The Best Cars We Drove in 2016At Autoblog, we drive a lot of cars. Because of that, the best doesn't necessarily mean the fastest one or the one with the most horsepower. It's the one that elicits the best sensations. For all of us, a vehicle is far more than the sum of its parts, be it a car, truck, or an SUV. These are the best of 2016.
2017 Aston Martin DB11
The 2017 Aston Martin DB11 was my favorite car this year. A new Aston, especially a DB model, is a rare thing. It's a special occasion. Driving one certainly felt that way. Admittedly, I was skeptical about the turbo V12, but it delivered plenty of performance and a more than respectable sound. It looks the part, too. The DB11 is longer and wider than the DB9. Accented with LED lights and striking lines, it has more presence than its now-dated predecessor. Factor in gee-whiz features like "curlicue vents" that pull air pressure away from the wheel arches, and it's clear the DB11 has the substance to match its considerable style. James Bond drove the DB10 in Spectre. I drove the DB11 in real life.
- Greg Migliore, Senior Editor
2016 Land Rover Defender
I'll admit to cheating a bit by selecting a vehicle that's nearly impossible to experience in the U.S., let alone through our Detroit press fleet. On a vacation to Scotland, we chose to primarily forgo hotels, instead opting to carry our shelter with us atop a 2016 Land Rover Defender. As off-road enthusiasts know, U.S. customs restricts the import of new Defenders, so traveling abroad is virtually the only way to drive a late-model version of the storied SUV. According to the vehicle's owner, our Defender was among the last off the line in the final production year of this British icon. And a fine specimen she was: a righthand drive 110 utility wagon with a manual transmission, done up in a muted green, with black fenders, white hubcaps and roof, and a popup Hannibal safari tent affixed to the rack.
- Adam Morath, Executive Producer
2017 Chevrolet Corvette Grand Sport
This, as a reminder, is the Corvette with the wide body and handling of the Z06 but without the bonkers power you hardly need in real life. That's the elevator pitch. But the reason I picked the Grand Sport - besides other potential favorites already being taken - is because it overcomes my own self-conscious aversion to Corvettes. I'm usually not that flashy, but the Grand Sport looks so sweet and drives so well that I don't care. This car just feels fast, even sitting in it with the engine off. Alex Kierstein summed it up appropriately: "The sweet nature of the naturally aspirated V8, with its delightful throttle response, and the determined focus of a track-day car. All in something you could daily-drive."
- Michael Austin, Editor-in-chief
Vans - 2017 Chrysler Pacifica, 2017 Mercedes-Benz Metris, 2017 Ram ProMaster
If you listen to the Autoblog podcast, you know I like vans. They're practical, efficient ways to carry people and stuff, plus I have a nostalgic connection - having grown up in minivans. The van is one of the original crossovers, it's just that crossover buyers don't accept them as readily as their tall, all-wheel-drive wagons. But you can't fool me.
I couldn't choose just one. This year I was impressed by the new Pacifica, with its plug-in hybrid option and full gadget overload. And the Mercedes Metris, which is like driving a really tall E-Class. And then there's the goofy Ram ProMaster, whose Euro-market quirks make you feel as though you should be delivering bread in Rome. All three are more maneuverable than trucky things their size and simply make too much sense to ignore. Yeah, I love vans.
- David Gluckman, Executive Editor
2017 BMW M2
If you feel that the M3 and M4 have outgrown their place in the lineup as lithe, compact sport sedans and coupes – becoming instead brutally quick, heavy, comfortable bruisers – the M2 might be your jam. It feels right-sized, since its wheelbase is only five inches longer than an E30, and a tenth longer than the E36. It has the moves, thanks to a non-adjustable suspension that’s been perfectly tuned for the application, with M-specific ultra-stiff bushings and a near 50-50 weight balance.
In every situation we put it in, the M2 nailed the killer balance between body control and communicative roll. And it makes glorious noises from a proper inline-six, which like most modern turbocharged BMWs has a torque curve fatter than an In-N-Out Double Double, Animal Style. 343 lb-ft is available from 1,400 rpm to within a grand of the horsepower peak (5,560 rpm), and it feels like that. The torque curve looks like a classic Southwestern mesa: steep on the sides, flat as a table on top. Best of all, it comes with a real manual transmission, and a DCT is available as an option. In summary, The 2016 BMW M2 is superb. Lay out your criteria for a contemporary sport coupe. Then check all the boxes. That’s how good it is.
- Alex Kierstein, Senior Editor
2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV
The Chevy Bolt EV fulfills the latest promises of the zero-emission movement. Long range, green functionality, and affordable price. After federal incentives, the Bolt EV costs less than the average transaction price for a new vehicle in the US by many thousands of dollars. Just like the first-gen plug-in products were not the right car for everyone, the Bolt isn't the perfect car for every driver. But, man, you'll have to work a lot harder to justify why you couldn't use this EV than you had to a few years ago with the crop of electric cars available then. I really liked the bonus engagement that Chevy put into the Bolt with the addition of the adjustable regen pedals. You might not know what those are. If that's the case, either read my review or go test drive one yourself. You'll be thankful you did.
-Sebastian Blanco, AutoblogGreen Editor-in-chief
2017 Volvo S90
If I had to pick one word to describe what it’s like to drive the Volvo S90, it would be “relaxing.” The seats are highly comfortable, and the dashboard is refreshingly simple and elegant. The low window line means that the interior is airy and visibility is great. And after a busy day at the office, it was great to hop in the zen-like S90. It drives in a relaxed manner as well. It still gets up and goes, and it corners decently, but it never feels hurried, and the ride does a great job of ironing out bumps without becoming floaty. It also doesn’t hurt that this thing looks amazing, too. It’s broad-shouldered, but not intimidating. Something that at least one fellow motorist acknowledged with a big “A-OK” gesture on my way to work one morning.
- Joel Stocksdale, Associate Editor
2017 Mercedes-AMG SL63
Imagine that you’re wealthy enough to own any vehicle in the world. Now, imagine your garage. What’s inside? Ours has a Rolls, or maybe a Bentley. Why not, let’s say it has both. There’s an exotic or two, both current and classic, parked next to a fullsize pickup truck. But there’s only one that’s driven daily: A 2017 Mercedes-AMG SL63.
The SL’s 5.5-liter Biturbo V8 puts down 577 horsepower and 664 pound-feet of torque, sufficient for a 0-60 time of just 4.0 seconds. Or, alternatively, of smoking the tires at will, if you’re into that sort of thing (we are). Restrain your right foot, though, and the AMG’s civility is almost as intoxicating as its performance. Relax in the heated, cooled, massaging seats. Enjoy the view above through the electronically dimming Panorama Roof. And then, when the kid in the Mustang pulls up next to you… well, that’s entirely up to you, isn’t it?
- Jeremy Korzeniewski, Consumer Editor
2016 Shelby GT350
I've been lucky enough to have a lot of seat time in my short stint as an auto writer. Only one car, the Shelby GT350, has left me looking at my budget and trying to convince my wife that I really do need another vehicle. Ford really nailed it with this car. Everything about this car feels special in a way that nothing else I've driven does.
Ford stuck a 5.2-liter flat-plane crank ode to joy under the hood of this car. That V8, called the Voodoo, revs willingly and freely, making the most wonderful fanfare on the way to a 8,200 rpm redline. It reminds you how sad the move to turbocharging really is. On the right road (CA-33 on Ojai, California), this car makes you feel like a hero. Ford crafted something special here, and I'm worried this may be the last truly brilliant naturally aspirated V8 around. I will own one eventually, and that's coming from someone who grew up in a GM family.
- Reese Counts, Associate Editor