When a car shopper takes the plunge and finally purchases a new car, the ultimate goal is to be thoroughly satisfied with the vehicle. Automotive consulting and research firm AutoPacific can help with that — every year the company publishes its Vehicle Satisfaction Awards, which highlight the most satisfying new cars on the market. “This is the 21st anniversary of AutoPacific identifying the most satisfying vehicles and providing consumers a way to streamline their search for their perfect vehicle,” said AutoPacific President George Peterson. AutoPacific identifies top vehicles in a multitude of categories, based on owner satisfaction with 49 separate attributes ranging from interior comfort and styling to fuel economy and performance.
President’s Award — Genesis G90
AutoPacific reserves a special President’s Award for a vehicle that scores higher than any other in the history of the VSAs. Although it isn’t an annual award, for 2017 the honor goes to the Genesis G90. Genesis is the all-new luxury brand from Hyundai, launching about a year ago with its premium flagship G90 sedan. The G90 stands out with a large, bold grille; a long wheelbase with minimal overhangs; and 19-inch turbine-blade alloy wheels. Full LED headlights and taillights are also available, giving the luxury sedan a striking look at night. With the highest score ever in the study, the G90 takes the crown as the Most Satisfying Vehicle Overall.
Lincoln, GMC Shine
In addition to selecting category winners, AutoPacific names brands that rank higher than the competition. For 2017 Lincoln was named the Highest Satisfaction Premium Brand, while GMC earned top honors among popular brands. It’s also worth noting that Nissan models topped five categories — more than any other automaker. Here’s a look at all category winners from AutoPacific’s 2017 Vehicle Satisfaction Awards.
Luxury — Genesis G90
For the G90 to be named the most satisfying luxury car in its first year on the market is quite impressive. The flagship of the new Genesis brand, the G90 offers a smooth, quiet ride as well as excellent performance from its available 420-horsepower V8 powerplant. In addition, G90 comes standard with the latest safety technologies including Automatic Emergency Braking with Pedestrian Detection, Blind Spot Detection, Lane Keep Assist and Driver Attention Alert.
Aspirational Luxury — Volvo S60 / V60
The stylish S60 sedan — and its V60 wagon sibling — are the entry vehicles in the Volvo lineup. Available with front- or all-wheel drive, the S60/V60 can also be configured as Cross Country variants with bolder looks and increased ground clearance. The sedan and wagon are powered by a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder turbocharged engine that produces 240 horsepower, teamed with a new 8-speed automatic transmission. Volvo also offers both sedan and wagon in the high-performance Polestar trim, which bumps horsepower to 362 ponies. The S60/V60 have also earned the highest safety ranking from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety thanks to many advanced safety features, including Collision Warning with Full Auto Brake as well as Cyclist and Pedestrian Detection with Full Auto Brake.
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. Even with plentiful power thanks to its 3.3-liter V6 engine producing 290 horsepower, the stylish Cadenza is still EPA rated at an impressive 28 mpg on the highway.
Luxury Mid-Size Car — Nissan Maxima
The Nissan Maxima tops AutoPacific’s Luxury Mid-Size category for the second year in a row. At one time dubbed the “4-Door Sports Car,” the brand resurfaced this nickname when the current generation was introduced for the 2016 model year. Incorporating fresh styling that closely ties it with the rest of the Nissan lineup, Maxima is available in several trim levels ranging from S to Platinum. All Maximas have a 300-horsepower 3.5-liter V6 engine teamed with a new performance-oriented Xtronic continuously-variable transmission.
Mid-Size Car — Kia Optima
For the second year in a row, Kia earns the top spot in the competitive Mid-Size Car category with its popular Optima. The Kia Optima offers a great combination of attractive styling, roomy interior, considerable trunk space with a high-level of safety and convenience features. Optima is available with a variety of powertrains, including a very fuel-efficient plug-in hybrid as well as a fun-to-drive high-performance turbo.
Compact Car — Honda Civic
A perennial favorite among new-car buyers, the redesigned Honda Civic is one of the best-selling passenger cars in America. The tenth generation of this popular car is available as 2-door or 4-door and features fresh styling, improved aerodynamics, new vehicle architecture and a more spacious interior, as well as two new high-performance variants in the Civic Si and new Civic R. Fuel economy is impressive — rated as high as 42 mpg with a new 2.0-liter turbocharged powerplant. Standard features include a 5-inch color LCD screen, LED daytime running lights, an electric parking brake with automatic brake hold, a multiangle rearview camera, a capless fuel filler, Bluetooth HandsFreeLink and streaming audio.
Premium 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 rather roomy interior and the unique tailgate has split rear doors that provide 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.
Economy Car — Nissan Versa
With a base price of less than $12,000, the Versa is the least-expensive new model available in America. That may have contributed to its third year in a row as the Most Satisfying Economy Car according to AutoPacific. Even with its low price, the Versa is much more than a bare-bones econobox. Standard equipment includes air-conditioning, Bluetooth hands-free connectivity, an AM/FM/CD audio system and a trip computer. The 109-horsepower 1.6-liter engine is teamed with a CVT. Although the Versa won’t win any races, it is rated as high as 39 mpg on the highway.
Sports Car — Porsche 911
For 50 years the iconic Porsche 911 has been considered one of the best sports cars on the planet, offering amazing performance while remaining comfortable and useful as a daily driver. Porsche recently launched the seventh generation of the 911, which has a wider front track and is longer, lower and loaded with new features. A plethora of 911 versions are now available, including the latest variant that debuted earlier this year at the Geneva Motor Show, the GT3. The new GT3 is powered by a 4.0-liter engine producing 500 horsepower — practically the same engine used in the 911 GT3 Cup Car. Acceleration to 62 mph (100 km/h) takes a mere 3.4 seconds with the PDK transmission, and top speed is just a tick under 200 mph.
Sporty Car — Dodge Challenger
The designers at Dodge did a wonderful job of 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, but the most talked-about variant is the Challenger Hellcat. The Hellcat boasts a massive 707 horsepower supercharged V8 that pushes the Challenger to 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. As if this wasn’t enough power, Dodge has introduced the next step up — the 840-horsepower Challenger Demon.
Light Duty Pickup — Nissan Titan
About a year ago Nissan introduced an all-new Titan XD and it is big — even by truck standards. The XD slots between a half-ton and three-quarter-ton truck, but shortly thereafter Nissan followed up with a proper half-ton Titan. The Titan is easy to spot with its large grille and bold styling, and the truck can be configures as a Regular Cab, King Cab or 4-door Crew Cab. Powered by a 5.6-liter V8 engine producing 390 horsepower, the Titan can tow almost 10,000 pounds when properly equipped.
Heavy Duty Pickup — Ford F-Series Super Duty
Redesigned for the 2017 model year, the F-Series Super Duty bring 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.
Compact 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 unique now as at the truck’s introduction 10 years ago, including a lockable in-bed storage trunk and dual-action tailgate — which is both left- and bottom-hinged. Ridgeline 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, Ridgeline can tow up to 5,000 pounds. The Honda of pickup trucks is also the only truck named a Top Safety Pick+ by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
Luxury SUV — Lincoln Navigator
The flagship SUV of the Lincoln lineup, the Navigator features a grille with the Lincoln signature “split wing” design, as well as HID headlights with LED accents. Inside, customers will find premium leather and exotic Ziricote wood trim, as well as SYNC with MyLincoln Touch. Also available on Navigator is a 3.5-liter EcoBoost engine producing 380 horsepower and an impressive 460 lb-ft of torque. Fuel economy is rates as high as 22 mpg on the highway for 2WD variants — impressive for this massive luxury SUV. An all-new Navigator with updated styling and plenty of new features will arrive in showrooms later this year.
Large SUV — GMC Yukon XL
One of the largest SUVs on the road, the Yukon XL can accommodate seven passengers with enough extra space to carry all their stuff. With a big V8, more than 8 inches of ground clearance, a locking rear differential and an automatic 4-wheel-drive system, the Yukon XL is certainly up to the task when it comes to leaving the pavement. GMC’s brawny SUV is available in a variety of trims including the top-level Denali, which features an elegant interior with perforated leather seats, burnished aluminum trim, contrasting stitching, genuine poplar woodgrain inlays and an advanced infotainment system with a high-end Bose Centerpoint surround-sound system.
Mid-Size SUV — Jeep Grand Cherokee
Jeep has a deserved reputation for building vehicles with impressive off-road capability, and the brand’s flagship is the Grand Cherokee. Tackling deep snow and other tough terrain lands right in the Grand Cherokee’s wheelhouse — while at the same time providing a comfortable and in some cases luxurious cabin. Models range from the base-level Laredo to the extremely-capable Trailhawk to the top-level Grand Cherokee Summit. And for those looking for more on-road performance, Jeep has introduced the Grand Cherokee Trackhawk boasting a supercharged V8 putting out a mind-bending 707 horsepower.
Premium Luxury Crossover SUV — Porsche Cayenne
Porsche joined the SUV segment with the 2003 Cayenne, an SUV that promised to deliver the performance and handling expected from a Porsche in a utilitarian package. 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 the road than the 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.
Luxury Crossover SUV — Lexus RX
Redesigned for the 2016 model year, the popular Lexus RX tops the luxury crossover segment as most satisfying for the second year in a row. One of the first luxury crossovers when it debuted as a 1998 model, the RX combines the utility of an SUV with the ride and comfort of a luxury sedan. The updated look features an aggressive grille up front, the overall design has more sharp angles, and the blacked-out C-pillars create a floating roof effect. Inside, the RX is optimized for five occupants, and the rear seating position is lowered to be more comparable to the flagship LS sedan.
Large Crossover SUV — Ford Flex
Combining the best traits of a wagon, a crossover and a minivan, the Ford Flex’s distinctive looks and comfortable interior make it an excellent alternative to classic family haulers. Big bucket seats in the second row keep squirmy kids apart, and if they’re good you can treat them to ice cream kept cold in the available built-in freezer. The standard engine is a 3.5-liter Ti-VCT V6 producing 287 horsepower; for those looking for a bit more performance, the Flex is also available with a 3.5-liter EcoBoost engine producing 365 horsepower, mated to an intelligent AWD system.
Premium Mid-Size Crossover — Nissan Murano
One of the more stylish crossovers on the market, Nissan’s Murano has earned the top spot in AutoPacific’s Premium Mid-Size Crossover segment for three years in a row. 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. In order 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 gives Murano occupants a spacious experience.
Mid-Size Crossover SUV — Nissan Rogue
Now in its second year as the Most Satisfying Mid-Size Crossover SUV according to AutoPacific, the popularity of the Rogue continues to grow — in fact, it is currently the best-selling crossover SUV in America. Rogue receives an extensive update for the 2017 model year with a refreshed exterior look, interior refinements, new technology and the addition of the first-ever Rogue gasoline-electric hybrid. Nissan recently introduced a smaller version called Rogue Sport, which should only add to this crossover’s popularity.
Compact Crossover SUV — Kia Sportage
The Kia Sportage moved into its fourth generation with a complete redesign for the 2017 model year. The compact crossover receives updated styling, a stiffer structure, new suspension, premium materials and a suite of advanced driver-assistance systems. Most noticeable is the change to the new front-end design with the signature Kia tiger-nose grille. The new Sportage is also one of the safest SUVs on the road with an available Forward Collision Warning System and Autonomous Emergency Braking with Pedestrian Detection, which can anticipate a potential collision with another vehicle or pedestrian and automatically apply the brakes to lessen or avoid the impact.
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 10-inch high-res touchscreen displays 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.