It’s that time of year again! The Transportation team at Business Insider is gearing up to choose our 2016 Car of the Year.
Each year, we’ve expanded the competition. This 2016 contest will be the biggest yet, as 15 finalists face off. These are the vehicles, from sedans to supercars, that impressed us most. They’re the best of the best and were selected after a year of test-driving and reviewing dozens of cars, trucks, SUVs, crossovers, and sports cars.
We’ll announce the 2016 Car of the Year in December. As a bonus this year, we’re adding two more awards: Infotainment System of the Year; and Audio System of the Year.
So here they are, the 15 finalists for Business Insider’s 2016 Car of the Year:
Photos by Hollis Johnson.
Graphic by Skye Gould.
Engine tested: 500 horsepower, 3.5-litre, twin-turbocharged V6 with a 47-horsepower, engine-mounted, electric direct-drive motor. Twin 36-horsepower front-wheel electric drive motors. Total system output: 573 horsepower.
Base price: $156,000
Why it's here: Acura's reboot of its cult supercar is jaw-droppingly gorgeous, hypnotically beautiful, a joy to drive, fast, and comfortable. It's also a masterpiece of high-tech engineering. The price is even pretty appealing, something of a bargain for a car this good.
'There's just nothing' you can do with the NSX,' we wrote in our review. 'Poodle around town? Check. Cruise on the highway? Check. Take it hard into the corners while flipping through the exquisite nine-speed gearbox (well, four or five of them, anyway) and playing with with responsive, juicy throttle response? Check. Punch it in a straight line? Check. Slide around a track? Check. Sit in the driveway and listen to Little Steven's Underground Garage on Sirius satellite radio? Why not? The seats are pliant enough for napping.'
And then this: 'We could call the Audi R8 and maybe the Nissan GT-R or McLaren 570 competitors, but I'd take the NSX any day over those cars. It's more stylish and comfortable than the R8. It's far less overexposed than the GT-R. And it won't beat you into submission like the McLaren 570. Those are all terrific cars, by the way. The NSX is just special-er.'
Engine tested: 2.0-litre, 252-horsepower, turbocharged, inline-four cylinder.
Base price: $34,900
Why it's here: The new fifth-generation A4 simply blew us away when we drove it earlier this year.
Its combination of powerful turbocharged engine, innovative chassis, world-class safety features, industry-leading infotainment, and striking sheet metal make it one of the finest compact luxury sedans ever built.
The A4 is a monumentally important car for Audi, a brand that has stormed the luxury market worldwide over the past 15 years, putting Mercedes, BMW, and Lexus on notice. If you're interested in an Audi, there's a good chance that you'll start by owning or leasing this vehicle.
And in the luxury game, first impressions matter. An A4 owner is likely to stick with the Audi brand, just as Mercedes and BMW owners have for generations.
Engine tested: 3.0-litre, 333-horsepower, supercharged V6.
Base price: $54,800
Why it's here: If you're looking for the full-size luxury SUV perfected, look no further than the Audi Q7.
It can carry lots of people and stuff in comfort and style, and it's packed with useful technology, while being no slouch on the performance front.
'If you need true off-road capability, you should look elsewhere,' we wrote in our review. 'Otherwise, Audi has held up the Q7's reputation nicely with this machine.'
Congratulations to Audi, by the way, for being one of two automakers to make BI's Car of the Year finals with more than one vehicle; Cadillac is the other. That's a sign of just how strong Audi's portfolio has become.
Engine tested: 3.0-litre, 365-horsepower, twin-scroll turbocharged inline-six.
Base price: $51,700
Why it's here: 'This is the one,' we wrote in our review. 'It's the one that the most hardcore BMW enthusiasts have been waiting for.'
The M2 is one of the finest BMWs to come along in years -- and it might be a contended for Best Ever Bimmer, given that it takes the Bavarian brand back to its performance roots.
'For the true believers, this is going to be the perfect car. It is completely optimised for thrills behind the wheel,' we wrote. 'The M2 is pure, direct, and, with the manual transmission, a throwback that doesn't wilfully abandon contemporary technology. There's a good reason the Bimmerati have been waiting for this car. The M-Deuce has arrived. And it doesn't disappoint.'
The Ultimate Driving Machine has returned.
Engine tested: 3.0-litre, 404-horsepower, twin-turbocharged V6.
Why it's here: The new Cadillac flagship sedan has a huge burden to bear for General Motors' luxury brand.
In our estimation, it more than gets the job done.
'The CT6 sits squarely at the intersection of luxury and performance,' we wrote in our review.
'Yes, you can find a far fancier premium sedan, but there's a clarity and simplicity to the design that should achieve broad appeal among four-door diehards, an important but diminishing demographic. You can also find better performers, but they aren't as passenger-friendly. This is universal luxury, and Cadillac is taking the lead.'
Engine: 3.6-litre, 310-horsepower V6.
Base price: $38,995
Why it's here: 'Cadillac has a bit of a crossover problem,' we wrote in our review. 'While other luxury brands have been selling these versatile vehicles left and right, Caddy has been playing catch up, marketing its portfolio of brash, high-performance sport coupes and sedans under the 'V' designation, alongside the regular versions of these cars.'
This is easily the most important vehicle Cadillac launched this year, and it's already being rewarded with strong sales. Johan de Nysschen, the executive who runs the marque, wants crossovers, to compete with BMW, Mercedes, Audi, Porsche, Lexus, Acura, Infiniti, Lincoln, Volvo -- heck, pretty much everybody in the luxury space.
With the XT5, he has what he asked for. It's a marvellous luxury crossover SUV that represents the pinnacle of what General Motors can devise at this juncture.
Both roomy and comfortable, with peppy handling and state-of-the-art technology -- including the industry's best connectivity package -- the XT5 is simply terrific.
Engine: 3.9-litre, 661-horsepower, twin-turbocharged V8.
Base price: est. $245,000
Why it's here: Because it's the new mid-engine Ferrari supercar, successor to the mighty 458?
We need to make a stronger case than what's self-evident, obviously. And the 488 represents a big change for Ferrari where it really matters: the motor. This line of cars has never seen turbocharging. In fact, there hasn't been a turbo Ferrari sports car since the 1980s.
But the 488 rises to the occasion.
'Brilliant in a straight line, brilliant in the curves, just brilliant, brilliant, brilliant,' we wrote in our review. 'Fast and tight, the 488 fills you with confidence and makes you a better person. It's a worthy successor to the 458.'
Then this: 'What a machine! No one thought Ferrari could top the 458. Too much compromise in going to a turbo V8, even if the horsepower pop was massive. The doubters were wrong. So, so wrong. The dawn of the new era for Ferrari is bright. Bright red.'
Engine tested: 3.0-litre, 380-horsepower, supercharged V6.
Base Price: $41,990
Why it's here: Well, what can you say? The F-PACE is Jaguar's first-ever SUV, and it's taking on the toughest and most lucrative segment in the auto industry. This vehicle had to be good. And it is.
'When you wait a long time for something, you should be rewarded,' we wrote when we first laid eyes on the F-PACE, at the 2015 Los Angeles auto show. 'Jag has sedans and sports cars, but it was lagging behind corporate siblings Land Rover, which of course sell SUVs and nothing else.'
The biggest reward of all is the design.
'For anyone who adores the sleek lines of the legendary Jaguar E-Type, probably the most drop-dead gorgeous automobile ever created, the very idea of a Jag truck is horrifying. But if you're going to have one, it should look great. And thanks to Jaguar designer Ian Callum, it does. In fact, it looks better than great. It's easily the most beautiful SUV to (soon) hit the road.'
Engine tested: 3.5-litre, 295-horsepower, V6.
Base Price: $43,020
Why it's here: We consider the RX 350 to be Lexus' most important vehicle, so this generation had to be good.
'Lexus has sold over 2 million of the RX 350,' we wrote in our review. 'This is not a car that Lexus can afford to screw up. That said, Lexus did revamp the RX, rolling out the new crossover at the New York Auto Show last year. The fourth-generation crossover is just as versatile as it's always been, but the design is newly aggressive, notably up front.'
Lexus most definitely didn't screw up the new RX 350.
'The RX 350 continues to get the job done in the driving department,' we wrote 'Think of the experience as 'default crossover.' You've paid for that distinctive Lexus-y blend of don't-have-to-think-about-it driving, good utility, and enough fine luxury appointments to assure you that you aren't in a Toyota.'
The legend continues.
Engine tested: 3.0-litre, 400-horsepower, twin-turbocharged V6.
Base price: $44,560
Why it's here: 'The Lincoln Continental is just one of those cars,' we wrote in our review. 'It really isn't even a car -- it's an ideal, a dream, an evocation. In many ways, the Great American Car.'
Yes, the new Continental is that big a deal.
'The Continental is something special,' we wrote. 'Does it redefine the luxury sedan like the new Cadillac CT6, which also has a turbo V-6 delivering about 400 horsepower and which also costs about $80,000? Not really. Does it drive like a BMW 7-Series, a car we sampled last year in $130,000 M-Sport trim? Of course not. But the Continental is zigging when those other cars are zagging. Performance isn't job No. 1 here: A mellow unfurling of luxury is. Lincoln has borrowed a page from the Lexus playbook and refined it, adding a healthy dose of American cool.'
Engine tested: 3.0-litre, 424-horsepower, twin-turbocharged V6.
Base price: $72,000
Why it's here: 'This is easily the best luxury performance crossover SUV to hit the market this year and worthy competition for the Porsche Cayenne,' we wrote in our review.
'Maserati set a tall order for itself with that one, but they appear to have pulled it off. When I kicked it into Sport mode, the engine made growling, joyful, and at-times sorta nasty music. The all-wheel-drive system can interpret your driving style and keep most of the traction on the rear wheels or move some grip farther forward, if you need some help. I was used to this from the Ghibli, and it continues to do a fine job with the Levante.'
And then we kept right on going: 'The suspension is taut without being overly stiff, and bodyroll is limited in the corners, which the Levante gobbles up smoothly for a vehicle that tips the scale at over 4,500 lbs. In a straight line, the SUV from Modena flat-out cooks.'
What a great SUV!
Engine tested: 3.8 litre, 562 horsepower, twin-turbocharged V8.
Base price: $184,900
Why it's here: The 570S is the first of McLaren's new entry-level 'Sports Series' cars to reach the US. The Sports Series is the center piece of McLaren's strategy to double the size of its road car business over the next few years.
But make no mistake, the term 'entry-level' is relative. The 570S is a no-holds-barred McLaren speed machine dripping with Formula One derived technology and savage performance.
'To drive, the 570S is unlike any McLaren we've ever tested,' we wrote in our review of the car. 'Tipping the scales at just 2,934 lbs., the 570S feels like a stripped down, lightweight sports car but with its wheezy four-cylinder swapped out for a pair of solid-fuel rockets.'
Our praise of the McLaren extended past its straightline performance.
'The 570S's hydraulic steering system is an absolute triumph of engineering. It is one of, if not the most, precise and communicative steering system I've ever encountered. The amount of feedback and information the steering provided was simply astonishing.'
'With the 570S, McLaren didn't set out to make the fastest car in the world. Nor did it set out to make the most powerful. Instead, the company decided to give us its interpretation of a modern sports car you can drive every day. The resulting 570S has not only pushed McLaren into new territory, it has moved the whole sports-car genre forward.'
Engine tested: 2.0-litre, 241-horsepower, turbocharged, inline four.
Base price: $40,950
Why it's here: A world-class compact SUV offering is must have these days. Fortunately for Mercedes-Benz, its new GLC 300 has been a runway success with sales up a whopping 79% so far this year. The GLC impressed us with its stylish sheet metal, luxurious interior designed to mimic the brand's flagship S-Class sedan, and a powerful turbocharged power plant.
'With the new GLC, Mercedes has, more or less, a winner on its hands. It's stylish, comfortable, and offers more performance that one would expect from a four-cylinder crossover,' we wrote in our review the GLC 300. 'Mercedes has a few kinks to iron out. But after dominating for the better part of a decade, the Audi Q5 and BMW X3 had better watch their backs!'
Engine tested: 3.0-litre, twin-turbocharged, flat-6. 370hp/420hp
Base price: $89,400/$122,600
Why it's here: 'The 911 has always been the most self-contained of fast and fun cars,' we wrote in our review of the Targa 4S version.
'The Ferrari 458, for example, contains a screaming V8 located amidships. Press toward the redline and your eardrums could bleed. A Lamborghini creates a wild symphony of exotic burps and burbles from its yowling V10. A Corvette Z06 has its 650-horsepower V8 parked up front, and the roar coming out of the exhaust pipes in the back is borderline unholy.'
We added: 'Against this rude cluster of supercars, the 911's behaviour, sonic or otherwise, is subdued. Powerfully subdued, but subdued nonetheless. But what really makes the 911 so great happens when you slip behind the wheel. The car just feels right.'
Engine tested: 3.0-litre, 254-horsepower, turbocharged, diesel V6.
Base price: $86,450
Why it's here: 'For most folks, Range Rover is more than just an SUV -- it's the rolling embodiment of off-roading ruggedness combined with the rustic elegance of the landed gentry,' we wrote in our review of the Range. 'As such, 'Range Rover' and 'diesel' aren't terms that necessarily belong in the same sentence. But when we talk about the 2016 Range Rover TD6 HSE, with its V6 turbo-diesel engine, then that's the sentence you have to form.'
Range Rover's new TD6 variant is a reminder to America that diesel has its merits. The new oil-burning Range Rover wowed us with its opulent interior, refined driving dynamics, and a surprisingly frugal 25 mpg of fuel economy for a 16.4 foot-long SUV.
'This oil burner is an off-roading masterpiece that's no slouch on a long haul over perfectly normal roads. It's a worthy companion for its supercharged V6 and V8 gasoline stablemates.'
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