The top 10 Must Drive Cars of 2012

The picture is not of the 2013 Ford Fusion, people need to get their facts straight before publishing.

As the year comes to a close, it’s time to start thinking about the next twelve moths.

And for auto writers like yours truly, that means lining up the most desirable new-for-2012 cars for test drives.

So while you’re more than likely making a list for Santa, I’m making a list for my assignment editor of the new models I want to get a crack at between January and December.

Alphabetically, here are the top 10 new cars I’m most looking forward to test-driving next year:

2013 Audi S7

Can Audi make its new A7 Sportback any better?

Based on the also-new-for-2012 A6 sedan, the four-door 2+2 A7 has arguably ended up the best looking car in a growing “four-door coupe” class that also includes the awkward-looking BMW 5 Gran Turismo and bordering-on-vulgar ‘Benz CLS .

And despite its practical hatch-style body, the Audi is quiet on the road when required, but can act like a sports sedan when called upon.

Improvements? Well, more juice is always good. And that’s where the sportier 2013 S7 comes into play, with Audi’s new 420 hp twin-turbo V8 plus the usual Audi S accoutrements.

2013 BMW 3 Series Sedan

The big question I have about the new generation 3 Series sedan is if I will still be able recommend it to driving enthusiasts as the no-brainer pick in a very tough (and getting tougher) class.

Early preview info doesn’t sound promising.

Like its 5 and 7 Series brethren, BMW has gone timid with the 2013 3’s styling, made it a bit bigger, added more electronic gadgets than a Best Buy box store — and egad! — dropped the base, naturally-aspirated inline six for a blown four banger.

Needless-to-say, some time behind BMW’s new compact sports sedan steering wheel will be called for.

2013 Cadillac ATS

Whereas Ford is still diddling around with its Lincoln luxury brand, over the past decade, it’s been left to the General’s Cadillac to take on the Germans in the sports sedan arena. And the new 2013 Caddy ATS compact sedan (set to debut at next month’s Detroit auto show), is a direct lob at the BMW 3 Series.

Here’s what we kind of know so far…

The ATS will get an all-new rear- and all-wheel-drive platform, be powered by fours and sixes (some turbos), offer manual gearboxes and maybe even a balls-to-the-wall ATS-V, with a speculated 380 hp twin-turbo V6 — can’t wait!

2013 Fiat 500 Abarth

If the Fiat 500 has any chance of busting free of its “chick car” image, the new little Abarth model is its only hope.

Just introduced last month at the Los Angeles auto show, the 500 Abarth (named after Italian race car builder and tuner Carlo Abarth) puts some hair on the previously clean shaven 500’s chest with a turbocharged version of the regular 500’s puny 101 hp, 1.4-litre, pumped up to about 160 hp.

A beefed-up five-speed stick, suitably specced-up suspension and tires, and the requisite sporty bodywork and interior trim also bring some much-needed masculinity to the tiny Fiat city car.

2013 Ford Fusion

According to Ford, I’ve already driven the 2013 Fusion. Well, at least in regards to steering, ride and handling. The current European Mondeo I drove right after this year’s Frankfurt show supposedly gave big clues as to what to expect in regards to driving dynamics for our 2013 Fusion, also due to appear at next month’s Detroit show.

But with styling that’s apparently been inspired by Ford’s Evos concept (or is that the other way around?) and like the new Fiesta and Focus, I’m interested to see how Ford will make one midsize car work for both European and North American drivers.

2013 Honda Accord

After the fly-out 2012 Civic, and the single-to-right 2013 CR-V, Honda North America is hoping for a home run with its forthcoming 2013 Accord. And based on a preview of some of the next-generation Accord’s nuts and bolts, it looks like Honda is bringing all of its extensive engineering prowess with this car.

Dubbed “i-VTEC,” Honda is adding direct-injection and double overhead cams to its mainstream gas engines, promising more power and “at least” a 10 per cent fuel economy advantage over the outgoing powerplants.

As such, the 2013 Accord will get a new i-VTEC 2.4-litre four, plus an all-new enthusiast-friendly CVT, and a plug-in hybrid model as well.

2013 Kia Cadenza

Can Kia keep the hits coming?

The Korean brand’s biggest car, the new-this-year midsize Optima sedan, is arguably its best.

But will the next-step up 2013 Cadenza match (or hopefully exceed) the Optima’s high standard?

Planned to go on sale earlier this year, speculators suggested Kia’s big sedan was delayed so it could take advantage of a new platform it’s sharing with the just-released Hyundai Azera — a car not coming to Canada.

Will the Cadenza be worth the wait?

2013 Porsche 911 Carrera

At first glimpse, the new 2013 911 Carrera doesn’t look that different compared to the last one, which arrived in 2004. But seen in metal and plastic at this year’s Frankfurt auto show, the latest iteration of the iconic Porsche looks the least like the original that arrived in 1964.

That Porsche had one of the originals parked a few feet away only cemented the fact.

Yes, the new Carrera and Carrera S — the first in what will surely be a long line of 911 variants — are lower, lighter, quicker and more environmentally friendly than before.

The 2+2 also happens to be wider, quieter, and more refined, with a longer wheelbase and a more spacious cabin.

But will der neu 911 feel like a sports car when driven?

2013 Scion FR-S/Subaru BRZ

Last year at this time, I had the Toyota version of this new compact rear-drive sports car on my test-drive wish list. For whatever reasons, though, the car was delayed, finally arriving at last week’s Tokyo Motor Show.

We’ll not see the foreign-market-only Toyota GT 86. But I’m hoping the coming-to-Canada 2013 Scion FR-S and Subaru BRZ mechanical clones will be one of those “better late than never” propositions.

With the 2+2 sports car’s rear wheels powered by a naturally aspirated 197 hp 2.0-litre flat-four from Subaru, the FR-S/BRZ is being hailed for its extremely low centre of gravity and feathery 1,207 kg. curb weight — almost 300 kg lighter than a comparable Hyundai Genesis 2.0T.

So, Toyota Canada or Subaru Canada? First one with the invite to drive his car, and I’m all yours.

2013 Volkswagen Golf R

The 2013 Golf R better be good. I’ve been waiting almost three years for this thing.

To recap: the über-Golf is essentially an Audi TT-S in a five-passenger four-door hatchback body. That means a 256 hp version of VW Group’s ubiquitous 2.0-litre direct-injected and blown four that sends its power to all four tires.

However, unlike the Audi, the VW will only come with a stick; no autobox. That should keep us auto writers happy, and the posers at bay.

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