NEWS's 2016 Challenge Winners

top-10-challenge_es.jpg V-8 Muscle Car Challenge | photo by Evan Sears

CARS.COM — Throughout 2016, our editors traveled all over for our multi-car Challenges and tested every aspect of the vehicles involved. Often, a clear winner emerges; occasionally, it can feel like there’s an eight-way tie for third place.

Related: Multi-Car Comparisons

In 2016, we tested small-engine and V-8 muscle cars, compact SUVs, mid-size pickup trucks, mid-size SUVs, minivans and three-row SUVs. Here are the competitors that rose to the top of each Challenge.

Small-Engine Muscle Cars: 2016 Ford Mustang

16Ford_Mustang_EcoB_SO_ES_04.jpg 2016 Ford Mustang | photo by Evan Sears

The four-cylinder EcoBoost Mustang took the top spot against the V-6-powered Chevrolet Camaro and Dodge Challenger. Our judges found that it delivered a winning combination of lively on-track performance and livable street manners. More agile than the Challenger and more comfortable than the Camaro, the EcoBoost Mustang took the top spot handily.

V-8 Muscle Cars: 2016 Chevrolet Camaro

16Chevrolet_Camaro_SS_SO_ES_04.jpg 2016 Chevrolet Camaro SS | photo by Evan Sears

In a much closer race, the big brothers of the Small-Engine Muscle Car Challenge duked it out over the same roads and on the same tracks as their weaker siblings. Here, the Camaro SS came out on top, using its powerful 6.2-liter V-8 and precise steering to beat a Ford Mustang GT and Dodge Challenger R/T Scat Pack. Overcoming its lack of visibility and relatively poor interior quality, the Camaro dominated on the track and won the fuel economy test.

Midsize Sedans: 2016 Volkswagen Passat

16Volkswagen_Passat_SO_AC_06.jpg 2016 Volkswagen Passat | photo by Angela Conners

For the best-selling car segment in America, we brought together nine mid-size sedans for a Challenge that saw the Volkswagen Passat emerge as a comfortable winner. Spacious seating and tech features including Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as well as a surprising amount of driving fun thanks to its 1.8-liter four-cylinder enabled the Passat to cruise home ahead of the competition.

Compact SUVs: 2017 Ford Escape

17Ford_Escape_SO_AC_02.jpg 2017 Ford Escape | photo by Angela Conners

For this Challenge, we tested an abbreviated field of the 2015 Compact SUV Challenge-winning Honda CR-V, sales-leading Toyota RAV4, and models redesigned since the 2015 Challenge. The Escape took home Ford’s second Challenge victory of the year, edging to the top in an incredibly close race. The Escape’s new, more straightforward Sync 3 infotainment system combined with its pleasant ride and handling balance helped it eke out a win.

Midsize Pickups: 2016 GMC Canyon

16PUTC_MidsizePickupTruckChallenge_16GMC_Canyon_SO_AC_02.jpg 2016 GMC Canyon | photo by Angela Conners

After a long summer week in Michigan, the Canyon SLE emerged victorious from a full field of mid-size trucks. The Canyon held its own at the off-road park, at the track and on the street to take home its title.

Midsize SUVs: 2016 Nissan Murano

01_16Nissan_Murano_SO_ES_01.jpg 2016 Nissan Murano | photo by Evan Sears

Five mid-size SUVs entered the resort town of Lake Geneva, Wis., but only one left victorious: the Murano. Its 3.5-liter V-6 helped it overpower the competition, as did its plush interior. Its almost entirely white cabin (a la Don Johnson’s suit on Miami Vice) did not cost it any points.

Minivans: 2017 Chrysler Pacifica

17Chrysler_Pacifica_SO_AC_05.jpg 2017 Chrysler Pacifica | photo by Angela Conners

After the 2015 Ultimate Minivan Challenge saw the outgoing Town & Country finish dead last, we brought the first-place 2016 Kia Sedona and the second-place (and now updated) 2017 Toyota Sienna to compete against Chrysler’s new kid on the block: the Pacifica, which trounced the competition. Our judges found its engine and transmission combination great in the city and on the highway, and its innovative interior features, like the Stow ‘n Go seats and rear entertainment system with built-in games, helped seal the deal.

Three-Row SUVs: 2016 Honda Pilot

07_16Honda_Pilot_SO_ES_07.jpg 2016 Honda Pilot | photo by Evan Sears

A loaded field of three-row SUVs was no match for the recently redesigned Pilot. In an odd twist, the reasons the Pilot won would have made it an interesting competitor in this year’s Minivan Challenge as well. Reliability, safety, utility, and family-hauling capabilities helped it overcome a quirky and troublesome transmission to take the crown.

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