Home » CEO Life » Cars » Top Wheels, Part II: Five Cars for Play

Top Wheels, Part II: Five Cars for Play

In the second part of our two-part series on top cars, Chief Executive and Edmunds.com showcases five cars for CEO play that focus more on excellence than excess.

This is the second of our two-part series on top cars for CEOs, Top Wheels, Part I: Five Cars for Work.

Your free time is limited. When you’re finally able to take a break, you want a car that’s rewarding and enjoyable to drive without the curse of exotic maintenance requirements. You’re not interested in clubby enthusiast-oriented wheels. You’re done with the Bentley, Bugatti or Maserati; you want excellence, not excess. In the second of our two-part series on top cars, we offer five cars that deliver on that promise.

Private Jet Made Beautiful: Jaguar XJ L Supersport

2011 Jaguar XJ L Supersport
Engine: 510 horsepower, supercharged 5.0-liter V-8 engine / 0-60 mph: 4.0 seconds Price as tested: $116,275 Cool stuff: Virtual display for instruments Nit: Gear shift is just an unsatisfying knob What it says about you: You have a soft spot for outrageous beauty.

The 2011 Jaguar XJ L Supersport is the car that the Germans keep trying to make yet can never quite carry off. Breathtakingly modern and yet with a sensuous style that recalls the fine cars of its past, the big Jaguar is almost more like a piece of sculpture than a mere car. And yet it has the soul of a private jet, breathtakingly fast and powerful, capable of whisking you to distant destinations with silent yet irresistible power.

The cabin shows the appreciation for luxury that only the English seem to understand, only you’ll find modern British design represented here rather than the staid wood and chrome trim of the past. Since this is the flagship for the recently rejuvenated Jaguar brand, every sort of feature related to comfort, convenience or safety has been integrated into this car, ranging from a premium audio system to satellite navigation. But what you won’t find elsewhere is the XJ’s price, which is far more affordable. After many years of wandering through the wilderness, Jaguar is back.

Supercharged American: 2011 Cadillac CTS-V Coupe

2011 Cadillac CTS-V Coupe
Engine: 556 horsepower, supercharged 6.2-liter V-8 engine / 0-60 mph: 3.9 seconds Price as tested: $70,435 Cool stuff: Brightly colored brake calipers Nit: Rear seats essentially inaccessible What it says about you: You can handle power.

The 2011 Cadillac CTS-V is a car that Europeans envy, a kind of Corvette wrapped in a very elegant disguise. The heart of the beast is a supercharged V-8 that makes you think of 50 years of American automotive technology. Yet the Cadillac wrapper keeps it contained, so the driving experience is refined, even when the potential for extreme speed is never far away.

The CTS Coupe offers at once the kind of leather upholstery found only on the world’s finest cars and the option of a six-speed manual transmission that every American boy dreams about in high school (a nicely calibrated six-speed automatic is the more useful choice, of course).

This Cadillac is meant to be driven with feeling. The rear end dances just like a Corvette’s and the auditory feedback from the engine is deeply satisfying. But a loved one sitting in the passenger’s seat also will enjoy its style and luxury—at a fraction of the cost of its European competitors.

Mid-engine Exotic Made Practical: 2011 Audi R8 4.2 FSI

2011 Audi R8 4.2 FSI
Engine: 430 horsepower 4.2-liter V8 engine / 0-60 mph: 4.2 seconds Price as tested: $123,745 Cool stuff: More gorgeous than any Ferrari Nit: Send your luggage ahead by UPS What it says about you: When you kick back, you really kick.

This is an exotic car built by Audi, so it has dramatic style but also the practicality and reliability of a German car.

Beneath the skin is a car engineered for Lamborghini by the engineers at Audi (both of which are part of the Volkswagen group), but the package has been stretched to fit those with German dimensions and the power train comes from the Munich manufacturer as well. We like this car best with its powerful yet relatively fuel-efficient V-8 rather than the exotic V-10, and you have the choice of a six-speed manual transmission or a high-tech transmission with an automatic clutch, which makes it possible to drive this car to the grocery store.

Exotic cars like this were once finicky, expensive to maintain and dicey to handle in daily traffic. There are elements of such impracticality in the laughably small luggage compartment. Yet the flexible power from the V-8, the all-weather utility of all-wheel drive, and a composed, resilient highway ride make the Audi R8 almost as friendly in daily use as a sedan.

Powerful Pleasure: 2011 Porsche 911 Turbo

2011 Porsche 911 Turbo
Engine: 500-horsepower, turbocharged 3.6-liter flat-6 / 0-60 mph: 3.5 seconds Price as tested: $137,500 Cool stuff: Top speed of 194 mph Nit: Only 4.8 cubic feet of cargo capacity What it says about you: You’re a young tiger at heart.

The 2011 Porsche 911 Turbo isn’t a Ferrari. That’s because this 500-horsepower all-wheel-drive sports car can go fast enough to make your eyes water, yet it’ll also cruise so calmly through city traffic that you’ll wonder why anyone would put up with a temperamental Italian sports car.

Porsche offers nearly two dozen versions of its classic, two-passenger, rear-engine sports car, and the 911 Turbo has come to be seen as the lineup’s gentleman’s express, a car with amazing capability that almost anyone can drive with perfect happiness. The choice of the optional six-speed automatic transmission simplifies the driving task, and all-wheel drive enhances stability and grip.

An amazing array of technical features are available, and almost every aspect of the car related to appearance can be customized, including dramatic colors for the bodywork and seat upholstery. The Porsche 911 is a Ferrari, only it makes ownership a pleasure, not a challenge.

Sleek and Speedy: Mercedes CL63 AMG

Mercedes CL63 AMG
Engine: 539-horsepower, turbocharged 5.5-liter V-8 engine / 0-60 mph: 4.2 seconds Price as tested: $150,250 Cool stuff: Impressive yet reserved styling Nit: Thick owner’s manual with lots to learn What it says about you: You love ultimate performances.

The 2011 Mercedes-Benz CL63 AMG is a personalized version of the Mercedes S-Class sedan, a two-door interpretation of the incredibly capable and comfortable sedan from Stuttgart. The sporting CL63 AMG features a twin-turbocharged V-8 that creates an embarrassing amount of power, although Mercedes notes that fuel economy has been improved by about 30 percent.

Standard convenience equipment includes a 600-watt Harman Kardon surround-sound audio system with a six-disc CD/DVD changer, a hard-drive-based navigation system, iPod/USB integration, and Bluetooth wireless telephone. Safety equipment includes assorted electronic measures to make cornering and braking safer, not to mention active cruise control, which will monitor and control the distance interval between the CL and the car ahead. It is an excellent package, which is so essential to the character of Mercedes.

About William J. Holstein and Michael Jordan

William J. Holstein is the author of The Next American Economy: Blueprint for a Real Recovery; Michael Jordan is executive editor of Edmunds.com in Santa Monica, California.