European cars have long been known to be fast, luxurious, and expensive. They hold a special place at the pinnacle of the automotive world for drivers looking for reliability, speed, luxury, or any combination of the above. European cars come from an area where the competition is fierce and the technology is premier. They are built for racing, for travel, for luxury, and for economy. But even at the top of the apple tree there are a few lemons. After taking the time to research all the best automotive experts, we’ve compiled a list of the best European cars of the 2011 model year, to help you avoid the sour apples.

Best Luxury Option

2011 Mercedes-Benz C-Class        New Model MSRP: $33,990

While options and trim levels can run the price of the C-Class up in a hurry, it doesn’t take away from the performance of this luxury gem from Mercedes. Being an entry-level luxury sedan it certainly isn’t the most austere of the Benz luxury line, but if you opt to jump up to the C63 line you’ll really be in for a driving treat. It takes the C-Class’s already impressive driving dynamics and adds a sporty feel and muscle-car power. The interior remains M-B luxurious in all trim levels.

Best Economy Option

2011 Volkswagen Golf Hatchback        New Model MSRP: $17,995

“The 2011 Volkswagen Golf delivers a rare combination of economy and refinement, standing out among worthy competitors.” (Edmunds) An EPA-estimated fuel efficiency of 23/30mpg (city/highway) comes standard with the 2.5L four-cylinder engine, but the diesel option can kick that up to 30/41mpg if you choose to go that route. No matter what’s under the hood, you’ll get an impressive feel on the road and smooth power in all driving conditions. The maximum 46 cubic feet of cargo space also makes it practical as well as economical.

Best Sports Option

2011 Porsche Cayman R        New Model MSRP: $66,300

Porsche’s reputation and driving history should make this spot a lock for the German manufacturer by itself, but the Cayman R could win this title even if it had Yugo stamped on the hood. The 2011 model features a lower ride height (hard to believe for any Porsche since they sit nearly on the ground as it is), retuned suspension, and a new variable-ratio steering system that “is among the best systems on the market.” (Edmunds) Opt for the PDK transmission and increase the fuel efficiency of this sportster from 19/27mpg to 20/29mpg.

Best Full-size Option

2011 BMW 7 Series        New Model MSRP: $70,650

The 7 Series is the crown jewel of the BMW line, and the 2011 model comes with a new engine option, the 6.0L twin-turbo V12. Don’t expect it to come cheap though; the starting price for the 760Li featuring the monster power factory is $137,300. You won’t need to jump that high in the food chain to enjoy Beamer’s quality manufacturing and luxurious styling however. It comes available with every line of the 7 Series, as well as a fairly sporty driving experience for a full-size sedan.

Best Diesel Option

2011 BMW 3 Series Diesel        New Model MSRP: $44,150

By itself, the 3 Series is one of the best automobiles in the world in any line. Add the fuel efficiency of clean diesel technology and you’ve got a gem that could very well be the best overall option for European vehicles, let alone the best diesel option. While the price tag is rather steep for an entry-level luxury sedan, the amenities and features are bountiful. The 3 Series’ suspension and steering will provide endless driving excitement, while the interior will surround passengers in an envelope of quiet extravagance.

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