What a comeback the C-Class has made. The 2014 version placed dead last in our $46,000 Sport Sedan Challenge, where we lamented its soggy brakes, prevalence toward understeer and engine that ran out of steam if you kept your foot to the floor. The 2015 version is a revelation: Everyone who drives it is amazed at just how good it is. It's grown in size from the previous model, as it now slots above the entry-level CLA-Class in the Mercedes-Benz lineup, but inside and out, that maturity turns up in impressive ways. It starts with exterior styling that shows direct family resemblance to the company's elegant new theme, presented first on the CLA-Class and S-Class. The long hood, short tail and sculpted body looks upscale, fresh and distinctive. But people are more surprised by what's inside: It has an interior easily as opulent and luxurious as that on the flagship S-Class, scaled down to compact dimensions. Base models look great, but start adding some option packages and your C-Class will look and feel as nice as a car costing twice as much. Yet that beauty doesn't end at the skins and coverings. The C-Class went on a diet, losing as much as 200 pounds thanks to extensive use of aluminum in the chassis and body panels. The new turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder base engine makes 241 horsepower, a sizable bump from the outgoing turbo 1.8-liter, with an optional 329-hp, turbocharged 3.0-liter V-6 available for power junkies. The base four-cylinder is more than adequate to get the C-Class moving, and the standard seven-speed automatic transmission is well matched to either motor. Thanks to various selectable sport modes and suspension adjustments, the car handles, brakes and rides better than it ever has. The C300 is available in rear- or all-wheel drive, with the C400 offered exclusively with the all-wheel-drive setup. The new 2015 C-Class gets a bit of a price bump to accompany its new style and flair, but the car now includes standard forward collision warning with automatic braking, the aforementioned power increase and a memory driver's seat with a power tilt/telescoping steering wheel. Even with the average C-Class expected to sticker in the mid-$40,000 range, we feel comfortable awarding this new luxury compact sedan our Best Car of 2015 prize. While it is indeed a more expensive car than we would typically recommend, there isn't a single moment when driving the new C-Class that you don't think it's worth the money.
When choosing the winner of a Best Of award, especially when you have a class of competitors that offers so much change and diversity, it can be difficult comparing new vehicles with significantly improved ones or heavy-duty pickups against midsize trucks. But that's what we do here, so you don't have to. We studied entire pickup truck lineups in every segment, reviewing each change and modification made by the manufacturers, eventually narrowing our top choice to the one that most deserves to be called the Best Truck of 2015. This year was exceptional, with trucks from each of the three categories -- midsize, half-ton and heavy duty -- represented, each offering a strong argument for winning. In the end, we selected the Chevrolet Colorado; it stands above the rest as the pickup that resets the bar not only in its segment but possibly in the entire pickup truck arena. To create a brand-new entry in the struggling midsize pickup segment, GM engineers accepted the challenge of building an instant segment leader and luring back buyers who had migrated to crossovers, sedans and full-size pickups. To call this an expensive risk -- GM had to tool an entire plant that shares little with any other GM vehicle -- would be an understatement, especially if this truck is anything less than a home run. It's one thing to create a new and improved pickup that outperforms the truck it's replacing (no small feat), but we think it's quite another to birth a pickup where literally nothing existed before -- and then not only reset the bar but also send shockwaves through the industry. It wouldn't surprise us if the Chevy Colorado (and GMC Canyon) has other truckmakers scrambling to the drawing boards as more people return to midsize pickups. We think this new truck will accomplish that goal, forcing Nissan, Toyota and others to do more and do better. This award is dedicated to the Chevy Colorado engineers who made a solid product with a boatload of value for consumers who love traditional truck traits as well as those looking for a good, economical form of functional transportation.