American Beauties

The car next door is all grown up--and going places fast.

A handful of sporty, image-enhancing business sedans are filling dealerships this fall and in early 2008. Among them are the Dodge Magnum R/T, the Ford Taurus (formerly 2007's Five Hundred) and the Pontiac G8. With powerful engines, automatic transmissions, seating for five, cavernous trunks increased by split rear seats, and a priority on safety, these vehicles are styled as executive-class performers.

Too stately to be called a wagon despite its liftgate, the 2008 Dodge Magnum R/T is a deceptively serious-looking car that hides a muscle-driven, 340-horsepower HEMI V-8 engine under its hood. When less power is needed, four cylinders automatically shut off, increasing fuel economy up to 20 percent. A Bentley look-alike, the Magnum R/T has 71.6 cubic feet of cargo space with the rear seats down and has a touring suspension for a smooth ride. Safety features include stability and traction control. Price: just over $32,000.

Bringing back the popular Taurus name, Ford claims its 2008 model has the most spacious interior of any large sedan and can load items up to 9 feet long with the front passenger seat folded flat. Legroom is best-in-class, and cargo volume is 21.2 cubic feet. With a 263-horsepower V-6 engine that packs 30 percent more power than the previous model, the Taurus' new sound improvements are designed to provide a quiet ride. Award-winning safety features include side curtain rollover air bags and sensors to detect wheel slip. Starting price: $23,995.

The 2008 G8 rejuvenates GM's Pontiac division, giving your commute a little excitement. This sedan boasts a 261-horsepower V-6 engine. The five-speed automatic transmission includes a manual mode. Manufactured at GM Australia with a wedge-shaped, sporty-yet-sophisticated exterior, the four-door G8 has discreet hood scoops and fender vents. Standard features include stability/traction control, OnStar, extra air bags, XM Radio, 18-inch wheels, and fog lamps. Heated leather seats are optional. Cargo volume is 17 cubic feet. Price: under $35,000.

Jill Amadio is an award-winning automotive journalist and author.

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