Tops in Owner Experience
It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly why consumers love certain new cars, but over the last 20 years J.D. Power and Associates 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 2015 model-year vehicles in the first 90 days of ownership across 77 attributes, which are factored into an overall APEAL score. For the 11th year in a row Porsche ranks highest among mainstream automakers, followed by Jaguar, BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Audi. What follows are the most “APEALing” vehicles based on the 2015 study.
City Car — Fiat 500
At about 11 feet long, the 500 is one of the smallest cars you’ll see on American roads. The 2015 model features an advanced instrument panel with a 7-inch high-definition display, a redesigned center console and Bluetooth streaming audio capability. The high-performance Abarth variant now has an available 6-speed automatic transmission.
Small Car — Chevrolet Sonic
Proof that you don’t have to buy a boring econobox to save money, the Sonic is available as a surprisingly roomy 5-passenger sedan or hatchback. It features a 60/40 split-folding rear seat for added versatility, and the hatchback has a hidden storage compartment in the cargo area. Choose the 1.4-liter turbocharged engine and a manual transmission for the most enjoyment behind the wheel.
Small Premium Car — Audi A3
The A3 is the least expensive model in the Audi lineup, slotting below the A4 at a starting price of $29,900. All-new for the 2015 model year, the A3 comes well equipped with leather seats, a power sunroof, Bluetooth connectivity, dual-zone automatic climate control and Xenon headlights with LED daytime running headlights. Quattro full-time all-wheel drive and a fuel-efficient TDI diesel engine are also available.
Compact Car — Volkswagen Golf
The seventh-generation Golf went on sale for the 2015 model year and features updated styling as well as a number of new features. The best-selling car in the Volkswagen lineup, Golf has a standard 5.8-inch touchscreen infotainment center, as well as Bluetooth connectivity, in 2- or 4-door models. Power choices include a 43-mpg diesel engine as well as an electric powertrain rated at 126 MPGe.
Compact Sporty Car — MINI Cooper
When the rekindled MINI hit the U.S. market in 2001, the BMW-acquired brand asserted that a small car could also be a premium ride. Although slightly larger than when it first arrived, the MINI is still mini and carries a “bulldog” look. Unlike a bulldog, this MINI possesses agility and speed with its base turbocharged 3-cylinder engine and 6-speed manual transmission. Upgrade to the Cooper S or JCW for more power and even better handling.
Compact Premium Car — BMW 4 Series
The BMW 4 Series was introduced for the 2014 model year, replacing coupe and convertible versions of the 3 Series. This year BMW adds the 4 Series Gran Coupe, which is billed as a coupe even though it has four doors. This rendition of BMW’s Ultimate Driving Machine is available with rear- or all-wheel drive as well as a variety of engine options, including the 425-horsepower inline 6-cyinder powerplant in the top-line M4.
Premium Sporty Car — Porsche Cayman
Porsche’s sporty coupe received a redesign for the 2014 model year, with the most significant changes being a new chassis with a longer wheelbase and lighter weight for improved performance. Inside, Cayman can be equipped with 4.6-inch multifunction display screen, power-adjustable sport seats, adaptive cruise control and a high-powered stereo system. Three levels are offered, ranging from the Base trim that has a 275-horsepower engine to the top-of-the-line GTS boasting 340 horsepower.
Midsize Car — Mazda Mazda6
Completely redesigned last year, the Mazda6 is one of the sportier-looking family sedans on the market. Powered by a fuel-efficient 2.5-liter SKYACTIV-G engine that produces 184 horsepower and 158 lb-ft of torque, Mazda6 regulates power with either a 6-speed manual transmission or a 6-speed automatic. An optional i-ELOOP system is a capacitor-based regenerative braking system that captures energy and stores it to power electrical components such as the headlights, climate control and audio systems — reducing the need for the gas engine to generate electricity.
Midsize Sporty Car — Dodge Challenger
Dodge updated the Challenger for 2015 with a new standard 8-speed transmission, all-new interior, exterior updates and new safety technologies. But the retro-looking Challenger is all about performance with a number of high-powered engine options including the R/T Scat Pack with its 6.4-liter HEMI V8 that puts out 485 horsepower and 475 lb-ft of torque; it also has a 6-speed manual transmission, Brembo 4-piston brakes, performance suspension and electronically-controlled exhaust system that provides the deep, throaty burble emanating from dual exhaust pipes.
Midsize Premium Car — BMW 6 Series
The BMW 6 Series is available in three different body styles: coupe, convertible and 4-door Gran Coupe. All 6 Series variants offer plenty of performance — even the base-level 640i has a 315-horsepower engine. For ultimate performance there’s the M6, powered by a 560-horsepower 4.4-liter V8.
Midsize Premium Sporty Car — Chevrolet Corvette
In production since 1953, the Corvette is often referred to as America’s sports car. The seventh-generation Corvette premiered last year with all-new styling and a lightweight aluminum frame. The most powerful standard Corvette direct from the factory, the C7 features a 6.2-liter V8 engine producing 455 horsepower. For those in need of a bit more grunt, the all-new Corvette Z06 has a supercharged V8 putting out 650 horsepower, making it the most powerful production car ever from General Motors.
Large Car — Dodge Charger
The Charger is a large 4-door sedan with sporty styling and a comfortable, spacious interior. Replete with plenty of high-tech features, Charger is available with an 8.4-inch touchscreen display, electric power steering, pushbutton start and a high-end audio system. A number of powerful choices are available, including the Charger R/T Scat Pack with a 485-horsepower 6.4-liter HEMI V8, or the Charger SRT Hellcat with a supercharged 6.2-liter HEMI V8 producing a mind-blowing 707 horsepower.
Large Premium Car — Mercedes-Benz S-Class
Some say the Mercedes-Benz S-Class is the benchmark by which all other luxury cars are measured. With a bold looking exterior, the S-Class offers a high-tech system that scans the road ahead and adjusts the suspension instantly in response to any poor surfaces. The interior has the ultimate in elegance with a climate control system for each seat, heated armrests and an active perfuming system that can individualize the interior aroma.
Small SUV — MINI Countryman
The Countryman was the first MINI with four doors as well as available 4WD, and although large for a MINI, the SUV is still one of the smallest on the market. For the 2015 model year Countryman is available as a base front-wheel-drive trim, S AWD or — for those requiring a bit more performance — there’s the Countryman John Cooper Works that gives this little SUV 208 horsepower when teamed with a 6-speed manual transmission.
Small Premium SUV — Audi Q3
An all-new model for the 2015 model year, the Q3 is the smallest SUV offered by Audi. Despite being the entry-level model, the Q3 still comes well equipped with heated power front seats, leather seating surfaces, a panoramic sunroof, dual-zone automatic climate control, Xenon headlights with LED daytime running lights and Audi’s advanced key system.
Compact SUV — Mazda CX-5
A compact SUV that debuted as a 2012 model, the CX-5 was the first Mazda to feature SKYACTIV technology designed for driving enjoyment as well as fuel efficiency. Two different engines are available: a 2.0-liter with 155 horsepower or a 2.5-liter offering 184 ponies. Both powerplants are rated at 30 mpg or better on the highway, even when paired with Mazda’s 4-wheel drive system.
Compact Premium SUV — Porsche Macan
The fifth vehicle in the current Porsche lineup, Macan is a brand-new model for 2015. Styled after the larger Cayenne, the compact Macan still embodies all qualities expected from the iconic German sports car brand. Macan comes with full-time all-wheel drive, and is available in either S or Turbo format, the latter equipped with a 400-horsepower V6 engine capable of pushing this small SUV to 60 mph in a mere 4.4 seconds.
Compact MPV — Ford C-MAX
Although small people movers occupy a niche segment in the U.S. market, the C-MAX stands out with its small footprint but spacious interior. Available exclusively as a standard hybrid or plug-in hybrid, C-MAX offers impressive fuel economy — both versions are rated at higher than 40 mpg in the city. The aptly-named Energy plug-in hybrid can travel up to 19 miles on electricity alone, achieving the fuel economy equivalent of 95 MPGe.
Midsize SUV — Nissan Murano
Murano enters its third generation as one of the more stylish crossovers on the market. Inside, drivers will find a large information and control center with an available 8-inch color touchscreen. In an effort 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. An available power panoramic moonroof makes the Murano feel larger inside.
Midsize Premium SUV — Porsche Cayenne
A leader of the high-performance SUV segment, Cayenne has topped this category of APEAL awards for five years in a row. Updated for the 2015 model year with fresh styling, new features and better performance, the premium SUV is available with four distinct powertrains: a turbodiesel V6, a twin-turbo V6, a twin-turbo V8 and a supercharged V6 hybrid.
Midsize Pickup — Chevrolet Colorado
All new for the 2015 model year, Chevy’s Colorado compact pickup has updated styling as well as new engines that boast segment-leading power and impressive fuel economy. Colorado can be equipped with the latest safety features — including available forward collision alert and lane departure warning — in addition to a standard rearview camera.
Minivan — Kia Sedona
An entirely new Sedona minivan arrived late last year, and clearly it has been well received — sales are up more than 400 percent compared to 2014. The new Sedona incorporates styling cues that map to the rest of the Kia lineup. The completely updated interior offers more usable space with seating for eight, as well as a number of new features. One segment standout is the available “first-class” lounge seating — the second-row bucket seats can be slid rearward for plenty of legroom, and they also have retractable leg rests and airplane-style winged head restraints.
Large SUV — Ford Expedition
Expedition is the largest SUV offered by Ford, with seating for eight and an impressively large cargo area. An extended-length version — the EL — will satisfy those who need maximum space and versatility. A new 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6 engine is now available, generating 365 horsepower and providing a towing capacity of 9,200 pounds.
Large Premium SUV — Infiniti QX80
Infiniti offers a wide array of luxury SUVs, and the QX80 is the largest of them all. With seating for eight and a cavernous cargo area, the QX80 offers plenty of versatility in a luxurious package. Power comes from a 5.6-liter 400-horse V8 engine that has enough grunt to tow up to 8,600 pounds.
Large Light-Duty Pickup — Ford F-150
The all-new 2015 F-150 is in its 13th generation and Ford’s most technologically advanced F-Series pickup to date. Extensive aluminum use allowed Ford engineers to drop 700 pounds from the truck. 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. Four engine choices include a new turbocharged 2.7-liter EcoBoost V6 — a lightweight, compact design that makes the same power as a midrange V8 engine.
Large HD Pickup — GMC Sierra HD
GMC’s heavy-duty pickup truck gets a fresh look for 2015 with bold exterior styling. The interior has been redesigned to reduce noise intrusion, add more comfort and make controls more intuitive. Larger rear doors and updated seat designs provide easier ingress and egress. Sierra HD offers impressive performance with a wide choice of gasoline or diesel powerplants, including the 6.6-liter Duramax Turbo Diesel that provides a maximum towing capacity of more than 23,000 pounds.