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Best deals on American-made cars for Labor Day 2014

Deep discounts on Consumer Reports' recommended cars

Published: August 29, 2014 03:00 PM

Celebrating the workers who built this great nation, the Consumer Reports’ price analysts have combed through the hundreds of current incentives to identify the largest discounts on American-made cars and SUVs.

Each model featured here meets Consumer Reports’ stringent criteria to be recommended, meaning they scored well in our testing, have average or better reliability in our latest subscriber survey, and performed well in government or insurance-industry safety tests, if evaluated.

Most models here offer potential savings of at least 10 percent below MSRP, with at least a minimum of $2,000 off, based on customer rebates and direct-to-dealer incentives. For this grouping, we ranked the models based on dollar savings. Predictably, the best deals are found on the largest, priciest vehicles. But that’s not to say some small and midsized cars can’t deliver big discounts.

Specific savings for each model, including other trim variations, can be found via the Consumer Reports car model pages. (Before taking a test drive, read: “Should I Buy an End-of-Summer New Car?”)

Each vehicle featured below is a 2014 model, and all incentives expire on Sept. 2.

See all current Best New Car Deals, or use our New Car Selector to create your own list of vehicles by sorting and filtering by the factors that matter most to you.

Consumer Reports Build & Buy

When buying a car, in addition to research and reviews, Consumer Reports offers subscribers access to the Build & Buy Car Buying Service at no additional cost. Through this service, a nationwide network of more than 7,000 participating dealers provide upfront pricing information and a certificate to receive guaranteed savings off MSRP (in most states). The pricing information and guaranteed savings includes eligible incentives. Consumer Reports subscribers have saved an average of $2,919 off MSRP with the Build & Buy Car Buying Service.


Ford Expedition EL

Base MSRP price range: $41,975 - $58,855
A full-sized SUV with a full-sized discount, the Ford Expedition is the right tool for big jobs. It is offered in standard and EL, for extra length, configurations. The EL is capable of seating eight, toting a huge amount of cargo, and generous towing capacity. The roomy third-row seat folds flat into the floor or seats three adults with ease. The coarse-sounding V8 produces 310 hp, and it is mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. Our tested EL felt sluggish and returned just 13 mpg overall. Handling is relatively responsive for such a large vehicle, but braking distances are long. An updated 2015 Expedition launches in the fall. Consequently, the outgoing model has huge savings.

Make/model MSRP Invoice Potential savings
Ford Expedition EL XLT 4WD $48,780 $46,641 $5,678

Cadillac ATS

Base MSRP price range: $33,065 - $48,195

Cadillac has long chased BMW, and the ATS luxury sedan is as close as an American sedan has ever come to the 3 Series. The ATS is an absolute blast to drive. Its sharp handling and eager performance give up nothing compared with the best European sports sedans. We actually prefer the lively steering in the Cadillac over the latest BMW 328i we tested. The ride is taut and controlled without being punishing or harsh. Braking performance is outstanding. Interior fit and finish is impressive, and the front seats are very comfortable. But the CUE infotainment system, with its flush buttons, is very convoluted and frustrating to use. Try before you buy.

Make/model MSRP Invoice Potential savings
Cadillac ATS 3.6L RWD Luxury $42,020 $40,376 $4,233

Ford Mustang

Base MSRP price range: $22,510 - $60,110

The smart Mustang money is on the V6 coupe. With a low base price and 305 horsepower on tap, it delivers a lot of bang for the buck—especially with the generous discounts available. In fact, the potential savings comes within $200 of those offered on the mighty GT. With the next-generation Mustang coming soon, Ford is putting a bundle of cash on the hood. The refined and punchy V6 attained an impressive 24 mpg overall in our tests, including 35 mpg on the highway. Despite its old-school, solid-axle rear suspension, the Mustang feels agile and athletic and maintains an even keel winding through twisty turns. Quick, well-weighted steering conveys a decent amount of road feel. A rolling piece of Americana, the Mustang boldly waves the flag and boasts big-time incentives on all variations.

Make/model MSRP Invoice Potential savings
Ford Mustang V6 Premium
$27,435 $25,990 $3,798

Buick Enclave

Base MSRP price range: $38,890 - $48,465

The most luxurious of General Motors’ three-row crossovers, the Enclave is set apart from the Chevrolet Traverse and GMC Acadia by nicer interior finish, a quieter cabin, and a softer ride. The large Enclave feels more responsive in corners than some Buick sedans, with quick steering response and decent feedback through the steering wheel. The 288-horsepower, 3.6-liter V6 engine often feels taxed by the Enclave's hefty 5,100-pound weight, but when pushed, it delivers good performance. A notable downside is that it returns just 15 mpg in mixed driving on regular fuel, although this may be offset by available savings. Forward-collision and lane-departure warning systems are available.

Make/model MSRP Invoice Potential savings
Buick Enclave Convenience AWD
$41,815 $40,588 $3,227

Chevrolet Traverse

Base MSRP price range: $30,795 - $43,255

A roomy family hauler, the Traverse provides generous passenger space in all three rows. In fact, the Traverse is capable of seating up to eight adults while still leaving some cargo space. Drivers and passengers should appreciate the quiet cabin, comfortable seats, and well-finished interior. Despite its size, the Traverse handles surprisingly well. Power is decent from the direct-injected 3.6-liter V6 engine but at 16 mpg overall, fuel economy falls somewhat behind the curve. The Traverse is a smart alternative to a traditional truck-based SUV, such as the Chevrolet Tahoe, unless there is a need to tow heavy trailers or do serious off-roading.

Make/model MSRP Invoice Potential savings
Chevrolet Traverse 1LT AWD $36,885 $35,805 $3,080

Chevrolet Malibu

Base MSRP price range: $22,340 - $29,950

The Malibu stands out for offering an attractive discount on an already affordable, and appealing, midsized sedan. Refined for 2014 with suspension tweaks and incrementally increased rear-seat space, the Malibu is a comfortable, very quiet sedan. A new 2.5-liter four-cylinder with a start/stop system is the base engine. A smooth-shifting six-speed automatic is standard. Measured against competing models, the Malibu ride is cushier while handling remains sound, although our testers feel it gets soggy at its limits. Controls are simple and straightforward. Reliability has been average for all versions.

Make/model MSRP Invoice Potential savings
Chevrolet Malibu 2LTZ $30,775 $29,727 $2,899

Buick LaCrosse

Base MSRP price range: $33,535 - $40,285

The LaCrosse is a sophisticated and thoroughly modern sedan made more attractive by cash on the hood. Quiet, roomy, and luxurious, it offers responsive handling and a steady ride—qualities not normally associated with past Buicks. Aided by an electric motor to improve fuel mileage, the 182-hp, 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine delivers good performance while returning an impressive 26 mpg. Called eAssist, this light hybrid system also shuts off and restarts the engine at stops. Most test drivers found the auto stop/start feature unobtrusive, and the six-speed automatic transmission shifts smoothly. A 2014 freshening included an updated interior with simplified controls and new seats. There are also several electronic safety features such as forward collision alert, lane departure warning, and rear cross-traffic alert. Reliability of the four-cylinder has improved to average.

Make/model MSRP Invoice Potential savings
Buick LaCrosse Leather
$36,535 $35,823 $2,568

Kia Optima

Base MSRP price range: $21,500 - $35,300

The Optima is Kia's counterpart to the highly rated, previous-generation Hyundai Sonata. Although it falls a little short of the Sonata in ride comfort, braking, and fuel economy, the Georgia-built Optima is still a good choice. The base LX handles very securely, the engine and transmission perform well, and fuel economy is quite respectable. The 200-hp, 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine delivers better than average acceleration and a respectable 25 mpg overall. The coupelike styling detracts from rear visibility, though, and the rear seat is a bit low, but it's still livable. A blind-spot detection system and rear parking sensors were new additions for 2014. There are also discounts available on the 2015 Optima, shaving a potential $1,650 off the MSRP. Given the initial depreciation on a 2014 at this time of the year, the 2015 might be the smarter buy.

Make/model MSRP Invoice Potential savings
Kia Optima LX $22,300 $21,585 $2,145

Chevrolet Sonic

Base MSRP price range: $15,420 - $20,990

A small, efficient car with significant potential savings, the subcompact Sonic is fairly quick and quiet for the class and handles responsively. The standard 1.8-liter four-cylinder performs well, while the up-level trim gets a modestly-quicker and thriftier turbo four-cylinder with a six-speed manual. The sedan has a huge trunk and a better view out, but the hatchback has better cargo versatility. Both have a relatively quiet cabin, but the rear seats are cramped. Crash-test results are impressive. Advanced safety features such as forward-collision alert, lane-departure, and a backup camera are offered on all but base 2014 models—somewhat rare for the class.

Make/model MSRP Invoice Potential savings
Chevrolet Sonic sedan LT (auto)
$17,890 $17,549 $2,012

Hyundai Elantra

Base MSRP price range: $17,200 - $22,700

Stylish and well-discounted, the Alabama-built Elantra sedan is a well-rounded competitor that ranks near the top of our small-sedan Ratings and even out-points strong competitors such as the Ford Focus and Honda Civic. Easy to live with, the Elantra combines nimble handling with a comfortable, well-controlled ride and a neatly laid out, well-equipped interior. Coupelike styling, with a beltline that swoops up toward the rear, can impede the view to the rear quarters. The 148-hp, four-cylinder engine delivers solid performance and very good fuel economy. The cabin is well finished and the rear seat is relatively roomy. The 2014 model brings updates to the engine, dashboard, and suspension. The Elantra provides a compelling combination of style, features, and practicality—all for a bargain price.

Make/model MSRP Invoice Potential savings
Hyundai Elantra SE (auto)
$19,010 $18,582 $2,046

Jeff Bartlett with Todd Young

   

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