Love, American Style
The love affair Americans have with the automobile harks back to Henry Ford’s Model T rolling off the assembly line in Michigan at the beginning of the 20th century. Obviously, there’s more product to love now than back then, considering the amazing variety of vehicles available today. So, which cars do Americans love most? Research firm Strategic Vision created the Customer Love Index, which measures the amount of love owners experience with their new vehicles by compiling data from over 120 different aspects of the ownership experience. Here’s a look at the most loved vehicles in each category.
Tesla Model S — Overall Most Loved
Long before being named the Most Loved vehicle by Strategic Vision, the Tesla Model S stood out from the crowd. The all-electric sedan offers incredible performance with the longest range among EVs. Strategic Vision’s Senior Vice President Christopher Chaney says, “Make no mistake about it. Tesla Model S being the Most Loved Vehicle in America is more than just a gleaming compliment to their whole team. It is the Rosetta Stone example to manufacturers and government agencies for getting more consumers to purchase alternative fuel vehicles.”
Smart fortwo — Micro Car
One look confirms there really isn’t anything else on the road quite like the smart fortwo. Not only is the fortwo the smallest car on American roads, it stands out with a rear-engine, rear-wheel drive configuration. The fortwo received all-new styling for the 2016 model year, and with its wider stance, updated grille and headlights we think it looks much more substantial than the outgoing model — not as toylike, so to speak. The fortwo’s 89-horsepower turbocharged 3-cylinder engine certainly won’t win any races, but the tiny car is easy to maneuver, making it ideal for city use.
Honda Civic Coupe — Small Car
The redesigned 2016 Honda Civic began the year earning the North American Car of the Year award at the 2016 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, and continues to impress as the number one Honda model and one of the top-selling compact cars in the U.S. The 2016 Civic features two new engine options, including a turbocharged 1.5-liter 4-cylinder unit making 174 horsepower. Fuel economy is rated as high as 42 mph highway. The 2017 Civic 5-door hatchback is scheduled to arrive this fall — the first time the 5-door version has been offered for the U.S. market, adding another option for those needing a bit more room.
Scion iM — Small Multi-Function Car
We’re sorry to say that the Scion brand has been discontinued; however, Toyota is hoping those who loved the small hatchback will love the same car with a new name — the Toyota Corolla IM. The sporty-looking iM provides the versatility of a 5-door hatchback in a fun-to-drive package. Inside are sporty features such as bolstered seats and a leather-wrapped steering wheel. A 6-speaker Pioneer audio system is standard, as is HD radio and Aha. The 137-horsepower engine can be mated with a 6-speed manual or CVT, and its broad torque curve provides snappy performance.
Ford C-MAX Energi — Small Alternative Powertrain (APT) Car
Ford’s C-MAX is a mashup of a minivan and a crossover, so its high-roof design and fold-flat second-row seating offer a lot of versatility. The alternative powertrain of the C-MAX Energi is a 188-horsepower gas-electric hybrid system delivering a combined 38 mpg. However, the Energi can also be plugged in, and with a full charge it can travel almost 20 miles on batteries alone. To further improve fuel economy, the C-MAX Energi has technology to help drivers be more efficient. A SmartGauge with EcoGuide shows operators how their actions affect fuel efficiency, while the Brake Coach helps drivers brake properly to fully optimize the regenerative braking system.
Subaru WRX — Midsize Car
Offering great fun in a small package, this compact sedan comes with Subaru’s legendary all-wheel drive and a turbocharged 268-horsepower engine under that big hood scoop. In addition to AWD, the WRX features Active Torque Vectoring and sport suspension, which make this rally-bred car even more agile on winding roads. The base WRX is well equipped with sport seats, HD radio, Bluetooth streaming audio and a rearview camera. Spending a bit more gets shoppers into the Limited trim, which adds leather-trimmed power seats, keyless start and a touchscreen navigation system.
Subaru Outback — Midsize Multi-Function Car
One of the original crossover vehicles, the Outback combines the ride and handling of a passenger car with the utility and off-road capability of an SUV. Last redesigned in 2015, the Outback now offers more space, fresh styling, better fuel economy and a slew of new high-tech features for entertainment and safety. The all-wheel-drive Outback gets power from a 2.5-liter engine putting out 175 horsepower — a fine blend of performance and fuel economy.
Chevrolet Volt — Midsize APT Car
Many consumers say they would like to have an electric car; however, an EV’s limited range can often be a deal breaker. The alternative powertrain of the Chevrolet Volt eliminates range anxiety while still providing the benefits of an electric car. Updated for 2017, the new Volt can travel more than 50 miles on electricity alone, and can be recharged on a 240-volt fast charger in just 4.5 hours. If you must travel farther than 50 miles, an onboard gas-powered generator keeps the batteries charged and the electric motor moving for a total range of more than 400 miles. The Volt is rated at 106 MPGe when running on electricity alone, and 42 mpg when the generator is running.
Dodge Charger — Full-Size Car
This big 4-door sedan from Dodge is much more than your typical family car. With aggressive styling, a comfortable interior and all the latest safety and entertainment technology, the Charger stands out from the crowd. And that’s before any talk about performance. Charger is available with a variety of high-performance engines, ranging from a fuel-efficient V6 to the fire-breathing 707-horsepower supercharged V8 in the vaunted Hellcat. Dodge refers to the Charger as 4-door muscle car, and apparently consumers love it.
BMW 3 Series — Near Luxury Car
It’s no surprise seeing one of the best-selling luxury cars in America on this most-loved list: the legendary BMW 3 Series. For the 2016 model year 3 Series received exterior styling updates, including available LED headlights, revised suspension for improved handling and new interior trim. Also new is the 340i — which replaced the 335i as the top trim level — powered by a new turbocharged inline 6-cylinder engine that produces 320 horsepower and 330 lb-ft of torque. With a perfect blend of performance and comfort, there’s plenty to love in the 3 Series.
Lincoln MKZ Hybrid — Near-Luxury APT Car
With EPA ratings of 41 mpg city / 39 mpg highway / 40 mpg combined, the Lincoln MKZ Hybrid is one of the most fuel-efficient luxury cars on the market. The alternative powertrain consists of a 2.0-liter gas engine teamed with a 70-kilowatt electric motor to produce 188 horsepower. The MKZ Hybrid can cruise as fast as 85 mph on electric power alone. As expected in a vehicle from Ford’s luxury brand, the MKZ Hybrid is available with numerous amenities, including SYNC with MyLincoln Touch featuring an 8-inch touchscreen, heated front seats, class-exclusive LED headlamps and Lincoln Drive Control. Look for an all-new 2017 MKZ Hybrid arriving in showrooms soon.
Mercedes-Benz S-Class Sedan — Luxury Car
The S-Class is the epitome of luxury cars — in fact many buyers would agree that the big sedan remains the standard against which other luxury vehicles should be measured. The Mercedes flagship has multiple trim levels, but even the base level comes loaded with soft leather seats, a high-end audio system and a plethora of other luxury features. There’s even a hot stone massage and an aromatherapy system. Power is never lacking, with engines ranging from the 449-horsepower turbo V8 to the monster Biturbo V12 mustering 621 horsepower.
Volvo XC70 — Luxury Multi-Function Car
For those who are looking for a premium car but want the attributes of an SUV, the Volvo XC70 may be the answer. Call it whatever you want, but it really is a wagon — and that’s not a bad thing. The XC70 offers full-time all-wheel drive and more than 8 inches of ground clearance, giving it as much capability as some traditional SUVs. The interior is quite attractive, and seats are among the most comfortable on the market. The XC70 was replaced by the V60 Cross Country following the 2016 model year.
Dodge Challenger — Specialty Coupe
The Dodge Challenger is an icon, and it’s great to see the brand continuing tradition with a modern take on this classic muscle car. 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 in several torque-generating versions, but the most talked-about variant is the Challenger Hellcat. The Hellcat has the first production use of a supercharger on a HEMI V8, resulting in a massive 707 horsepower that summons 60 mph in less than 4 seconds with a top speed of almost 200 mph. Even more impressive, this beast can seat up to 5 passengers and has an EPA rating of 22 mpg highway.
Chevrolet Corvette — Premium Coupe
Since its introduction in 1953, the legendary Corvette has been the flagship sports car of the Chevrolet brand. The current model is the seventh generation and arguably the best version ever. In addition to the considerably-improved interior, the current ‘Vette’s updated styling and impressive performance put it in company with some of the best sports cars on the market. All Corvettes offer impressive V8 power, including the most powerful production Corvette ever: the Z06. Its supercharged 6.2-liter V8 powerplant puts out 650 horses and 650 lb-ft of torque, making it the most powerful GM production vehicle ever made.
Ford Mustang — Standard Convertible
The latest-generation Mustang debuted for 2015, including a new convertible with a lower, wider stance; a lower roof height; wider rear fenders and a wider track. The convertible features a multilayer insulated top that lowers twice as fast as the previous model and has a sleeker profile when folded. This fun-to-drive drop-top is offered with three engine choices, ranging from a turbocharged EcoBoost four cylinder to a 435-horsepower V8 in the Mustang GT.
Ford F-150 — Full-Size Pickup
The Ford F-Series pickup truck has worn the sales crown as best-selling vehicle in America for more than 30 years. Redesigned in 2015, the F-150 features an aluminum alloy body atop a steel frame, which reduced weight by 700 pounds. This — combined with a new 2.7-liter EcoBoost V6 engine — gives the F-150 best-in-class EPA fuel economy ratings for gas-powered light-duty trucks. Standard features of the Ford F-150 include Safety Canopy System curtain overhead airbags, air-conditioning, 18-inch aluminum wheels, cruise control and ABS. The big truck also offers plenty of utility — when properly equipped it can tow as much as 12,000 pounds.
Nissan Titan XD — Heavy Duty Pickup
Nissan introduce their largest pickup truck ever in 2016 — the Nissan Titan XD. Titan XD offers much more capability than a typical half-ton pickup without the added size or expense of a three-quarter-ton model. With bold styling and a wide range of functional and luxury features, the Titan XD is available exclusively as a roomy 4-door crew cab. At the heart of the big truck’s capability is a 5.0-liter V8 Cummins Turbo Diesel. The big diesel puts out 310 horsepower and — more importantly — 555 lb-ft of torque at a very low 1600 rpm.
Jeep Wrangler Unlimited — Entry SUV
There really isn’t anything else on the road quite like the Jeep Wrangler. The modern descendant of the original U.S. military vehicle that spawned the Jeep name and began the legacy of extreme off-road capability, the body-on-frame SUV is one of the most capable off-road vehicles around. Wrangler continues to be available with a front and rear 5-link suspension system, live axles, electronic lockers, and a 6-speed manual transmission. For the ultimate outdoor experience, the Wrangler’s roof and doors can be removed — even the windshield can be folded down for that full-on bugs-in-your-teeth experience.
Subaru Crosstrek — Entry Crossover
Subaru made a brilliant move a few years ago when the automaker took its compact Impreza and with few alterations converted the platform into the very popular XV Crosstrek, which has a more aggressive off-road look. For 2016 Subaru dropped XV from the name, and the front-end styling was updated with a new black grille and chrome accents, new headlights, a new front bumper and fog light covers with chrome trim. The spritely small crossover has a 148-horsepower 2.0-liter 4-cylinder BOXER engine combined with either a 5-speed manual transmission or the available Lineartronic CVT. With 8.7 inches of ground clearance and full-time all-wheel drive, the capable Crosstrek delivers impressive fuel economy of 29 mpg combined.
Dodge Durango — Mid-Size SUV
For those who need a true 7-passenger SUV, the Durango makes an excellent choice. With rear- or all-wheel drive, Durango offers plenty of useful cargo space as well as the ability to tow up to 7,400 pounds when equipped with an optional V8 engine. Beyond utility, the Durango’s interior really shines. The large touchscreen interface is one of the most intuitive in the industry, and the available second-row bucket seats add a touch of luxury to this versatile SUV. With more than 8 inches of ground clearance and an AWD system that benefits from three separate open differentials — one in its transfer case and one in each of its axles — the Durango can take the whole family just about anywhere they’d want to go.
Kia Sorento — Mid-Size Crossover
Kia’s 7-passenger crossover received a complete redesign for the 2016 model year. In addition to updated styling that fits in with the rest of the Kia lineup, the Sorento has a roomier interior as well as a number of new features, including the latest version of Kia’s UVO entertainment and communication interface offering services such as Geo Fencing, Speed Alert and Curfew Alert. Available with front- or all-wheel drive, Sorento comes in a number of trims with three engine options, including a powerful 290-horsepower V6.
Chevrolet Tahoe — Full-Size Utility
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 ability to tow more than 8,000 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.
Toyota Highlander Hybrid — APT Utility
Toyota is all about hybrids — in fact the Highlander Hybrid is one of eight different gas-electric models offered by the Japanese car company. Completely redesigned for the 2017 model year, the Highlander Hybrid features a direct-Injection 3.5-liter V6 gasoline engine teamed with an electric drive motor-generator that produces a total of 306 horsepower while delivering a combined 29 mpg. All Highlander Hybrids feature full-time all-wheel drive as well as seating for up to eight passengers.
BMW X4 — Near-Luxury Utility
Underscoring the idea that there should be a product for every want and need, BMW has further sliced and diced its lineup to introduce the X4. With styling similar to the X6, the X4 features a coupelike silhouette yet has four doors and the ground clearance of an SUV. All X4s feature BMW’s xDrive all-wheel-drive system as well as an 8-speed automatic transmission. X4 is available with a choice of engines, including a TwinPower Turbo 6-cylinder unit putting out 355 horsepower. Other features include 8-way power front seats, split-folding rear seats, a power glass moonroof and a premium 9-speaker 205-watt audio system.
Land Rover Range Rover — Luxury SUV
Often considered the benchmark of premium SUVs, the Range Rover is the perfect mix of luxury features and impressive off-road capability. Inside, passengers find comfortable surroundings with high-end leather and wood trim, as well as the latest in entertainment and safety technology and a new 10-inch dual-view touchscreen display. The Range Rover also features a terrain response system and intelligent four-wheel drive that optimizes the big SUV to handle just about any terrain. Several different options are available, including a fuel-efficient diesel.
Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class Coupe — Luxury Crossover
The GLE Coupe is somewhat hard to classify — not quite a coupe and not quite an SUV — so we’ll stick with Strategic Vision’s categorization of Luxury Crossover. New for the 2016 model year, the GLE is only available as one of two high-performance AMG variants — the GLE43 or the GLE63, the latter of which boasts a 577-horsepower Biturbo V8 engine. With bolstered front sport seats, leather trim and a flat-bottomed steering wheel, the GLE certainly feels like a sports coupe from the inside while the all-wheel drive maintains crossover-like capability.
Toyota Sienna — Minivan
As one of the top-selling minivans on the U.S. market, Sienna comes well equipped with features such as 3-zone climate control and Toyota’s Entune audio system with applications including Yelp, iHeartRadio, OpenTable and Pandora. Although other minivans have offered all-wheel drive over the years, Sienna is currently the only AWD minivan on the market — perhaps making it even more appealing to those who desire a crossover.