The Top 5 Luxury Performance Cars: Report from 2013 Chicago Auto Show

What follows is our favorite upscale family cars as displayed at the 2013 Chicago Auto Show. On this list, you won’t see an expensive BMW 6 series, Mercedes S-class or Audi A8 which will get you well into the $90,000 price range. But, we’re going a little more refined than your standard run-of-the-mill cars, like a Toyota Corolla or Honda Civic. These four-door vehicles have room for the family, while also providing more refinement and sportiness, combined with a touch of luxury…a feeling that you’ve made it. These cars exhibit class with some edge, but are not too hard on the wallet.

5. 2013 Chrysler 300 – starting at $29,995

2013 Chrysler 300

2013 Chrysler 300

SRT 8 model

2013 Chrysler 300 – SRT 8 model shown

Models include standard 300, C, C Luxury, C Varvatos edition, S and the SRT 8. Motor options are the 3.6 L Pentastar® V6 (19/31 MPG), 5.7 L Hemi® V8 (16/25 MPG) and a 6.4 L Hemi® V8 (14/23 MPG). I love the exterior styling and its mildly retro design. The classy grille and integrated rear spoiler evokes Chrysler’s late 1950s era of chrome, trim and tail-fins. While renting a 300 on a recent vacation, the car was admired by some occupants of my hotel. As far as its drive, I don’t like the limited visibility. The backup camera is a necessity. The function of the console’s gear selector is awkward, but maybe I could get used to it. The ride is a little heavy, although I’m not expecting a low-slung sports car ride. The Chrysler should be a vehicle with some bulk. It’s got a trunk-mounted battery like the old super stock cars. With that 470 hp Hemi® and 470 ft-lbs on the SRT 8 in a nicely appointed four door package, it’s a solid addition to our list of luxury performance cars.

4.2013 Hyundai Genesis – starting at $34,200

2013 Hyundai Genesis

2013 Hyundai Genesis

2013 Hyundai Genesis

2013 Hyundai Genesis, R-Spec Model Shown

Engine lineup includes the 3.8 L V6 (18/28 MPG) and a 5.0 L Tau® V8 (16/25 MPG) on the R-Spec (starting price $46,800). The exterior has clean design, interior is pretty roomy, and I believe this luxury sedan has the most comfortable seats in the bunch. When you go for the R-Spec, suspension is sports-tuned with rear-wheel drive. 429 horses with 376 ft-lbs are mated to the eight-speed automatic transmission with Shiftronic®. Unfortunately a stick shift isn’t available, but the look still shines with nice 19″ machined alloys, chrome moldings, illuminated door sills, R-Spec badging and floor mats with darkened chrome headlamp inserts. It’s been criticized for not being sporty enough, but I think that gives it a great sleeper appearance.

3. 2013 Ford Taurus – starting at $26,700

2013 ford taurus

2013 Ford Taurus, SHO Model Shown

Ford's EcoBoost Engines

Ford’s EcoBoost Engines

I’m a Ford guy at heart, so I’m sorry to place their flagship sedan at #3 on my list. It’s a great looking car, with high-tech features SYNC® and MyFordTouch®, improved fuel milage, and a sporty SHO model (starting at $39,300). There’s a 3.5 L V6 (19/29 MPG), an EcoBoost® with the same displacement (17/25 MPG) and a 2.0 L EcoBoost® inline four (22/32 MPG). Standard in the SHO model is the V6 EcoBoost® motor, and it’s all refined for performance enthusiasts. The grille is blacked out with 19″ aluminum wheels. I love the look. The EcoBoost® 6 cylinder achieves 365 hp with 350 ft-lbs of torque. A special SHO performance package includes upgraded brakes and suspension, unique and stiffer stabilizer bars, 20″ machined wheels and performance tires, and 3.16 gear ratio. Powering the wheels is a six-speed select shift automatic. What’s missing is a manual stick shift transmission! The interior is nice, but not quite as refined as the Cadillac or Buick. I hope Ford spices up the inside and offers a six-speed stick shift in the Taurus SHO for 2014.

2. 2013 Cadillac ATS starting at $33,095

2013 Cadillac ATS

2013 Cadillac ATS

2013 Cadillac ATS

2013 Cadillac ATS

Turbo ATS Model Shown

Cadillac Turbo ATS Model Shown

The proclaimed North American car of the year features 3 engine choices. There’s a 3.6 L V6 (18/26MPG), a 2.5L (22/33MPG) and a turbo-charged 2.0 L four-cylinder (20/30 MPG). Available with the smaller turbo motor is the Tremec 6 speed manual transmission. I think it’s a perfect blend of family ride and sporty stick shift driving. Once you drop the kids off at school, take yourself out on a fun drive while shifting through the gears. A six-speed automatic is standard with all engines. The chassis is lighter so you’ll feel it’s nimble handling on the road, while Brembo® brakes handle the stopping power. The interior is nicely appointed and comfortable. As always, that iconic Cadillac emblem is on the grille. The vehicle’s stance, the flowing lines along the body, and the sharp rear treatment is all eye-grabbing.

1. 2013 Buick LaCrosse starting at $31,660

2013 Buick LaCrosse

2013 Buick LaCrosse, AWD model shown

2013 Buick LaCrosse

2013 Buick LaCrosse

2013 Buick LaCrosse

2013 Buick LaCrosse

For as long as I can remember, the Buick was a car for old folks. It seemed generally every Buick passing by was navigated by a senior. The nameplate fought to change that image for decades, and I believe they’re finally succeeding. Times have changed, and so has Buick. Advertisements display a more youthfull exuberance. The Enclave, for example, is a great 3-row SUV for young families. The sporty Regal and Verano are optional with a 6-speed stick shifts. For the fancier 2013 LaCrosse, your powertrain choices are the 3.6 L V6 at 303 hp (17/27 MPG) and the 2.4 L inline four with electric motor pumping out 182 horses (25/36 MPG). Both engines are mated to a six-speed automatic tranny. The four-cylinder is front wheel drive and the six is available all-wheel. Exterior styling is excellent with it’s sweeping lines and tasteful chrome treatment. The trunk has space. Ultimately, the interior dash layout won me over. It’s pleasantly chromed with easy to view gauges, like an elegant cockpit with a futuristic edge. A minor complaint may be the small arm rests and interior door handles, but I’m quibbling. A DVD system is available in the back, with SiriusXM and standard IntelliLink combining your entertainment and navigation. Rear view camera is standard on the leather group. The LaCrosse features nice exterior color choices, and it’s my top pick for the most refined family car for the money.

Honorable mentions:

1. 2013 Chevrolet Impala – the new styling is a winner

2013 Chevrolet Impala

2013 Chevrolet Impala

2. 2013 Lexus ES350 – classy upholstery in leather or NuLuxe material.

2013 Lexus ES350

2013 Lexus ES350

3. 2013 BMW 3 Series – unmistakable front grille.

2013 BMW 3 Series

2013 BMW 3 Series

4. 2014 Infinity Q50 – expected availability in June with a hybrid model.

2014 Infiniti Q50

2014 Infiniti Q50

5. 2013 Mercedes C Class – what’s a luxury article without Mercedes?

2013 Mercedes C class

2013 Mercedes C class

2013 Chicago Auto ShowHeld at McCormick Place February 9-18th, the 2013 Chicago Auto Show is the largest in the country. This is its 105th year and the show is produced by the Chicago Automobile Trade Association.

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