2015 Top 10 Auto Show Winners

2015_AS_2015Winners_3.2.jpg 2016 Honda Pilot; | photo by Evan Sears, graphic by Paul Dolan

During auto show season, carmakers paraded their latest and greatest ideas, products and concepts and this year’s crop of shows produced plenty of hits and misses. Like E!’s “Fashion Police,”’s editors rated and debated them in our Winners & Losers series, from rock-bottom lows such as Scion’s awkward, fish-faced iA to highlights like the Lexus RX’s transformation from ho-hum to holy-cow!     

Related: More Auto Show Coverage’s editors don’t always (or often) agree, but in this case, the cars here got a unanimous “win” vote. Although we haven’t driven most of these yet, our first impressions leave us with high hopes for these winners.

1. 2016 Honda Pilot


It looks like Honda’s new three-row SUV shares only a name with the previous generation. The 2016 Honda Pilot trades its blocky, trucky lines for a sleeker, more stylish-looking crossover profile. The Pilot’s interior transformation is just as surprising; highlights include more refined cabin materials, a streamlined control layout and loads of family-friendly features.

“The biggest success isn’t the clear family-focus inside, but the way Honda was able to maintain terrific visibility while totally reimagining the new Pilot’s exterior. Families will go nuts over the thoughtfulness of the interior and features like double cupholders in the rear doors and a flexible cargo area, if they’re not too busy watching one of the many electronic devices this SUV can support,” said David Thomas, managing editor.

2. 2016 Lexus RX

10-auto-show-2016-lexus-rx-es.jpg 2016 Lexus RX; | photo by Evan Sears

With the redesigned RX, Lexus is committing itself to the brand’s polarizing spindle grille in a big way — actually a huge way. The 2016 RX’s face is dominated by the enlarged grille flanked by triple L-shaped LED headlamps, LED fog lamps and LED daytime running lights. Aside from more aggressive styling, the RX also boasts additional rear-seat room and more safety features for 2016.

“I think the RX’s styling is the best execution yet of Lexus’ current design direction. The NX is a little too ‘out there,’ but the RX is just right, blending the aggressive shape over a proportionate body,” said Joe Wiesenfelder, executive editor.

3. 2016 Volvo XC90


After 10-plus years in its current form, Volvo’s largest SUV was long overdue for a makeover. The 2016 XC90 seems worth the wait. The all-new seven-passenger SUV’s interior takes luxury to a new level with rich genuine wood and leather surfaces combined with premium features like a 19-speaker, 1,400-watt Bowers & Wilkins stereo, a massive touch-screen control system and a crystal-glass gear selector. 

“Wowsers. I’m still in awe that this is a production car and not a concept. The quality of every interior material is top notch, and Volvo didn’t stop there. Innovative features like the massive touch-screen and a ton of interesting textures and styling choices thrive, inside and out. The XC90 has the potential to be one of the premier luxury SUVs when it debuts,” said Joe Bruzek, road test editor. 

4. 2016 Hyundai Tucson

10-auto-show-2016-hyundai-tucson-es.jpg 2016 Hyundai Tucson; | photo by Evan Sears

The 2015 auto show was jam-packed with impressive new vehicles, and Hyundai’s compact crossover stood out for its refined cabin and spacious interior. The 2016 Hyundai Tucson gets sportier exterior styling, more fuel-efficient powertrains and additional safety features for 2016.

“I like how Hyundai has adapted the design theme of its larger Santa Fe lineup to the Tucson. It looks great, with a toughness the prior generation never possessed. It’s also quite accommodating for a compact crossover, with good front- and rear-seat space. Hyundai’s crossover lineup is now strong across the board,” said Mike Hanley, senior editor.

5. 2016 Honda HR-V

10-auto-show-2016-honda-hr-v-es.jpg 2016 Honda HR-V; | photo by Evan Sears

Honda’s latest vehicle may be small, but it made big news at the 2014 Los Angeles Auto Show. The 2016 Honda HR-V blends the compact footprint of the Fit subcompact hatchback with the taller ride height of the CR-V compact crossover. With low prices, versatile cargo and passenger room, and an efficient powertrain, it looks like Honda might have another hit.

“The Fit has been a remarkably space-efficient platform for years, and this model is overdue. The interior quality exceeds expectations. I have no doubt this model’s roominess and versatility will make it the CR-V of subcompacts — that means big sales numbers, folks,” Wiesenfelder said.

6. 2016 Cadillac CTS-V


Cadillac’s flagship performance sedan is a meaner-looking version of the brand’s already muscular CTS. With 640 horsepower and aggressive styling cues like a carbon-fiber hood with an integrated functional air extractor vent and a carbon-fiber trunk-lid spoiler, the 2016 CTS-V looks like it’s more than ready to start some trouble.

“The Cadillac CTS-V is beastly. You can clearly tell it’s something special with the new aggressive front styling and the showcar’s optional carbon-fiber spoilers and rear diffuser. The V’s stance is also mean, with a wider footprint than the regular CTS,” Bruzek said.

7. 2017 Ford GT


This supercar’s angular, aerodynamic styling screams concept car, but Ford’s GT is headed to production. The rear-wheel-drive GT packs a 600-plus-hp, twin-turbocharged V-6 along with a racetrack-inspired carbon-fiber cockpit. 

“This really is the year for beautiful style out of Detroit automakers. It’s hard to update a benchmark like the last Ford GT, which itself was a modernization of the iconic Ford GT40 racecar, but Ford has nailed it. This car made everyone realize how derivative the 2016 Acura NSX actually looks. I was surprised to see an EcoBoost V-6 instead of a V-8 in the GT, but I guess this is the way of the future,” said Aaron Bragman, Detroit bureau chief.

8. 2016 Kia Sorento

10-auto-show-kia-sorento-es.jpg 2016 Kia Sorento; | photo by Evan Sears

Families have a lot of choices when shopping for an SUV, and Kia’s midsize offering appeals for its blend of versatility, comfort and affordability. The 2016 Sorento is bigger and wears an updated version of the brand’s stylish, studded grille. Inside, the cabin has improved with better materials quality and a simplified control layout. A newly optional turbocharged four-cylinder engine ups both the fun and efficiency factors for 2016.

“Kia does practical well, and the interior room and ergonomics are stellar. The big surprise is the level of refinement inside. Along with the Sedona minivan, this is where Kia makes the leap to serious competition for Honda and Toyota,” Thomas said.

9. 2016 Nissan Maxima


Nissan calls the Maxima a four-door sports car. Although that sounds like a symptom of a personality disorder, the sedan has the looks to back its sporty claims. A redesign for 2016 brings a new “floating roof” effect with the black front pillars, black wraparound rear pillars and swoopy curves inherited from Nissan’s Sport Sedan Concept. Along with the exterior revisions, the new Maxima gets a redesigned 3.5-liter V-6 and a new continuously variable automatic transmission.

“The 2016 Maxima is a stunner. Maybe not in the classic sense, but it will get your attention and that’s not something many full-size sedans can do. It’s exciting to see Nissan take a risk with this radical styling direction, and it’s equally interesting on the inside. I have trouble believing anything with a continuously variable automatic transmission can be a four-door sports car. Time will tell if Nissan can pull that off,” Bruzek said.

10. 2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata

10-auto-show-2016-mazda-miata-es.jpg 2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata; | photo by Evan Sears

Mazda’s fun, fling-able roadster has always been a staff favorite, so why mess with a good thing? To make it even better, of course. After years of minimal changes, the MX-5 Miata is redesigned with a new shark-nose grille and a muscular profile, but the automaker has kept the roadster’s winning formula intact. Compact + affordable + uncomplicated = fun.

“The current Miata has a knack for turning everyday drives into thrill rides. That focus on the driving experience appears alive and well in the new Miata,” Hanley said. 

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