2014 Mercedes-Benz E250: The newest Mercedes-Benz E Class sedan features a 4-cylinder biturbo diesel that in its rear-wheel trim can get about 45 mpg in highway driving. And it's a quiet performer. Throw in the Mercedes luxury and, well, who really needs a hybrid?
2014 Chevrolet Impala: When we drove this redesigned full-size sedan, we were surprised at how many compliments we got — it's that stylish. It's also roomy, quiet and rides well. The car has definitely left the rental-fleet days behind. Need evidence? It's was the first U.S. sedan in 20 years to earn an "excellent" rating from Consumer Reports.
2014 Mazda6: Mazda fought back against it stylish midsize Korean rivals with the redesigned 6. From its sensuous curves to its elegant front grille (finally), the 6 is striking, especially in Mazda's Soul Red paint. It also handles well and gives a driver a lot of bang for the buck from the 4-cylinder, 2.5-liter, 184-horsepower Skyactiv-G engine (estimated mpg: 26/38).
2014 Kia Cadenza: Kia's first full-size sedan is a feature-laden first step into the luxury market, which will come next year with the K900. We especially liked all of the electronic safety features, such as the excellent adaptive cruise control.
2014 Kia Forte: A facelift gave the Forte an aggressive and sporty look. It also gave it something it lacked: desirability. But what really impressed us were the compact's standard features and how it did everything well. Did we mention it's affordable?
2013 Hyundai Santa Fe: We think the extended-wheelbase version is simply one of the better family haulers on the market with a quiet and comfortable interior that looks more luxurious than its price suggests. The Santa Fe packs a lot of features into an SUV that has a starting price around $28,000. It's a great minivan alternative.
2013 Buick Encore: Buick rolled out the Encore, which it calls a compact crossover. To us, it's more a city car, and should appeal to younger buyers or anyone who wants some luxury in a small and sleek package. (It also carries a Buick price tag.)
2013 Scion FR-S: The FR-S might be the most fun you can have in any car for around $25,000. Sure, the interior isn't going to wow you and the styling is kind of generic, but it's old-fashioned rear-wheel-drive excitement. (We do recommend an upgraded audio package with less frustrating user interfaces.)
2013 Audi S4: Don't let its looks fool you. The S4, which is the performance version of Audi's A4 sedan, isn't flashy but it's a different story on the road. The S4 combines thrilling acceleration and sure-footed handling. It's perfect for a driver whose needs include a practical sedan and performance.
Where did the year go? Sometimes it seems as if we're caught in an endless — but enjoyable — cycle of getting out of one car and getting right into the next one. Here are the 11 favorites we drove in 2013. There were many more we didn't get the opportunity to drive. Oh, well, the new year is almost here.
Our 3 favorites
Lyra's three favorite things with bold leadins.
Pete's three favorite things with bold leadins