- Each year Business Insider selects 15 finalists to take part in its Car of the Year competition.
- The cars are chosen from the more than five dozen we road test during the year.
- The vehicles range from family SUVs to supercars to electric vehicles.
- One of the 15 will be named Business Insider’s 2017 Car of the Year.
Fall is here, and that means the transportation team at Business Insider is gearing up to choose our 2017 Car of the Year.
We’ve been at this for four years now. In 2014 the Corvette Stingray took the prize. In 2015 it was the Volvo XC90. And last year the Acura NSX captured the trophy. In 2016 we expanded the competition, and for 2017 we stuck to what worked last year.
Once again, 15 finalists will face off. These are the vehicles, from sedans to supercars to SUVs, 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 reviewed and tested more vehicles than ever in 2017, thanks to transportation reporter Danielle Muoio and deputy editor Cadie Thompson joining our ranks. News editor Bryan Logan also lent a hand on the West Coast. We also took more photos, thanks to visual-features reporter Hollis Johnson, and we shot numerous videos and Facebook Lives with the assistance of associate producer Alexandra Appolonia as well as producers Justin Gmoser and Emma Fierberg. Our two main reviewers, Matt DeBord and Ben Zhang, also travelled far and wide to sample fantastic cars in their natural environment: the racetrack. Ben took a spin in a McLaren in Italy, and Matt went to Utah to be among the first journalists to drive the Le Mans-winning Ford GT.
To be eligible, all models must be new or have been substantially updated within the past year. As a result, we’ve been blessed with a bountiful selection of cars spanning a broad spectrum of the market. In addition, all models must have been road tested by at least two members of the Business Insider team to qualify. (Because of a lack of available press demonstrators, three significant cars — the Bugatti Chiron, Ford GT, and Tesla Model 3 — were deemed ineligible.)
We’ll announce the 2017 Car of the Year on November 14, and we’ll prepare you for the big event by revealing our five runners-up next week. We’ll also reveal who won Infotainment System of the Year and Audio System of the Year. So here they are, the 15 finalists for Business Insider’s 2017 Car of the Year:
Engine tested: 3.5-litre, 290-horsepower V6
Base price: $US35,000
Why it's here: Ben Zhang and Matt DeBord drove the car on different coasts but had the same reaction: This is a truly great machine from Acura, and one that we'd seriously consider over a BMW.
'Ben and I agreed that the TLX A-Spec offers a convincing alternative to a BMW 3-Series with comparable options, given that everything I've outlined in our review can be had standard for just a scooch more than $US45,000, with the only uptick from the $US44,800 ticker being the $US950 destination charge,' Matt wrote in his review.
'And it's not for nothing that you'll be buying Acura reliability and quality; if you want to drive the TLX until the wheels fall off, you can.
'This is how Acura greatness sneaks up on you. And it's why the brand should always be in the top-tier luxury conversation, even if it's rarely included in that club. I should have known that this would be one of the best cars we'd drive all year.'
Engine tested: 2.9-litre, 505-horsepower, twin-turbocharged V6
Base price: $US72,000
Why it's here: The Alfa Giulia is the carmaker's flagship effort at reestablishing itself in the ultra-competitive US luxury market.
In his review of the high-performance Quadrifoglio, Matt wrote: 'If the Bimmer M is the state of the art and the AMG brings the Mercedes luxe vibe, and the Audi RS channels the carmaker's rally-racing heritage with all-wheel-drive, then what does the Alfa Romeo Quadrifoglio bring to the table?' The answer:
'What you have in the Alfa Giulia Quadrifoglio is a V-6 Ferrari in four-door form. Put this car up against a BMW M3, and in many respects, you have a better car. That's saying something. The Giulia Q has been designed to beat BMW at its own game, just as everybody has been trying to beat BMW at its own game for decades. The stunner is that Alfa Romeo has done it.'
Engine tested: 5.2-litre, 600-horsepower, twin-turbocharged V12
Base price: $US212,000
Why it's here: Aston Martin and the V12, a match made in heaven. The latest product of this union is the 2017 Aston Martin DB11 V12 Coupe.
'For Aston Martin, the DB11 is one of the most important cars in company history and certainly the most important since its separation from Ford a decade ago,' Ben wrote in his review.
'As storied as Aston Martin the brand may be, Aston Martin the business has had more than its fair share of run-ins with financial ruin in its history. The DB11 has to keep the company in the black for the foreseeable future.'
And it looks like Aston has a winner on its hands.
'With the DB11 you get Aston Martin at its most refined. It's easy to live with, a joy to drive, and its technology works without a hitch.
'Fortunately for the DB11, automotive excellence doesn't stifle Aston's trained-killer-in-a-Savile-Row-suit personality. Neither Mercedes' electronics nor the twin turbos could sanitize the entertaining driving experience. There's plenty fine leather, rich wood, and throaty V12 rumble left to ensure the brand's personality abounds.
'Because the new DB11 is able to deliver modern refinement without corrupting the essence of its parental heritage, it is without a doubt the best car to ever carry the Aston Martin badge.'
Engine tested: Q5: 2.0-litre, turbocharged, 252-horsepower inline four-cylinder; SQ5: 3.0-litre, twin-turbocharged, 354-horsepower V6
Base price: Q5: $US41,000; SQ5: $US53,000
Why it's here: Luxury SUVs are a red-hot segment, and within the segment crossovers designed to carry five passengers and cargo are critical to maintaining market share and profits. Audi couldn't afford a wobble with the Q5, which we tested in two trim levels.
And of the sporty SQ5, Matt wrote: 'The Audi SQ5 is splendid. It's still my favourite luxury SUV in the performance segment, although some of good vibes are probably coming from nostalgia as the Jaguar F-Pace and the Maserati Levante are stout competition.
'Driving it is a lot of fun. Perhaps not quite as tight and sharp as a Porsche Cayenne or Macan, but the suspension in dynamic mode (there are also comfort, auto, and individual modes, which can be customised) likes to dig in, keeping the sway into the curves under control, which is something for a vehicle that tips the scales at over 4,000 pounds. The steering can get vague, but not distractingly so, and it provides a decent feel no matter which mode you're in.'
Engine tested: 2.0-litre, 248-horsepower, turbocharged inline four-cylinder
Base price: $US51,000
Why it's here: The new 5-Series sits at the heart of BMW's classic order. And although passenger cars are under sales pressure from crossover SUVs and shifts in customer preferences, BMW has been making the 5 since the early 1970s. Screwing it up is not an option.
'The new 5-Series is, simply put, excellent,' Matt wrote in his review.
'The 530i is a great car, from stem to stern, side to side, on the road and under the hood. It's a lovely freeway cruiser, but it can go all BMW and stiffen up, rewarding a driver who wants to tuck into some corners. The steering could be crisper, but that's nitpicking.
'What we have here is a literally perfectly boring car. BMW has had decades to set the bar, and it has gotten very good at that responsibility to the legacy of the 5-Series. It cannot disappoint, and it doesn't. Nor does it thrill.'
Engine tested: 60-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion rechargeable battery with single-motor front-wheel drive; total system power output of 200 horsepower, and EPA-estimated range of 238 miles
Base price: $US37,500
Why it's here: GM unveiled the Bolt in 2015 and was selling it in limited markets by late 2016, showing how quickly a major automaker can get a new product to market. GM never came right out and said it, but the company's goal was to prove that it could out-Tesla Tesla and beat the upstart electric-car maker's Model 3 to market by months.
'We were impressed with the Bolt, as a car, as an electric car, and as a mobility concept,' Matt wrote in his review. 'In many ways, it is GM's post-bankruptcy masterpiece, a real feather in the cap of CEO Mary Barra and her executive team, who took what the company had achieved with its ill-fated EV-1 back in the 1990s and turned it up to 11.'
He added: 'I also flat-out loved driving it. I blasted in and out of New York City twice, rocketed around the streets of Gotham, darting through traffic, and cruised along the highways of New Jersey. I also enjoyed just driving it around the quiet streets of the suburb where I live.'
Engine tested: 6.3-litre, 681-horsepower V12
Base price: $US350,000
Why it's here: Because it's a dang Ferrari shooting brake, that's why! There's no other vehicle like the GTC4 Lusso, which replaced the FF. Until Ferrari builds an SUV -- hopefully never -- the all-wheel-drive Lusso will have to carry that aspect of the market forward.
'I liked the FF and I like the GTC4,' Matt wrote in his review.
'To be perfectly honest, although the GTC4 improves on the FF in many, many ways, I'm zagging when others are zigging about the car -- the FF was more about driving, while the GTC4 sensibly updates the vehicle to be more organised around technology and convenience.'
'Modern Ferraristi shouldn't have to suffer with antiquated infotainment, so the zigging is commendable, and I'm glad Ferrari is retiring the FF. It doesn't want to appeal to drivers like me forever, as it would lose sales.
'The bottom line is that with the GTC4 Lusso, Ferrari has done what only Ferrari can do: build a better Ferrari.'
Engine tested: 4.0-litre, 340-horsepower, supercharged V-6
Base price: $US50,000
Why it's here: The Discovery is one of Land Rover's oldest and more enduring nameplates. For 2017, Land Rover debuted the all-new fifth-generation model -- the first complete overhaul of the Discovery in more than a decade. It's also the first all-new Discovery under the ownership of India's TATA Group, which has reinvigorated Land Rover and sister brand Jaguar since taking over in 2008.
'The all-new fifth-generation Discovery is certainly an ambitious undertaking by what is rightfully an ambitious brand. The Discovery has long been a popular product for Land Rover, and tweaking the secret sauce is always a risky manoeuvre,' Ben wrote in his review.
'With the new Discovery, Land Rover has its next big hit. The brand's newfound style has not compromised substance.'
He added: 'Sure, the Discovery is still big and heavy with a kink or two that's yet to be worked out. But, as an overall package, the new Land Rover is fantastic. It's spacious, incredibly comfortable, has great cargo capacity, a gutsy engine, plenty of technology, and Land Rover's go-anywhere, four-wheel-drive system. It simply does everything you need a large premium SUV to do. What more can you ask for?'
Base price: LC 500: $US92,000; LC 500h: $US96,000
Why it's here: At a time when hefty, powerful, two-door GT cars are fading fast, Lexus doubled down with two breathtaking examples of the genre -- the best cars it has done since its legendary and discontinued LFA supercar from 2010.
Of the LC 500, Matt wrote in his review: 'Lexus has set about changing minds and capturing hearts with its enthusiast offerings, and, somewhat shockingly, it's succeeding. Lexus Racing is the point of the spear, but memories of the LFA linger strongly, and while some of the company's F-Sport products haven't been quite as good as we might have hoped, the LC 500 is a generally brilliant piece of engineering.
'The market for such machines is small but significant, as far as branding, influence, and direction are concerned. The LC 500 is a 'talker' -- a car whose reputation will increasingly precede it. And a very good reputation it will be: This might be the best high-performance car Lexus has ever built.'
And of the LC 500h, he wrote: 'The LC 500h continues my enthusiasm for Toyota's hybrid systems, from the Prius through the Lexus version of that car, the CT 200h, to this near-halo vehicle, which is more or less intended to give the BMW i8 a run for its money without tripping into supercar territory.
'The DNA of the LC 500h is pure grand tourer, a coupé that's optimised for stylish runs to a second home or a snazzy resort. The thrill of arrival is partly supplanted by the joy of getting there.'
Engine tested: 2.0-litre, 155-horsepower, inline four-cylinder
Base price: $US31,500
Why it's here: The latest from Mazda is a welcome addition to the MX-5 lineup. The 'RF' stands for retractable fastback, which translates into 'hardtop convertible that can look and act like a coupé.' We didn't think we needed this, but after we drove the car we decided we did.
'It isn't blisteringly fast (the zero-to-60 time is about six seconds), but you shouldn't care, because with the top down and the small motor surging toward its redline, you'll feel speed more than witness it. The thing is a feather in the wind, the most defiantly tossable car in the world, stylish and free-spirited, and, unlike the British roadsters that inspired it, utterly reliable.
'The RF, which debuted on the 2016 auto-show circuit, wasn't a Miata we were asking for. Mazda had done automated retractable tops before, but the Miataisti have always been devoted to the original soft-top concept, even as the actual soft top has gotten bulkier and more durable.
'But the RF, even with its oddball elements, was still a freakin' Miata, every bit of it. We couldn't help love it.'
Engine tested: 4.0- litre, 710 horsepower, twin-turbocharged V8
Base price: $US285,000
Why it's here: The 720S is the first of McLaren's next-generation of supercars to hit the market. With 710 horsepower at its disposal, the futuristic supercar is set to take the fight to Ferrari in a way McLaren's iconic F1 team hasn't be able to in years. And the 720S really delivers.
'Like the Ferrari, the 720S is brilliant in a straight line and brilliant in the curves. But the McLaren accomplishes these tasks with a verve and a style all its own,' Ben wrote in his review.
'The 720S doesn't intimidate or bully its drivers; instead, it works with them to find their own pace and comfort level. With some time and honing, every driver can find automotive nirvana behind the wheel of the 720S.'
He added: 'The 720S is the supercar equivalent of a five-tool player in baseball. It excels at just about anything and everything required for a vehicle in this genre. There are no holes in its game. It delivers blistering yet accessible performance, luxurious comfort, robust build quality, cutting-edge technology, and head-turning looks. To top it all off, the 720S delivers all of this with enough pomp and circumstance to put on a show for the driver.
'Simply put, the McLaren 720S is the most 'complete' supercar ever produced, period.'
Engine tested: 4S: 2.9-litre, 440-horsepower, twin-turbocharged V6; Turbo: 4.0 litre, 550 horsepower, twin-turbocharged V8
Base price: 4S: $US100,000; Turbo: 150,000
Why it's here: The Porsche Panamera has long been considered one of the finest sports sedans in the world. But its unconventional looks have held it back from earning the universal acclaim it so richly deserved. For 2017, Porsche gave the Panamera 'a much-needed makeover.'
'The new second-generation Porsche Panamera is an absolute gem of a car. The combination of old-school driving pleasure, state-of-the-art tech, and refined luxury make it a compelling option for anyone looking for a vehicle in this genre,' Ben wrote in his review.
'Even with a brand-new chassis and electronics, the Panamera is more evolutionary than revolutionary. In keeping with the previous car's exquisite driving dynamics, Porsche was very careful not to throw away the baby with the bathwater when it gave the luxury sedan a much-needed makeover.'
He added: 'But with the makeover, the Panamera now has the matinee-idol looks to go with its world-class ability. And with this, Porsche has created the finest sports sedan in the world. It's certainly not cheap, but boy is it good. If you are one of the blessed few who can afford a new Porsche Panamera, don't think, just do it. Your life will be better for it.'
Engine tested: T8 E-AWD: 2.0-litre, turbocharged and supercharged inline four-cylinder with two electric motors and a plug-in-hybrid configuration, bringing total system output to 400 horsepower
Base price: $US41,000
Why it's here: Volvo is now owned by China's Geely, and the Swedish carmaker has been revamping its image and products to make a run at the US luxury market. So far, so good, as the large XC90 was Business Insider's Car of the Year in 2015. The new XC60 has to carry a lot of weight in the heart of the premium crossover segment.
'The bottom line is that Volvo has really bolstered its position in the midsize-crossover segment and now has a lineup of vehicles that can match up segment by segment with everything in the luxury realm,' Matt wrote in his review.
'The vehicles are less quirky than they once were, but Volvo is really building on its legendary safety reputation by embracing a particular attitude toward luxury and by advancing the high-tech cause.
'It won't be for everybody, and the XC60 isn't 100% successful. But it's absolutely worth a look. And Volvo needs customers to do that, as the battle for midsize SUV hearts and minds heats up.'
Engine tested: 3.6-litre, 276-horsepower V6
Base price: $US30,000
Why it's here: These days, if you want to survive in the US auto market, you need to have a few top-notch SUVs in your lineup. Sadly, for Volkswagen, it hasn't had anything that could compete. Which is why the brand's US sales have fallen 26% since 2012, at a time when the US market has been on a blistering pace, breaking record after record.
For 2017, VW finally cracked the nut with its first large, three-row SUV. So what's it like?
'To drive, the Tennessee-built Atlas is soft and comfortable. Although it handles with confidence, you'll be sorely disappointed if you get behind the wheel expecting it to be a 16.5-foot-long, 4,500-pound GTI with room for seven. Instead, it feels more like Volkswagen's interpretation of the Ford Explorer.
'Here's my verdict. Embracing Americana is the smartest thing Volkswagen has done in a long time. While it hasn't completely shed its German heritage, the company finally delivered an off-roader that caters specifically to the largest and most lucrative SUV market in the world.
'Whether VW will be able to convince car buyers to forgo more established options remains to be seen. However, the Atlas, as a product, is certainly as good as anything on the market today.'
Engine tested: 2.0-litre, 184-horsepower, turbocharged inline-four cylinder
Base price: $US25,000
Why it's here: These days, the most competitive segment in the US auto market is the compact crossover/SUV. Nearly one out of every five vehicles sold in the US is a compact crossover. In 2016, Ford, Honda, Nissan, and Toyota each sold more than 300,000 compact crossovers in the US. VW, on the other hand, managed to move a paltry 43,000 Tiguan compact crossovers. Fast forward to the 2018 model year, and Volkswagen is back with an all-new second-generation Tiguan that's bigger, more practical, and more efficient.
'With more room, more features, better fuel economy, and more competitive pricing, VW has gone a long way in fixing the previous Tiguan's many shortcomings. However, the old Tiguan is a heck of a lot more fun to drive.'
He added: 'While it has lost some of its driving verve, the new Tiguan more than makes up for it with a level of everyday practicality its predecessor couldn't approach. In many ways, it shows that VW understands the needs and wants of the crossover buyer. Utility, comfort, and style outweigh driving dynamics.
'For the first time in recent memory, VW is properly equipped to do battle in the most competitive segment of US auto market. Should Honda, Toyota, GM, Ford, and Nissan be worried? Only time will tell, but things are looking good for Volkswagen.'
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