Last week, we presented our selections for “Car Buy of the Year,” with the 2017 Hyundai Elantra getting the nod as best bang for the buck. This week,
Last week, we presented our selections for “Car Buy of the Year,” with the 2017 Hyundai Elantra getting the nod as best bang for the buck. This week, we offer our “Car of the Year” list, in which we focus on the best car, truck, crossover or SUV and what it delivers, regardless of price – just the pure vehicle – and how it feels to be behind the wheel.
For our 13th annual Car of the Year list, we see lots of innovation, some hybrids, iconic sports cars and musclecars, a luxury sedan and even an econo-car. America, Japan, England, Sweden and South Korea are represented, and while power counts – two vehicles over 500hp and six of the 10 over 400 horses – one car made the list with less than 200 hp. As for price, two were luxuriously priced over $100,000, but two were also under $30,000; and many cars I tested this year that were priced from $60,000 to $150,000 didn’t make the list.
My rules: To make this list, I must have test driven the car in calendar 2017 and it must have impressed me, electrified me and amazed me, as well as any passengers or onlookers who rode in or saw the vehicle.
I test drove 53 different vehicles this year, and after a weeklong (in most cases) examination as a daily driver and/or track car, I graded each ride in the following categories: Interior; Safety; Power; Handling/Ride; Economy/Price; Looks; Niche-fitting and a Miscellaneous grouping in which I took into consideration the “feel-good” factor and other intangibles. Each category had its own integrity and encompassed such items as driver intuitiveness, comfort, easy-to-read instrumentation, quietness and ease of surroundings. In each category I award from zero to 10 points (10 being perfect). This year, only eight 10s were handed out – and NO vehicle had more than two 10s.
Last year, a Cadillac CTS-V held the crown, and this year, luxury coupe from Japan that combined elegance and power, leads the pack. Prices reflect sticker-as-tested.
No. 1 Lexus LC 500: Innovative Luxury Coupe is a car of the future, today -- $105,960
A post-dated 2018 model launched in early 2017 for marketing purposes, the Lexus LC 500 is innovative, exciting and powerful. “LC” stands for Luxury Car and “500” is typical for a 5.0-liter engine -- a naturally aspirated 5.0-liter V-8 engine, mated to a 10-speed Direct-Shift transmission, for 471hp with 398 lb.-ft. of torque. The LC 500 combines power and performance with energetic exterior architecture, a thoughtfully crafted tech- and connectivity-imbued interior, and new multimedia and safety technologies. I was cozy in my cockpit as I finished off a 4.8-second dash from zero-to-60mph. It’s a ride that makes an impression.
No. 2 Acura NSX: Twin turbo sportscar deserves supercar consideration -- $165,100
NSX is back as a lightweight, naturally aspirated coupe that can be perceived as a hybrid supercar, with a twin-turbo engine combined with a hybrid setup, and dual-clutch transmission. Designed with elegance, the NSX Sport Hybrid is power-plus, with 573hp and maximum total system torque of 476 lb.-ft. from a longitudinally mid-mounted twin-turbocharged 3.5-liter V-6 and a permanent-magnet, water-cooled electric motor/generator direct drive motor. This system delivers a 3-second-flat zero-60mph sprint.
No. 3 Corvette Grand Sport: Legacy fulfilled -- track ready and street refined -- $81,980
The term “street-legal race car” may be overused today, but it certainly is accurate when describing the new 2017 Corvette Grand Sport, which builds on the legacy established in 1963. The Convertible GS has power to launch with its cast aluminum LT1 6.2-liter V-8 VVT with direct injection and Active Fuel Management. The powerplant thunders out 460hp and 465 lb.-ft. of torque and smoked tires in a 3.8-second zero-to-60mph sprint.
No. 4 Jaguar XE: The new ‘Cat’ purrs with entry-level sports luxury -- $65,330
There’s a new “Cat” in town. Jaguar has filled its lair with an entry-level luxury sports sedan, the XE, to attract Cat lovers to elegance at Jag’s most affordable pricing. The XE is all-new and is marketed as “a true driver’s car” that “redefines the concept of the sports sedan with lightweight aluminum-intensive construction and streamlined styling.” A 3.0-liter supercharged V-6 thunders out 340hp and 450 lbs.-ft. and performs to a 5.1-second zero-to-60mph dash.
No. 5 Ford Shelby GT350: Performance Plus – beyond the original -- $61,215
The original Ford Shelby GT350 was a high-performance Mustang derivative that galloped onto the scene in 1965. Fast-forward to 2017, and the engine size has grown to 5.2 liters and the horses have swelled to 526hp with and 429 lbs.-ft. of torque. The Shelby GT350 has expanded safety and handling features and all the infotainment we have come to expect from our vehicles. During tests, I blazed a 4.4-second sprint from zero-to-60mph.
No. 6 Chevrolet Camaro: ‘Pony’ car legend lives on -- $28,275
If we have a derivative of the original “Pony” car on this list, we certainly should have a model of the reigning ‘Pony” champ. In its 50th year the 2017 Chevrolet Camaro continues to be the top-selling “Pony.” Camaro also made last week’s Best-Buy list and is one of two sub-$30k vehicles this week. Camaro builds on its legacy with styling, performance, tech and a responsive 6.2-liter V-8 engine that produces 455 hp and 455 lbs.-ft. for 4.5-second zero-to-60mph sprint.
No. 7 Volvo S90: New midsize luxury sedan makes a strong first impression -- $67,390
Volvo has launched a new flagship, its all-new midsize luxury sedan, the S90, that replaces the S80 in its lineup. Marketed as a vehicle that celebrates those who follow their own paths, my test T6 AWD powered up with a 2.0-liter In-line four-cylinder turbocharged and supercharged engine that provided 316hp and 295 lbs.-ft. On the track, a zero-to-60mph sprint was finished off in 5.9 seconds.
No. 8 Kia Niro: Crossover/hybrid creates its own category -- $25,570
The all-new Niro also made last week’s Best Buy list. A Hybrid that doesn’t look like a Hybrid, and housed in a Crossover package that doesn’t look or act quite like a Crossover, it is more like an “un-Hybrid, non-Crossover.” Niro’s architecture is strong and confident with subtly sculpted surfaces offset by robust styling cues. I got 47.1 mpg from the1.6-liter GDI four-cylinder engine and Lithium-Ion Polymer battery-powered 240-volt Motor that combined for 139hp and 195 lbs.-ft.
No. 9 Lexus RX 350: Luxury SUV adds hybrid and Sport models -- $51,619
The Lexus RX remains America’s best-selling luxury SUV, as it has since its launch in 1998. Lexus adds such advancements as making the Lexus Safety System+ standard equipment. Introduced as an option for 2016, Lexus Safety System+ includes Pre-Collision System, Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist, Intelligent High Beam and High-Speed Dynamic Radar Cruise Control. The RX 350 is powered by a 3.5-liter V-6 aluminum block engine that delivers 295 hp and 267 lbs.-ft.
No. 10 Dodge Charger R/T: Musclecar more powerful than the original -- $38,620
When the Dodge Charger first hit the scene in 1965, it was a Dart GT-based muscle car. Also a “Best Buy” from last week, the 2017 Charger, Assembled in Brampton, Ontario, Canada, turns heads with its bold muscle look and wide body, The 5.7-liter HEMI V-8 that powered my R/T trim Charger gallops out 370 horses and 395 lbs.-ft. of torque and broke 6 seconds with a 5.9-second zero-to-60 dash.
Next week we begin coverage of the 2018s … we can’t wait to see what cars will make the list next year.
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Mike Blake, former editor of KIT CAR magazine, joined Carlisle Events as senior automotive journalist in 2004. He's been a "car guy" since the 1960s and has been writing professionally for about 30 years.