In the race for car buyers, conditions have seldom been better. Engineers are making vehicles smarter, safer, and more efficient. Executives are emboldened by the strengthening global economy and cheap financing.

The result is a rash of new and ambitious models, and as industry analysts and executives converged on Detroit this week for the annual car show, we asked several which of the current or coming vehicles they are most impressed with. Not necessarily the nicest or most expensive rides—just the ones that handily beat expectations. (And we made sure that the folks working for car companies called out a competitor.)

Here’s what they chose.

Photograph by Kiyoshi Ota/Bloomberg

In the race for car buyers, conditions have seldom been better. Engineers are making vehicles smarter, safer, and more efficient. Executives are emboldened by the strengthening global economy and cheap financing.

The result is a rash of new and ambitious models, and as industry analysts and executives converged on Detroit this week for the annual car show, we asked several which of the current or coming vehicles they are most impressed with. Not necessarily the nicest or most expensive rides—just the ones that handily beat expectations. (And we made sure that the folks working for car companies called out a competitor.)

Here’s what they chose.

Photograph by Kiyoshi Ota/Bloomberg

The Eight Most Impressive New Cars Right Now

Ambitious Models
Ambitious Models

In the race for car buyers, conditions have seldom been better. Engineers are making vehicles smarter, safer, and more efficient. Executives are emboldened by the strengthening global economy and cheap financing.

The result is a rash of new and ambitious models, and as industry analysts and executives converged on Detroit this week for the annual car show, we asked several which of the current or coming vehicles they are most impressed with. Not necessarily the nicest or most expensive rides—just the ones that handily beat expectations. (And we made sure that the folks working for car companies called out a competitor.)

Here’s what they chose.

Photograph by Kiyoshi Ota/Bloomberg
Audi S8
Audi S8

Tony Nicolosi
North American chief executive officer
Volvo (VOLVB:SS)
Pick: Audi (in total); pictured: Audi S8
“Audi scares me a little, because people seem to think they are the cool thing now. But when I get in one, I always think: ‘Man, our cars are just as good or better.’”

Photograph by Daniel Acker/Bloomberg
Toyota Corolla
Toyota Corolla

Mark McNabb
North American chief operating officer
Volkswagen (VOW:GR)
Pick: Toyota Corolla
“They did a nice job with the refresh of the car. Good, solid car. Big steps for them.

Photograph by Toyota/AP Photo
Chevrolet Corvette Z06
Chevrolet Corvette Z06

Kevin Tynan
Analyst
Bloomberg Industries
Pick: Chevrolet Corvette Z06
“You are asking the wrong guy. I love every car. But I think the new Corvette is incredible; 625-horsepower from the factory is awesome.”

Photograph by Daniel Acker/Bloomberg
Audi A6
Audi A6

Scott Tobin
Head of product development
Lincoln
Pick: Audi A6Q5
“We respect all of our competitors. There isn’t anybody bad, and I mean that sincerely. But I think the Audi guys have got a pretty interesting product line. They’re investing in China, and that’s somebody we’d target.”

Courtesy Audi
Jeep Cherokee
Jeep Cherokee

Xavier Mosquet
Senior partner
Boston Consulting Group
Pick: Jeep Cherokee
“It’s a true child of both Chrysler and Fiat. And it’s a product that by size is in a place where a few years ago the U.S. companies wouldn’t have competed. It’s going to be a global success.”

Photograph by Chrysler Group LLC/AP Photo
Audi “Shooting Brake”
Audi “Shooting Brake”

Bill Visnic
Senior analyst
Edmunds.com
Pick: Audi “Shooting Brake” (concept)
“The ‘shooting brake’ body style—essentially a melding of coupe and station wagon—can be fabulous when executed properly. … What I like equally is Audi’s ongoing interpretation of hybrid and electric blending in this car’s driveline. It’s the sort of cutting-edge technology exploration that’s become an Audi watchword.”

Photograph by Carlos Osorio/AP Photo
Ford Fusion
Ford Fusion

Larry Dominque
Executive vice president
TrueCar
Pick: Ford Fusion
“It’s Ford’s first truly competitive vehicle in the midsize segment in years. And that’s followed on that with the Focus, which has been a very good product for them as well.”

Courtesy Ford
Ford Fiesta ST
Ford Fiesta ST

Daniel Gray
Founder
MPGomatic.com
Pick: Ford Fiesta ST
“For that amount of money, you can’t find a more fun car to drive.”

Courtesy Ford