When shoppers spend their hard-earned cash on new cars, they hope to be satisfied with their purchases. The automotive consulting and research firm AutoPacific can help with that — every year the company publishes its Vehicle Satisfaction Awards, which identify the most satisfying new cars on the market. “VSAs provide consumers with insight into which vehicles are giving owners a satisfying ownership experience,” said AutoPacific president George Peterson. AutoPacific’s research pinpoints the top vehicles in multiple categories, based on owner satisfaction concerning 40 separate attributes ranging from interior comfort and styling to fuel economy and performance. “Not only do we measure owner satisfaction, but we also measure how important each attribute was to owners in their shopping process, resulting in a satisfaction score representative of demanding owners,” said Peterson.
Top Luxury Brand — Genesis
In addition to selecting category winners, AutoPacific names the brands that rank highest overall. For 2018 Genesis wins the Highest Satisfaction Luxury Brand, coming in slightly ahead of Lexus. “In just two years, Genesis has reached a level of owner satisfaction unattained by more established luxury brands,” said Peterson.
Top Popular Brands — GMC, Ram, Hyundai (tie)
For the second year in a row, GMC ranks as the most satisfying popular brand; however, this year it shares the title with Ram and Hyundai. “Having two strong American truck brands and a Korean brand known for its cars is pretty incredible,” said Peterson. This is the first year that Ram and Hyundai have captured this honor. Here’s a look at all category winners from the 2018 AutoPacific Vehicle Satisfaction Awards.
Luxury Car — Genesis G90
For the G90 to be named the most satisfying luxury car in both of its first two years on the market is impressive. The flagship of the new Genesis brand, the G90 offers a smooth, quiet ride as well as plenty of luxury features such as 3-zone climate control, power front seats that are heated and cooled, a large 12.3-inch high-definition display screen and ambient mood lighting. Two powerplants are available for the G90: a 3.3-liter twin-turbo V6 that produces 365 horsepower or a 5.0-liter V8 that generates 420 horsepower. In addition, G90 comes with much of the latest safety technology as standard equipment, including Automatic Emergency Braking with Pedestrian Detection, Blind Spot Detection, Lane Keep Assist and Driver Attention Alert.
Aspirational Luxury Car — Lexus IS
This sporty four door from Lexus was completely redesigned last year with styling that features the large, bold grille that has become a familiar cue on the rest of the Lexus lineup. The IS is available with rear- or all-wheel drive — the IS 300 RWD gets a 241-horsepower 2.0-liter turbocharged engine, while the IS 300 AWD carries a more powerful 3.5-liter V6 producing 260 horses. The IS 350 (RWD and AWD) offers the highest performance, extracting 311 horsepower from the same V6. All trims are available with a performance-oriented F SPORT package, adding special suspension tuning, a Torsen limited-slip rear differential and unique 18-inch wheels.
Large Car — Dodge Charger
Dodge reintroduced the Charger for the 2006 model year following the model’s lengthy sabbatical,. Although it had rear-wheel drive with HEMI power like the original, the new model became a four door. And in keeping with Charger tradition, Dodge makes a few powerful engine choices available, including the R/T Scat Pack with a 485-horsepower 6.4-liter HEMI V8, or the SRT Hellcat with a supercharged 6.2-liter HEMI V8 producing a mind-blowing 707 horsepower. With a top speed of 204 mph, the Hellcat is one of the quickest, fastest and most powerful production sedans in the world. For 2018 Dodge adds the GT AWD, which comes with a 300-horsepower V6 engine as standard equipment.
Luxury Mid-Size Car — Nissan Maxima
The Nissan Maxima tops the Luxury Mid-Size category for the third year in a row. At one time dubbed the “4-Door Sports Car,” the brand brought back this nickname 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 gets 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.
Midsize Car — Hyundai Sonata
Hyundai’s midsize sedan is redesigned for the 2018 model year with bold new styling front and rear, as well as a new rear suspension design and revised steering calibration for improved ride, handling and steering response. Sonata is available with the latest safety features such as Automatic Emergency Braking, Lane Keep Assist and Smart Cruise Control with start/stop functionality. The standard powerplant is a 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine producing a respectable 185 horsepower — also available is a more powerful turbocharged engine or a fuel-efficient hybrid powertrain. Sonata also is available as a plug-in hybrid that can travel up to 27 miles on electric power alone.
Compact Car — Hyundai Elantra
All new for the 2017 model year, the Elantra is slightly longer and wider than its predecessor yet considerably more aerodynamic. The base-level Elantra SE comes well equipped with air-conditioning, premium cloth trim, an AM/FM/CD/MP3 4-speaker sound system with USB input, Bluetooth connectivity, a 60/40 split-folding rear seat, vehicle stability control, traction control, anti-lock brakes and multiple airbags. The standard engine powering Elantra is a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder unit producing 147 horsepower and 132 lb-ft of torque; EPA fuel-economy ratings are an impressive 26 mpg city / 36 mpg highway.
Premium Compact Car — Audi A3
Audi’s entry-level luxury car originally arrived in the U.S. as a 2006 model in 4-door hatchback configuration only, but in 2015 Audi revised the A3 lineup to include a sedan and cabriolet. The A3 carries the styling cues of higher-end Audi models, and is available with the brand’s signature quattro all-wheel-drive system. 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. Starting with the 2017 model year, Audi bolstered the A3 line with the availability of the innovative virtual cockpit as well as advance driver-assist systems.
Economy Car — Hyundai Accent
Hyundai built a reputation on creating vehicles that offer attractive styling, great value and continually-improving quality — all attributes of the all-new 2018 Accent. The 2018 Accent rides on a new chassis designed for increased rigidity, resulting in better driving dynamics as well as a surprisingly quieter ride. With its new cascading grille, the Accent’s styling fits into the rest of the Hyundai lineup. The base-level Accent SE comes well equipped with air-conditioning, Bluetooth connectivity, a 5-inch display screen, a rearview camera, an AM / FM / CD / MP3 audio system with four speakers, and 15-inch steel wheels. All trims of the Accent are powered by a 1.6-liter 4-cylinder engine producing 130 horsepower and 119 lb-ft of torque.
Mainstream EV Car — Nissan LEAF
There are more than a dozen electric vehicles on sale in America, but it was the Nissan LEAF that led the charge (pun intended) when introduced as a 2011 model. Now the world’s best-selling electric vehicle, LEAF received a fresh, new look for 2018 which includes a roomier interior as well as better performance and efficiency. The new style features the familiar Nissan V-Motion grille, but since airflow is not a requirement, layered blue paint behind the Nissan badge looks like liquid in direct sunlight. The 2018 LEAF is equipped with a high-response 110-kW AC synchronous electric motor producing 147 horsepower and 236 lb-ft of torque. The updated LEAF also gets a more powerful battery pack which gives the small electric vehicle a range of about 150 miles.
Sports Car — Nissan 370Z
The idea behind the Z car hasn’t changed much from the original 1970s model but — as expected — performance has moved forward. As the name 370Z indicates, the Z car utilizes a 3.7-liter V6 engine rated at 332 horsepower, available with either a 6-speed manual or 7-speed automatic transmission. A special NISMO edition boosts output to 350 horsepower. For 2018 Nissan is offering the 370Z Coupe Heritage Edition that honors the original Z, offered in two exterior colors: Chicane Yellow and Magnetic black, with yellow interior trim. The Chicane Yellow features black mirrors and gloss black graphics, and the Magnetic Black includes gloss silver graphics. The 2018 370Z Heritage Edition also features updates that are standard for all 2018 370Z Coupes, including new headlights, a new rear combination light treatment, and a new rear fascia paint scheme.
Sporty Car — Dodge Challenger
The designers at Dodge did a wonderful job 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, with the most talked-about variant being the Challenger Hellcat. The Hellcat boasts a massive 707-horsepower supercharged V8 that pushes this modern muscle car 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
In 2016 Nissan introduced an all-new Titan XD and it was big — even by truck standards. The XD slotted between a 1/2 ton and 3/4 ton truck, but shortly after Nissan followed up with a proper 1/2 ton Titan. The Titan is easy to spot with its large grille and bold styling, and the truck can be configured as a regular cab, King Cab or 4-door Crew Cab. Powered by a 5.6-liter V8 engine generating 390 horsepower, the Titan can tow almost 10,000 pounds when properly equipped. For 2018 Nissan adds a new Midnight Edition Package for Titan Crew Cab SV and SL trims, featuring a body color front grille with a dark insert, dark headlights, black fog lamp finishers, black exterior badging, black mirrors, black door handles, 20-inch black wheels, body-color front and rear bumpers, black step rails, charcoal interior trim and “Midnight Edition” exterior badges.
Heavy-Duty 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 power plants are available, including a the 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, there’s the Sierra Denali that features leather-trimmed heated and cooled front seats, a high-end audio system, a large center console and a soft-touch instrument panel.
Midsize Pickup — Honda Ridgeline
The Ridgeline is unique within the American truck market thanks to its unibody construction; however, standing out from the crowd can be a good thing. Completely redesigned for the 2017 model year, the Ridgeline offers several features that stand out now as much as they did 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. Powered 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 pickup truck to be named a Top Safety Pick+ by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
Luxury SUV — Infiniti QX80
As the flagship SUV of the Infiniti lineup, the QX80 combines a luxurious interior with impressive capability and versatility. Sporting a 400-horsepower 5.6-liter V8 engine under the hood, the QX80 can haul as much as 8,500 pounds and offers seating for up to seven occupants. The interior is properly equipped with leather seat trim, a high-end Bose audio system, tri-zone climate control and the helpful Around View monitor. The QX80 is also available with the latest in safety technology, including Forward Emergency Braking with Pedestrian Detection, Lane Departure Warning, Lane Departure Prevention and Blind Spot Intervention.
Large SUV — Toyota Sequoia
Sequoia is the largest SUV in the Toyota stable, but it is more than simply a large 8-occupant sport ute — it also is a fully capable off-roader, available with a Multi-Mode 4-wheel-drive system that uses a 2-speed transfer case with a locking limited-slip center differential to distribute torque to the front and rear wheels as needed. With a 381-horsepower V8 engine under the hood, the Sequoia can tow up to 7,400 pounds. For 2018 the big SUV gets refreshed with a new front grille, LED headlights and updated styling inside. Sequoia now comes standard with Toyota Safety Sense P which includes automatic emergency braking, lane departure alert and rear cross-traffic alert.
Midsize SUV — Jeep Grand Cherokee (tie)
Jeep has a well-deserved reputation for building vehicles with impressive off-road capability, and the Grand Cherokee is the brand’s flagship. 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.
Midsize SUV — Toyota 4Runner (tie)
As one of the few remaining truck-based SUVs on the market, the 4Runner has been a part of the Toyota lineup since the mid-1980s. Offering capabilities that can’t be found in most car-based crossovers, the 4Runner continues to be relevant in today’s tough SUV marketplace. The 4Runner continues to be powered by a 4.0-liter V6 engine that produces 270 horsepower and 278 lb-ft of torque — enough grunt to tow up to 5,000 pounds. For 2018 Toyota offers the 4Runner with two new packages: Wilderness Package with roof rack crossbars, all-weather floor liners and a cargo tray; or the TRD Enhancement Package, which features TRD 17-inch matte gray alloy wheels and a TRD-stamped aluminum front skidplate. Toyota has also announced the 2019 4Runner TRD Pro for the true off-roader, providing 2.5-inch Fox shocks front and rear, combined with a larger front sway bar and TRD-tuned front springs that provide an additional one inch of front lift.
Premium Luxury Crossover SUV — Mercedes-Benz GLS
The largest vehicle in the Mercedes-Benz lineup, the GLS is the only full-size 7-passenger luxury SUV from a European car company. The GLS is available in two standard trims: the GLS 450 gets a 3.0-liter turbocharged V6 engine producing 362 horsepower, while a 4.7-liter turbocharged V8 gives the GLS 550 449 horsepower. For those seeking capability and ultimate performance, the Mercedes-AMG GLS 63 boasts a hand-built 5.5-liter turbo V8 that puts out 577 horsepower. All GLS trims can tow up to 7,500 pounds and are fully capable off-road. For 2018 the GLS is available as a Grand Edition, which features Porcelain / Espresso Brown and designo Nappa leather seats with exclusive diamond quilting, as well as open-pore brown ash trim with light stripes and a Nappa leather dashboard.
Luxury Crossover SUV — Infiniti QX60
The QX60 is Infiniti’s family-friendly 3-row crossover that debuted for 2013 as the JX35 and was renamed QX60 for the 2014 model year. Last year the QX60 received revised exterior styling that reflects Infiniti’s new design language, including a new signature grille, headlights, turn signals and new wheel designs. The QX60 also received a power boost for 2017 with a 3.5-liter V6 engine that now produces 295 horsepower and 270 lb-ft of torque, mated to a continuously-variable transmission. Available with front or all-wheel drive, the QX60 can be equipped with the latest in high-tech safety features, including forward emergency braking with pedestrian detection.
Large Crossover 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 with a focus on interior volume, including seating for up to eight. Two new 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.
Premium Midsize Crossover — Nissan Murano
Nissan’s Murano is one of the more stylish crossovers on the market and has earned the top spot in the Premium Midsize Crossover segment for four years in a row. Murano carries the familiar 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 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 quite spacious inside.
Midsize Crossover SUV — Honda CR-V
All new for the 2017 model year, the Honda CR-V has been quite successful, earning its place as the best-selling model in the Honda lineup. The CR-V is available in a number of trim levels with front- or all-wheel drive. Two different engines are available: a 2.4-liter producing 184 horsepower or a direct-injected and turbocharged 1.5-liter motor that produces 190 horsepower. The CR-V can be configured with the latest safety technology, including lane-keep assist, blind-spot information system, cross-traffic alert, forward collision warning and automatic emergency braking.
Compact Crossover SUV — Toyota CH-R
The C-HR, or Coupe High-Rider, was introduced as a Scion before Toyota discontinued the youth-oriented brand. The front-wheel-drive compact crossover is powered by a 2.0-liter engine producing 144 horsepower and 140 lb-ft of torque teamed with a continuously-variable transmission with Sport Mode and a simulated 7-speed Sequential Shiftmatic. The C-HR is offered in XLE and XLE Premium trims, and comes with 18-inch alloy wheels, dual-zone climate control, bolstered bucket seats, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, a 7-inch audio display, an auto-dimming rearview mirror with backup camera, and Toyota Safety Sense P.
Minivan — Honda Odyssey (tie)
One of the most popular minivans on the market, the Odyssey is all new for the 2018 model year. With an expressive new exterior design, the updated Odyssey features the new “Magic Slide” second-row seat system that offers multiple seat configurations and third-row access options. The center second-row seat 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. A new CabinControl app enables smartphone control of key vehicle systems as well as audio and rear-seat entertainment features.
Minivan — Toyota Sienna (tie)
The Sienna gets a slight facelift for the 2018 model year and, more importantly, now has Toyota’s Safety Sense P suite of high-tech safety features as standard equipment. Sienna is powered by a 3.5-liter V6 engine that produces 296 horsepower and the only minivan on the market available with all-wheel drive. The minivan boasts several innovative features, including Driver Easy Speak, which uses the microphone from the voice-command multimedia system to broadcast to the audio system’s rear speakers. The conversation mirror in the overhead console lets drivers see all goings-on behind them, so they’ll know when they need to intervene. But chances are those backseat passengers won’t be causing trouble once they become captivated by the available Blu-ray entertainment system with its 16.4-inch display.