Best Owner Experience
It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly why consumers love certain new cars, but over the last 22 years J.D. Power has developed a formula to determine which vehicles have the most desirable characteristics among new-car purchasers. The automotive research firm calls it the APEAL awards, which stands for Automotive Performance, Execution And Layout. Ratings are based on consumer evaluations of their 2017 model-year vehicles in the first 90 days of ownership across 77 attributes, which are factored into an overall APEAL score.
J.D. Power reports that model year 2017 had the largest gain ever in APEAL scores versus the prior year. More than half of the auto brands in the study improved their ratings over last year, with most advances coming from non-premium brands. “Many automakers are getting better and better at giving consumers what they want in a vehicle,” said Dave Sargent, vice president of global automotive at J.D. Power. “The industry is doing a very good job of creating vehicles customers like across every segment, and the APEAL study identifies why this is. One clear reason is that non-premium vehicles are increasingly offering technology and safety features found in premium vehicles.”
For the 13th year in a row, Porsche ranks highest among mainstream automakers, followed by Genesis, BMW, Audi and Mercedes-Benz. MINI tops the non-premium brands, with Honda, Ford and Chrysler following. Chrysler also earns a nod for demonstrating the most improvement year over year; MINI, Nissan and Honda also had excellent progress. The following are the most “APEALing” vehicles in 23 categories, based on the 2017 study.
Small Car — Chevrolet Bolt EV
The Bolt EV is all new for 2017 and the first domestic-branded electric car to boast a driving range of more than 200 miles — around 238 miles between charges. With a fuel rating of 128 MPGe in the city, the Bolt EV is the most efficient American car on the road. Chevrolet’s stylish hatchback features a comfortable, roomy interior with seating for up to five and a useful cargo area. The Bolt EV has a high-tech feel with a large 10.2-inch display screen as well as a digital gauge cluster that helps the driver operate the vehicle more efficiently.
Small Premium Car — BMW 2 Series (tie)
BMW’s small entry-luxury model for the U.S. market, the 2 Series joined the lineup as a 2014 model to replace the 1 Series. The 2 Series is a modern example of the type of sporty, agile, fun-to-drive car on which BMW built its reputation in the 1960s. For 2017 the 2 Series gets the latest generation of BMW’s TwinPower Turbo engine that offers increased horsepower and torque versus the outgoing version, as well as improved fuel economy. The high-performance M2 joined the lineup for 2016, powered by a turbocharged 3.0-liter 6-cylinder engine that produces 365 horsepower and 369 lb-ft of torque in overboost mode.
Small Premium Car — Audi A3 (tie)
Available in a variety of body styles including sedan and convertible, the A3 is the entry-level choice in the Audi lineup. The A3 carries the styling cues of higher-end Audi models, and is available with the brand’s well-known quattro all-wheel-drive system. Premium standard features on the A3 include a panoramic sunroof, Xenon headlights, a 12-way power driver’s seat, leather trim, dual-zone climate control and a high-end audio system.
Compact Car — MINI Clubman
The MINI isn’t as mini as it once was, and the Clubman is pretty large — for a MINI. The 4-door Clubman offers a surprisingly roomy interior and has a unique tailgate that features split rear doors for easy access to the cargo area. It may be larger, but the Clubman still delivers the fun-to-drive experience reminiscent of the original Mini Cooper. Clubman is available with either a 1.5-liter 134-horsepower 3-cylinder engine or a more powerful 2.0-liter 4-cylinder unit in the S trim putting out 189 horsepower. Both engines can be teamed with MINI’s ALL4 all-wheel-drive system.
Compact Sporty Car — MINI Cooper
Considerably larger than the original version from the 1960s, the current MINI is still one of the smallest cars on the market. And like that original, the MINI is still front-wheel drive, fuel efficient and great fun to drive. MINI returned to the U.S. market 15 years ago in 2002 and has sold more than 750,000 cars in that time. The MINI Cooper was redesigned for the 2015 model year and is powered by a fuel-efficient turbocharged 1.5-liter engine 3-cylinder engine that produces 134 horsepower, while the Cooper S upgrades to a larger 2.0-liter engine that bumps horsepower to 189. A 6-speed manual transmission is standard, with a 6-speed Steptronic automatic transmission optional.
Compact Premium Car — Audi A4
Audi introduced an all-new A4 for the 2017 model year that features fresh exterior styling, an updated interior and many new high-tech features. One standout is the Audi Virtual Cockpit, which features a high-resolution 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster that can display full-screen navigation with Google Earth and other selectable information in front of the driver. All 2017 A4s are powered by an updated 2.0-liter TFSI turbocharged 4-cylinder engine putting out 252 horsepower and an impressive 273 lb-ft of torque, teamed with a 7-speed S tronic dual-clutch gearbox.
Midsize Car — Nissan Altima
Nissan’s top-selling sedan, the Altima received a major refresh last year that included revised styling, enhanced performance and a suite of new safety features. Most important is the availability of Forward Emergency Braking, which provides audio and visual warnings to alert the driver of a potential collision and reduce speed if necessary. If a collision is unavoidable, the brakes engage automatically to avoid or at least reduce the severity of the collision.
Midsize Sporty Car — Dodge Challenger
The designers at Dodge did a wonderful job capturing the look of the classic muscle car and incorporating it into the thoroughly modern Challenger. The 2-door Challenger offers the latest in high-tech entertainment and safety features, but this retro-looking coupe is really all about performance. The Challenger is available with a variety of high-powered engines, and a new GT all-wheel-drive model joins the lineup. But the most talked-about variant is the Challenger Hellcat with its massive 707 horsepower supercharged V8 that pushes the Challenger to 60 mph in less than 4 seconds. And if even more power is required, Dodge introduced the next step up — the 840-horsepower Challenger Demon, capable of completing a quarter-mile run in less than 10 seconds.
Midsize Premium Car — Audi A7 (tie)
Audi has been making some beautiful cars of late, and the A7 may be one of the most attractive. Unlike most luxury sedans on the market, the A7 features a hatchback design that not only offers great utility, it also creates a sleek, sporty silhouette. A 333-horsepower supercharged V6 engine sends power to all four wheels via Audi’s legendary quattro all-wheel-drive system. For 2017 Audi added the A7 Competition, which features red brake calipers, larger 20-inch wheels and a boost to 340 horsepower.
Midsize Premium Car — Lincoln Continental (tie)
Continental returns to the Lincoln lineup as the flagship of Ford’s luxury brand with a focus on quiet luxury and elegance. Designed to provide a quiet and relaxing experience for all passengers, the Continental features available Perfect Position seats that can be adjusted up to 30 different ways with heating, cooling and available massage functions. The rear seats offer available adjustable recline, heating, cooling and massage as well. The new Continental has several powertrain choices, including a 3.0-liter twin-turbocharged V6 that is exclusive to Lincoln, producing 400 horsepower and 400 lb-ft of torque. The available all-wheel-drive-system incorporates Dynamic Torque Vectoring to transfer torque between the rear wheels when cornering for better handling and stability.
Midsize Premium Sporty Car — Porsche 911
Over the last 50-plus years, the iconic 911 has become one of the best sports cars on the planet, offering amazing performance while remaining comfortable and useful as a daily driver. Redesigned for 2017, the Porsche 911 is longer and lower with a wider front track than the previous model, with notable features such as a new rear axle design, new electro-mechanical power steering, Porsche Torque Vectoring, and enhanced Porsche Active Suspension Management. Available with different levels of performance, the 911 Turbo S tops the lineup, boasting a 580-horsepower version of the twin-turbo 3.8-liter engine.
Large Car — Kia Cadenza
An all-new 2017 Kia Cadenza debuted at last year’s New York Auto Show with updated styling and an array of new features. Slotted between the Optima and flagship K900, the Cadenza features a new body structure that is stronger, lighter and more rigid than the outgoing model. Two different grilles are used on the new Cadenza — lower trims have a look similar to other models in the Kia lineup, while the top-level versions come with the “Intaglio” grille, which features vertical faceted blades. Power is plentiful thanks to its 3.3-liter V6 engine producing 290 horsepower, and the stylish Cadenza is rated at an impressive 28 mpg on the highway.
Small SUV — Kia Niro
A completely new model for the Kia lineup, Niro is a stylish, versatile crossover SUV that also happens to be a very fuel-efficient hybrid. All Niros feature the same hybrid powerplant: a 1.6-liter direct-injection 4-cylinder engine — designed specifically for hybrid use — teamed with a permanent magnet electric motor. Combined power is rated at 139 horsepower and 195 lb-ft of torque, and unlike most hybrids the Niro employs a 6-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission that makes driving more engaging while still providing excellent fuel efficiency. Niro is most impressive when it comes to fuel economy — EPA ratings are as high as 52 mpg city / 49 highway / 50 combined.
Small Premium SUV — BMW X1
The revised second-generation BMW X1 premiered last year with updated styling and many new features. The smallest of BMW’s three crossovers dubbed Sport Activity Vehicles, the X1 design bears a strong resemblance to the larger models while offering more cargo capacity and interior room than its predecessor. For the U.S. market X1 is offered exclusively with a 228-horsepower version of BMW’s turbocharged 2.0-liter engine, combined with an 8-speed Steptronic automatic transmission and xDrive intelligent all-wheel drive.
Compact SUV — Honda CR-V
One of the best-selling SUVs in America and the top seller in the Honda lineup, the CR-V was completely redesigned for the 2016 model year. In addition to its updated styling, CR-V offers the latest in high-tech features such as a soft-touch instrument panel, a large touchscreen display, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, as well as the latest advanced safety technology. Two different engines are available, including the CR-V’s first-ever turbocharged powerplant that puts out 190 horsepower while still delivering 34 mpg on the highway.
Compact Premium SUV — Porsche Macan
The compact-premium SUV market is getting crowded, but the Macan certainly stands out from said crowd. The fifth vehicle in the current Porsche lineup, Macan was styled after the larger Cayenne and still embodies all qualities expected from the iconic German sports car brand. Macan comes with full-time all-wheel drive, and is available with various powertrains ranging from a 2.0-liter 252-horsepower 4-cylinder engine to a 440-horsepower V6 in the Macan Turbo with Performance Package.
Compact MPV — Kia Soul
Not many vehicles on the market can be called unique, but there aren’t many vehicles on the road quite like the Kia Soul. Completely redesigned in 2014, the Soul tops the Compact MPV segment once again. It features a roomy interior for five passengers and a spacious cargo area — all wrapped in a funky package that redefines the “boxy” car segment. Adding a bit of excitement to the Soul lineup, Kia introduces a turbocharged version for the 2017 model year with a 1.6-liter turbo engine putting out 201 horsepower — which, surprisingly, is slightly more fuel efficient than the non-turbo Soul — and rated at 31 mpg on the highway.
Midsize SUV — Nissan Murano
One of the more stylish crossovers on the market, Nissan’s Murano carries the new Nissan design direction with V-Motion front end, boomerang lights and floating roof treatment. Inside is a large information and control center with an available 8-inch color touchscreen. To simplify controls, the number of audio and navigation switches has been reduced by 60 percent — from 25 to 10 — for a less distracting experience. Murano is also available with an impressive array of safety features, including Blind Spot Warning, Predictive Forward Collision Warning, Forward Emergency Braking and Intelligent Cruise Control.
Midsize Premium SUV — Porsche Cayenne
One of the first high-performance SUVs on the market, the 2003 Cayenne promised to deliver the performance and handling expected from a Porsche. After 14 years Porsche is still producing the high-performance, all-wheel-drive Cayenne, with the Cayenne Turbo S at the top of the model range. Designed more for pavement than mud, the Cayenne Turbo S can reach 60 mph from a standstill in under 4 seconds thanks to its 4.8-liter 570-horsepower V8 powertrain. Porsche Traction Management, Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control, Porsche Torque Vectoring Plus and Porsche Ceramic Composite Brakes with 10-piston front calipers help the driver control all that power.
Midsize Pickup — Honda Ridgeline
The Ridgeline is unique within the American truck market thanks to its unibody construction, but standing out from the crowd can be a good thing. Completely redesigned for the 2017 model year, the Ridgeline offers several features that are as distinctive now as when truck came to market 10 years ago, including a lockable in-bed storage trunk and dual-action tailgate — which is both left- and bottom-hinged. Ridgeline also can handle the obligatory 4X8 sheet of plywood laid flat. Motivated by the same 3.5-liter 280-horsepower V6 engine found in the Honda Pilot SUV, the truck can tow up to 5,000 pounds. This Honda of pickup trucks is also the only pickup named a Top Safety Pick+ by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
Minivan — Chrysler Pacifica
An all-new minivan for the 2017 model year, the Pacifica has modern styling and a slew of innovations; it is arguably the best minivan Chrysler has built since it created the category more than 30 years ago. Pacifica can be equipped with seating for up to eight occupants, which still leaves plenty of cargo space in the rear. Stow n’ Go seats can be folded into the floor for a completely flat cargo area all the way to the front seats. Passengers enjoy an available Uconnect Theater featuring a 10-inch high-res touchscreen display with a variety of inputs and integrated games. There’s even an available Stow ‘n Vac — a powerful vacuum cleaner located conveniently behind the second row, and easily accessible from any door opening. A plug-in hybrid version of the Pacifica is also available, making this the first hybrid minivan ever sold in America.
Large SUV — Chevrolet Tahoe
There aren’t many vehicles on the road that can compete with the Chevrolet Tahoe. With seating for up to nine occupants, plenty of cargo capacity, the capability to tow more than 8,500 pounds, and 9 inches of ground clearance for off-road adventures, the Tahoe is one of the most capable SUVs on the road. Available with 2WD or 4WD, Tahoe can also be equipped with a suite of safety features as well as 4G LTE connectivity with a Wi-Fi hotspot, wireless phone charging, power-folding second- and third-row seats, an 8-inch color touchscreen and multiple USB ports.
Large Premium SUV — Cadillac Escalade
If you’re looking for a properly luxurious SUV and want to buy American, Cadillac is an obvious choice. In true American fashion, the Escalade is big and bold with a massive chrome grille, unique vertical LED lighting that projects through stacked crystal lenses, and 22-inch aluminum wheels. Front- and second-row seats are heated, and all areas and passengers should stay comfortable with tri-zone climate control. Escalade passengers also enjoy an advanced Bose audio system or an optional Blu-Ray DVD entertainment system without distractions from outside, thanks to triple-sealed doors, acoustic-laminate glass and Bose Active Noise Cancelation technology. But the luxurious amenities shouldn’t lull occupants into a false sense of complacency; Escalade is still built on a full-size truck platform that has excellent off-road capability.
Large Light-Duty Pickup — Ford F-150
Currently in its 13th generation, the F-150 is the most technologically advanced F-Series to date. Extensive aluminum use reduces overall weight by 700 pounds. New technology includes an available 360-degree camera view, available trailer-hitch-assist rear camera view, available remote tailgate with hands-free opening, and an available next-generation tailgate step. Ford has also brought back the F-150 Raptor — a high-performance off-road truck with a competition-proven chassis, powered by a 3.5-liter EcoBoost engine producing 450 horsepower and 510 lb-ft of torque. The 2018 Ford F-150 debuted in January and will go on sale in fall 2017 with a new grille, headlights and bumpers for all trim levels, and an available new 3.0-liter Power Stroke turbodiesel engine.
Large HD Pickup — Ford SuperDuty
Redesigned for the 2017 model year, the F-Series Super Duty brings some serious capability to the full-size truck market. The Super Duty features a new exterior look, a completely updated interior and many new features designed around comfort, cargo hauling and towing just about any size trailer. It also features a high-strength aluminum alloy body and box, a powerful engine lineup and a high-strength steel frame. With multiple trim levels and body styles, the Super Duty pickup is available as an F-250, F-350 or F-450. Capability is off the charts: a properly equipped F-450 can tow up to 32,500 pounds, or could haul a maximum-loaded F-150 in the truck bed — if it could fit.