TheWeeklyDriver.com presents its 11th annual best cars of the year list. For the past two years, we selected 12 vehicles instead of 10 because we couldn’t decide what cars to leave off the lists. The selection was more clear-cut this year, so we’ve again chosen 10 vehicles.
Volvo is the only manufacturer with two vehicles on the 2017 best cars list. Bentley, Genesis, Honda, Kia, Lincoln, Mazda, Volkswagen and Toyota are also represented.
As editor and publisher of TheWeeklyDriver.com since 2004, I reviewed 38 cars and trucks in 2017 model years for at least a week. Most of the vehicles I drove in the calendar year; some 2017 models in 2016. I also drove at least a half-dozen other vehicles briefly at manufacturer preview days.
As in past years, TheWeeklyDriver.com believes it’s good to have a year of perspective before determining the year’s best cars.
Criteria for TheWeeklyDriver.com’s best cars list is simple. It’s the combination of comfort, fuel efficiency, safety, value and versatility. We only choose cars or trucks we’ve driven.
Like in previous years, I had the opportunity this year to drive a few cars on extended trips. In May, I covered the Tour of California bicycle race for the 12th straight year. A 2017 Toyota Prius Prime was my companion.
The 11-day trip covered exactly 1,600 miles, and I averaged 56.1 miles per gallon. The trip required slightly more than 28 gallons of unleaded 87 octane fuel. I drove high into the San Gabriel Mountains and on the harried Southern California freeway maze. The JBL navigation system was a welcomed, comforting friend.
I often drove with the air conditioner on, periodically on cruise control and often on freeways with the flow of traffic exceeding the speed limit by at least five miles per hour. Fuel cost for the trip, with two fill-ups at slightly more than $3 per gallon and one fill-up at $2.88 per gallon, was just under $90. The Prius Prime is the most fuel-efficient vehicle I’ve driven.
In late November, I drove round-trip from Sacramento to Los Angeles to the LA Auto Show in a 2017 Volvo V90 Cross Country. The estate wagon defines the longstanding Volvo reputation. It’s as solid and well-built as any manufacturers’ vehicles. The V90 exterior is sleek and handsome. It redefines any stereotype of what once was called a station wagon.
The drive totaled about 850 miles, mostly on straight, flat stretches along Interstate 5. The Volvo V90 has an EPA highway rating of 30 miles per gallon. I averaged 28.9 miles per gallon, often while advancing on cruise control and at speeds exceeding the posted 70 miles per hour limit by at least five miles per hour. (The flow of traffic often approaches 80 miles per hour on Interstate 5.)
Late last year, I had opportunity two twice review 2017 Bentley models. The handmade British vehicles are outrageously stunning examples of automotive art. In addition to the Mulsanne sedan, I reviewed the 2017 Bentayga. Until the recent announcement of the new Lamborgini Urus, the Bentayga was the fastest SUV ever made. It’s also everything Bentley represents — elegance, power, comfort, luxury and superior driving.
Here’s a synopsis of the 2017 Best Cars of the year in alphabetical order and their prices as tested. I’ve also linked to the reviews of the individual vehicles on my website. I’ve also listed our yearly best cars seledctions vehicles for the past 11 years.
And don’t forget to visit the podcast at the top of the page.
It’s a 600-horsepower, SUV for celebrity soccer moms with an appreciation for racetrack driving and variable front and back seat massage capabilities in their vehicles. Or, it’s the appropriate vehicle for car fanciers with money to spare and who’ve grown tired of every other SUV on the road looking identical.
The Bentayga has a top speed of 187 mph and gets the rating via its six-liter W12 engine. It’s matched wih an eight-speed automatic transmission with a manual driving mode. It accelerates from 0-60 mph in four seconds, quick enough to appease performance-obsessed drivers. Equally impressive, the Bentayga glides down the road as a quiet heavyweight. It’s a high-sitting luxury sedan with SUV tendencies.
It’s hard to imagine a new luxury sedan infiltrating a market stocked with iconic, well-established customer favorites. But if any car can do it, it’s the Genesis. The new spinoff from Hyundai works well at a price $25,000 less than the leaders of the pack.
If there are any doomsayers left who doubt the quality of the brand, think again. This is a new luxury vehicle worthy of your attention.
The Honda CR-V has ideally defined the Japanese manufacturer’s reputation for 23 years. It makes vehicles with a rare combination of style, efficiency, practicality and versatility.
The 2017 Honda CR-V, the start of its fifth generations, has new interior and exterior designs. New safety features abound, and the CR-V is larger inside and outside. Its description as a compact SUV is questionable with its expanded spaciousness.
The new sub-compact hybrid SUV looks more like a streamlined wagon. It’s not the most powerful SUV, but it performs well enough to earn to the loose translation of its name — strength
Built with lightweight metals, most of the Niro’s trim levels achieve 46 miles per gallon in city driving, 40 miles per gallon on the freeway. It’s new, efficient and attractive. What’s not to like?
The MKZ hybrid was introduced in 2011 as part of the manufacturer’s first entry into alternative engines. Its price matches its gas sibling’s cost, a first in the industry.
Refreshed for 2017 with a new front grille and a sleeker body, the Lincolns has a fuel range of 560 miles. The combined freeway and city driving estimate of 40 miles per gallon average is the segment’s best.
Strong gas mileage to ride comfort and design to handling, the 2017 Mazda3 is hard to beat in the compact segment. It has a six-speed manual transmission which adds to the compact’s zippy personality.
The Mazda isn’t quick, but it has 184 horsepower, it maneuvers with authority, it’s beautifully designed and it’s rguably more sports car-like than any other compact.
While not a luxury vehicle, the Passat is influenced by some of its higher-priced German counterparts. The cabin materials, including well-matched dark plastic trim, are straight-forward and handsome. The navigation system is adequate, but several competitors have larger and higher resolution screens.
Volkswagen exterior designs also define efficiency and simplicity. The lack of sharp edges or odd swooping roofline or other attention-grabbing styling makes the Passat more attractive. It’s like a blue blazer — simultaneously casual, stylish and versatile.
Imagine a Swedish-built sedan trying to infiltrate the luxury market dominated by BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Audi. Welcome the 2017 Volvo S90, the Swedish manufacturer’s new flagship sedan.
Slightly wider and longer, the Volvo S90’s sleek exterior design features dispose of the carmaker’s past reputation. It’s sturdy, yes. But its no longer stodgy and only at its best in Scandinavian winters. The T6 trim has 316 horsepower while utilizing the turbocharger and supercharger, an eight-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive. It’s a luxury vehicle that doesn’t get enough recognition.
VOLVO V90 CROSS COUNTRY ($64,640)
The auto industry doesn’t use the words station wagon anymore. This vehicle is among the best reasons why. I drove it recently from Sacramento to Los Angeles round-trip, about 850 miles. It defines Volvo, solid and steady.
Its handling is superior, the ride quiet. Its EPA estimate is 30 miles per gallon in freeway driving. I averaged 28.9 mpg while advancing at least five mph above the posted speed limit and in the flow of traffic. That all-wheel-drive wagon is spacious, accelerates well an ideally defines an updated term “estate wagon.”
Beyond its fuel efficiency, the top-line Prius Prime is comfortable sedan with signature Prius features. The rear view was obstructed by the hatchback design. The short shift knob was unique and fun to use. The ride was quiet except for some high-speed rear seat wind rush.
Not many hybrids have changed mainstream car buyers’ habits. The Toyota Prius Prime should.
Bentley Bentayga, Genesis G90, Honda CR-V, Kia Niro, Lincoln MKZ (Hybrid), Mazda3, Volvo S90, Volvo V90 Cross Country, Volkswagen Jetta, Toyota Prius Prime.
Honda Accord (Sport), Honda Civic, Honda Fit, Honda Odyssey, Kia Optima, Lexus IS200t, Lexus RC F, Lincoln MKX, Mazda6, Scion iA, Toyota Avalon (Hybrid), Toyota Sienna.
Buick Lacrosse, Chrysler 200, Ford F150, Ford Mustang, Honda Accord (Hybrid), Honda Civic, Hyundai Genesis, Hyundai Sonata, Kia K-900, Lexus ES350, Subaru Outback, Toyota Camry (Hybrid).
Chevrolet Impala, Chevrolet SS, Ford Focus, Ford Fusion (Hybrid), Honda Accord, Honda Accord (Hybrid), Honda Odyssey, Hyundai Equus, Kia Cadenza, Volkswagen Jetta, TDI. Special Mention: Rolls Royce Wraith.
Acura ILX, Audi Allroad, BMW 750 Li, Ford Fusion, Honda Accord, Honda Odyssey, Hyundai Santa Fe, Infiniti IPL, Mazda3, Volkswagen Beetle.
Acura MDX, Acura TSX, Audi A7, Honda Odyssey, Honda Civic (Natural Gas), Hyundai Sonata, Infiniti G37 IPL, Kia Optima Hybrid, Lexus ES350, Nissan Maxima.
Acura TSX, Buick Regal, Hyundai Elantra, Hyundai Sonata, Kia Optima, Mazda 2, Suzuki Kizashi, Toyota Avalon, Toyota Sienna, Volvo S60.
Audi A5, Chevrolet Camaro, Fort Transit Connect, Honda Crosstour, Infiniti G37, Lexus LS 460, Mini Mayfair (Special Edition), Subaru Forester, Suzuki SX4, Volkswagen Golf.
Acura TSX, Audi A3, BMW 335d, Honda Civic (Hybrid), Honda Fit, Infiniti G37, Lexus GS450h, Lexus IS350, Nissan Versa, Toyota Corolla.
Audi A4, Audi A8 W12, BMW 128i, Cadillac CTS, Honda Accord, Honda Civic (Hybrid), Honda Fit, Kia Amanti, Mini-Cooper Clubman, Nissan Altima.
Cadillac CTS, Honda CR-V, Honda Fit, Honda Ridgeline, Hyundai Elantra, Lincoln MKZ, Mini-Cooper, Saab 9-3, Saturn Aura, Volkswagen EOS.