- Repair & Care
A minivan is the obvious choice for large families, but those willing to think beyond sliding doors will find a lot to love about the Buick Enclave three-row crossover. The Enclave's premium appearance outside and roomy comfort inside won over our editors. Its luxuriously appointed cabin offers seating for up to eight, and although the Enclave doesn't offer as much cargo room as a minivan, it's still generous; the Enclave is one of the most spacious large crossovers. The Enclave gets a nod for its just-right blend of comfort, style, drivability and utility.
If we thought the Odyssey was an impressive compilation of family-friendly features before, the designers and engineers at Honda (many of whom happen to be parents and therefore Odyssey drivers) have completely outdone themselves for 2014. We've been half-joking for a decade that the ultimate family car needed a built-in vacuum. Honda has delivered with the totally innovative HondaVac system. Now, if only we could get Honda to deliver on our other brilliant idea: a retractable soundproof barrier between the driver and the rear-seat passengers. Call it the "Cone of Silence." We're waiting with bated breath, Honda.
Hyundai has been winning over car shoppers with impressive designs teamed to equally impressive lists of features for the money. The redesigned Hyundai Santa Fe Sport adds impressive utility to the mix with a large cargo area and spacious backseat. It won over our editors with its composed driving manners, luxurious cabin and tech features that any parent (or grandparent) can easily master. A few editors even called it "fun to drive," which is a rarity in a class where the driver often isn't the top priority.
When you see a Ford F-150 SVT Raptor you know what it's built for. Big wheels and tires, an aggressive stance and a racing suspension setup all make it clear that this truck loves to play in the dirt. But to think this truck is just about desert racing would be to hugely undervalue its impressive capabilities. Not only can this pickup carry nearly 1,200 pounds of payload and tow a large boat or camper trailer, it also has a rear locking differential, front Torsen limited-slip and a pair of cameras to give the driver a full view of the trail. In the world of go-fast and go-slow exploring, the Raptor has no equal.
Most automakers believe open-air motoring is for "casual" drivers. No one told Porsche. Though it's not inexpensive, the Boxster is affordable, for a Porsche, and with the name comes terrific performance in a ragtop with the structural rigidity that few convertibles provide. Not just a performer, the car has adequate room for adults in its two seats, admirable quietness with the top raised, plus surprising cargo capacity in its front trunk. If you're the casual sort, choose the modest base engine. Want more fun with your sun? The Boxster S is the way to go.
Sports cars with incredible performance specs are common, but harder to find are cars that deliver a truly engaging driving experience. The Porsche 911 is one of those rare cars. The powerful flat-six engine shoves you forward quickly while the available seven-speed double-clutch transmission is so magically good you won't miss the stick shift. The 911 has its share of high-tech features and luxury amenities, but they don't get in the way of the driving experience as they do in some high-end cars. The 911 formula hasn't changed much over the years, but it's still what a modern sports car should be.
The BMW 328i is the perfect blend of luxury, sport and prestige. We tested it against the industry's best luxury sport sedans in 2013 and it came out on top, beating competitors from Acura, Audi, Cadillac, Mercedes-Benz and Volvo. It does everything well. It gets strong acceleration from the turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine; has progressive, fade-free brakes; and sharp, nimble handling. It's quick: zero to 60 mph in just 6.5 seconds. It's frugal: Observed gas mileage in our testing rang in at 28.1 mpg combined city/highway. The list of equipment, both standard and optional, is quite complete. You can option one up to be a luxury cruiser or check the M Sport box to get a sport suspension, special tires and unique trim. The redesign for 2012 brought more rear legroom and a bigger trunk, but it did not sacrifice the driving pleasure that comes with the 328i. It's not easy to impress a group of automotive reviewers, so when a car does it as completely as the 328i has, an award is only natural.
It's one of the last big, American rear-wheel-drive V-8 sedans, but that traditional format belies some surprising sophistication and modern refinement. The Chrysler 300 brings unique style and swagger to the luxury segment, a bark that's backed up with bite from either the sweet V-6 engine mated to a smooth eight-speed automatic transmission or a hairy-chested Hemi V-8 linked to a robust five-speed automatic. New super-premium leather options now cover the interior in fine cowhide, Dr. Dre brings the Beats audio system and several trim options let you tailor the 300 to either a more fashionable urban vibe or a traditional luxury look. Throw in the fact that the big 300 can be had for the price of a loaded midsize car and it becomes an outstanding pick for a big luxury sedan.
Lexus is injecting some spice into the brand with the GS 350, and it created a car that can hang with the best German sport sedans in the process. The midsize model is aggressively styled inside and out, and the optional F Sport model amps up the fierce look to levels quite uncommon for a Lexus. Acceleration, braking and handling are all strong suits for the GS 350, but it doesn't sacrifice comfort and luxury -- interior materials are outstanding, and the onboard electronics are impressive. With the GS 350, Lexus has finally joined the ranks of legitimate sport sedan makers.
Though electric cars continue to be the ultimate green-motoring statement, not everyone can live with their limited range. That's why the Chevrolet Volt is an outstanding option for people who want many of the benefits of a purely battery-electric car without the associated limitations. After around 40 miles of inexpensive, emissions-free driving, a gasoline engine powers an onboard generator to keep the car going for hundreds of miles more. The Volt hasn't evolved much since its introduction, but it remains the only true bridge between petroleum- and electric-powered motoring. Now in its fourth model year, it's going strong.
Cited every year since its introduction, the Nissan Leaf again vies for the top spot thanks to changes that have made it more accessible and desirable: a drop in the base price of almost $6,500 and the option to recharge twice as fast -- roughly four hours where it used to take eight -- on a 240-volt, Level 2 charging system. Due to overly optimistic expectations, electric cars looked down for the first couple of years, but they're clearly not out. Public charging stations continue to spread, and EVs prove cheap to own, making proven plug-ins like the Leaf more viable than ever.
We recommend three VW TDI clean-diesel models among this year's crop because they provide such impressive mileage along with performance we prefer to that of hybrids. The diesels are quick off the line, and we favor their distinctive diesel sound (when it's audible) over the droning that's so common among hybrids. Natural conventional braking also sets them above the typical hybrid and electric vehicles. The Jetta SportWagen rose above the other two by combining versatility with efficiency, which, at 34 mpg combined city/highway with a six-speed manual transmission, matches both the smaller Golf and larger Passat.