While AP classes aren't necessarily college level (depends upon your definition of college level, however), in many places, they are the best option for a bright HS kid. Community colleges are good in some areas of the country, but not where I live. Parents threaten their kids - in jest - that they'll send them to the community college if they misbehave. That's why most four year colleges around here wouldn't accept a community college calculus course - they have no idea what the student actually learned. At least with an AP score (as Bostonian explained), the college knows the student has a certain level of knowledge in the subject.

AP classes aren't just fill in the bubble MC tests. Yes, there is MC on the APs, but the tests also have free response questions. My kid's AP Calc class spent time on understanding of the underlying fundamentals, which helped with the "free response" portion of the test, and the reason why the teacher consistently has an average class score of 4.8+ (so most receive 5s).

I don't think you can fake your way through the foreign language free response, either, as you need to do written responses and spoken responses.

And at some colleges, you can get a bunch of AP credits, which may fulfill some gen eds, and allow you to double major or finish in three years. APs aren't perfect, but they are the best option for certain students.