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The best cars of the year

LAMBORGHINI MURCIELAGO
Forbes.com calls the Lamborghini Murcielago Roadster — with a base price of $328,000 — the top convertible of the year.duPont Registry via AP
/ Source: Forbes

Given unlimited choices and resources, how can a reasonable human being be expected to choose between such automotive gold standards as Aston Martin, Rolls-Royce, Ferrari, Lamborghini and Porsche?

This is a quandary we face each year in preparing our year-end roundup of the best cars on the market. Granted, it's a fun problem to have — but, a problem nonetheless. For determining the best of the less exotic cars, such as the wagons and minivans, we can rely on objective standards such as Consumer Reports' reliability ratings, performance figures such as horsepower and acceleration, government crash tests and recall histories. But, many of these ordinary buying concerns go out the window when one is choosing which supercar is worth $450,000.

In an interview last week, Peter Schwarzenbauer, president of Porsche Cars North America, said that he sees choosing between a Porsche and a Ferrari "as religion."

“Either you believe in Ferrari or you believe in Porsche,” Schwarzenbauer said.

Although we strive for maximum objectivity in our pieces, biases and instinctual attraction to certain cars tend to reveal themselves when people discuss high-end vehicles, which is a major reason we have conversations about our favorite, or just ideal, cars, in general. That said, when objective comparisons could be made between cars, they were utilized to guide our decisions.

Each vehicle was then assessed on a weighted average of these factors by vehicle category, and our own Test Drive reviews were incorporated to determine a final ranking.

This piece is a look back on the best cars of 2004, but we are always looking forward, and we most enjoy writing about new cars. Therefore, we did not consider honoring any lame ducks, such as Ferrari's 360 Modena two-door, which is being discontinued to make room for the company's F430 coupe, or the outgoing Porsche 911. Also, our assessments include both 2004 and 2005 models, as some '05 model cars are already on sale. One footnote: each car was only allowed one appearance on the list, hence the selection of General Motors' Chevrolet Corvette for an award as a convertible, but not as a coupe.