Consumer Reports' Top Auto Picks
The Best of the Best--Consumer Reports' Top Picks: These Cars, Trucks, and Vans Pull Away from the Pack; Categorically Magazine's Top - Choices List Taps Mercedes E320 "Best Regardless of Price" YONKERS, NY - Again in this year's annual Auto Issue, Consumer Reports magazine has focused special attention on vehicles that stand out in certain categories, earning them the distinction: "Best of the Best." Yet, surprisingly, one of the cars thus anointed - a gas-sipping Toyota Tercel - doesn't even make it onto the magazine's list of "Recommended" models. Some of this year's top picks are new models; some are carryover models. All, however, possess qualities that set them apart from their brethren. As Consumer Report's overall standard of excellence, the Mercedes-Benz E320 blends strong acceleration with modest fuel consumption, and responsive handling with a quiet, composed ride. At $44,800, the E320 is the magazine's choice for Best Regardless of Price. The Cadillac Catera, Lexus ES300, Mercedes C-Class and BMW 3-series perform nearly as well overall, Consumer Reports says, but sell for some $10,000 less. Other top picks: -Best Family Sedan: The Toyota Camry. Extensively redesigned for 1997, the reliable Camry has for years been a Consumer Reports top pick among moderately priced sedans. -Best Small Sedan: The Mazda Protege. With an unusually roomy rear seat for a small car, the Protege provides the comfort and refinement of a larger, heavier and more expensive car, along with reliability. -Best Sport-Utility Vehicle: The Toyota 4Runner. It offers the best combination of overall performance and cargo space. -Best Small Sport-Utility Vehicle: The Toyota RAV4. Despite minimal bumper protection, this small SUV gets the nod thanks to its carlike ride and handling, good fuel economy, excellent cargo access and full-time-all wheel drive. -Best Pickup Truck: The Ford F-150. Consumer Reports was impressed with its smooth ride and handling, as well as with its "workhorse cargo capacity". -Best Compact Pickup Truck: The Ford Ranger and the Mazda B-series. The extended cab is especially recommended. The two wheel drive versions of these similar vehicles have proved reasonably reliable; not so the four-wheel drive. -Best Minivan: The Chrysler Corp. twins, Dodge Caravan and Plymouth Voyager. Consumer Reports recommends only the short-bodied versions, which have been more reliable than the long versions. According to the magazine, they "drive with the refined road manners of a good sedan" -Best Entry-Level Car: A young person's first car is likely to be a used model. Among those under $6000, the 1989 Honda Civic is good bet, says Consumer Reports. It offers safe handling, a relatively comfortable ride and good fuel economy. -Most Fuel-Efficient Car: Averaging about 39 mpg in mixed city and highway driving--the best figures Consumer Reports has recorded in years--the 1995 Toyota Tercel takes this prize. Yet its cramped interior and unimpressive scores, overall, in Consumer Reports' tests keep it off the magazine's list of "Recommended" models. Still, if extraordinary fuel economy is all you want in a car... The April issue of Consumer Reports will be available March 25 wherever magazines are sold. To order this report by fax through Consumer Reports by Request, at a cost of $7.75 per report, call 1-800-419-9824 and specify code 959. This report will also be available March 25.