From bargin to luxury, the year in auto excellence
CASEY WILLIAMS | Auto Reviewer
A year has come and gone — and so have about 60 top-flight autos. From compacts to high-flying crossovers, here are some of the best we drove during 2016, from the most affordable to the highest end
(with base prices listed).
Scion iA. Sure, it’s a compact built by Mazda, but the soulful chassis and steering engage. Interiors could have come from Audi with blue-stitched leatherette dash, console joywheel infotainment and faux carbon fiber. A 1.8-liter engine delivers 106 horsepower and 33/42-MPG city/hwy. Now called the Toyota Yaris iA, it’s no less enjoyable. $15,950.
Fiat 124 Spider. It’s a Miata restyled like the classic Fiat 124 Spider from the ‘70s and with an engine transplant. Bodies echo classic Pininfarina styling, but the Spider harbors a 160 horsepower turbo-four from the 500 Abarth. Opt for Bose audio, Blind spot monitoring and rear cross-path detection. A simple manual top and manual transmission are elemental. $24,995.
Chevy Volt. An all-electric range of 53 miles, plus the ability to travel long distance on gasoline, makes Volt the green car for all reasons. It’s rated 106-MPGe. Styling is futuristic, but it looks less concept car than its predecessor. Apple CarPlay and 4G Wi-Fi add tech. Pop the hatch, toss in your gear and go across town electrically or further efficiently. $33,220.
Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid. A mini-van seems ludicrous, but wait. This beautiful liner can take you and seven friends anywhere in mini-limo comfort and do it with 30 miles all-electric range — achieving 80-MPGe city — before the gas engine fires up to continue the journey. Euro handling delights. With a $7,500 federal tax credit, it’s cheaper than a loaded Prius. $34,495.
Lexus RC200t. Lexus’ “affordable” coupe is sexy and spirited. The spindle grille, bulging fenders, LED lights and fastback roofline look good anywhere. A 2.0-liter turbo-four and 8-speed transmission delivers 22/32-MPG city/hwy. Adjust for ECO, normal, sport and snow. Flatscreen instruments and 835 watts of Mark Levinson audio seal it. $40,155.
Volvo XC90. A Swedish Range Rover, streamlined and elegant, with a Scandinavian cabin finely strewn with light wood, soft leather, laser-etched switches and infotainment screen that swipes through logical screens. Bowers & Wilkins audio is deific. Thrust it forward with a 316 horsepower supercharged and turbocharged 4-cylinder engine. $45,750.
BMW M2. Like a nightmare stripped naked, styling is the Muscle Mary version of the classic 2002 model, but it’s packing a 365 horsepower turbocharged six-cylinder engine. Click from 0-60 mph in 4.4 seconds and 155 mph. Testosterone splashes from deep front air inlets, 19-in. wheels, and faceted lower grilles. Color it Long Beach Blue Metallic! $51,700.
Cadillac CT6. Cadillac’s flagship sedan broadsides the Germans without getting annihilated. Lightweight materials enable athletic handling. The cabin is awash in leather, wood and Bose Panaray audio. Rear passengers stretch like princes. Get it with turbo-four, V6, or a 404-horsepower twin-turbo V6 engines. Go plug-in hybrid to enjoy 30 electric miles. $53,495.
Audi S7. Like a sedan in Armani, the S7 gleams with a sleek roof, clean bodylines, LED lights and electric rear spoiler. It looks wide and exotic. The four-place cabin wears quilted leather, suede and carbon twill panels. A turbocharged V8 delivers 450 horsepower, 0-60 mph in 4.5 seconds, and 155 mph top speed. Elegance and sport automobilified. $79,900.
Range Rover Diesel td6. If QEII and enviro-friendly Prince Charles jointly conjured a royal carriage, it’s this. The Queen drives her own Range Rover across vast estates because it is divinely comfortable and imminently capable. Stoke it with a turbo-diesel engine that delivers 22/29-MPG city/hwy, and you have a big hoss that scampers off the line and rolls efficiently. $86,950.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition January 6, 2017