It's rare that any one car fits the stringent requirements of the complex, varied roles of our staffers' family lives. The Santa Fe comes so close to being a perfect fit, how could we possibly not award it Family Car of the Year? It is, simply put, the ... best ... family ... car for 2015. The Santa Fe offers loads of standard features to make families swoon, impressive fit and finish, drive settings customizable for every driver in your brood, and Hyundai's legendary 10-year, 100,000-mile powertrain warranty. Wait a minute. You're going to give us more stuff for less money? Where do we sign? Oh, and did I mention Hyundai's impressive suite of available BlueLink features perfect for families, including curfew and speed limit alerts, along with geo-fencing to help keep new teen drivers safely accountable? Add in other available extras like heated second-row seats, ventilated front seats, integrated rear sunshades and a massive panoramic sunroof and the Santa Fe might just feel luxurious enough to leave the kids home with a sitter and sneak away for a date night.
It's hard to describe just how good a 911 is to anyone who hasn't driven one. Nearly every story written about the 911 notes the same things: amazingly engaging handling, a firm yet compliant ride despite big wheels and a sports-car suspension, and iconic styling that only gets lightly updated for each new generation. Writers wax poetic about how good the 911 feels, what it can do and how well it works. But all of that praise is not unjustified in the least; the amount of fun the 911 can wrest from its standard 350-horsepower, naturally aspirated 3.4-liter flat-six engine is astonishing. But the number of variations Porsche creates from that base 911 is also astonishing: no fewer than 20 different kinds of 911 can be had, some skewed toward open-air motoring, some toward track duty, some just to be as outrageously fast as possible. The more powerful Turbo models come standard with the Porsche PDK dual-clutch automatic, an amazingly quick-shifting transmission that won't have you missing a stick-shift in the slightest. The 911 is engineered to be one of the most capable sports cars in the world, earning our pick for 2015 Play Car of the Year.
The Land Rover Range Rover is an SUV of many talents. In Supercharged V-8 form, a 510-horsepower V-8 provides ferocious acceleration, but this SUV is also a comfortable, quiet highway cruiser. Its cabin is richly appointed in leather, aluminum and wood trim, and even though high-tech features abound, including a 12.3-inch digital instrument panel, there's a simple elegance to the interior. It's a relaxing place to let the miles roll by, especially the backseat of the long-wheelbase version with what seems like miles of extra space to stretch your legs. Even though the Range Rover has the kind of cachet to snag a prime valet parking spot, it's also off-road royalty. With nearly 12 inches of ground clearance, an available terrain-sensing four-wheel-drive system and the ability to wade through nearly 3 feet of water, the Range Rover can keep going long after the road ends. The Range Rover continues to evolve -- its recent shift to aluminum construction shed hundreds of pounds from its curb weight -- but its dual identity still distinguishes it from the competition. The Range Rover is stately and sophisticated in all that it does.
Its second time as our winner, the Passat TDI clean-diesel is our choice because of its excellent efficiency and drivability without compromise, unless you consider pumping diesel instead of gasoline a compromise. (We reject that notion.) For a car of its size, the four-cylinder gas-powered Passat gets an impressive EPA-estimated 28 mpg combined city/highway, but the TDI automatic's 30/42/34 mpg city/highway/combined ratings raise the stakes. Not enough? Consider the six-speed manual transmission, which increases the combined figure to 35 mpg and builds driver engagement in a way that's hard to find in mid- and full-size sedans. The winner of Cars.com's Best Of 2012 Award, the Passat has aged gracefully and still offers exceptional cabin and trunk space and a high-quality interior for the price. Its crash tests and predicted reliability are good as well. Gasoline-electric hybrid sedans typically sacrifice trunk space and suffer some quirky driving characteristics not found in the Passat TDI. The Passat TDI is simply a Passat with all the drivability and better mileage. With its impressive highway mileage and long range, it's the ultimate road-trip car -- and definitely Cars.com's Eco-Friendly Car of the Year.