You’ve heard us say that cars have really fallen out of favor of late. SUVs and trucks, it seems, are the new American norm. Well that’s true. Still, 4 out of 10 new vehicles sold are cars, and among the most in demand are smaller, luxury sport sedans. That makes this a good time to meet up with the crew from once again, and see which premium four-door compact is really top, top drawer.

JOHN DAVIS: The compact, yet still roomy, luxury sport sedan game is an exciting one. Not just because the cars are so much fun to drive, but also because so many new players have arrived on the scene of late. 

We’ve got seven of them assembled just outside of Atlanta; and here’s the lineup.

The newest arrival, the Alfa Romeo Giulia…

…From Audi, it’s the high-tech A4…

…Of course there’s the venerable BMW 330i…

…Cadillac’s lightweight thrill machine ATS…

…the polished and potent Jaguar XE…

…The always stylish Lexus IS200t…

…and finally, the luxurious Mercedes-Benz C300…

With a $55,000 price cap, manufacturers had plenty of leeway for packing in both performance and features. And we were joined by a local enthusiast looking for a ride to replace his current BMW 3 series. 

There was a mix of rear and all-wheel-drive among our contestants, but all sported 2.0-liter turbo I4s and automatic transmissions.   

First stop was Atlanta Dragway for a ¼-mile showdown.

The slowest of the bunch was the IS200t with a 7.6-second lumber to 60, and a ¼-mile time of 15.5-seconds at 93 miles-per-hour. 

Next up was the XE, hitting 60 in 6.9-seconds; 15.1 for the ¼, at 94 miles-per-hour. 

5th goes to the C300, with a 6.3-second 0-60, and 14.5-second ¼-mile.

The ATS was a tenth quicker at 6.2-seconds to 60, and a ¼-mile of 14.3-seconds at 98 miles-per-hour. 

Likewise, the 330i was another tenth speedier at 6.1-seconds to 60; while sharing the same 1/4-mile time of 14.3, but at 99 miles-per-hour.

It was quite a leap from there to our runner up, the A4; with its 5.4-second 0-60, and 13.9 ¼-mile at 99 miles-per-hour.  

That makes the Giulia the quickest of the bunch hitting 60 in 5.2-seconds; clearing the 1/4 in 13.7-seconds at 100 miles-per-hour. 

But we all know there’s more to this game than just getting fast in a straight line. So, after a little bit of autocross, plenty of seat time on public roads, and 4-days of general abuse; a winner was crowned.  

Complete car specs and full results can be found at 7th through 4th included the Lexus IS200t, Jaguar XE, Cadillac ATS, and surprisingly, the benchmark BMW 330i. 

Now, our top-3 starts with the Mercedes-Benz C300. Proof that you get what you pay for, the C300 came with the highest price tag here, at $53,025, yet was also clearly the most luxurious. 

MIKE HANLEY: “In a segment where most models try to be sporty, the Mercedes C300 keeps the focus on luxury with a premium interior and a comfortable ride.”

BRIAN ROBINSON: “The Mercedes-Benz has a way of feeling a little bit sporty and very classy, both at the same time; it’s a very, very good choice…”

JOHN DAVIS: 2nd place goes to a newcomer Alfa Romeo Giulia. Alfa may have trickled back into the country with the 4C; but has shocked and awed this segment, by unleashing the Giulia. Even without the Ferrari power of the Quadrifoglio, this 2.0-liter turbo-powered TI delivers 280-horsepower with an exotic car feel that the others just can’t match, at a reasonable sticker of $51,140. 

BRIAN ROBINSON: “The Giulia is the newcomer of the group, and boy did it arrive with a bang; amazing amount of performance, very dynamic feeling, and it’s not too bad of a daily driver, either.”

JOE BRUZEK: “…the Alfa, you know exactly where it is, it’s all the way on the sport sedan side; this has magnificent handling, the chassis is well-balanced, and it’s got an engine that has some guts to it, I mean it feels very strong, stronger than even at 280-horsepower would suggest, almost like it’s got a V6 under the hood.”

JOHN DAVIS: And the winner is… the Audi A4. No surprise to us, having just won our 20-17 Best Sport Sedan Drivers’ Choice Award. It wasn’t even close, really. Without a doubt, the A4 is the total package; delivering performance, luxury, technology, comfort, and style, all in equal measure in a way that makes you never want to stop driving it. Pricing was just under the Mercedes, at $52,325. 

BRIAN ROBINSON: “The A4 is a fantastic car; it’s got the technology that’s easy to use, the design is very classy without being flashy; it may not have the outright performance of some of the others here, but as far as the total package, I think the A4 is the best.”

JOE WIESENFELDER: “…overall, I think when you look at the inside, the interior, the roominess, the quality; the A4 might be the best all-around car in our test.”

JOHN DAVIS: So, there may well be a new sheriff in town, but that doesn’t mean the rest of these rides are 2nd-class citizens. Indeed, the smaller luxury sport sedan landscape is as wild as ever. But for now, it’s the Audi A4 that is riding highest. 

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  • 2017 Alfa Romeo Giulia:
  • 2017 Audi A4:
  • 2017 BMW 330i:
  • 2017 Cadillac ATS:
  • 2017 Jaguar XE:
  • 2017 Lexus IS200t:
  • 2017 Mercedes-Benz C300: