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.

Sport Wagon
*Power: 507 hp
*0-60: 4.3 sec.
*Top Speed: 155 mph (ltd.)
$85,800

Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG Estate
For those people with a few extra shekels to spend who just can't find the 'sport' in Sport Utility Vehicles, the E63 Estate is the answer. It packs no less than 507 hp, with sedan handling and the utility of that big back end. It's the ultimate sport wagon. And honestly, who would really want to drive a truck?

Sport Wagon Runner-Up
New For '08
*Power: 150 hp
*0-60: 7.1 sec.
*Top Speed: 130 mph
$23,000 (est.)

Volkswagen Jetta Wagon TDI
It doesn't have 507 hp, but it gets more miles to the gallon than the Benz. The Jetta has always been a great car; the new TDI diesel should make it that much better and hopefully draw a whole new set of buyers to VW dealers. Once there, we're betting they'll be impressed by the interior, build quality and uniquely European driving experience.

Full-Size SUV Runner-Up
*Power: 500 hp
*0-60: 4.9 sec.
*Top Speed: 171 mph
$93,700

Porsche Cayenne Turbo
When Porsche introduced its SUV, the company went to great lengths to prove the vehicle's off-road capabilities. They're for real and, as it turns out, the Cayenne is also probably the best handling truck-like thing on the road today. Then there's the monster acceleration: zero to 60 mph in just 4.9 seconds-keeping in mind this beast weighs nearly 7000 pounds. If ever an SUV could claim to be a sports car, this is the one.

Small SUV
New For '08
*Power: 200 hp
*0-60: 8.5 sec.
*Top Speed: 130 mph
$25,000 (est.)

Volkswagen Tiguan
Of the vehicles in the small segment, nothing holds a candle to the Tiguan. Most small SUVs are more often referred to as cheap SUVs-and for good reason. The Tiguan bucks the trend with quality materials and great features not found even on big SUVs. The model to buy will be the TDI version.

4-Door Compact
*Power: 420 hp
*0-60: 4.8 sec.
*Top Speed: 155 mph (ltd.)
$66,000

Audi RS4
In this category, the RS4 is beyond reproach. No other sedan out there provides anywhere near the driving experience. The 4.2-liter V8 has plenty of torque down low, but spins up with the ferocity of a sport bike. The steering and shifter feel as though they are straight out of a DTM car, and the exhaust note isn't far off either.

GT
New For '08
*Power: 510 hp
*0-60: 4.3 sec.
*Top Speed: 191 mph
Price TBA

Aston Martin DBS
Let's face it, there are tons of really good luxury GT cars out there. Aston sets the mark for the class, comfortable and powerful, with enough handling prowess to take on sports cars through the corners. The DBS builds on all that is good about the DB9 and adds extensive carbon fiber paneling, revised aerodynamics, and 60 hp more from the 6.0-liter V12.

GT Runner-Up
*Power: 420 hp
*0-60: 4.9 sec.
*Top Speed: 155 mph (ltd.)
$86,035

Jaguar XKR
We've found the fast Jag to be one of the most underrated cars on the market. A sweet, supercharged V8 sits up front and makes all the right sounds for a proper GT experience. Seating positions are plenty sporty for fast driving, but also quite comfortable for longer distances. In theory,it's a two-plus-two, though the back seats are probably suitable only for amputees or small dogs.

Full-Size Sedan
*Power: 350 hp
*0-60: 5.9 sec.
*Top Speed: 130 mph (ltd.)
$70,690

Audi A8 4.2
In Europe, cars in this category or more commonly used as limousines than daily drivers. Here in the States, however, we always seem to think bigger is better. In this light, we picked the best driver's car in the class. The A8 is remarkably athletic for its size-luxurious and sporting with copious amounts of interior space. The base A8, equipped with a 4.2-liter V8, begins just north of $70k, a steal in this sector. You may also opt for a long-wheelbase version, designated L, or one powered by the Volkswagen Group's W12 engine.

Sports Car, $50-$100k
*Power: 325 hp
*0-60: 4.8 sec.
*Top Speed: 177 mph
$71,300

Porsche 911 Carrera
A predictable pick, perhaps, but truly a benchmark in the automotive world. Every time manufacturers launch vehicles dubbed 911-killers, the marketing hype swirls, head-to-head battles ensue and, once the dust settles and the chest-beating stops, the 911 is still King. Years of racing victory and probably the best R&D abilities on the planet quite simply make for a great sports car. It's facing its toughest competition yet, but still reigns as the best in its category.

Full-Size Sedan Runner-Up
*Power: 510 hp
*0-60: 4.5 sec.
*Top Speed: 130 mph (ltd.)
$139,900

Mercedes-Benz S600
Divisions ran especially deep as we discussed the full-size category. At least one stubborn staffer was stuck on the S-Class, the S600 in particular. There's just so much to love about Mercedes' bi-turbo V12. If you can afford the price premium, the S600 also includes such standard equipment as dynamic multi-contour seats, a panoramic sunroof and a 14-speaker Harman Kardon sound system.

Sports Car $50-$100k Runner-Up
*Power: 330 hp
*0-60: 4.9 sec.
*Top Speed: 155 mph (ltd.)
$50,100

BMW Z4 M Coupe
It's definitely a 'love it or hate it' car, sometimes by the same person in the same day. No one can deny that the car is a true performance bargain. Some don't like the fact that it is unapologetic in the way it gets things done, but that's what makes others like it even more.

Sports Car $100-$200k
*Power: 490 hp
*0-62: 4.0 sec.
*Top Speed: 196 mph
$173,079

Ferrari F430
A marked improvement over the 360 Modena in every respect. It's a perfect evolution of the brand and the most refined berlinetta to ever roll out of Maranello. It's also probably the most docile and easiest to drive, and its laser-guided steering and a rapid-fire F1-derived gearbox allow almost anyone Schumacher-like precision and control. It's also decidedly more well-rounded, with improved comfort and reliability. The F430 is an exotic that can be driven daily and without fuss.

Best Value Entry Level
*Power: 150 hp
*0-60: 9.0 sec.
*Top Speed: 130 mph
$15,490

Volkswagen Rabbit
A car like this for about 15 grand-are you kidding? When you look at the quality of this car, the driving experience, even the safety ratings, and then look at the price, is anyone surprised that VW is losing money? This year, the Rabbit gets a bump to 170 hp and we've seen how much potential is still sitting dormant in the 2.5-liter five-cylinder. The Rabbit may be the perfect car for the commuter moonlighting as project builder.

Best Value High End
*Power: 300 hp
*0-60: 5.9 sec.
*Top Speed: 155 mph (ltd.)
$74,835

Jaguar XK
Overlooked by most and loved by a few, Jaguar has really been off most buyers' radar for a number of years. This means exclusivity and great deals for the few who get it. The XK offers amazing looks, tons of pedigree and great driving dynamics. The base XK Coupe is $75,500, but sources tell us that some customers are paying well below that.

Track Weapon
*Power: 190 hp
*0-60: 4.9 sec.
*Top Speed: 147 mph
$56,990

Lotus Exige
Keeping performance and an involved driving experience foremost in mind, there is no purer, more focused vehicle on the American market than a Lotus. Given that focus, it would be difficult to drive this car on a daily basis, considering the limited cockpit space and the absence of such niceties as carpeting and sound deadening. But it makes for an ideal weekend track toy.

Mod Machine High End
*Power: 480 hp
*0-60: 3.4 sec.
*Top Speed: 193 mph
$122,900

Porsche 911 Turbo
Some would argue that the Turbo is fast enough as delivered. But how can you stop when making power is so disgustingly easy? Our Project 997TT has already seen well over 500 wheel-hp with just a flash and exhaust. Some have made 700 hp still utilizing the VTG turbos-and much more with traditional turbos. Porsches have always had a strong connection between street and racecars, and it clearly shows in the ease of suspension tuning. It's not hard to take a 997 Turbo to true supercar status.

Canyon Carver
*Power: 295 hp
*0-60: 5.1 sec.
*Top Speed: 171 mph
$58,900

Porsche Cayman S
A good portion of sports cars may never even see a canyon, but if it's good in the canyon, it'll be good for spirited driving on the street. You're looking for a car that's predictable, handles and stops well, and has enough power to make things interesting, but not put you in a crater. The Cayman S is all these things and more. Mid-engine means low polar moment of inertia, which translates into lightning-fast direction changes.

Mile Eater
*Power: 604 hp
*0-60: 4.2 sec.
*Top Speed: 155 mph (ltd.)
$186,000

Mercedes-Benz SL65 AMG
This big roadster is still one of the fastest stock cars we've driven. Obscene amounts of torque from the bi-turbo V12 (738 lb-ft at 2000 rpm) mean neck-snapping acceleration at virtually any speed. But it isn't all about thrust; it's also one of the most comfortable sports cars around. While supremely supportive, the seats are as comfortable as lounge chairs (they even massage) and the interior is crammed with more electronics than an FBI surveillance van. It only seats two, but aren't those the best kinds of getaways?

Mod Machine Entry Level
New For '08
*Power: 300 hp
*0-62: 5.3 sec.
*Top Speed: 155 mph (ltd.)
Price TBA

BMW 135i
A compact, twin-turbo, rear-wheel-drive car potentially accessible to loads of enthusiasts, this is what tuners dream of. Right out of the box, the 135i will have 300 hp; we can already see the potential for software tuning and no one has even done a proper flash yet. This car could be the second coming of the 2002.

Brat Packer
*Power: 350 hp
*0-60: 7.0 sec.
*Top Speed: 130 mph (ltd.)
$58,600

Audi Q7 4.2
You've been blessed with children, a lot of them. You need a suitable conveyance, one that's big, functional and doesn't leave you feeling like a minivan zombie. Substantially larger than the biggest sport wagon, the Q7 does so many things right that it can make you forget your kids altogether and simply drive on. Its long wheelbase and wide stance make it an exceptional long-distance cruiser, while its Quattro driveline means modest off-road adventures are possible. Right now, the 4.2 is the way to go, but the 3.0 TDI diesel version will be worth waiting for.

Night On The Town
*Power: 552 hp
*0-60: 4.6 sec.
*Top Speed: 198 mph
$169,990

Bentley Continental GT
By any definition, the GT packs incredible performance, but the car is absolutely in its element when you're just out for a cruise. Fit and finish on modern Bentleys boasts nothing less than artisan quality, particularly the interior. The GT's sleek lines and stainless steel accents on the exterior add to its panache. And for 2008, there is also the Continental GT Speed, history's first genuine 200-mph Bentley. You'll be able to arrive in unmitigated style an hour before everyone else.

IKEA Hauler
New For '08
*Power: 235 hp
*0-60: 8.4 sec.
*Top Speed: 130 mph (ltd.)
Price TBA

Volvo V70/XC70
The two of you are just starting out, you plan on offspring, but you haven't completely given up on life, so you can't stand the thought of an SUV. There are probably no cars more ideal for this scenario than the new Volvos. And with the rear seats folded down, cargo space is truly staggering. For the active, outdoorsy types, the XC70 offers more robust body cladding, a pumped-up ride height and four-wheel drive.

First Real Job
New For '08
*Power: 354 hp
*0-62: 5.1 sec.
*Top Speed: 155 mph (ltd.)
Price TBA

Audi S5
So you just graduated, beat out all the high-five-ing frat boys for the good job, but you're still driving the slammed and stickered GTI. It's time for something that has everything you want in a car, without looking like you're trying too hard. It can't have the stigma of a BMW or Benz, or the boss will think you're overpaid. The S5 is the answer. We love the 4.2-liter V8 and the car handles well, while maintaining a civilized demeanor over the roughest commute. Buy red if you want a little flash, but dark gray will look as classy as your new Cole Haans.

Full-Size SUV
*Power: 305 hp
*0-60: 8.3 sec.
*Top Speed: 130 mph
$76,535

Land Rover Range Rover
Land Rover's reputation for off-roading prowess is well deserved and the company isn't afraid to show what its vehicles can do-from rock crawling in Utah to fording serpent-infested rivers in the jungles of Belize. There may be no more capable four-wheel-drive vehicle, in spite of the fact that 90 percent of them will never leave the pavement. Paradoxically, on-road manners are frighteningly good. You could cruise all day at triple-digit speeds and your passengers would never be the wiser.

2-Door Compact
New For '08
*Power: 420 hp
*0-62: 4.8 sec.
*Top Speed: 155 mph (ltd.)
$63,000 (est.)

BMW M3
As always, the most highly anticipated sport sedan across the board-even though it isn't available with four doors any more. Though, like Porsche's 911, it's facing its stiffest competition in 20 years of existence. So far, the M3 reigns supreme.

Mid-Size Sedan
New For '08
*Power: 300 hp
*0-60: 5.7 sec.
*Top Speed: 150 mph (ltd.)
$49,400

BMW 535i
We were going to say M5, but that's too predictable. And besides, SMG is still a throbbing pain in the butt. The 535i is the best buy in the 5 Series range, thousands of dollars cheaper than the V8-equipped 550i and about half as much as an M5. A big part of its appeal is the inherent magnificence of the 3.0-liter twin-turbocharged in-line six. And for the truly eclectic, it's also available in sport wagon form.

Money No Object
*Power: 640 hp
*0-60: 3.4 sec.
*Top Speed: 200 mph
$313,600

Lamborghini Murcielago LP640
It seems strangely inappropriate to refer to the LP640 as a car. After all, if a Civic and a Camry are both cars, the flagship Lambo is something else entirely. Febbo referred to it as one of the last true exotics made. Uncivilized, completely irreverent and unabashed, it screams bravado from all 12 thumping cylinders. While rather big and girthy for a track car, and too powerful to really be a canyon carver, there are few quicker automobiles on the planet.

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