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Car of the Year Nominees

By Editors
January 3, 2017
img61186180 1549475583916 jpg 2017 Chrysler Pacifica | photo by Angela Conners

2017 Chrysler Pacifica

Yes, you read that right — our Best of 2017 is a minivan. If you think they’re just boring people haulers, think again. The Pacifica’s anti-van styling and innovative features will wow families, and will likely catch the eye of even the most minivan-averse. Outside, this Chrysler’s curvy lines and elegant face are a radical stylistic departure from the Town & Country’s dowdy breadbox look. But it’s inside where it scores the biggest points, packing loads of features — and a few surprises.

Like most minivans, the Pacifica has seating for seven or eight across three rows, but where it excels is in the features department. Loads of available creature comforts will keep Mom, Dad and the kids happy, from an available built-in vacuum cleaner and revised Stow ‘n Go seats to the van’s plentiful USB ports for device charging and its Uconnect theater’s twin touchscreens with built-in apps for rear-seat entertainment.

But it drives well, too. Long and heavy, minivans are not known for their handling prowess, but Chrysler made great strides with the Pacifica. It’s much less of a chore to drive than the old Town & Country, with improved handling and maneuverability, especially when parking. It feels tighter and more composed in corners, and ride quality is better, too. Driving a minivan doesn’t have to be a chore and with the Pacifica, it’s a delight.

It’s also one of the most fuel-efficient vans in its class with an EPA rating of 28 mpg on the highway. But it can do better. In plug-in hybrid trim — the segment’s only hybrid — it’s EPA-rated at 84 mpg-equivalent during electric-only driving and has an electric-only range of 33 miles. When driven like a traditional hybrid, it’s EPA-rated at 32 mpg — 10 mpg better than the gasoline-only 2017 Toyota Sienna with front-wheel drive and 12 mpg more than the 2017 Kia Sedona.

In many ways, Chrysler turned the minivan segment upside down with its new Pacifica. It out-styles, out-drives and just plain out-wows the rest of the class. With the Best of 2017 Chrysler Pacifica, it’s families who win.

img 1615920617 1480966831969 jpg 2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV | Manufacturer image

Best New Electric Car: 2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV

Years of cheaper gas have torpedoed consumer interest in hybrids and plug-in cars, but they didn't slow GM's pledge to make an affordable, 200-mile electric vehicle. So came the Chevrolet Bolt, an all-electric hatchback with an EPA-estimated 238 miles of range, overnight chargeability and a starting price around $30,000 after federal tax credits. That's Tesla Model S range at about half the price, a feat the California EV maker hopes to accomplish with the forthcoming Model 3. But Detroit beat Silicon Valley to the punch.

Given its credentials, the Bolt could skate by with a lot of mediocrity otherwise. But GM's EV is a lot better than that. The 150-kilowatt electric motor unleashes strong, instant power from your right foot. The brakes have convincing response, and the battery pack's low center of gravity lends sharp handling. The cabin is surprisingly roomy. Storage space abounds.

The Bolt doesn't skate; it flies. GM has hit a home run.

Expense and range — one too high, the other too low — remain significant obstacles to the EV movement, which affordable gas seems to have grounded all over again. Could the Bolt represent a breakthrough to long-term EV popularity regardless of fuel prices? Chances are good.

img 1705145363 1480966913109 jpg 2017 Fiat 124 Spider | Manufacturer image

Best New Convertible: 2017 Fiat 124 Spider

There's no point in owning a convertible if it's hard to put the top down, and Fiat has thought of that with the simplest top operation next to a can of soda. Yes, purists will point out there's a lot of Mazda MX-5 Miata in the 124 Spider and that the only real difference is the engine and some styling tweaks. We'd remind those folks that the genetic difference between individual humans is only 0.1 percent, then point to the recent election to demonstrate how significant small differences can be.

On second thought, who cares? Look at this thing: It's pretty. Next, drop the top, rev the engine, listen to the sweet 1.4-liter engine, find a twisty road and see if your cares disappear with the wind. We're betting they will, and that's why the Fiat 124 Spider is our Best New Convertible of 2017.

img1140883692 1480967019955 jpg 2017 Genesis G90 | Manufacturer image

Best New Luxury Sedan: 2017 Genesis G90

The G90 is the flagship model of the new Genesis luxury brand — a car formerly known as the Hyundai Equus until Hyundai created its own stand-alone premium marque.

But this is more than just a refreshed Equus: The G90 is a truly fantastic new luxury car, with Genesis engineers going through every inch of the vehicle and upgrading it to a level that easily rivals competitors from Lexus, Infiniti, even BMW. It's a massive car — with as much rear legroom as a Mercedes-Benz S-Class — but features a standard turbocharged 3.3-liter V-6 that is super smooth, amazingly refined and easily our choice over the larger available V-8.

Inside, you'd never know this was once a Hyundai — all of the switches, controls, gauges, multimedia screens, thoughtful materials and the well-thought-out, formal designs are uniquely Genesis. On the road, the G90 is a limousine, a stately and isolated luxury cruiser whose sole goal is the comfortable coddling of its occupants. To top it all off, Genesis is offering up the full-size G90 for the price of other luxury brands' mid-size sedans with the industry's best warranty to boot. If the car and the luxury experience matter more to you than the badge on the hood, the Genesis G90 can't be beat.

img741548778 1480967049108 jpg 2017 GMC Acadia | photo by Evan Sears

Best New Mid-Size SUV: 2017 GMC Acadia

In these days of "bigger is better," it's unusual for a car to shrink in size but grow in stature. The Acadia manages this feat easily. GMC pared the full-size SUV to a mid-sized version, but with the redesign, it created a family hauler that's fun to drive and filled with useful features such as Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Rear Seat Reminder and an available Tow Vision trailering system.

The Acadia is now about 7 inches shorter, but its interior space keeps up with rivals such as the Toyota Highlander and Ford Explorer. Unlike its competitors, however, the Acadia can be had with just two rows of seats as the SLT version with the All Terrain Package. Both the three-row and two-row Acadia earned all A's in their Car Seat Checks, and the two-row Acadia also fit three child-safety seats across its bench seat, the holy grail for many parents.

In a head-to-head comparison, the two-row Acadia beat the Nissan Murano, the winner of our 2016 Midsize SUV Challenge. And in our Three-Row SUV Challenge 2016, the three-row Acadia finished in a close second place behind the Honda Pilot.

GMC took a risk with the Acadia's redesign, but it paid off with a flexible SUV that will appeal to families of all sizes.

img434468358 1480967083333 jpg 2017 Kia Sportage | photo by Angela Conners

Best New Compact SUV: 2017 Kia Sportage

 It's hard to overstate how far Kia has come in the last 15 years: The South Korean brand has steadily refined its lineup while adding features that wouldn't be out of place in a luxury vehicle. The redesigned 2017 Sportage compact SUV continues that trend with its distinctive styling, a roomy interior, easy-to-use technology and upscale available features.

Powered by a choice of two four-cylinder engines, the five-seat Sportage makes strong power with the optional turbocharged engine, which pairs with a responsive six-speed automatic transmission. Steering feel and ride quality have improved, and the optional all-wheel-drive system seamlessly shifts available engine power to the wheels with the most grip.

Inside, the cabin has good materials, with nicely grained plastics and soft-touch surfaces, and the Sportage's higher trim levels come with nice amenities like heated and ventilated front seats, a heated steering wheel and a touchscreen multimedia system that supports Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone mirroring.

The SUV segment is booming and compact SUVs are especially hot. That field is extremely competitive, but the new Sportage is well positioned to challenge them — and win.