. For decades, the BMW 3-Series has been the benchmark for compact sport sedans, but nothing from Dearborn, Detroit, or Auburn Hills has come close to challenging it—until this year, that is, when the Cadillac ATS hits the market. The ATS does more than just deliver a solid one-two punch with respect to design and functionality (including awesome seats and the very impressive CUE infotainment system); it’s the best driver’s car Cadillac has ever produced, and it’s going to give GM a new foothold. And, just possibly, loosen the 3-Series’ iron grip on the sport-sedan market.
Tesla Model S. Tesla has called its all-electric Model S sport sedan, which went into production as a 2012 model this past summer, the first “mass-produced electric vehicle.” But likely in an attempt to keep quality high, production is still ramping up in order to meet a target of 5,000 vehicles by the end of the year and 20,000 vehicles next years. Based on early drives, we’ve judged the Model S to be everything we’d expect in a luxury sedan from Silicon Valley, and its EPA driving range of up to 265 miles—if you opt for the top 85-kWh battery pack—helps overcome some of the range anxiety that may give some other EV adopters pause. 2012 might have been the Model S's first model year, officially, but the 2013 model year will be when Tesla needs to prove itself—and, perhaps, its very different way of selling cars.
Scion FR-S. The Scion FR-S and the nearly identical 2013 Subaru BRZ (through corporate logistics, the FR-S is going to be the bigger seller of the two) weigh in as most meaningful outliers. Both of these have rolled in for 2013 as simple, back-to-basics sports cars with small, economical engines, rear-wheel drive, and the kind of driving experience that—as with the Miata—you don’t have to blow way past speed limits to enjoy. After years of ever-faster top-performance models that also seem to be more bloated and detached, these models are proving to serve as a reality check for driving enthusiasts and the industry that sometimes, taking a step back and designing something completely new is the best way.