Look out the window. If there’s no brand-new car with a bright big bow in the driveway, it’s time to be your own secret Santa. Question is, should you opt for something naughty or nice? Luckily, the vehicles below are a bit of both, with feisty engines, bad-boy handling and lots of options and storage space.

autos, Audi AD TDI, gay news, Washington Blade

The Audi AD TDI

Audi A3 TDI
$31,000
Mpg: 30 city/42 highway
0-to-60 mph: 8.9 seconds
Cargo space: 39 cu. ft.

The A3 hatchback is fast, fun and frugal, at least when it comes to gas mileage. The regular-gas model posts a decent mpg of 21 city/30 highway. But the TDI diesel is 40 percent better. Evading D.C. potholes is a breeze, thanks to Audi’s sport-tuned suspension. And the refined interior — another Audi plus — has upscale knobs, aluminum trim and firm seats that would make a chiropractor proud. There are a few misses, such as cramped rear seats (which fold down, but not flat) and a clunky nav system. Still, it’s hard not to appreciate all the extras, including automatic wipers, 10-speaker Bose stereo and stellar crash-test scores. But act fast: while the A3 gets a complete makeover in 2014, only the new sedan will be coming to America.

Infiniti JX, autos, Washington Blade, gay news

The Infiniti JX

Infiniti JX
$41,000
Mpg: 18 city/24highway
0-to-60 mph: 8.3 seconds
Cargo space: 76.5 cu. ft.

This is no QX 56, the oversized beast in Infiniti’s lineup. Instead, the JX — at $20,000 less than the QX — seats seven but is nimbler and more fuel-friendly. It also has less power, though the V6 was just fine passing pokey semis and grandmas on a last-minute dash to IKEA. While styling is akin to a minivan (not a plus), it doesn’t feel that way inside the super-quiet cabin. Along with high-end materials, there is three-zone automatic climate control, rear-seat entertainment, panoramic sunroof, heated/cooled seats and 15-speaker surround-sound audio. Multi-taskers will love the remote start and power lift gate. And the JX has the latest safety gear, including blind-spot and lane-departure warning systems. When in reverse, the JX can even apply the brakes automatically if something is in its path.

Jeep Wrangler, autos, gay news, Washington Blade

The Jeep Wrangler

Jeep Wrangler Sport
$24,000
Mpg: 17 city/21 highway
0-to-60 mph: 7.1 seconds
Cargo space: 55 cu. ft.

Why would anyone buy a Wrangler? Fuel-efficiency is lame. Styling is dated. And the ride is so noisy and jarring, you won’t need caffeine to stay awake. Yet this retro icon is a blast to drive, especially in button-down Washington. With the two-door model — way more fun than the four-door — you can remove the roof, doors and windshield. There are some funky exterior colors, too, including fire-engine red, stop-light yellow and powder-puff blue. Surprisingly quick, the Wrangler is still a true off-road vehicle. But be careful — it’s easy to over-steer when cornering too fast. Of course, that’s exactly what driving purists love: a back-to-basics vehicle that requires complete attention and can take you anywhere.

 

Kia Sorento, autos, Washington Blade, gay news

The Kia Sorento

Kia Sorento SX
$33,000
Mpg: 20 city/26 highway
0-to-60 mph: 7.5 seconds
Cargo space: 72.5 cu. ft.

It was supposed to be a relaxing getaway. But after a choppy flight into Chicago on a dark and stormy night, there was still a dreaded two-hour drive to the B&B. Yet any white-knuckle anxiety soon flitted away in the Sorento, which zipped past other cars pulled off to the side of the road with their emergency flashers on. Inside the Kia’s well-insulated cabin, you could almost forget the torrents of rain and high winds. This was the sporty SX model, with upgraded stereo, potent engine and heated steering wheel. Parking sensors and backup camera were a plus. So was the large touchscreen nav system, real-time traffic info and — once the sun came out a few days later — a super-sized panoramic sunroof. All in all, the SX was as steady and snazzy as a Lexus crossover, but costs about $10,000 less.