2009 Kia Rio

By Les Jackson

Back in the late 1950s a Ford Executive named Robert McNamara ushered in two new products. The first – the Edsel – proved to be a good product introduced at precisely the wrong time. It was pulled after 2 and one-half years due to poor sales. The other was the Falcon, Ford's first compact car.

The Falcon was sturdy, economical, practical and priced within nearly everyone's budget at less than $2,000. It came in two and four-door, station wagon and, eventually, convertible models. McNamara was quoted at the time as saying that everyone in America should be driving Falcons. What he meant at the time was that the majority of people didn't need anything more expensive or functional for everyday use. The Falcon was "everyman's car" and Ford sold millions of them.

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2009 Maybach 57 S

By Brian Armstead, Autosense

When the call came from Maybach parent company Mercedes-Benz that my several year long wait to drive a Maybach would come to an end, my mind swirled with thoughts. After all, the Maybach brand launched in 2003 with great fanfare, and was the car the rich and famous wanted to be seen in. Rappers featured the luxocruisers in videos, and pro athletes added them to their stables of high-end automobiles.

But that was then and this is now, and the shine on the Maybach brand has tarnished a bit. Why? Well, a shaky economy doesn’t help matters much, but the real reason is the rise of competitors like Bentley, Rolls-Royce, Lexus, Audi, BMW and Mercedes’ own fleet of super-luxurious sedans. The high-end market has also seen a resurgence of storied brands like Aston Martin and Maserati, whose coupes and sedans offer Beverly Hills exclusivity at Santa Barbara prices. Take for example the Maserati Quattroporte, outfitted with fine Italian leathers and wood veneers; powered by a Ferrari designed V8, and underpinned with a high-tech suspension Porsche would be proud of, all for about $115,000.

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2009 Infiniti G37

By Nick Yost

The folks at Infiniti have always invited the comparison, so it’s no surprise that automotive writers like to conduct side-by-side tests of the Japanese manufacturer’s mid-size G cars and the German manufacturer BMW’s 3 Series models.

With each generation, the gap between Infiniti and BMW keeps narrowing, but the BMW almost always edges out the Infiniti, except in one category – price.

And therein lies the rub. When price is figured in, the Infiniti makes a compelling case for itself. Think of the upgraded 2009 Infiniti G37 sport sedan as 95 percent of a BMW 335i for a little more than 80 percent of the price. Or think of getting an Infiniti G37 for the price of the much-less-powerful BMW 328i.

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1929 Ford Pickup

By Vern Parker

Ford Motor Co. built 77,917 Model A-based pickup trucks during the 1929 model year. Included in that total were both closed cab trucks and roadster pickups.

Windowless roadster pickups began the year selling for $445 but that price dropped to $430 by the end of the year.

A collector of antique vehicles in Falls Church, Va., ended up with one of the roadster pickups and about 20 years ago had it restored. Once the restoration was complete the truck rarely was used during the next 15 years.

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2009 Rolls-Royce Phantom Coupe

By Brian Armstead, Autosense

Excellence can be measured in many ways. Awards are a common form of denoting excellence, as are kudos from your peers. After spending time behind the wheel of the 2009 Rolls-Royce Phantom Coupe, I think excellence is measured in the sheer awe and delight passersby expressed as this luxury chariot cruised by.

With a starting price a bit north of $400,000, the Phantom Coupe is a dream for most of us. Yet, there are still many that the recession has not really touched. For these lucky ones, Rolls-Royce offers what could be described as the “ultimate” driving experience.

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