Every year, car manufacturers roll out new makes and models that push technology to the breaking point. Edmunds.com, an automotive-information Web site, evaluates these cars and explains what consumers are getting for their money. This includes engine design, cosmetic details, and, naturally, speed.The evaluations are based on the opinions of Dan Edmunds, the site’s director of vehicle testing. He’s the one who actually test drives the cars, so CNBC.com spoke with him to get his thoughts on 2011’s 10 fastest models. ” I don’t think there’s a stinker in the bunch,” he said.
Some of the cars on this list are new models out this year, or rolling out the next. Others have remained mechanically unchanged for two or three years, but still pack a wallop that only a handful of other cars have managed to beat.
The cars are ranked on the rate at which they can go from zero to 60 miles per hour, not their top speed. After all, the average driver is unlikely to drive on U.S. highways at 215 mph, but is almost certain to get from zero to 60.
No. 10 Jaguar XFR (2010-2011)
Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price: $82,875
According to Edmunds, the Jaguar XFR is “one of those cars that people who like Jags just really like. They like them because of the way they look. They’ve definitely got that Jag styling that a lot of people are looking for.”
The car goes from zero to 60 in 4.5 seconds. It has a 510 horsepower engine, and is elegant and luxurious on the inside. “It’s probably one of the more deceptive cars on the list,” says Edmunds. “It doesn’t show what it’s got as overtly as the others, until you stomp on the pedal.”
No. 9 Ford Shelby GT500 (2011)
Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price: $49,605
The Ford Shelby GT500 is a Mustang. It doesn’t say it is, but rest assured, it is. Of all the cars on this list, it’s the least expensive, with a base price of $49,605. The car has a 550 hp engine and it can go from zero to 60 in 4.4 seconds.
”This car has got a lot of things that hark back to Shelbys of old,” says Edmunds. “It has stripes down the center and Shelby badging on the trunk, but that engine and horsepower are what differentiate it.”
No. 8 Mercedes-Benz C-Class AMG (2007-2011)
Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price: $59,805
The Mercedes-Benz C-Class AMG can go from zero to 60 in 4.4 seconds. This is true of both the C63 AMG and the CLS63 AMG. There are differences between the two, however, that car buyers should know.
”The C63 AMG is basically a little car with a big engine,” says Edmunds. “It has a great exhaust note, a real nice ‘burble’ when it’s idling. It really sounds great. You want to stop the car and just listen to it go.”
The CLS63 AMG, on the other hand, is based on the same platform, but it’s more elegant and has four doors as opposed to two. It’s also priced at $99,050, as opposed to the $59,805 C63 AMG.
BMW X6 M (2010-2011)No. 7
Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price: $90,375
According to Dan Edmunds, the BMW X6 M is “basically an SUV. It’s big. They made it look like a hatchback.” It can go from zero to 60 in 4.3 seconds.
BMW also offers the X5 M, which can go from zero to 60 in 4.5 seconds, just barely enough to stay on this list. However, while it operates at so lethargic a clip, it still offers “lots of horsepower, lots of tire, lots of brakes.”
No. 6 Cadillac CTS-V (2011)
Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price: $65,390
The Cadillac CTS-V comes as both a coupe or a sedan. Both cost $65,390, so they're ineligible for supercar status. However, they’re comfortably within the modest financial reach of mere mortals.
They also share the ability to go from zero to 60 in 4.2 seconds. The Cadillac is one of the least expensive cars on this list, and according to Edmunds, it’s “not a bad car at all.”