Total Quality Impact
When shopping for a new car — or any new product, for that matter — high quality is an important factor for consumers during their decision-making process. Research-based consulting company Strategic Vision wants to assist car shoppers with their big decision via its annual Total Quality Impact study, revealing the vehicles that rank highest in total quality. At Strategic Vision, total quality includes the car itself as well as the ownership and operating experiences. This year domestic brands bested their import competitors, earning top spots in 16 categories. Interestingly, new technology and innovations have significant influence on perceived quality. “We see time and again that, for consumers, innovation does more to communicate quality than an absence of problems does,” said Christopher Chaney, senior vice president at Strategic Vision. What follows are the top-ranked vehicles by segment in Strategic Vision’s 2016 TQI study.
Best Model Overall — Tesla Model S
Tesla’s high-performance electric sedan is certainly a unique offering on the market in both powertrain and technology. According to Strategic Vision’s Director of Marketing Karl Miller, “Even the way Tesla fixes problems often turns a product drawback into a benefit. To be able to fix problems and add features through a software download overnight instead of a trip to the dealer is a powerful tool.” The Model S offers a range of more than 250 miles as well as sports car-like acceleration.
Micro Car Segment — Fiat 500 Hatchback
Slightly more than 11 feet long, the Fiat 500 is one of the smallest cars on the road today. This little Italian model features an equally tiny 1.4-liter MultiAir 4-cylinder engine producing a mere 101 horsepower. Despite the meager power, fuel economy is very good with EPA ratings of 31 mpg city / 40 mpg highway with a 5-speed manual transmission. The 500 Pop is the entry-level version and comes with air-conditioning, a trip computer, remote-keyless entry, and a Uconnect AM/FM stereo with 6-speakers and Bluetooth streaming.
Small Car Segment — Toyota Corolla
According to Toyota, more than 40 million Corollas have been sold since its introduction, and it is the currently the best-selling compact car in America. For 2016 Corolla gets a number of updates, including the Entune Audio system that features a 6.1 in. touchscreen display, an AM/FM CD player, six speakers, an auxiliary audio jack, a USB 2.0 port with iPod connectivity and control, advanced voice recognition, hands-free phone capability, phone book access, music streaming via Bluetooth and Siri Eyes Free.
Small Multi-Function Car Segment — Mazda3 Hatchback
Although Mazda no longer uses its “Zoom-Zoom” tagline as extensively as it once did, if you’ve ever driven a Mazda you know why that tag still fits. Available as either a 4-door sedan or hatchback, the Mazda3 offers a versatile interior in a stylish design that fits nicely within the Mazda lineup. The best part is the driving experience; the Mazda3 makes every drive feel sporting — even the daily commute. The base Mazda3 sports a SKYACTIV-G 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine producing 155 horsepower while delivering EPA fuel-economy ratings of 29 mpg city / 41 mpg highway.
Small APT Car Segment — Ford C-MAX Energi
Ford’s C-MAX looks somewhat like a cross between a minivan and a crossover, so its high-roof design and fold-flat second-row seating offer a lot of versatility. The alternative powertrain of the C-MAX Energi is a 188-horsepower gas-electric hybrid system delivering a combined 38 mpg. However, the Energi can also be plugged in, and with a full charge can travel almost 20 miles on electric only with a combined 88 MPGe. To further improve fuel economy, Ford has added technology to help drivers be more efficient. A SmartGauge with EcoGuide shows operators how their actions affect fuel efficiency. Additionally, the Brake Coach feature helps drivers brake properly to fully optimize the regenerative braking system. Efficient braking gets rewarded with green leaves accumulating in the driver display.
Mid-Size Car Segment — Subaru WRX
Offering great fun in a small package, this compact sedan comes with Subaru’s legendary all-wheel drive and a turbocharged 268-horsepower engine under that big hood scoop. In addition to AWD, the WRX features Active Torque Vectoring and sport suspension, which make this rally-bred car even more agile on twisty roads. The base WRX is well equipped with sport seats, HD radio, Bluetooth streaming audio and a rearview camera. Spend a bit more to get into the Limited with leather-trimmed power seats, keyless start and a touchscreen navigation system.
Mid-Size APT Car Segment — Chevrolet Volt
Many consumers say they would like to have an electric car; however, an EV’s limited range can often be a deal breaker. The alternative powertrain of the Chevrolet Volt eliminates range anxiety while still providing the benefits of an electric car. Updated for 2017, the new Volt can travel more than 50 miles on electricity alone, and can be recharged on a 240-volt fast charger in just 4.5 hours. But a trip of more than 50 miles is not a problem for the Volt. An onboard gas-powered generator keeps the batteries charged and the electric motor moving for a total range of more than 400 miles. The Volt is rated at 106 MPGe when running on electricity alone, and 42 mpg when the generator is running.
Full-Size Car Segment — Nissan Maxima
At one time Nissan dubbed Maxima the “4-Door Sports Car,” and the brand is hoping to bring back this nickname with the all-new 2016 Maxima. Incorporating fresh styling that closely ties in with the rest of the Nissan lineup, Maxima is available in a number of 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.
Near-Luxury Car Segment — Mercedes CLA-Class
Now in its third year on the U.S. market, CLA-Class is positioned as the entry-level option below the top-selling C-Class. With front-wheel drive or available 4MATIC all-wheel drive, the CLA250 is powered by a turbocharged 2.0-liter engine that produces 208 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque. The high-performance AMG CLA45 4MATIC gets power from a turbocharged 2.0-liter engine that produces 375 horsepower and 350 lb-ft of torque.
Near-Luxury APT Car Segment — Lincoln MKZ Hybrid
With EPA ratings of 41 mpg city / 39 mpg highway / 40 mpg combined, the Lincoln MKZ Hybrid is one of the most fuel-efficient luxury cars on the market. The alternative powertrain consists of a 2.0-liter gas engine teamed with a 70-kilowatt electric motor to produce 188 horsepower. One neat trick — the MKZ Hybrid can cruise as fast as 85 mph on electric power only. As expected from the luxury brand, the MKZ Hybrid is available with numerous amenities, including SYNC with MyLincoln Touch featuring an 8-inch touchscreen, heated front seats, class-exclusive LED headlamps and Lincoln Drive Control. Look for an all-new 2017 MKZ Hybrid arriving in showrooms soon.
Luxury Car Segment — Jaguar XJ
The Jaguar XJ often gets overlooked by shoppers looking at large luxury sedans, but it is certainly worthy of consideration. The elegant flagship of the Jaguar line features an aluminum-intensive structure that makes the big sedan lighter yet stronger, providing better handling as well as a comfortable, quiet ride. Available in standard or extended wheelbase, the XJ is powered by a lineup of supercharged engines ranging from a 340-horsepower V6 to a 550-horsepower V8 in the top-level XJR.
Luxury Multi-Function Car Segment — BMW 3-Series Gran Turismo
BMW added an all-new bodystyle to the 3 Series lineup for the 2014 model year — the 3 Series Gran Turismo. Not quite a wagon or a sedan, the Gran Turismo offers coupe-like styling in a 4-door hatchback. With excellent driving dynamics expected of a BMW, the Gran Turismo also provides a spacious cargo area. Available as a 328i with a 240-horsepower engine or the top-level 335i with its 300-horse powerplant, the Gran Turismo comes with BMW’s xDrive all-wheel drive system as standard equipment.
Specialty Coupe Segment — Dodge Challenger
The Dodge Charger and Challenger are both icons of the muscle-car era, and it’s great to see the brand continuing the tradition with modern versions of these two classics. 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 in a number of torque-producing versions, but the most talked-about variant is the Challenger Hellcat. The Hellcat has the first production use of a supercharger on a HEMI V8, resulting in a massive 707 horsepower that brings 60 mph up 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.
Premium Coupe Segment — Chevrolet Corvette Coupe
Ever since its introduction in 1953, the Corvette has been the flagship sports car of the Chevrolet brand. The current model is the seventh generation and arguably the best version ever. In addition to the considerably-improved interior, the current ‘Vette’s updated styling and impressive performance put it in company with some of the best sports cars on the market. All Corvettes offer impressive V8 power, including the most powerful production Corvette ever: the Z06. Its supercharged 6.2-liter V8 powerplant puts out 650 horses and 650 lb-ft of torque, making it the most powerful GM production vehicle ever made.
Standard Convertible Segment — Ford Mustang Convertible
The latest-generation Mustang debuted for 2015, including a new convertible with a lower, wider stance; a lower roof height; wider rear fenders and a wider track. The convertible features a multilayer insulated top that lowers twice as fast as the previous model and has a sleeker profile when folded. This fun-to-drive drop-top is offered with three different engine choices, ranging from a turbocharged EcoBoost four cylinder to a 435-horsepower V8 in the Mustang GT.
Premium Convertible / Roadster Segment — Chevrolet Corvette Convertible
The seventh-generation Corvette Stingray Convertible debuted as a 2014 model, bringing back the Stingray name. The Corvette Stingray is powered by an LT1 small-block 6.2-liter V8 engine producing 455 horsepower and 460 lb-ft of torque. When combined with a new 7-speed manual transmission with Active Rev Match technology, the Corvette Stingray achieves EPA-estimated fuel economy of 17 mpg city / 29 mpg highway. The extreme-performance Z06 is also available as a convertible, powered by a 650-horsepower supercharged 6.2-liter V8 engine. A new 8-speed paddle-shift automatic transmission is available for all models including the Z06, and is designed to improve both performance and efficiency.
Standard Pickup Segment — GMC Canyon
The twin sibling of the Chevrolet Colorado, Canyon features the bold GMC grille and slight variations in packaging. Canyon is available in three configurations: extended cab, crew cab, or crew cab with a long bed. With the tailgate down, the longer bed can handle 8-foot-long items without any overhang. The Canyon is also available with an optional 2.8-liter Duramax diesel that — in addition to delivering impressive fuel economy — lets the midsize truck tow up to 7,700 pounds with 2-wheel drive. Other available features include a large color touchscreen display, a rearview camera, heated front seats and 4G LTE connectivity with a built-in Wi-Fi hotspot.
Full-Size Pickup Segment — Ford F-150
The Ford F-Series pickup truck has worn the sales crown as best-selling vehicle in America for more than 30 years. Redesigned in 2015, the F-150 features an aluminum alloy body atop a steel frame, which reduces weight by 700 pounds. This — combined with a new 2.7-liter EcoBoost V6 engine — gives the F-150 best-in-class EPA fuel economy ratings for gas-powered light-duty trucks. The F-150 provides plenty of capability as well; when properly equipped it can tow up to 12,000 pounds.
Heavy Duty Pickup Segment — GMC Sierra 2500 / 3500
GMC’s heavy-duty pickup truck received a fresh look for 2015 with bold exterior styling. The interior was 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.
Entry SUV Segment — Jeep Wrangler Unlimited
There really isn’t anything else on the road quite like the Jeep Wrangler. The body-on-frame SUV is one of the most capable off-road vehicles around. Wrangler continues to be available with a front and rear 5-link suspension system, live axles, electronic lockers, and a 6-speed manual transmission. For the ultimate outdoor experience, the Wrangler’s roof and doors can be removed — even the windshield can be folded down for that full-on bugs-in-your-teeth experience.
Entry CUV Segment — Subaru XV Crosstrek
A few years ago Subaru made a brilliant move by taking its compact Impreza platform and with a few alterations converting it into the very popular XV Crosstrek. For 2016 Subaru drops XV from the name, and the front-end styling gets updated with a new black grille and chrome accents, new headlights, a new front bumper and fog light covers with chrome trim. The spritely small crossover has a 148-horsepower 2.0-liter 4-cylinder BOXER engine combined with either a 5-speed manual transmission or an available Lineartronic CVT. With 8.7 inches of ground clearance and full-time all-wheel drive, the capable Crosstrek delivers impressive fuel economy of 29 mpg combined.
Mid-Size SUV Segment — Jeep Grand Cherokee
The Jeep brand is synonymous with off-roading, and this 5-passenger SUV has been offering great 4-wheel-drive capability since it was introduced back in 1993. The current Grand Cherokee is uniquely available with a 3.0-liter EcoDiesel V6 engine that delivers up to 28 mpg and has a towing capacity of more than 7,000 pounds. With lots of torque available at low rpm, the Grand Cherokee has plenty of power for on-road as well as off-road activities. The available 75th Anniversary package adds a stylish interior, a number of extra features as well as special 20-inch wheels.
Mid-Size CUV Segment — Kia Sorento
Kia’s 7-passenger crossover receives a complete redesign for the 2016 model year. In addition to updated styling that fits in with the rest of the Kia lineup, the Sorento has a roomier interior as well as a number of new features, including the latest version of Kia’s UVO entertainment and communication interface offering services such as Geo Fencing, Speed Alert and Curfew Alert. Available with front- or all-wheel drive, Sorento comes in a number of trims with three engine options, including a powerful 290-horsepower V6.
Full-Size Utility Segment — Chevrolet Tahoe (tie)
There aren’t many vehicles on the road that can compete with the Chevrolet Tahoe. With seating for up to nine occupants, plenty of cargo capacity, the ability to tow more than 8,000 pounds, and 9 inches of ground clearance for off-road adventures, the Yukon is one of the most capable SUVs on the road. Available with 2WD or 4WD, Tahoe can also be equipped with a suite of safety features as well as 4G LTE connectivity with a Wi-Fi hotspot, wireless phone charging, power-folding second- and third-row seats, an 8-inch color touchscreen and multiple USB ports.
Full-Size Utility Segment — Toyota Sequoia (tie)
The Toyota Sequoia is more than simply a large 8-passenger SUV — it is also a fully capable off-roader. Employing a 381-horsepower V8 engine for optimum towing power, Sequoia is 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. Passengers will have plenty of room with either the standard 8-passenger seating or the optional 7-passenger setup with second-row captain’s chairs.
Near-Luxury Utility Segment — BMW X4
Underscoring the idea that there should be a product for every want and need, BMW has further sliced and diced its lineup to introduce the X4. With styling similar to the X6, the X4 features a coupe-like silhouette yet has four doors and the ground clearance of an SUV. All X4s feature BMW’s xDrive all-wheel-drive system as well as an 8-speed automatic transmission. X4 is available with a choice of engines, including the TwinPower Turbo 6-cylinder unit putting out 355 horsepower. Other features include 8-way power front seats, split-folding rear seats, a power glass moonroof and a premium 9-speaker 205-watt audio system.
Luxury SUV Segment — Cadillac Escalade
The best-selling full-size luxury SUV in America, the Cadillac Escalade actually outsells all Cadillac car models. Over time Escalade has carved out a unique position as a signature luxury SUV, building on its bold styling with a smart redesign for 2015. The current generation features a large highly-detailed chrome grille and signature full-length LED taillights. Premium materials and tasteful ambient lighting make the interior feel luxurious and comfortable. Escalade also comes equipped with OnStar with 4G LTE connectivity, as well as being a Wi-Fi hotspot.
Luxury CUV Segment — BMW X6 (tie)
BMW calls the X6 a Sports Activity Coupe and it’s somewhat unique in the marketplace, since it offers the capability expected of a premium crossover but with sportier looks thanks to its coupe-like profile. Available with luxury features such as 20-way seats covered in soft Nappa leather, Fineline Pure wood trim and a high-end Harmon Kardon audio system, the X6 also boasts some powerful engine options, including a 445-horsepower 4.4-liter V8.
Luxury CUV Segment — Porsche Macan (tie)
The fifth vehicle in the current Porsche lineup, Macan was 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 S, GTS or Turbo trims — the latter equipped with a 400-horsepower V6 engine capable of pushing this small SUV to 60 mph in a mere 4.4 seconds.
Minivan Segment — Kia Sedona (tie)
An entirely new Sedona minivan arrived last year, incorporating 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.
Minivan Segment — Toyota Sienna (tie)
As one of the top-selling minivans on the U.S. market, Sienna comes well equipped with features such as 3-zone climate control and Toyota’s Entune audio system with applications including Yelp, iHeartRadio, OpenTable and Pandora. Although other minivans have offered all-wheel drive over the years, Sienna is currently the only AWD minivan on the market — perhaps making it even more appealing to those who desire a crossover.