I grew up in a confirmed Honda family. My dad swears by them — he’s driving his sixth now, with plans to buy his seventh (a 2012 Pilot). You can imagine his shock when I traded in my graduation gift, a 1999 Honda Prelude, for a brand new LEXUS IS250 in 2007. (After eight years and 188,000 miles, it was time.) One three-year lease and a layoff later, I switched back to our family fave. But I still drool every time an IS passes by. The compact four-door sedan is practical, but still sleek, comfortable and sexy — need I say more? I’m adding the 2012 model in Starfire Pearl to my Christmas list. Sorry, Dad.
— Kyle Kearbey
I learned to drive in one of the coolest cars ever — my mom’s 1965 black Mustang convertible, a four-on-the-floor blur with white rag top and red leather interior. I’ve often said I’d give anything to have it back. Never mind the rusted frame and memories of butt-busting, two-lane-blacktop treks to northern New Mexico with windows rolled open to the hot Panhandle grit and nothing but static on the AM radio. Now Ford has solved all that. Just last month, the company announced it would partner with Dynacorn Classic Bodies (dynacornclassicbodies.com) to offer brand new — rust free! — 1965 MUSTANG convertible body shells ready for custom finish out. Prices start at $15,500, plus $495 for crating. You (or your favorite restorer) provide everything from the engine and sheet metal on out. Route 66, here I come. — Tracy Achor Hayes
My earliest car memory is of the pea-green VW van of my toddler years. Only faded pictures tell the tale, but, oh, that sweet diesel perfume … who knew fuel could smell so good? Then my family moved on to a white VW wagon and navy Rabbit. We were a military family stationed in Germany, and the twists along the Rhine River with James Taylor on the cassette player … Fire and Rain, for sure. Back in the states, we adopted an old orange Super Beetle. In my first drive (if you can call it that), I pulled the stick at a gas station and started to roll into traffic before my dad jumped in to the rescue. Later, I got my very own VW, a gleaming black Passat with leather, sunroof and heated seats. These days, I’m hauling two kids of my own in a Volvo station wagon. But every time I pass the billboard for the 2012 BEETLE, I’m in va-va-voom! In my new dream, it’s just me, the autobahn and my new Beetle Turbo with sunroof, sound and navigation. Mein auto! — Jamie Huckaby
The only cars I’ve ever coveted are tough guys. The Jeep Wrangler I’ve driven for the past three years was a 2008 Christmas surprise from my husband — a bow-topped, 2009 two-door in shimmering navy. While it suits my triathlon lifestyle (no cringes if bike grease gets on the black carpet, or when I throw my wetsuit over the roll-bar after an open-water swim), this year I’m dreaming of an upgrade to a 2012 RANGE ROVER EVOQUE. It’s rugged, but with feminine curves, and I love that the frame incorporates recycled, renewable and natural materials. Add a hitch and a two-bike Thule rack, and I’m ready to race. — Jessica Elliott
Mother always said, “It’s what’s on the inside that counts.” She wasn’t referring to cars, but I couldn’t help thinking of her favorite adage last month as I was being whooshed to the Rachofsky House for the Two by Two for AIDS and Art gala in the reclining rear bucket seats of an AUDI A8L. I felt cocooned in the mother-ship: LED light strips glowing, leather softer than a baby’s bum, flat screens ready for the click of a remote. It was all enough to make me rethink my longstanding devotion to Volvo (the soul of a natty New England professor lurks deep inside) and plant the German flag. Only one tweak: Make my model the redesigned, Grande-sized A6, tricked out with a Bang & Olufsen sound system, chrome trim and 20-inch rims. Pretty on the outside never hurt. — Christopher Wynn