Editor's note: In the first annual CultureMap Auto Awards, automotive writers Nic Phillips and Kevin McCauley bestow honors in 10 categories for the top 2012 cars and trucks and explain why they're deserving of a good, hard look. Now for our fifth award:
Sports Sedan of the Year: Tesla Model S
It's good. It's really good. Tesla's first built-from-the-ground-up, all-electric car is beautifully designed, crafted beyond the industry standard, a technological breakthrough resulting in the first-ever properly sorted fully electric sports sedan.
You may have expected us to give it the "Smart Energy Car of the Year" award, but the Model S' sports car performance and driving dynamics are right there with conventional gas-powered BMW M5 and Porsche Panamera GTS sports sedans.
Tesla sent a wake-up call to all manufacturers that, yes indeed, a startup can create a game changer. The only downfall, as with all electric cars, is that its range is limited to the capacity of the battery. But with up to 300 miles in store, Model S sets a new high for production electric cars.
Tesla offers an industry first High Power Wall Connector, which is installed on a 240-volt circuit and combined with Tesla's Twin Chargers. It charges at a staggering 62 mph. (Compare that to the Chevrolet Volt's approximately 40 miles in 3.5 hours.)
Driving the Model S encourages you to mash the accelerator to the floor, all the while knowing you're not burning premium fuel and spewing tailpipe emissions on those left in your dust. The electric motor supplies instant torque, and there's no engine noise or gear changes for a truly unique — if not strange — experience.
The Model S starts at $52,400 (after a $7,500 federal tax credit) and tops out at just over $100,000 with every option, including Tesla's high power wall charger.
Sports Sedan of the Year Runner-up: Jaguar XFR
In the world of super sedans, Jaguar's XFR is the current leader of the pack when it comes to style, refinement and performance.
This is the gentleman's super sport sedan, and although it may not have the 550-plus horsepower of the BMW M5 or the Cadillac CTS-V's performance value price, its further refined exterior styling and decidedly British V8 exhaust note get our nod.
In 2013, Jag ups the ante with the XFR-S, bringing much of what was learned from the limited edition XKR-S coupe and adding a new 8-speed automatic paired to the up-rated 550 horsepower supercharged V8.
Having seen and heard the XFR-S launched at the LA Auto Show, we cannot wait for what this video teaser promises: