Although the Chinese call 2008 the year of the dog, we consider it more ' The Year of the Euro.' Of the last 10 significant new car launches, eight have been European models. European cars are hotter than ever. We've been saying that for the last 40 years and it seems our colleagues in the press agree. Just look on any newsstand-speed-metal from Audi, Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Porsche are engaged in a perpetual battle for supremacy.

This collection of cars represents what ec editors believe are the best of the best. We've lived with most of these vehicles for months, played with them, fought with them, flat-out abused them.

Typically, our office is a fairly calm place (with the exception of Bidrawn's occasional bout of Tourette's Syndrome), a nice place to hang. All that changed when we began narrowing our 'Best of Class' picks. Heated exchanges, angry glares and the obligatory thrown object kept our side of the building empty for fear of injury. In some cases, when dissent among staffers threatened to tear the office apart, or when it was just too damn hard to pick one car in a given class, we included a secondary pick as a sort of runner-up.

Ultimately, this list is what we believe in. And these are the cars we'd love to park in our own garages.

Car Of The Year
*Power: 420 hp
*0-60: 4.4 sec.
*Top Speed: 187 mph
$109,000

Audi R8
Hands down, this has to be the coolest car of the year. Not only the end product, which is fantastic, but also what it means to Audi. It's a borderline supercar from a company that cut its teeth on sedans and it performs at least as well as you'd expect. Our expectations were pretty high and the R8 exceeded them. It's fast, handles well, looks amazing, sounds freakin' great and is surprisingly easy to drive, with copious amounts of cockpit space and headroom.

Hot Hatch
*Power: 172 hp
*0-60: 6.7 sec.
*Top Speed: 139 mph
$21,200

Mini Cooper S
A hot hatch has always been about performance and fun. Size and weight are a huge part of the equation, as is attitude and individuality. The Cooper S fits the bill perfectly. It's powerful, tossable and doesn't pretend to copy anything else on the road. You can't drive this thing and not smile while doing it.

Hot Hatch Runner-Up
*Power: 200 hp
*0-60: 6.9 sec.
*Top Speed: 130 mph (ltd.)
$22,730

Volkswagen GTI
As much as we love the MINI, we had to name the GTI as a very close runner-up. In the real world, you sometimes need a useable back seat and a big trunk. The GTI doesn't have the same raw feeling, but is still a great handler with plenty of power. It's just become a little too big to be called a hot hatch in the truest sense.

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