The 2012 NFL Draft kicks off tonight, which means tomorrow will see millions of hours in lost productivity as Americans wonder why, God, why their team drafted the next JaMarcus Russell. We got to thinking: If we had to draft an automotive team, so to speak, which upcoming cars would be the hottest prospects?
Eight editors weighed in, and here are our picks determined by voting. The car with the most votes went first. Be patient as we respond to your comments after the draft. We're busy pulling our hair out.First-Round Pick
2013 Ford Fusion
The redesigned Ford Fusion is our Andrew Luck, a seemingly can't-miss prospect. But Ford's adoption of controversial MyFord Touch controls is like a lurking college-ball injury that could flare up again. Still, the car's striking profile and Aston Martin-like grille call attention; so does its handsome interior and efficient turbo drivetrains. Not since the Kia Optima has a family sedan looked this good. And that car won our highest honor. Among eight editors, six voted Fusion. Ford wins easy.
2013 Dodge Dart
Chrysler's latest bid in the popular compact segment, the Dart, holds promise for an automaker that hasn't sold a small sedan since the ill-fated Neon. (Now, that would have been a bust of a pick.) Dodge says the Dart will be capable of an EPA-estimated 40 mpg or better in at least one version, and the car's sharp looks complement its well-appointed interior. Based on underpinnings from the Alfa Romeo Giulietta — Alfa is a Fiat brand, and Fiat controls Chrysler — the Dart has high potential.
2013 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport
Tying the Dart's votes is the new Hyundai Santa Fe Sport, a replacement for the Santa Fe. The new Santa Fe (no Sport), meanwhile, replaces the larger Veracruz — a quick way to exit our draft board, on grounds that shoppers will be more confused than when Lincoln renamed its lineup under the same two letters. But the Sport shines with a face that recalls the Veloster hatchback, a stylish cabin and an estimated 30-plus mpg in highway EPA figures.
2013 Cadillac ATS
Like the receiver from an unlikely school who clocks an impressive 40-yard dash, the ATS kicks off our late-round sleepers. Cadillac says it weighs less than 3,400 pounds, undercutting the benchmark BMW 3 Series — whose existence is the ATS' raison d'être. Conventional and turbocharged four-cylinders join GM's excellent 3.6-liter V-6 in the ATS, but we wish Cadillac offered a manual transmission with the V-6. Sigh. It's the third round, so you can't have it all.
2013 Cadillac XTS
The ATS' (much) bigger brother, the XTS replaces the DTS in Cadillac's lineup. It promises to be a big, comfortable car with a tour de force of GM technology, using Cadillac's touch-sensitive center controls — which we're dubious on, but these have better execution than Ford/Lincoln's — and crash-avoidance technology that warns the driver via seat vibrations. Sure, we'll throw another late pick Cadillac's way.
2013 Nissan Altima
Nissan estimates the redesigned Altima will get an EPA-estimated 27/38 mpg city/highway with the four-cylinder and automatic transmission. That tops the segment, with no special trim packages needed. Case closed. Why didn't the Altima rank higher with all these measurables? It didn't reinvent the styling wheel (see Ford Fusion) inside or out. Still, we think it should sell well.
2013 Porsche Boxster
Look close, and the Boxster's new lines impress; others may not notice the changes from afar, though. A revamped interior boasts classier center controls, and the whole package weighs less. Luxury roadsters are a small segment, but the Boxster's stock will rise. Incidentally, you may note our "team" somehow got four third-round picks. That's because we traded away our defense. OK, it's really because four cars tied in votes.