2012 Coupe Buying Guide

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Automotive Editor

Trent Loomis is an automotive journalist who has spent the past four years writing reviews, buying guides, and how to articles for some of the biggest websites in the world. Although he currently lives in Los Angeles, he also spent some time in Germany where he got to experience European craftsmanship and the thrill of driving on the autobahn.

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, Automotive Editor - November 20, 2014

The sound of their engines awakens the adrenaline junkie in us. Their distinctive lines pull our gaze every time they drive past. They're not made for families, or efficiency, or utility. They are made for the driver, designed and built for pure driving enjoyment. They are coupes.

Our CarsDirect editors chose the top coupes of the year based on the two factors that matter most to coupe drivers: style and performance. Drivers, start your engines.

The 2013 Coupe Buying Guide is now available. Browse »

Coupes Under $25,000

This group features two vintage American speedsters and an up-and-coming import. All provide great value in terms of power, style, and sticker price. And while Mustangs and Camaros are known for their brawn (over 300 horses worth), we also like that they get 30 mpg on the highway

Ford Mustang
The sports car for everyone - most complete overall package
Ford Mustang

As American as apple pie, the iconic 2012 Ford Mustang is fast, efficient, and affordable. There are several ponies in the Mustang stable, but the base model starts at just over $22k - which is amazing considering that it generates 305 horsepower, and fuel estimates that you would not normally associate with a Mustang (19/31 mpg). The 2012 Mustang is light on its feet and responds well to steering on a curvy road. Sporting a better build quality than the Camaro, the Mustang is our pick for best coupe under $25k.

Chevrolet Camaro
Best-in-class suspension for driving enthusiasts
Chevrolet Camaro

Like the Mustang, the 2012 Chevy Camaro is an American icon and is known for its Detroit-built muscle. The Camaro has a slight edge in horsepower (323) but is barely behind in torque and highway fuel efficiency. However, the Camaro has an independent rear suspension (allowing each wheel on the same axle to move independently of each other) that the Mustang lacks and every enthusiast yearns for. Awesome grip allows the Camaro to take corners at faster speeds. Driving the 2012 Camaro will transform your mundane daily commute into an action-packed adventure.

Hyundai Genesis Coupe
More sleek than muscle - best looking interior
Hyundai Genesis Coupe

Is this really in the same league as the Mustang or Camaro? Not quite, but the Genesis Coupe does offer a better warranty and everyday real-world civility. Prospective buyers have the option of the 2.0 four-cylinder turbo and a 3.8-liter V6. However, the V6 slots in just above the $25k mark. The four-cylinder achieves 21/30 mpg so you can enjoy day to day driving efficiently. The R-Spec model adds a firmer suspension and high-performance tires in case your commute involves nimble maneuvering. The rear seat is designed for adults in case you need added passenger capability.

Coupes Under $40,000

This group leans toward the European models, with a splash of modern American style thrown in. With the exception of the CTS, these coupes aren't as powerful as the previous three, but they do raise the bar for refinement and handling.

BMW 328 Coupe
Best performance and handling in its class
BMW 328 Coupe

It makes sense that BMW is at the top of the list in this price segment. Those Germans blend their love for open highways and winding Alp roads with sophistication, comfort, and performance you rarely see. Near-perfect weight distribution in the 328, lends itself to BMW's signature tight and responsive feel. The 328's cabin is plush, with leatherette upholstery, dark burl walnut wood trim, and ambient lighting. According to BMW, the 328 has the best zero to 60 mph time in its class at 5.7-seconds, while still receiving a surprisingly good 18/28 mpg. You won't find a more solid compromise between ride quality and handling in a two-door coupe under $40k, period.

Audi A5 Quattro Coupe
Great handling with a sporty appearance
Audi A5 Quattro Coupe

Arguably the most head-turning coupe in its class, the 2012 Audi A5 coupe is as good at garnering attention as a puppy in a park. Audi's Quattro all-wheel-drive delivers precision-handling that is great at taking corners and maintaining traction in adverse conditions. The A5 is the only coupe on this list that does not have a V6; however, it is on par with the BMW 328 in terms of torque and gets best-in-segment fuel efficiency at 21/31 mpg. You'll be leaving a trail of envy in your wake with the grown-up, yet enthusiastic Audi A5 coupe.

Cadillac CTS Coupe
Big-time power with edgy American styling
Cadillac CTS Coupe

The 2012 CTS coupe is for the driver who wants a 100% American solution to their midlife crisis. What we mean to say is the CTS coupe is a bold, American-made speedster that will make you feel younger and more alive. Edgy styling (literally) and that famous Cadillac wreath adorn the grille and trunk lid for a unique and classy touch. The interior is just as fun, especially if you opt for the navigation system that rises out of the center console. One of the best values in terms of coupes, the CTS has the most powerful engine of the three in this group at 318 horsepower and 275 lb.-ft. of torque.

Coupes Under $55,000

Now we're starting to hit the sweet spot of power, performance, and good old fashioned American nostalgia. Forget about mpg and saving the environment - these coupes are bad boys that need to be unleashed. Even the term 'coupe' sounds too tame for this class.

Chevrolet Corvette
Unsurpassed history, performance, and style
Chevrolet Corvette

Pure muscle, pure performance, and pure fun - do you need anything more? How about style and speed? Check and check. The Corvette is by far the best bang-for-your-buck with 430-hp/424 lb.-ft. of torque, a top speed of 190 mph, and a lightning-quick zero to 60 time of 4.2 seconds. If you're looking to get off the line quickly while still maintaining control, simply put your hands on the wheel and your foot to the floor and let the Corvette's launch control do the rest. Throw in an estimated 26 mpg on the highway and you have the top-selling high-performance sports car in its segment.

Chevrolet Camaro ZL1
A raw and retro coupe that summons vintage Detroit muscle
Chevrolet Camaro ZL1

Turn back the clock to Led Zeppelin, the moon landing, and the summer of '69 with the raucous 2012 Chevy Camaro ZL1. You don't have to be a muscle-car enthusiast to appreciate the iconic shape, power, and torque of this throwback. Chevy has resurrected the quickest, fastest, and most capable Camaro of all time with a monstrous 580-hp/556 lb.-ft. of torque, supercharged V8. While it's the most expensive coupe on this list, it does lack overall interior refinement - but hey, that's not why you're interested. You're interested in Magnetic Ride Control suspension dampers, Brembo brakes, a dual-mode exhaust, massive Goodyear Eagle F1 tires and a sport-oriented steering wheel.

Ford Shelby GT500
More practical than the Z01 with comparable power
Ford Shelby GT500

Appealing to Mustang fans and muscle-car enthusiasts alike, the 2012 Shelby GT500 is a blend of power, torque, speed, quickness, grip, and style. As loaded as the GT500 is, it lacks an independent rear suspension, which the Camaro has. However, a well-tuned suspension and supercar tires with tons of grip let the Shelby excel through turns. Even though the Shelby GT500 is a coupe, it has a comfortable backseat. The Shelby is an exceptional value that finishes a close second to the Corvette, even though it's meant to go head-to-head with the Camaro. Racing stripes, cobra logos, sport bucket seats, a 550-hp/510 lb.-ft. torque supercharged V8, and a starting price of $48k make the Shelby GT500 a tremendous value.

Coupes Under $65,000

You know you're heading in the right direction when you start comparing Porsches and BMWs. This group focuses on the finer points of performance like build and driving characteristics, while incorporating world-class style and reputation.

Porsche Cayman
Old-school racing meets every day driving
Porsche Cayman

How would you feel if we told you that a Porsche was the most affordable luxury coupe in this segment? Yeah, we thought so. At a starting price of $52k, the Cayman receives 90% of the Porsche 911's performance for $30k less, and rewards owners with a pure, uncompromising performance with impressive fuel economy (19/27 mpg). This luxury coupe doesn't have blistering power (265-hp), but has racecar-precise handling with a 5.5-second zero to 60 time. You can't go wrong with a Porsche - especially the Cayman. Its classic architecture and engine placement harkens back to the Porsche 550 racecars built in the 1950s, and the Cayman represents the purest vision of a Porsche sports car. It's not for everyone, but if you are serious about driving and don't mind being seen in a Porsche, the 2012 Cayman can't be beat.

BMW M3
The ultimate driving machine with seating for four
BMW M3

With so much power and comfort, you'll love turning the daily commute into a time trial with the 2012 BMW M3. The M3 is a perfect combination of racetrack inspired handling, and luxurious craftsmanship that BMW's are renowned for. Unlike most coupes, the M3 seats up to four comfortably and has 11 cubic feet of trunk space. You can race around town with the M3's high-revving V8, which produces 414 horsepower, besting the Cayman's by a whopping 149 horsepower. M-themed sport bucket seats, rear apron with diffuser, quad polished stainless steel exhaust tips, 19-inch wheels with high-performance tires, and a lowered suspension add to the appearance and performance of this sophisticated speedster. The fun engine allows for high-revving, while the M3 holds on to turns like Wilson Phillips holds on to one more day.

Cadillac CTS-V Coupe
American-made with fastest zero to 60 time in its segment
Cadillac CTS-V Coupe

The CTS-V is the CTS coupe on steroids. There isn't an ounce of fat on the CTS-V coupe and its monstrous 556-hp/551 lb.-ft. torque, supercharged 6.3-liter V8. That's enough juice to propel the CTS-V from zero to 60 in an astonishing 3.9 seconds. The American-built 2012 CTS-V is so powerful and angular in design that you forget it's a Cadillac. Don't be fooled by all of its brawn, the CTS-V has a smooth side. Soft-touch materials, wood trim and Recaro sport seats bring refinement and excitement to the interior. If you want to be noticed, the concept-inspired CTS-V stands-out like a red dress at a black tie event. At $63k, the CTS-V coupe is the most expensive of the three in this segment, but if American-made power and class-leading acceleration is what you're looking for--it's well worth it.

Coupes Under $100,000

If you're in the market for one of these coupes, you better live close to a racetrack. Owning one of these supercars isn't about the daily commute or the mpg - it's about acceleration, horsepower and a finely-tuned suspension.

Nissan GT-R
The performance of an exotic, with the price of a common
Nissan GT-R

It just isn't fair. The 2013 Nissan GT-R is a supercar dressed in affordable clothing, blowing past the competition in this segment with ease. The 2013 GT-R gets an increase in power and torque with 545/463 lb.-ft. respectively and has all of the driving technology you could want with twin- turbo V6, a dual-clutch automated manual transmission, an advanced all-wheel-drive system and a sport-focused suspension with adaptive dampers. You can rocket from zero to 60 in just 3.1 seconds making the GT-R a true supercar that should be in the $500k range. Instead, it's an amazing combination of technology, performance and price at $97.8k. The 2013 Nissan GT-R is as easy to drive as a Nissan Maxima and will take an entry-level driver and turn them into John Force.

Porsche 911 Carrera
Most attractive high-end performance coupe at this price point
Porsche 911 Carrera

Using the autobahn as its inspiration, Porsche has taken performance to the next level with the redesigned 911 Carrera and Carrera S. There is a large fleet of 911's and the aforementioned models were the only two to receive updated styling and mechanics. The base Carrera starts at $82k and has a 350-hp engine that goes zero to 60 in 4.6 seconds. The Carrera S weighs in at $96k and uses a 400-hp engine and reaches 60 mph in 4.3 seconds. Both have a longer wheelbase and a revised look - inside and out. All-in-all, both models demonstrate a refined performance that offers a billet-like feel from behind the wheel. If the GT-R is an aluminum and carbon fiber sledgehammer, the 911 is a tempered, ceramic scalpel.

Chevrolet Corvette Z06
American style and American power at a best-in-segment price
Chevrolet Corvette Z06

By this point, you should know what you're getting from a Corvette. However, the 2012 Z06 is a step above regular models and provides so much power and speed that you'll need to pack a parachute. A 505-hp/470 lb.-ft. torque, 7.0-liter V8 beast propels the Z06 from zero to 60 in 3.9 seconds, reaching a top-speed of 198 mph. Factor in an amazing 15/24 mpg and you can justify taking the Z06 off of the track and on to the highway. The Z06 is not too keen on refinement, but it's a bargain at $75k, which is $25-30k less than the competition. That alone makes it the best bang for your buck on this list by a wide margin.

, Automotive Editor

Trent Loomis is an automotive journalist who has spent the past four years writing reviews, buying guides, and how to articles for some of the biggest websites in the world. Although he currently lives in Los Angeles, he also spent some time in Germany where he got to experience European craftsmanship and the thrill of driving on the autobahn.

Follow On: Google+ | Website

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