Best Ownership Experience
It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly why consumers love certain new cars, but for almost 25 years global research and analytics firm J.D. Power has been developing 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 2019 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 2019 vehicles managed to eke out a slight improvement in average APEAL scores versus the prior year. Categories covering infotainment, visibility and safety had the most improvement. “Every automaker is producing vehicles that consumers like, but some of them are doing it at a higher level than others,” said J.D. Power Vice President of Global Automotive Dave Sargent. “Satisfaction with new technology is improving, but infotainment remains an area where automakers can get better. Owners have higher satisfaction if their vehicle is equipped with safety features such as blind spot monitor, collision avoidance and lane departure warning. This should serve as a positive sign for manufacturers, as these features are some of the early building blocks for fully automated vehicles.”
After being knocked from its top position last year, Porsche is once again the most APEALing brand in the J.D. Power study with a score of 891. Hyundai’s premium brand Genesis moves down one position to tie with BMW for the second-highest ranking. Audi and Volvo round out the top five brands. Ram is the most improved brand — increasing its score by 26 points — which puts it at the top of the mass-market brands. Dodge, MINI, Volkswagen and Ford fill out the top five. Buick and Mitsubishi reside at the bottom of the rankings.
The stylish Audi A7 scored higher than any other individual vehicle in this year’s APEAL study. The A7 and Porsche Cayenne are the only two models from the Volkswagen group to earn a top spot in their respective segments. The following are the most “APEALing” vehicles in 20 categories, based on the 2019 study.
Small Car — Toyota Yaris
Priced around $15,000, Yaris is the least expensive Toyota on the U.S. market; it received a refreshed look for the 2018 model year. Available as either a 3-door or 5-door hatchback, the Yaris draws power from a 1.5-liter engine producing 106 horsepower. Standard on all Yaris variants is Toyota Safety Sense C, which includes a pre-collision system, lane departure alert, and automatic high-beam headlights. Also standard on the base-level Yaris L is a rearview camera; an Entune audio system that includes a 6.1-inch touchscreen; an AM / FM / CD player with MP3, HD Radio and six speakers; a USB port with iPod connectivity and control; hands-free phone capability; voice recognition; and Bluetooth music streaming.
Small Premium Car — BMW 2 Series
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. Also ranking best in its class in the J.D. Power Initial Quality study, the 2 Series is a modern example of the sporty, agile, fun-to-drive cars on which BMW built its reputation in the 1960s. Available as a coupe or convertible, the 2 Series features an upscale interior and can be had with a range of powerful engines as well as rear- or all-wheel drive. And for those looking for the ultimate in performance, BMW adds the M2 Competition for 2019, which boasts a 405-horsepower turbocharged engine and handling befitting a BMW M car.
Compact Car — Kia Forte
Completely redesigned for the 2019 model year, this entry-level Kia has fresh styling as well as a range of new features. Forte takes on many styling cues that originated with the sporty Stinger, including the signature Kia grille, long hood and fastback shape. Unique headlights and a sculpted hood add to the strong presence, as do a rear lip spoiler and available LED taillights. Inside Forte, standard equipment includes an 8-inch touchscreen display as well as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Forte also has available high-tech safety features including automatic emergency braking.
Compact Sporty Car — MINI Cooper
One of the smallest cars available in America, the MINI Cooper received an update for 2018 that included a new MINI logo, new alloy wheels, MINI logo projection from the driver’s side exterior mirror, new interior features such as wireless phone charging, and rear LED lights with a Union Jack design. A rearview camera and park-distance control are standard across the MINI lineup. Even with updated styling, there’s still no mistaking its classic “bulldog” looks, and the MINI retains its fun-to-drive characteristics. The MINI Cooper is great fun with its base-level turbocharged 3-cylinder engine; however, the top-level MINI Cooper John Cooper Works takes that same small package and turns up the heat. With 228 horsepower and 236 lb-ft of torque on tap from its turbocharged 2.0-liter engine — as well as suspension upgrades, a rear spoiler, sport seats and an aero kit — the MINI JCW feel like a go-kart for the road with precise handling and potent acceleration.
Compact Premium Car — Mercedes-Benz C-Class
The best-selling passenger car in the Mercedes-Benz lineup, the C-Class moves into its fourth generation for 2019 with updated styling, more power and new features. Looking like a proper Mercedes with standard LED headlights and taillights and freshened front-end styling, the C-Class is available in a number of trim levels with varying levels of power. The base-level C300 comes well equipped with a 7-inch display, a power sunroof, active brake assist, a rearview camera, keyless start and a new multi-function leather-wrapped steering wheel that includes Touch Control Buttons that respond to swiping motions. Power comes from a turbocharged 2.0-liter produces 255 horsepower teamed with a 9G-TRONIC 9-speed automatic transmission. The C-Class is available with Mercedes 4MATIC all-wheel drive for an additional $2,000.
Midsize Car — Honda Accord (tie)
Honda introduced an all-new Accord late in 2017 that was arguably better than the previous generation in nearly every way. Available in a variety of trim levels with two or four doors, Accord can even be equipped with a manual transmission — unusual in this vehicle category. The Accord is built on a lighter, more rigid body structure designed to improve handling and comfort. Honda offers this popular sedan with 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 Car — Nissan Altima (tie)
Nissan introduces an all-new Altima for the 2019 model year that features a lower, wider stance and a much more dynamic look, as well as available all-wheel drive for the first time in the model’s history. With a starting MSRP of $24,000 and a wide range of available trim levels, the Altima comes well equipped with multiple USB ports, Apple CarPlay / Android Auto, a rearview camera and a large display screen. The cabin offers plenty of room up front and in the rear seat. Two engine options are available: a new 2.5-liter four cylinder or a unique variable-compression turbo that produces 248 horsepower.
Midsize Car — Toyota Camry (tie)
Last year Toyota introduced an all-new Camry, bringing the popular sedan into its eighth generation. Sporting an all-new design that includes an updated front grille, integrated headlights and sculpted lines, the Camry is now built on the Toyota New Global Architecture. Camry trims range from the base L to the fully-loaded XLE and XSE, and all Camrys are now equipped with Toyota Safety Sense P, which showcases the latest advanced safety systems. Toyota offers three different powertrains for the Camry, including a fuel-efficient hybrid system as well as a 3.5-liter V6 that produces more than 300 horsepower.
Midsize Sporty Car — Dodge Challenger
The American market is awash with retro-designed vehicles, but Dodge does one of the best jobs by capturing the essence of a 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, ranging from a 305-horsepower V6 to the extreme Challenger Hellcat Redeye that boasts a massive 797-horsepower supercharged V8 that moves this modern muscle car to 60 mph in 3.4 seconds, and on to a top speed that exceeds 200 mph. Even more impressive — this beast can seat up to five passengers and has an EPA rating of 22 mpg highway.
Midsize Premium Car — Audi A7
Audi introduced an all-new A7 last year, incorporating many of the new styling cues introduced on the flagship A8, including the larger Singleframe grille and integrated headlights. One of the most captivating luxury sportback models on the market, the A7 retains its signature sleek silhouette; however, it now provides a more comfortable environment for rear-seat occupants via increased headroom and legroom. Inside the A7 are two integrated displays that work in conjunction or separately, depending on the function in use. These large touchscreens replace familiar rotary dials and buttons in the current Audi lineup. Although touchscreens can be difficult to use while driving, the large icons on the main screen of the A7 require pressure to activate, with haptic feedback making them feel like physical buttons.
Large Car — Nissan Maxima
At one time dubbed a “4-Door Sports Car,” the current-generation Maxima retook this nickname when it was introduced for the 2016 model year. For 2019 the Nissan flagship gets revised exterior styling including a larger V-Motion grille, interior updates and available Nissan Safety Shield 360 with advanced driver-assist systems. Inside, the updated Maxima features a driver-oriented cockpit and seating for five occupants, with a new seat insert pattern and charcoal headliner for the Maxima SR and Platinum Reserve Package. The exclusive powertrain for all trim levels is a 300-horsepower version of Nissan’s award winning 3.5-liter V6 engine combined with a CVT transmission.
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 228-horsepower turbocharged engine.
Compact SUV — GMC Terrain
GMC redesigned the Terrain for the 2018 model year, giving the small crossover a bold new grille, sculpted headlights and C-shaped rear light graphics. With trim levels ranging from the SL to the luxurious Denali, Terrain is offered with three different powertrains, including a fuel-efficient high-torque 1.6-liter diesel engine. For 2019 GMC introduces the Terrain Black Edition, which provides a distinct look thanks to its 19-inch gloss black aluminum wheels, darkened grille insert with black surround, black mirror caps, roof rails and additional exterior accents — as well as black exterior badging.
Compact Premium SUV — BMW X4
BMW introduces a new second-generation X4 Sport Activity Coupe for the 2019 model year featuring a more aggressive front end with larger kidney grilles and swept-back headlights that follow the new look of its sibling, the redesigned X3. The X4 continues to separate itself from the X3 with a sloping fastback roofline and offers a sportier drive than its predecessor, with a lower center of gravity and revised suspension. The 2019 BMW X4 offers standard Navigation Professional with a 10.25-inch touchscreen display, iDrive touch controller, and real-time traffic and parking information. Standard safety equipment includes active guard with frontal collision warning, automatic city collision mitigation and braking, including daytime pedestrian detection, and speed limit information. A new high-performance X4 M will join the lineup shortly, boasting more than 500 available horsepower.
Midsize SUV — Chevrolet Blazer
Chevrolet brings the legendary Blazer name back to its lineup for 2019. Designed as a bold, sporty crossover, the new Blazer features a wide stance, a high beltline with sleek headlights up front and dual exhaust at the rear. This 5-occupant model offers plenty of cargo space as well as a roomy interior for passengers. Available in three trim levels that include the sporty RS or luxurious Premier, the Blazer comes well equipped with an 8-inch touchscreen display, Apple CarPlay / Android Auto, dual-zone climate control, a rearview camera and a standard 2.5-liter engine producing 193 horsepower. A 305-horsepower V6 with a 9-speed automatic is also available.
Midsize Premium SUV — Porsche Cayenne
One of the first high-performance SUVs when it came to market in 2003, the Cayenne promised to deliver the performance and handling expected from a Porsche. After more than 15 years, Porsche is still producing the all-wheel-drive Cayenne — which is all new for the 2019 model year. Designed more for pavement than mud, the Cayenne is available in a range of sporting variants including the 541-horsepower Cayenne Turbo as well as the powerful and efficient Cayenne E-Hybrid.
Midsize Pickup — Ford Ranger
Following an eight-year hiatus, Ranger returns to the Ford lineup for the 2019 model year. The resurrected Ranger is available in three trims (XL, XLT, Lariat), two body styles (SuperCab, SuperCrew) and 2WD or 4WD. Only one engine is available: a 2.3-liter EcoBoost 4-cylinder unit that produces 270 horsepower and 310 lb-ft of torque. Inside, the 2019 Ford Ranger offers seating for up to five, a center stack with an 8-inch touchscreen for the available SYNC 3 system, and dual LCD screens in the instrument cluster to display vehicle, navigation and audio information. Even though Ranger is already sold in other areas of the world, the 2019 model has been engineered specifically for the North American market.
Minivan — Honda Odyssey
One of the most popular minivans in America, the Odyssey was all new for the 2018 model year. With an expressive exterior design, the updated Odyssey features the new “Magic Slide” second-row seating system that offers multiple seat configurations and third-row access options. The center second-row seats can be removed, or the outboard seats can be moved laterally between five positions for third-row access. Odyssey is powered by a 3.5-liter V6 engine creating 280 horsepower. Advanced connectivity and entertainment features include CabinWatch, CabinTalk & streaming video with 4G LTE Wi-Fi.
Large SUV — Ford Expedition
The largest SUV in the Ford lineup, the Expedition was 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 stop-start, combined with a new 10-speed automatic transmission. Off-road capability is improved thanks to an available electronic limited-slip differential when equipped with Intelligent AWD. The new model comes well equipped with many standard features 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 Premium SUV — Lincoln Navigator
Lincoln introduced an all-new Navigator for the 2018 model year, and the luxurious SUV went on to be named the North American Truck of the Year — a first for the brand. The Navigator has a bold presence, highlighted by a large grille that immediately grabs attention. When approached, the Lincoln logo softly illuminates along with LED lighting that brightens the ground immediately around the vehicle. During the day a panoramic sunroof ensures that even those sitting in the third row don’t feel claustrophobic, while at night interior ambient lighting illuminates all three seat rows. This big Lincoln has big power to match — a twin-turbo V6 engine that produces 450 horsepower and 510 lb-ft of torque, delivered through a new 10-speed automatic transmission. Towing capacity is an impressive 8,700 pounds — more than almost any other luxury SUV.
Large Light-Duty Pickup — Ford F-150
Currently in its 13th generation, the F-150 is the most technologically advanced F-Series to date. Notable new technology includes an available 360-degree camera view, an available trailer-hitch-assist rear camera view, an available remote tailgate with hands-free opening, and an available next-generation tailgate step. Last year the F-150 received exterior design updates throughout the model lineup including new grilles, bumpers, lighting, tailgates, exterior trim and wheels. The standard engine is a 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 — Ford Super Duty
A few years ago, Ford completely revamped the Super Duty pickup truck — the first major redesign of the big F Series since 1999. With bold styling and impressive capability, the Super Duty certainly contributes to the F Series reign as the best-selling vehicle in America. The F-Series Super Duty pickup is available in a seemingly infinite number of configurations. The F-250, F-350 and F-450 are available with regular cabs, extended cabs, crew cabs, long beds, short beds, 2WD, 4WD and a complete range of trim levels. When properly equipped, the big truck can tow up to 35,000 pounds.