OK a lot has happened. A number of cars have been eliminated before the "test drive round" just by looking at them in person.
Quick Note: Many cars eliminated here are automatics that have a paddle shifter (shiftronic) to pretend to be a manual. After driving a shiftronic I am confident that it is fair to just call them automatics.
The Acura TL (type S) at 286hp is eliminated because it didn't have AWD until the RL model at 290hp (which is an automatic only) and then the price was in the Audi / BMW range so that's not happening. The Acura's are fairly roomy and can get a lot of "extras" like bluetooth, but they didn't make my cut.
The Hyundai Azera at 263hp was also eliminated. Don't be shocked, the Azera was on the list intentionally as a "low benchmark" but it's reasonably priced and it's a good looking car but not AWD and no frills. They also have the best warranty in America (10 yr / 100,000 powertrain).
The VW Passat at 280hp also did not make the cut. I do like the passat, it's a sporty 4dr car with AWD. However the AWD is only in automatic. You can pretty much pimp out a passat these days except for bluetooth, but the interior is pretty plain.
Making the cut to be Driven:
Infiniti G35x AWD
Lexus GS 350 AWD
Volvo S60 R
Audi's A3, A4
BTW - The Audi A8 is totally pimped out now. They are made to be chaufeured so everything cool is in the back seats too. The leg room is CRAZY. But at $84,000 it's too close to the Maserati to be tempting.