Editors' choice: top 10 cars from 2013 under $100,000

Brett Berk

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There is a parlor game popular among the inebriated wherein an individual conjures a trio of people—actors, athletes, random men in the bar—and participants have to chose, absolutely, which one they would sleep with, which they would wed, and which they would murder. When automotive writers congregate, and get drunk enough, a similar game ensues, though it goes along the lines of: borrow, buy, dream.

This week we’re going to play a version of that latter game, in which we focus solely on the buy part. To celebrate the official start of the 2013 car-shopping season and the release of the 2013 models, we posed to ten of the top car writers the question of what new car they would purchase for under $100,000. The only rule was that it had to act as their day-to-day vehicle, and thus fit their real-life needs—messy kids, demanding friends, and potholed streets included. They were also required to provide some brief explanation for their choice. Click through the slide show to view their utterly fabulous array. (Prices, and images, reflect how the writers optioned “their” cars.)

Eddie Alterman, Editor In Chief, Car And Driver
Current Car: 1983 Mercedes-Benz 300D
Car Pick: Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG wagon ($98,950)

I need a wagon. Sedans don’t have the room to haul my various creams and unguents, and I’m not about get a faux off-roading crossover—if I’m going to buy something with capabilities I’ll never use, it better actually have those capabilities. Also, I need performance, ideally allied to the sort of vector-locking, road-crushing chassis that Mercedes-Benz makes. But Mercedes only makes one wagon, and so I must choose—via special order—the E-class five-door with the monster engine, enhanced with the performance package. As for gas mileage? Don’t worry, it’s got an Eco mode.

Brett Berk, Automotive Columnist, Vanity Fair
Current Cars: 2004 BMW 325i Sport, 1972 GMC Suburban 4x4
Car Pick: 2013 Audi A7 Prestige ($75,920)

No two-seat Porsche Boxster S for me. My boyfriend and our best moviegoing upstate gays require my chauffeuring skills every weekend—as does the local dump. And while I’d prefer a wagon, BMW’s new hatchback 3-er hasn’t yet hatched. But this mesomorphic five-door—Those ravaging eyes! Those swimmer’s thighs!—will do nicely, with class-trumping cargo room, surrounded by pure class. Combine this with all-wheel drive, a powerfully efficient engine, and the world’s most usable infotainment interface, and you have one vehicle that melds, and supersedes, the strengths of both my current rides. I’d slather mine in brown on brown—so darkly chocolate you can taste the bitterness.

Andrew Del-Colle, Associate Editor, Popular Mechanics
Current Car: None
Car Pick: Mini John Cooper Works Convertible ($35,100)

As a bigger guy, I naturally gravitate toward smaller cars. Or maybe they gravitate toward me. Either way, a fully loaded, manual John Cooper Works convertible would be my pick at this time in my life. I just moved to Brooklyn, so size is key when parking or slaloming through the NYC streets. And for traveling, I only need enough room to haul me and my girlfriend, and a bag for each of us. More importantly, Have you driven a manual Mini? You won’t stop smiling for days. Toss in the J.C.W.’s 208-hp turbocharged engine and you’ve cooked up pure crack on wheels.

Hannah Elliott, Staff Reporter, Forbes
Current Car: My grandmother’s Chelsea boots
Car Pick: 2013 Porsche 911 Carrera S ($99,415)

I live in the West Village (read: small streets, no parking) with frequent needs for heading east (Long Island, please) and not a lot of baggage—in life or otherwise. The 911 Carrera S is 400 horses fast, efficient (27 mpg on the highway), and iconic—a legend of automotive design. But none of that would matter if this seven-speed lacked spirit, that elusive intangible that somehow transforms metal and rubber into something to love. It doesn’t. One drive and you’ll know the coupe is capable—and worthy—of something real. I’d be a fool to resist.

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Jake Fisher, Director Of Auto Testing, Consumer Reports Cars
Current Cars: Consumer Reports’ test cars
Car Pick: 2013 Hyundai Veloster ($19,450)

Why choose a front-wheel-drive Hyundai with no power? The Veloster is a modern-day Honda CRX. While it’s based on a subcompact, it’s fun to drive, looks cool, is surprisingly functional, and barely uses any gasoline, no matter how hard you beat on it. Plus, there’s lots of room for my kids and their stuff. A Scion FRS may be more fun at speed, but I figure I’ll always own a purpose-built track car, and I’ll still be able afford one—or three—after forking over only $20K for the Veloster.

Justin Hyde, Senior Editor, Motoramic, The Yahoo! Autos Blog
Current Car: 2010 Mazda 5
Car Pick: 2013 Porsche Cayenne S Hybrid ($98,970)

The real test of family cars comes in darkness, typically in subzero temperatures, as you clean a kid’s vomit ambush from the seats in the glow of the Kum & Go and ask, “Should we just sell it?” My 2010 Mazda 5 passed that dark night of the stomach, and, like Gabby Douglas, it’s a small performer that shines in all-around events. The only serious rival for my family’s affection? The Porsche Cayenne Hybrid S, which can be loaded with rear-seat entertainment and combinations of wood, leather, und aluminum to create an interior that ranks among the industry’s best—absent a true gut check.

Jean Jennings, Editor In Chief, Automobile
Current Car: 2007 Chevrolet Suburban
Car Pick: Mercedes-Benz CLS63 AMG ($95,900)

Big power, big noise, big luggage sucker. Squeaks in under $100,000 with thick leather, black wood, and massaging seats. Plus, it is so beautiful, I would wash it with my tongue.

Davey Johnson, Senior Online Editor, West Coast, Autoweek
Current Car: 1994 Chevy K1500 Blazer
Car Pick: Jaguar XF Supercharged ($72,225)

Acknowledging the reality of aging parents and my girlfriend’s young son, I can’t choose anything with two doors. Mr. Berk’s price ceiling keeps me away from a properly optioned Porsche Panamera. In California, BMWs are like Bavarian cockroaches, so, no. But salvation hails from Coventry in the Jaguar XF Supercharged. The chassis is lovely, the motoring experience serene. Stomp on the throttle and the rear tires keen, as the huffed V8—one of the world’s most enthralling power plants—sends you drifting across multiple lanes. And priced against the competition, the Jag’s a veritable steal.

Jonny Lieberman, Senior Features Editor, Motor Trend
Current Car: 2001 Subaru WRX Wagon
Car Pick: Subaru BRZ ($27,900)

These days, excess just might be on the decline. If so, Subaru’s BRZ is surfing the vanguard. A bizarre joint venture with Toyota, the BRZ is everything a car guy actually needs. At well under 3,000 pounds it’s light, which not only results in supercar-rivaling handling, it provides green-car-rivaling miles per gallon. The BRZ is beyond fun to drive, yet with the rear seats down it can haul every piece of your stuff, assuming you’re childless. Most important for us writerly types, you get $90,000-plus Porsche-style handling for right around $28K, with all the proper options ticked.

Sam Smith, Executive Editor, Road & Track
Current Car: 1989 BMW M3
Car Pick: 2013 Ford Mustang Boss 302 ($42,995)

Side-mounted exhaust pipes loud enough to rattle dishes in the next county. A stick for a rear axle—solid, like a pickup truck’s, and thus gloriously feisty. A 5.0-liter, 444-hp V8 that spins to a vibrasonic 7,500 rpm. Suspension that works a veritable miracle, performing well on both track and street. Drive one of these things, and you feel like the world’s most sophisticated goon. Scratch that: you are the world’s most sophisticated goon. I have stripes. Do you have stripes? No? Then get the hell out of the way.

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See All 2013 Editor's Top Car Picks Under $100,000 at VanityFair.com