Ride, Truck and More of the Year

                         Happy New Year!

                         More 2016 Bests

By Ron Amadon

DAMASCUS, MD. – With the Audi TTS awarded my Car of the Year it is time to turn to other top rides of the past year.


 In the “Most Extraordinary Drive” category, the McLaren GT stood out, as one might expect. This was a version of the high performance GT that had touches of added refinement that would encourage owners not only to take it out on track days, but also for the daily commute.

 A 3.8 liter twin turbo V8 with 562 horsepower and 443 lb-ft of torque was married to a seven-speed “seamless-shift” transmission.

 To answer your next questions: Zero to 62 in just 3.4 seconds the maker said and I have no reason to doubt that. Not enough you say? How’s about 0-124 in just 9.8 seconds with a track day top speed of 204 miles per hour.

 This British delight that proves you can have your crumpets and eat them too!

NEW YORK (March 24, 2016) – Nissan today previewed the upcoming TITAN Crew Cab half-ton pickup, which arrives at Nissan dealers nationwide this summer, at the 2016 New York International Auto Show. The standard bearer of Nissan's family of TITAN pickups, the 2017 TITAN Crew Cab is powered by a new 390-horsepower 5.6-liter Endurance® V8 gasoline engine.

 Truck of the Year

 A pickup with an incredibly long name – The Nissan Titan Platinum Reserve. It simply did everything that a modern day truck owner would want.

 From daily errand running to hauling supplies and debris from the back yard, to taking a run over to pick up heaven also known as West Virginia, the Titan was a treat to drive.

 There was more than ample power from the standard issue 5.6-liter V8 rated at 390 horsepower at 5,800 rpm, up 73 HP from the previous model. Torque wise, the new one offers 394 lb-ft up from the previous 385. 4×4 models get a new transfer case.

 A 7-speed automatic produced quick and smooth gear changes.

 But sometimes you just want to get comfortable when you’re chasing the sun. The interior of the tested Titan did that with Nissan’s wonderful “Zero Gravity” seats that are among the best in the business.

 The front seats were cooled and more importantly at this time of year, heated. Interior storage space for small items abounded and the 12-speaker high tech audio system belted out Maria Carey even she wouldn’t.  

 It was a great truck and one we hated to see go away at the end of the week’s test.


 Utility of the Year

 Blaspheme some would say! How could you possibly pick a van for anything in this day and age of trucks, vans, crossovers, and too many related categories to list here?

 Well, actually it was easy to name the Chrysler Pacifica Utility of the Year. Like the Titan, the Pacifica did everything asked of it, in a smooth refined manner with lots of space for adults, kids, even in-laws and outlaws.

 And thanks to its makers for the cheery interiors. After too many all black insides, this lighter and brighter touch really stood out.

 Various refinements improved the nine-speed transmission. Here it was matched to a 3.6-liter V6 rated at 287 horsepower and 262 lb-ft of torque. More than enough power for van owners, I say.

 Those wonderful “Stow and Go” seats, the hands free lift gate that should be standard equipment on all such vehicles, two sunroofs, and a video system in the second row to keep a damper on youthful insurrections, made the Pacifica an easy choice as “Utility of the Year.”


 Budget Car of the Year

 May I recommend the Hyundai Elantra for its long list of standard equipment, extended warranty, and satisfying driving characteristics?

 A 2017 refresh brought improved ride quality, a slightly more spacious rear seating area, and additional soundproofing for added tranquility, most welcome on long trips.

 The tested top-of-the-line Limited model was nicely finished inside with lots of soft touch surfaces and a surprise for this price range – a memory for driver’s seat adjustments. Power lumbar is also present. There was a 4.2 color TFT color instrument display that never washed out on sunny days.

 Other goodies included Adaptive Xenon Headlights, Adaptive Cruise Control, Forward Collision Warning, and Lane Departure Warning and Intervention. Control wise, drivers will find it easy to get to know the Elantra.

 With lots of soft touch surfaces this was no econobox, anything but. And the Limited model carried a base price of $22,350. With a lengthy list of options, the test car MSRP was a reasonable $27,710 with delivery.

 At the end of my week’s testing, I came away with the strong belief that this is one fine car for the money.


 Crossover of the Year

 If you insist on joining the masses in search of new wheels, how about one that has also turned into a worldwide blockbuster?  Crossover of the Year is the Nissan Rogue, you see.

 In addition to its tie in with one of the top grossing movies, the 2017 Rogue offers new front end styling, Motion-Activated Liftgate, and improved Intelligent Cruise Control and Forward Emergency Braking with Pedestrian Detection.

 Among the interior enhancements are a new flat bottom steering wheel and leather-booted sport-mode shifter, available heated steering wheel, memory for driver’s seats and mirror, and remote engine start. Enhanced interior materials and design features include new door and instrument panel finishers, new shift knob design, revised center console and console lid, and new seat fabric.

 If you are planning a trip in to deep space and are concerned about economy, there is the Rogue hybrid. The test model was powered by a 2.0-liter four rated at 141 horsepower with 144 lb-ft of torque. Add in the 30kW electric motor and output climbs to 176 horsepower, or six more than the non-hybrid.

 This results in an estimated 33 city/35 highway miles per gallon compared with 26 city and 33 highway for the non-hybrid. In a week’s testing, I came in at 33, rather nice now that gas prices are going up again, and will surely will do so when spring and summer reappear.

 Of note was the great Bose audio system with 9 speakers, six way powered driver seat with power lumbar, heated front seats and steering wheel, Navi, and a 7-inch touch screen display among other goodies.

 The Rogue was easy to fall in love with in so many areas it is easy to recommend to those looking for a compact sport utility, especially if acceleration is not of great importance, but economy is.

 So to recap:

 Car of the Year: Audi TTS

 Drive of the Year: McLaren GT

 Truck of the Year: Nissan Titan Platinum Reserve

Utility of the Year: Chrysler Pacifica

Budget Car of the Year: Hyundai Elantra

Crossover of the Year: Nissan Rogue






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