Best Owner Experience
It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly why consumers love certain new cars, but over the last 23 years, global research and analytics firm J.D. Power has developed a formula to determine which vehicles have the most desirable characteristics among new-car purchasers. The firm calls it the APEAL awards, which stands for Automotive Performance, Execution And Layout. Ratings are based on consumer evaluations of their 2018 model-year vehicles in the first 90 days of ownership across 77 attributes, which are factored into an overall APEAL score that is measured on a 1,000-point scale.
J.D. Power reports that model year 2018 showed an impressive 10-point gain in average APEAL scores versus the prior year. More than two-thirds of the auto brands in the study improved their ratings over last year, with most advances coming from non-premium brands. “The automotive industry is performing exceptionally well, with manufacturers making record-breaking improvements year over year,” said Dave Sargent, vice president of Global Automotive at J.D. Power. “It’s a great time to buy a new car or truck. There are a lot of high-quality, appealing vehicles in every segment of the market and shoppers don’t have to spend a fortune to get one.”
After a scant two years since it spun off from parent company Hyundai, the Genesis luxury line is the highest-ranking brand in the 2018 APEAL study with a score of 884. Even more amazing is that Genesis unseated Porsche; the German brand had topped this study for 13 years straight, but this year gets edged out by the Korean brand. BMW, Lincoln and Mercedes-Benz round out the top five brands. Chevrolet and GMC both scored 826 points, putting them at the top of the mass-market segments for the first time. Following the GM brands were Ram, Dodge and Ford.
The all-new Lincoln Navigator scored higher than any other individual vehicle in this year’s APEAL study, earning 915 points. This is the highest number ever recorded in the current generation of the study, which has been running since 2013. (The APEAL results were first published in 1996, and this is the third generation of the study.) The following are the most “APEALing” vehicles in 19 categories, based on the 2018 study.
Small Car — Kia Rio
The least expensive car in the Kia lineup, Rio is all new for the 2018 model year and last month it was ranked as the highest-quality small car in America by J.D. Power. Longer and wider than the previous model, the new Rio fits well within the rest of the Kia lineup, thanks to the latest version of Kia’s “tiger nose” grille. The Rio gets power from a 1.6-liter engine producing 130 horsepower while delivering up to 37 mpg on the highway. The LX is the entry-level trim of the Rio with extensive standard features that include a 6-way adjustable driver’s seat, a split-folding rear seat, air-conditioning, and a 5-inch display with an AM / FM / MP3 / Satellite audio system.
Small Premium Car — Audi A3
Available in a variety of body styles including sedan and convertible, the A3 is the entry-level choice in the Audi lineup. The A3 received refreshed styling last year with new headlights and a wider Singleframe grille, giving the small car a more aggressive look while matching the styling cues of higher-end Audi models. 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. The A3 is also available with Audi’s legendary quattro all-wheel drive system.
Compact Car — Volkswagen Jetta
The Jetta offers great value in a fun-to-drive 4-door sedan with prices starting below $19,000. The base-level Jetta S has a 1.4-liter turbocharged engine that produces 150 horsepower while delivering up to 40 mpg on the highway and 28 mpg in the city with a 5-speed manual transmission. The Wolfsburg Edition joins the lineup for 2018, touting a sport front bumper, fog lights, heated seats and other features. The Jetta SE Sport is powered by a 1.8-liter engine producing 170 horsepower. Look for an all-new Jetta coming to showrooms later this year.
Compact Premium Car — Kia Stinger
As an all-new high-performance sedan, the Stinger is unlike any vehicle Kia has offered before. Behind the signature Kia grille, Stinger makes a bold statement with a wide stance, short front overhangs, a steeply-raked windshield, a vented hood, LED headlights and prominent fenders. The sleek lines of this hatchback set it apart from other Kia models, while quad oval exhaust pipes give clear indication that Stinger is a performance car. Available in a number of trim levels with a choice of powertrains, the top-level Stinger boasts a 3.3-liter twin-turbo V6 engine producing an impressive 365 horsepower. Rear-wheel drive is standard; however, Stinger is available with full-time all-wheel drive.
Midsize Car — Honda Accord
Honda introduced an all-new Honda Accord last year, and while sales are slightly off for this new model, clearly it scored well in the 2018 J.D. Power APEAL study. The new Accord is completely redesigned with fresh styling, an updated interior and a suite of high-tech safety features. Built on a lighter, more rigid body structure designed to improve handling and comfort, the Accord offers a number of power options that include two new turbocharged engines, a 10-speed automatic transmission and a new generation of Honda’s 2-motor hybrid system.
Midsize Sporty Car — Ford Mustang
The latest-generation Mustang debuted for 2015, showcasing a lower, wider stance; a lower roof height; wider rear fenders and a wider track. For 2018 the Mustang gets freshened styling with a lower hood, a wider grille and a new front splitter designed to create what Ford calls “a meaner, leaner look.” In addition to the new look, the Mustang GT receives a more powerful 5.0-liter V8 engine producing 460 horsepower and 420 lb-ft of torque, making it the most potent Mustang GT ever. A new 10-speed SelectShift automatic transmission is geared to improve responsiveness and performance. Mustang also is equipped with “Drag Strip” mode that keeps the engine in peak torque, delivering a sprint to 60 mph in less than 4 seconds.
Midsize Premium Car — Lincoln Continental
Continental has returned 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, and both front and rear seats offer heating, cooling and available massage functions. 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.
Large Car — Nissan Maxima
Once dubbed the “4-Door Sports Car,” the brand brought back this nickname for the Maxima when the current generation was introduced for the 2016 model year. Incorporating fresh styling that closely ties it to the rest of the Nissan lineup, Maxima is available in a number of trim levels ranging from S to Platinum. True to Maxima’s sports car moniker, the big sedan features a 300-horsepower 3.5-liter V6 engine teamed with a new performance-oriented Xtronic continuously-variable transmission. For 2018 Maxima adds both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, as well as Intelligent Forward Collision Warning and Automatic Emergency Braking. A special SR Midnight Edition features a rear spoiler, Intelligent Around-View Monitor, black trim and 19-inch gloss-black aluminum wheels.
Small SUV — MINI Countryman
MINI is not so mini anymore when it comes to the Countryman. The largest MINI on the market, the Countryman is a four door offering reasonable cargo space, ALL4 all-wheel drive and an impressive list of standard equipment. All trim levels come with a panorama sunroof, a 6.5-inch high-resolution display, Bluetooth connectivity, a rearview camera, leatherette upholstery and 17-inch alloy wheels. A variety of powertrains are available, ranging from an efficient and powerful plug-in hybrid system to the high-performance John Cooper Works edition with a turbocharged 228-horsepower engine.
Small Premium SUV — BMW X1
Since SUVs continue to gain popularity, it’s not surprising that the entry-level model of the BMW lineup would be a crossover. The revised second-generation BMW X1 premiered in 2016 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. Although sold worldwide, for the U.S. market X1 is offered exclusively with a 228-horsepower version of BMW’s turbocharged 2.0-liter engine, teamed with an 8-speed Steptronic automatic transmission and xDrive intelligent all-wheel drive.
Compact SUV — Chevrolet Equinox
Chevrolet’s best-selling SUV, the redesigned 2018 Equinox went on sale last fall with updated styling and plenty of new features. Equinox stands out with projector-beam headlights, LED running lights, wider horizontal taillights and LED taillights for upper trim levels. Inside, the new Equinox features a down-and-away instrument panel with a low windshield base for improved outward visibility. The three engine choices for Equinox are a 170-horsepower 1.5-liter turbo, a 252-horse 2.0-liter turbo combined with a new 9-speed automatic transmission, and a fuel-efficient 136-horsepower 1.6-liter turbodiesel.
Compact Premium SUV — BMW X3
The most popular model in BMW’s lineup, the X3 is all new for the 2018 model year. The new model stands out with more aerodynamic styling, a “three-dimensional” kidney grille, available full LED headlights and a roof spoiler at the rear. The interior also gets a complete refresh, centered around a large 10.25-inch touchscreen display. BMW also adds a new M Performance version of the X3 for the first time — the X3 M40i has a 355-horsepower turbocharged engine that can push the small crossover to 60 mph in 4.6 seconds. The X3 is produced alongside the rest of the BMW X lineup in Spartanburg, South Carolina.
Midsize SUV — Chevrolet Traverse
Chevrolet’s 3-row crossover is redesigned for the 2018 model year with updated styling and a number of new features. The 2018 Traverse has a bold new look in line with Chevrolet’s larger full-size SUVs, focusing on interior volume and seating for up to eight occupants. Two trim levels are added for 2018: RS and High Country. The standard engine is a new 3.6-liter V6 combined with a 9-speed automatic transmission, with either front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive. The Traverse RS is offered exclusively with a 2.0-liter turbocharged engine that delivers more torque than the V6, also paired with a 9-speed automatic transmission.
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 15 years Porsche is still producing the high-performance, all-wheel-drive Cayenne, with the 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 the 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.
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 also is available, making this the first hybrid minivan ever sold in America.
Large SUV — Ford Expedition
The largest SUV in the Ford lineup, the Expedition has been completely redesigned for the 2018 model year. Boasting a new high-strength, aluminum-alloy body and redesigned high-strength steel frame, the Expedition is equipped with a more powerful turbocharged 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6 engine with standard Auto Start-Stop, combined with a new 10-speed automatic transmission. Off-road capability is improved with a newly available electronic limited-slip differential when equipped with Intelligent AWD. The new model has more than 40 new features and driver-assist technologies, including wireless charging, a Wi-Fi hotspot, SYNC 3, SYNC Connect, power in every row, and a Panoramic Vista Roof. Expedition’s flexible seating includes second-row tip-and-slide seats that provide easy access to the third row even with child seats installed.
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. For 2018 the F-150 receives exterior design updates throughout the model lineup including new grilles, bumpers, lighting, tailgates, exterior trim and wheels. The standard engine has been upgraded to a new 3.3-liter normally-aspirated V6 producing 290 horsepower and 265 lb-ft of torque, teamed with an electronic 6-speed automatic transmission. And for the first time ever, the F-150 is available with an all-new fuel-efficient 3.0-liter Power Stroke V6 diesel engine that produces 250 horsepower and 440 lb-ft of torque with peak torque at a mere 1750 rpm.
Large HD Pickup — GMC Sierra HD
Available as either a 2500 or 3500, the GMC Sierra HD is among the most capable pickup trucks on the market. GMC offers the Sierra HD in a number of cab configurations and bed lengths, and with single or dual-rear wheels. Two different powerplants are available, including a potent 6.6-liter Duramax turbodiesel V8 that creates 445 horsepower and a stump-pulling 910 lb-ft of torque at a mere 1600 rpm. When properly equipped, the Sierra HD can tow more than 23,000 pounds. For those seeking capability and luxury, the Sierra Denali features leather-trimmed heated and cooled front seats, a high-end audio system, a large center console and a soft-touch instrument panel.