Drivers’ Choice Awards
Each year we roll out the red carpet for our annual Drivers' Choice Awards. These are the cars and trucks we would like to have parked in our driveway, or at least dream about owning if we won the lottery. We look at the factors mattering most to consumers - price, practicality, performance and fuel efficiency. Then our editorial staff selects the best models in a variety of lifestyle categories ranging from family sedan to luxury car, to large utilities and pickups. From that group, an overall best of the year is chosen. MotorWeek's Drivers' Choice Awards have been presented annually since 1983.
2016 Drivers’ Choice Awards
It’s that time of year folks, when we look back at all the cars, trucks, and utilities that we’ve driven over the past 12 months. We’ve sifted through them all, compared their merits, and most importantly declared our winners in our annual Drivers’ Choice Awards. So, let’s start with the cars that earned the trophies, and our respect for 2016!
All Drivers’ Choice winners are featured on Motorweek.org, and will be appearing on a special episode (#3523) of MotorWeek airing on public television stations beginning February 12, 2016, and on cable’s Velocity beginning February 23, 2016. MotorWeek and the 2016 Driver’s Choice Awards are nationally sponsored by RockAuto and Tire Rack.
Known as one of the auto industry’s most coveted honors, The MotorWeek Drivers’ Choice Awards were announced at the largest consumer-driven auto show in North America, the 2016 Chicago Auto Show. In selecting the annual Drivers’ Choice Awards, the MotorWeek’s editorial staff evaluates more than 150 cars, trucks, and sports utility vehicles every year. Winners are chosen based on driving performance, technology, practicality, fuel efficiency, and value for the dollar.
Best of the Year
Truth be told, six months ago even we didn’t see this one coming. Not only have we never given the award to a utility vehicle before, but the Volvo XC90 crossover, really?!?
We hear you, folks. You may not have seen too many of them around yet or had a chance to closely check one out; but when you do, we’re pretty sure you’ll agree with us.
No other vehicle this year did as much to revitalize a brand as this one! As
Volvo has combined their familiar two-box shape with over the top luxury and technology to turn the XC90 into upscale Suburbia’s must have accessory of the year.
You want high tech, how about one of the largest and most intuitive touchscreen interfaces anywhere. While under the hood, there’s fully modern 4-cylinder power that is both turbo and supercharged, delivering close to V8 performance. Not enough? There’s a soon to arrive plug-in hybrid too, that adds up to 17-miles of EV driving.
Of course safety is first rate, with every feature you could ask for, including new “Run-off Road Protection” with borderline autonomous driving available. For now, all-wheel-drive is standard.
While there may be better handling luxury SUVs, the XC90 is no slouch in corners. Yet, far more important to typical luxury ute buyers are comfort and space. Here the XC90 excels with a rear suspension using transverse leaf springs. That allows for maximizing interior space, with cargo topping out at 85.7 cubic-ft. And ride? Well, a full air suspension is also available, plus towing rates a robust 5,000-lbs.
As for the people space, its Swedish-style luxury touches set the tone, but the level of coddling is what really drives it home or anywhere else you point the nose. Familiar touches like integrated child booster seats are just icing on the cake.
Still, what really pushed this vehicle to the top for us this year, is the fact that most of the luxury, features, and performance we’ve lauded are part of a base XC90 that starts right around $50,000. You can pay a lot more in the luxury crossover field and walk away with a lot less.
And that’s why the Volvo XC90 drives away as the MotorWeek 2016 Drivers’ Choice Best of the Year.
Best Small Car
With crossovers continuing to eat away at car sales, there was little new in the small car ranks this year; with one big exception, the dramatically reborn Honda Civic, our very worthy pick for Best Small Car. Not only did it get back to delivering traditional Civic-minded values with sporty flair, washing away memories of the critically derided previous generation; but now adding a 5-door hatch, and even a little turbocharged performance.
Best Family Sedan
The Chevrolet Malibu earned our Best Family Sedan award, but could have also walked away with a trophy for “most improved.” It clearly shows that GM has stepped things up bigtime in comfort, ergonomics, and driving dynamics. On top of that, a hybrid returns to the lineup, a full hybrid this time; rounding out a much more modern and youthful approach to Chevrolet’s long ignored midsize sedan.
There were other vehicles that could have earned this year’s Best Convertible award, but we couldn’t imagine giving it to anyone but Mazda for the MX-5. It’s not really back to basics, as few people truly want that anymore; but it is back to the essence of what sporty 2-seat drop-tops should be all about. It’s one highly functional, highly fun, fully-modern sports car; offering extreme bang for the buck in a “just enough of everything” package.
Best Luxury Sedan
With ever increasing amounts of extravagance seeping into every car these days, it’s getting harder and harder to find pure examples of luxury. But one ride in the Jaguar XF will remind you. As it did with us, earning our Best Luxury Sedan award. Jaguar has made incredible strides since Tata took over, pumping serious cash into R&D. The luxurious results combined with a renewed prioritization of German-level driving dynamics speak for themselves.
Best Sport Sedan
We know we are pushing the boundaries, naming the Nissan Maxima as Best Sport Sedan: considering it’s hampered by a CVT and front-wheel-drive. But the Maxima’s ability to overcome those deficits with genuine sport sedan prowess, is how it earned our nod. More capability than most will ever need, more comfort and luxury than most would expect, all wrapped in sheet-metal you can’t take your eyes off; at a price that the majority can afford. A modern…yes…4-door sports car for a modern world.
Best Sport Coupe
It shouldn’t be a surprise that the Chevrolet Camaro earned our Best Sport Coupe award. As the now ATS-based pony car saw noteworthy improvements in everything that matters; more power, less weight, better fuel economy, and of course the all-important style factor. Combine that with an interior we now like spending time in, and it should be enough to keep the Camaro/Mustang war raging on.
Best Performance Car
Ford Shelby GT350R Mustang
As for their cross town rival, our soft spot for American muscle continues with Best Performance Car award going to the Ford Shelby GT350R Mustang. Forget about bang for the buck, this street-legal track weapon delivers more of a nuclear explosion for pennies, and couldn’t possibly be a more fitting tribute to the Shelby name. You could spend 3-times this much for a performance car, but why would you? Buy one now, and thank us later.
Best Small Utility
But for those looking for a small one, the Hyundai Tucson is our clear choice. Most of the new entries this year were subcompacts utes. But the completely rethought and thoroughly modern compact Hyundai Tucson, with its various powertrain options and big crossover style; makes a strong case for being the best all-around package. Combining fuel efficiency, comfort, a full load of features, and enough space for two-row family-outings; into an easy to drive, easy to park, and easy to afford package. Sounds like the typical value-added Hyundai formula of more for less.
Best Large Utility
With larger families and more stuff in mind; our Best Large Utility award goes to the three-row Honda Pilot. With every rework, this neighborhood staple continues to set the benchmark for its segment. But Honda truly hit this one out of the park. Gone is the boxy militaristic styling as this design is much more modern outside, as well as more luxurious inside. Indeed, powertrain efficiency, tech, safety features, available amenities, and even ride-and-handling are all at the top of the segment.
Best Luxury Utility
And speaking of home runs, you could tell Volvo hit a game winner with the XC90, at the crack of the bat. No doubt about this one, as it easily won our Best Luxury Utility award. Not only does it boast the over the top technology, comfort, and advanced safety systems you expect in a luxury vessel; it comes with all of the room and capabilities of a full-size family crossover. And does all of that with a pricing address that’s much closer to Main street than Wall Street. Yes folks, Volvo is back; and this familiar shaped family truckster is a clear indication of that.
Best Pickup Truck
Nissan Titan XD
There were an awful lot of choices in the pickup truck field this year, as truck sales also continue to lead the way; but none that stood out more than the Nissan Titan XD. While not a full heavy duty hauler, it certainly is a light duty plus, with optional diesel power and towing capacity of 12,300-lbs. Nissan accomplished just what they set out to do, add a lot more capability to their full-size truck, while fully retaining the personal use feel of the current Titan. Throwing in an ultra-tough new look for good measure, and adding all of the features today’s truck buyers demand; making a niche all their own along the way. Proving that, if you can’t beat ‘em head on, the smart ones don’t quit, they just find a new way to attack.
Our Best Eco-Friendly, the Chevrolet Volt, may have stumbled a little out of the gate when it arrived for 2011; but this 2nd generation Volt gets just about everything right. It’s still all about expanding the EV profile with a gas engine safety net to eliminate range anxiety. But this time around it also brings a lot more style and a little more emotion to the package; as well as a bit more practicality and increased EV range.
Best Dream Machine
Lamborghini Aventador LP 750-4 SV
Starting with Italian performance at its best, the Lamborghini Aventador LP 750-4 Superveloce. More power, less mass, and it’s a Lamborghini; enough said.
Best Dream Machine
Mercedes-AMG GT S
Next up is the Mercedes-AMG GT S, the 2nd purpose-built model from the in-house motor-madmen at AMG. This tidier 2-door arrived with the 911 in its sights rather than exotic supercars, and hits the mark dead on.
Best Dream Machine
Land Rover Range Rover Sport SVR
And since SUVs are where it’s at these days, we can’t overlook the Land Rover Range Rover Sport SVR, the first vehicle to emerge from Jaguar/Land Rover’s Special Vehicle Operations Division. We weren’t sure cramming this much luxurious muscle into one SUV was possible; but it turns out, it is. And we can’t wait to see what’s next!