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Cars.com Recognizes Top Cars for Today's Lifestyles With 2009 Lifestyle Awards

The automotive experts at Cars.com hit the streets in dozens of vehicles this year and can now announce their top vehicle picks for a variety of lifestyle segments as part of the 2009 Cars.com Lifestyle Awards. Winners include Cars.com Green Car of the Year, 2009 Toyota Prius; Cars.com Family Car of the Year, 2009 Ford Flex; Cars.com Work Car of the Year, 2009 Dodge Ram 1500; and Cars.com Play Car of the Year, 2009 BMW M3.

Developed to recognize the vehicles that are best suited for the lifestyle needs of today's car buyers, the Cars.com Lifestyle Awards highlight the top choices from Cars.com's Lifestyle Buying Guide. This site feature helps shoppers identify the right car for them based on their personal lifestyle needs, whether they're looking to purchase a new car for a growing family, a ride for weekend fun or a set of wheels that can withstand the rigors of a long commute. The guide features expert picks from Cars.com's editors, based on their unbiased experiences in dozens of test drives and their evaluation of criteria most important to shoppers in each lifestyle category.

"Cars.com recognizes that consumers need different things from their cars," said Patrick Olsen, editor in chief at Cars.com. "With so many options in today's market, finding a car can be very overwhelming for a consumer. Our Lifestyle Buying Guide lets shoppers search for cars across many different categories, allowing them to compare sedans to trucks to SUVs to minivans. Our Lifestyle Awards select our expert reviewers' favorites in these categories, helping consumers confidently select a car that best suits them."

About the 2009 Cars.com Lifestyle Award Winners
Cars.com Green Car of the Year, 2009 Toyota Prius: Chances are, if you ask someone to name a hybrid car they're going to mention the Toyota Prius. The hybrid hatchback has become a phenomenon among regular folks and celebrities alike thanks to its green credentials. With industry-best gas mileage of 48/45 mpg city/highway, a distinctive design and competitive pricing, the Prius is the clear choice for someone looking to have less of an impact on the environment, or just to save money at the gas pump. The Prius isn't only about gas mileage, though, as there's enough room for four people to ride in comfort, plus a sizable 14.4-cubic-foot cargo area. It also comes with important safety features, like standard side curtain airbags. One way to gauge the success of a car is by its buyers' devotion to it. Using this measuring stick, the Prius is a grand slam--and that's a big part of why it's our winner.

Cars.com Family Car of the Year, 2009 Ford Flex: For years, the family car has been an unappealing "must" rather than a "want." The Ford Flex changes this with a crossover that delivers a desirable driving experience and a look that surprised our editors. It's easy to fall for the Flex's direct steering, comfortable ride and spacious seating for eight. The design is slightly harder for everyone to fall in love with, but judging by the stares and comments of passers-by, the Flex definitely has an appealing look. Unlike most minivans, the Flex offers an all-wheel-drive option and returns mileage that's on par with the best minivan.

Cars.com Work Car of the Year, 2009 Dodge Ram 1500: While the redesigned Ram lacks the payload and towing capacity that some of its competitors boast, it's the most broadly appealing truck out there: Cabin quality equals GM's pickups and generally leaves Ford, Toyota and Nissan behind, while ride quality--thanks to a coil-spring rear suspension--beats all four. Optional covered fender wells keep tools or muddy work clothes in lockable storage areas that can be hosed out and drained afterward, while the crew cab's interior sports spacious storage areas in both rows. Engines range from Dodge's capable 3.7-liter V-6 to a revamped and potent-as-ever Hemi V-8; the Hemi should see you through any job that requires extra grunt, and its 20-mpg highway rating with RWD is as good as most pickups these days can manage. No doubt about it: The Ram is ready to take a beating Monday through Friday, then take the kids camping over the weekend.

Cars.com Play Car of the Year, 2009 BMW M3: We like driving with the top down, being seen in a reborn icon and finding driving satisfaction where it's unexpected, but Cars.com's Play Car of the Year has to be one that delivers an exceptional driving experience. That car is the BMW M3. Certainly some dedicated sports cars can outdo this souped-up version of BMW's 3 Series sedan and coupe. They can squeeze more G-force out of a turn and wring faster times out of a hot lap, but not many can then drive home from the track with a low profile and two or three passengers in comfort. The current version brings a new level of completeness and cohesiveness, with ride quality that has made more than just a generational leap, without any great sacrifice in the V-8-powered, rear-wheel-drive car's legendary handling. The M3 is the equivalent of having your cake and driving it really fast through a hairpin turn, too. Bravo.

In addition to the overall award winners, Cars.com recognizes winners in a number of sub-categories. Vehicles with outstanding performance at a value price are also recognized with a Cars.com Best Deal award in each category. Winners include:

Green Cars: Green cars considered include gas/electric hybrids, diesel cars and even a few fuel-sipping gas-only cars.

Cars.com Best Deal for Green Drivers, 2009 Chevrolet Cobalt

Family Cars: Families come in all shapes and sizes. With that in mind, Cars.com recognized the top new cars for a variety of family needs.

Cars.com Best New Car for Small Families, 2009 Subaru Forester
Cars.com Best Deal for Small Families, 2009 Mazda5

Cars.com Best New Car for Large Families, 2009 Ford Flex
Cars.com Best Deal for Large Families, 2009 Toyota Sienna

Cars.com Best New Car for First-Time Drivers, 2009 Honda Civic
Cars.com Best Deal for First-Time Drivers, 2009 Nissan Versa

Work Cars: For some drivers, a car just gets them to the job, and for others it does the job. Cars,com selected cars that can help everyone from commuters to haulers--even the boss.

Cars.com Best New Car for Commuters, 2009 Audi A4
Cars.com Best Deal for Commuters, 2009 Nissan Versa

Cars.com Best New Car for Hard Workers, 2009 Dodge Ram 1500
Cars.com Best Deal for Hard Workers, 2009 Toyota Tacoma

Cars.com Best New Car for The Boss, 2008 Mercedes-Benz S-Class
Cars.com Best Deal for The Boss, 2009 Hyundai Genesis

Play Cars: Whether you're driving into the sunset, hauling a boat to the bay or lugging a mountain bike to a race, there's a car built for every adventure.

Cars.com Best New Car for Sun Lovers, 2009 Jaguar XK
Cars.com Best Deal for Sun Lovers, 2009 Jeep Wrangler

Cars.com Best New Car for Off Roaders, 2009 Jeep Wrangler
Cars.com Best Deal for Off Roaders, 2009 Nissan Xterra

Cars.com Best New Car for The Towing Crowd, 2008 Toyota Tundra V-8 4x2
Cars.com Best Deal for The Towing Crowd, 2009 Nissan Frontier

Cars.com Best New Car for Weekend Athletes, 2009 Honda Element
Cars.com Best Deal for Weekend Athletes, 2009 Scion xB

Cars.com Best New Car for Driving Fun, 2009 BMW M3
Cars.com Best Deal for Driving Fun, 2009 Mazda3

About the Cars.com Lifestyle Awards:
Launched to recognize new vehicles that best suit the lifestyles of today's car shoppers, the Cars.com Lifestyle Awards acknowledge the best cars across a number of categories that car shoppers can identify with based on their personal vehicle needs.

Award winners were selected by Cars.com's expert reviewers and unbiased editorial staff from the field of editors' picks in the Cars.com Lifestyle Buying Guide. All vehicles in this guide first had to be selected as Cars.com Best Bets, meaning they were among the model year's best offerings in their vehicle segment. From there, the team tapped into knowledge drawn from their time with the cars to decide which vehicle best met the criteria and intent of the lifestyle category at hand. For small families, for example, safety was a paramount concern, along with seating. In choosing the best deal for each lifestyle category, the reviewers looked at which cars offered the best bang for the buck. To view comprehensive awards criteria, visit Cars.com. Additionally, behind-the-scenes insight into the award selection process and inside debate can be found on Cars.com's blog, KickingTires, blogs.cars.com/kickingtires.

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