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Best Sedans 2006

If you want to know which sedans have the best cup holders, the best backseats for screaming kids or the best financing deals, you're in the wrong place.

All of those things are important, but this year, our guide to the market's best sedans is a celebration. This has been a fantastic 12-month period for new-issue four-doors, and the slide show that follows this piece showcases some of the hottest new cars on the market.

Many of the vehicles on the list go beyond the boundaries of the best sedans and rank among the best cars overall. Take BMW's new M5 hot-rod sedan. This car takes the beautiful, luxurious BMW 5 Series and injects it with a 10-cylinder, 500-hp motor – the same type of engine you would find in a Dodge Viper from DaimlerChrysler. The engine alone gives the M5 buyer something to brag about when comparing sedans with friends – even if those friends drive Bentleys and Maybachs.

Speaking of Bentley, that company earns two spots on our list with the $171,000 Continental Flying Spur and the $221,000 Arnage. Pricewise, the Arnage is at the top end of our slide show – the least expensive sedan in the selection is the $27,000 Avalon from Toyota Motor – and is co-winner of the «Best Ultra-luxury Sedan» category, a group that includes our list's most expensive car, the $385,000 Maybach 62. The 62 was one of only two sedans to earn spots in our recent ranking of the world's most expensive cars, taking eighth place. The other sedan was also a Maybach: the 10th-place 57 S.

But our list of the best sedans does not just contain information about the priciest cars; it also focuses on the newest models. The M5 and the Continental Flying Spur, as well as Mercedes' S-Class, DaimlerChrysler's SRT8 sedans, Volkswagen's Passat, Nissan Infiniti M, Lexus' GS, Toyota's Avalon and Audi's A6 are all either new or fresh from overhauls.

Indeed, if we had one significant bias in choosing our winners for this year, it was toward new vehicles. Models that are getting old – including past honorees such as Infiniti's entry-level G35 sedan – tended to be passed over unless they were extraordinarily compelling. (While we're on the subject, stay tuned for our April 17 feature on the New York Auto Show for a preview of the next-generation G35, which will go on sale in September or October.)

We think the current G35 is one of the market's great sedans, both in terms of styling and in terms of sporty driving dynamics – and we have honored the car in plenty of ways in the past. But the Infiniti Coupe prototype from January's North American International Auto Show in Detroit made us so excited for the forthcoming G35 replacement that we started to forget the current car a bit. We were in awe of the Coupe prototype's nods to Japanese culture, such as a 2-inch strip of chrome on the bottom edge of the exterior sides, part brushed metal and part smooth chrome, that was designed to look like a Japanese sword. The matte texture of the metal interior trim was meant to look like rice paper.

So, while we can't wait to see what new sedans are coming in the next few months, including the new Infiniti, we are delighted that the past year has been such a rich one for new sedan entries.

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