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The Daily Drivers | By Peter Couture and Lyra Solochek, Times Staff Writers

The Daily Drivers: Building the perfect car with notable features from 2009, 2010 models

Looking back to the past seven months since we started the Daily Drivers column, we saw many notable features among the 2009 and 2010 models we test-drove. We put together a list of our favorites for our dream car.

Our favorite: We found the Jaguar XFR to be a perfect match of style, luxury and performance. Sure, it's a small detail, but we never got tired of seeing the futuristic shifter dial rise from the console after you press the ignition. And it handled some bad rainy weather with no problems. And because it's supercharged, there's power on demand.

Safety features: Blind-spot sensors warn you of any obstacles out of your sight. We especially liked the Audi Q7 TDI's sensor lights, which are next to the side mirrors, not in it, making it easy to see. Peter also liked the Mercedes-Benz S63 AMG's night assist feature, which shows nighttime environment in a high contrast black-and-white image on the screen in the tach area. It helps you spot potential problems on the roadside, such as pedestrians. The backup camera screen in the GMC Terrain was integrated into the rearview mirror. What you lose in display-screen size you make up for in intuitive placement. The Toyota Prius' lane-keep assist warns you if you're straying. The warning bell is loud and startling, which should jostle you out of your daze and snap you back into driving mode. We hope these safety features filter down to more modest models soon.

Creature comforts: The Mercedes-Benz S63 AMG's massaging seats can make traffic congestion tolerable. The neon-blue ambient interior lighting in the Chevy Camaro and the Buick LaCrosse were built into the dash and door panels, giving nighttime driving a bit of pizazz. The Toyota Yaris strays from the norm with the gauges in the center of the dash. But more notable is the cup holder to the left of the steering wheel, an easy reach for a driver. The Dodge Ram has a small feature we hope will be more common: a built-in inverter so you can plug in regular electronic cords, not the ones for the cigarette-lighter sockets.

The look: The halo headlights in the Chevy Camaro give the car character with its distinctive and stern glare. Both the Lexus IS 250 Convertible and BMW Z4 combine the hardtop retractable roof seamlessly into their designs without compromising the streamlined look. Hyundai seems to be the master of metal. The Genesis Coupe's body styling rolls with creases and contours for a sharp, distinctive look.

Performance: Nothing beats the rumble of the 425-horsepower HEMI of the Dodge Challenger if you love horsepower. We didn't even listen to the radio. And the Nissan 370Z's six-speed manual transmission with "SynchroRev Match" blips the throttle for the next gear when you're downshifting, resulting in seamless downshifts. But if muscle and high-tech are not your cup of tea, the MINI Cooper S Clubman offers a peppy go-cart-like drive, making any commute a joy ride.

True blue: We both liked the Ford Edge Sport's Sport Blue color, which we found stunning and worthy of a shoutout. Lyra also liked the subtle and classy indigo blue of the Jaguar XFR. The finish of this dark blue had a brilliant diamondlike shimmer.

Seats: The fabric front seats of the Subaru Outback 3.6R Premium were most supportive and comfortable of any car we've driven so far. Another standout is Honda Odyssey Touring's plush leather rear seats, which were like couches in the living room. They also recline for a nap or for viewing videos on the ceiling-mounted screens.

Green cars: More are hitting the market with improved gas mileage. Although the gas-electric hybrids, like the Honda Insight and the Toyota Prius, are more common on the road, the Audi Q7 TDI reminded us that the quiet diesel technology is also a major player in the clean-car wars. We can't wait to see what's coming next.

Peter Couture

Lyra Solochek

The Daily Drivers: Building the perfect car with notable features from 2009, 2010 models 01/01/10 [Last modified: Friday, January 1, 2010 3:30am]
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