These Are The 11 Best Cars Of 2016
With more than 500 cars to choose from, it is almost too much to bear.
Collectively speaking, the staffers here at The Drive drove around 500 cars in 2016. That's about 50 cars per person, give or take, and many hundreds of thousands of road miles driven. You want to know which ones we liked the best? Of course you do.
Lawrence Ulrich, Chief Auto Critic
2016 Porsche Cayman GT4
Since Porsche introduced its curve-licking Cayman in 2006, I’ve been cast in the role of defense attorney. It’s hard to believe today, with the Cayman GT4 soaring to a new apogee, but many Porsche traditionalists—you know, assholes in aftershave—dismissed this Boxster-based coupe as a wannabe. The Cayman, they sniffed, could not and should not be mentioned in the same breath as the holy 911. Never mind that the two-seat Cayman was smaller and lighter than the 911, with a superior mid-engine layout and no back seat to hold a spoiled, drooling Pekingese. Also, no convertible variant (Boxster being a separate nameplate), no 4WD option, and—from my vantage point—fewer Wall Street poseurs behind the wheel.
Remind me, I would ask, which one is the purer sports car: the minimalist two-seater and descendant of the 550 Spyder Coupe; or a two-plus-two GT swaddled in Alcantara and laden with $30,000 in options? Ah, but the Cayman’s prosecutors would point to a power discrepancy as Exhibit A, especially a base model demurely powered by a 2.7-liter six.
The Cayman GT4 seems to have shut a lot of yaps, thanks in part to the 385-horsepower, 3.8-liter boxer six situated near its solar plexus, courtesy of the 911. The GT4 only underlined its greatness in March at Thunderhill Raceway Park in California, where the roughly $100,000 Porsche proved a standout among 17 cars gathered by The Drive—including such smoking metal as the Dodge Viper ACR, Corvette Z06, Shelby GT350 and Jaguar F-Type R.
With suspension genius from the mighty GT3, the industry’s best electric steering, and the six-speed manual transmission that the GT3 itself denies to loyalists, the GT4 is the Porsche I would buy with my own money.
Mike Guy, Editor
2018 Mercedes AMG E63 S
Like a delicious steam table at the most schickste buffet in the world, Mercedes-Benz is serving up a stunning 54 different model variants in 2017 in the United States. That's a lot of German sheetmetal. Among them: the AMG GT S, the iconic/bionic G-Wagen, the GLC (a rare crossover that's surprisingly not-at-all terrible) and the lil' bro Mercedes AMG C63 S, which I slobbered over for two days in Pebble Beach. But none captured my heart quite like the 2017 Mercedes AMG E63 S. Packed with AMG's fantastic new 4.0L twin-turbo V8, the same one in the aforementioned AMG GT and C63, this is a midsize dentistmobile that doesn't coddle quietly or beckon with suburban subtlety. It is instead a visual feast of understated menace: it bulges in places, it ripples in others, it twitches and shifts and makes hellish sounds if you ask it to. It even has a Drift mode.
At $102,000, this is a car that you can hide in if you want to (and who doesn't sometimes?), but it if you're feeling sinister, you can use it terrify your neighbors and force them to flee. But they can’t escape! Why? Because the E63 S has so much goddamn straightline speed. The right toe points to 603 horsepower and 627 lb.-ft. of torque and move the sedan from 0 to 60 in 3.3 seconds— those are supercar numbers, bubba. Daily-drive that, Dr. De Soto.
Mike Spinelli, Executive Producer
2017 Porsche 911 Turbo S
Over a lifetime of technological advancement, the Porsche 911 Turbo has evolved from a loose cannon and surgeon maimer back in the 1970s to a predictable autobahn rocket by the 2000s. Now the Turbo is entering its third wave, delivering both visceral thrills and undeniable confidence. To an amateur driver, it has never been easier to drive like a superhuman.
Josh Condon, Deputy Editor
2016 Mercedes-AMG S63 Cabriolet
I’m a hard sell when it comes to convertibles, which seem like the quickest way to make a perfectly good car uglier and worse performing, and also encourages interaction with random people, which is lower on my to-do list than elective hernia surgery. Then I met the 2017 Mercedes-AMG S63 Cabriolet. I’m an easy sell when it comes to the S-Class, and the AMG version adds stonking, bullet-train speed to one of the most upscale, relaxing, and truly luxurious automotive experiences on the market. The S63 pulls off a lot of neat tricks: it’s a big, heavy car that handles like a smaller, lighter one; and its tech-y gimmicks—like the AIRSCARF neck-warmer, color-changing ambient lighting, and in-cabin perfume atomizer—quickly morph into necessities. But maybe the hardest trick of all is that it's a car that's as sexy with the top down as with the top up—a near impossibility in any vehicle with as much in-your-face design mojo as the S-Class. And while I can’t say I’m any more comfortable letting strangers peer into my personal commuting space, it does offer a daytime view of the sun; when you’re enveloped in the kind of wire-to-wire VIP treatment this car excels at, it’s nice to look up and think, “Yes, I'm going to own you one day.” Goals are important.
Will Sabel Courtney, Senior Editor
Ferrari 488 Spider
Yeah, I know—choosing a Ferrari as your favorite car is like saying donuts are delicious. But you know what? The 488 is so damn delicious, it’s worth the risk of being obvious.
See, there are plenty of supercars out there that pack so much performance they seem to bend the laws of physics. But what sets the Ferrari apart is that it’s still fun when you’re not traveling at warp speed. The steering sparkles at any velocity, the brakes can be taut or supple, and the suspension is an ideal balance between a comfortable ride and (very) aggressive handling. Even the pounding, high-strung V8 at the heart of the car remains a delight down in the 2,000 to 3,000 rpm range, potent enough to zip through any hole in traffic while purring seductively.
And of course, when the roads clear or the track opens up, the 488 kicks ass like Roddy Piper when he’s all out of bubblegum. The engine howls like a a scalded banshee when the needle sweeps up towards the redline, and the car rips through turns at speeds that would make a Shinkansen jealous. Even the turbos the motoring world thought might ruin this rev-happy sports car prove a boon; the engine’s noise may be the slightest bit muted compared with the old 458, but the added power more than makes up for it.
Supercars have become so fast that few roads can contain them. The Ferrari stands apart because you don’t need to let it rip in order to have a blast.
Alex Roy, Editor-at-Large
2017 Tesla Model S P100D Ludicrous
I want to say the Chevy Bolt, or the Porsche Panamera, or the Mercedes AMG-GT, but it’s got to be the Tesla Model S, in any configuration. How could it be otherwise? For three years it’s been the car that changed an industry that still hasn’t caught up. Why? The competition remains stuck in R&D. The mighty 2017 Mercedes E-class? Its technology paled in comparison. Face it, every electric car coming out in 2018 is benchmarked against what Tesla offers today. I got 245 miles out of a 60D last month, and 330 miles out of the P100D I drove last week. The 100D does 0-60 in a stupefying (and irrelevant) 2.5 seconds. Christian von Koenigsegg drives one. So does Kyle Vogt of GM/Cruise Automation. Some say that Koenigsegg guy knows a thing or two about cars, and that Kyle Vogt guy? He sold his autonomous driving company to GM for $1B. These are not coincidences. Virtually every automotive startup in the world employs someone who came out of Tesla. That gorgeous Lucid Motors Air? It’s pretty much a super Model S. The Tesla’s interior is my only caveat, but who cares? Between the charging network, wireless updates and the state-of-the-art semi-autonomous Autopilot suite, the future is here, and has been since its 2012 debut. You’re going to spend $150,000 for the full kitty, but, as CvG points out, “so much technology, a terrific value.”
Benjamin Preston, Contributing Editor
2016 Dodge Challenger Hellcat
Modern cars—whether European sport-luxo status sleighs or plasticky commuter cars—are all so good. There are Ferraris and McLarens that will quicken your breathing, Mercedes-Benzes that will insulate you from all the bad things in the world, and Hyundais and Kias that offer affordable comfort and decent fuel economy. It's difficult to pick just one. But then the Dodge Challenger Hellcat slapped me in the face like no other car. It was right after I'd spent a weekend driving a very exciting manual transmission-optioned Cadillac ATS-V sedan. The Cadillac was a lovely car, and had convinced me—albeit haltingly, as I still haven't fully accepted the V6's usurpation of the V8's throne—that I'd found this year's one.
But fetching as the ATS-V was, it was instantly obliterated (in my consciousness, that is) when a guy from the office threw me the keys to the Hellcat. I'm not sure the rear wheels ever stopped spinning during the brief time I drove it, but that's why I liked it so much. It was less of a car than it was an event. After mashing the loud pedal to the floor and pulling off a nearly never-ending burnout, I stepped out of the car and paced off the rubber stains it had left on the pavement. One-hundred-twenty-five feet. What's not to love about that?
Neal Pollack, The Unenthusiast
My ideal car, or at least the one I deserve, would be some piece of electric junk that picks me up at the old age home and then dumps me unceremoniously on the soylent green pile. But that future is at least a decade-and-a-half away. Unlike my Drive colleagues, continually getting handies from Porsche and Tesla and Volvo, I drive a series of cars called “whatever is available in Texas.” Let’s look at the list: A pretty nice assortment of BMWs and Audis, an Escalade, something called a “Buick Cascada” that has been blocked from memory, a ludicrous Range Rover Sport Autobiography Edition, the hideous “Beetle Dune Convertible,” which VW was trying to sell auto journos last year’s iPad, a Wrangler Hard Rock, which would have been fun if it hadn’t rained all week, a Chrysler Pacifica minivan, and various other mid-tier automotive effluvia.
I did go on a nice press trip for the Rolls Royce Dawn convertible, which would definitely be my favorite car if I were Prince Harry or a Russian oligarch, but all in all my choice for Car Of The Year is the BMW 340i, even though the 3-series is at least three years past its sell-by date. Someday, an electric solar-powered 3-series, with me in the steering-wheel-free captain’s seat, will cruise me through the gates of hell. Until that day, I will remain unenthusiastic.
Chris Cantle, West Coast Editor
Jeep Grand Cherokee Trailhawk
Jeep’s Grand Cherokee Trailhawk got it just right. The off-road oriented trim package might not endow the venerable Grand Cherokee with the technical scrambling skills of it’s Wrangler Rubicon stable-mate, or the ground-pounding performance of Ford’s new Raptor, but the clever tweaks of the Trailhawk package—especially the skid plates and off-road tuned suspension—mean the comfortable and family friendly Grand Cherokee does an even better job of living up to its Jeep heritage. And the Trailhawk won’t break the bank. Starting at $43,095, it’s priced right in the middle of the Grand Cherokee lineup, making this Jeep one of the better surprises of 2016.
Max Prince, Contributing Editor
Suzuki GSX-R 1000
The best car I drove this year? Strictly speaking, it wasn’t a car, and I wasn’t driving. It was an AMA race-spec Suzuki GSX-R 1000 superbike. I was hanging off the back.
You can read the full story, but here’s the gist: Before this year, I’d never been on anything with two wheels and an engine. The Drive’s west coast editor, Chris Cantle, decided to right that longstanding wrong, and sent me for a two-up ride with a professional motorcycle racer at New Jersey Motorsport Park. Full leathers, wheelies at a buck thirty, a proper baptism. When I received the assignment, it was inside an email thread titled “RE: Max Goes Pants-Shitting.”
But then something funny happened. Instead of getting turned outside out, I got turned on to a new thing. Within six weeks of climbing on that idiot machine, I’d sold both my cars, got a motorcycle permit, and bought an idiot machine of my own. New answers to old questions, the chance to rub shoulders with death, and a whole different kind of mechanical affair. I’m not sure it gets much better than that.
Strictly speaking? Well, the Rolls-Royce Dawn is pretty great, too.
Christian Gilbertsen, Native Editor
2016 Volvo V60 Polestar
I didn’t understand the juvenile joy of a sleeper car until I spent a weekend with the Volvo V60 Polestar. Cloaked underneath the unassuming sheet metal guise of a wagon is a true performance chassis, with stiff Öhlins dampers, 20” wheels shod in Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires, and a silky smooth turbocharged inline-six sending power through a six-speed automatic to all wheels. Its flaws are obvious—the painfully outdated infotainment system, the at-times sluggish gearbox, and the weight, to name a few—but they seem to fade away when you knock it into sport mode and hear the yowl of the inline-six fire out the twin exhaust pipes in the back. Plus, I keep doing this thing where I misinterpret a car’s flaws and consider them as charm instead of what they really are. With that criterion, then, the V60 Polestar oozes with the stuff. It also never, ever got old to fly under the radar, then surprise folks around me with the frankly rude exhaust note (in a Volvo!) For these reasons, it’s got to be the V60 Polestar for me; nothing else new I drove this year came close to it. Its split personality, immense charm, and serious performance has made even this juvenile love a brand I once deemed uncool and stodgy.