2015 TopSpeed Awards - Robert’s Picks
With 2015 coming to an end, it’s time for us look back over the year and evaluate the year as a whole. This year, we’ve decided to pick out the best cars available in 2015 from three different segments and crown them as such. Our criteria for selection was strict, but not so strict that we couldn’t have fun with our nominees.
With a year like 2015, it is hard to label out just a few cars, so I’ve picked five cars, trucks, and performance beasts to nominate as the best cars of 2015. The rest of the staff here at TopSpeed has done the same, and we’re excited to tally up the results. The winners will be crowned on January 4th, 2016, but until then, make sure to check out everybody’s picks for car of the year.
What’s your input on car of the year? Hit us up on our Facebook page, or drop a comment below to let me know what you think of my choices, or what you think is the absolute best car of 2015. Remember, only cars available this year count. Happy New Year!
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Car of the Year
The Model S has been around for a few years now, but we didn’t see the P85D variant until the 2015 model year. As built from the factory, it has a range of 253 miles, hits 60 mph in just 3.1 seconds (or 2.8 seconds with the Ludicrous Speed Upgrade), and has a top speed of 155 mph. In all-wheel drive, the front and rear motors put out a combined 691 horsepower and 687 pound-feet of torque. So why did I choose it as a pick for car of the year? Mainly because with the upgrade to all-wheel drive in 2015, and the addition of Tesla’s autopilot software, the Model S continues to lead the all-electric market. So far, its range has been untouched and, if its advancement in 2015 is any indication of things to come, the coming years will bring so much more from Tesla. The P85D starts out at $115,500, but when equipped for max performance – including options like Ludicrous mode – the starting price jumps up to $128,000. Of course, that is before a federal tax credit of $7,500, and state tax credit and Tesla’s estimated gas savings of $8,000.
The Cadillac ATS-V took the market by storm back in 2012, and it has been a great example of an American sports sedan. The ATS-V made it onto my list of nominees because of the exquisite update for the 2016 model year. For 2016, Cadillac’s engineers pulled out all of the stops when it came to that 3.6-liter V-6 under the hood. With completely reworked internals like lightweight titanium connecting rods and a high-performance oiling system, along with high-pressure fuel injection and two turbochargers, the ATS-V puts out an astonishing 464 horsepower and 445 pound-feet of torque. Plus, I love the fact that it is a Cadillac that comes standard with a six-speed manual transmission. In my opinion, it is one of the sportiest sedans on the market, with performance to match its looks. The ATS-V starts out at around $62,000, which is right in the same price range of its German rivals, the BMW M3 and Mercedes-AMG C63.
You probably didn’t expect to see the likes of the 2016 Honda Civic on this list, given my previous picks. This Civic is probably the best since at least the 2001 to 2004, 7th generation, which was questionable at best. The exterior styling finally makes the Civic a worth competitor in its segment, and I love the new grille and LED headlights. I actually like the way the passenger cabin seems to sit farther back compared to older generations. Even the wheel arches give it a sport look, which is something the Civic has been lacking for a long time.
Available safety features (most of which are included as standard equipment on Touring models,) include the latest technology like collision mitigation braking, road departure mitigation, forward-collision and lane-departure warning. So, not only is the car stylish, but it is safe as well. The car is powered by a 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine that puts out 158 horsepower and 138 pound-feet of torque. In EX-T, EX-L, and Touring trims, that engine comes with a single scroll turbo that pumps out 16.5 psi of boost, increasing horsepower to 174 and torque to 162 pound-feet. As a smaller family car, or a car for general commuting, the 2016 Civic gets my vote as a good buy.
For years, the Chevy Malibu has been somewhat overshadowed by the Impala, but not this year. The redesigned Malibu to new styling cues all the way around, including things like new headlamps and taillights, as well as new body lines that give the car a whole new appearance. Of course, it was designed by a 25-year-old, so needless to say he had quite a fresh take on the old Malibu name.
The interior is great as well, being elegant, functional and comfortable, but the best part comes from the extended wheelbase that increases from for passengers – a common complaint for previous generations. When properly equipped, the sedan has 11 active safety features, a 4G LTE connection, and an 8-inch digital display screen – all features that make this midsize sedan seem like a home on wheels. The Malibu starts out at $21,625 and comes with a 160 horsepower, 1.5-liter, turbocharged engine. Upgrading to the Premier trim sets you back over $30,000, but comes with 2.0-liter, turbocharged, 250-horsepower four-cylinder. It’s not a performance sedan, but its rather luxurious for its price and will easily haul your everyday family, which makes it a winner on my list.
Nissan redesigned the Altima in 2013, but for 2016, the Altima took another facelift – this time borrowing some design cues from the Maxima. When looking at available features, it’s easy to forget that the Altima is more of an entry level model. Starting out just above $20k, the revised Altima has a redesigned center console, new steering wheel, and Zero Gravity seats. A five- or seven-inch display is available with mobile apps.
For the price, you really can’t beat the features. In base spec, the Altima is propelled by a 2.5-liter DOHC, four-cylinder that puts out 182 horsepower and 180 pound-feet of torque – not bad for a car its size. Moving up to the Alima 3.5 SR, gives you 270 horsepower and 251 pound-feet of torque from a 3.5-liter V-6. The Altima is also quite safe, with front and rear curtain airbags, dual front and side-mounted airbags. Like most vehicles today, blind spot and lane departure warning is available as well as automatic headlights and rear-view camera. If you’re looking for a reasonable car that can get the family where it needs to go in comfort and style, the Altima will fit into your budget nicely.
Truck of the Year
I’m sure it comes off as “un-American” to list a Japanese truck at the top of my list for 2015, and all of my Chevy-owning friends will roast me for this one, but I think the Titan XD deserves to be at the top of the list. The Titan XD mixes functionality with luxury well, providing a comfortable and pleasing interior. I love the floating center console too.
Arguably, one of the best features of the XD is the 5.0-liter, Cummins V-8 that delivers 310 horsepower and a wild 555 pound-feet of torque. When it comes to safety, the Titan XD sits at the top of the line with front, side and curtain airbags, stability control, traction control, trailer sway control, seatbelt pretensioners, and an energy-absorbing steering column as standard equipment. On the XD SV trim, blind spot warning and rear cross-traffic alert are optional.
The XD can tow up to 12,300 pounds when properly equipped. The Nissan Titan XD S starts out at $40,290 while the XD SV starts out at $44,060. Sure that’s a decent amount of cheddar, but it’s below the $50,000 mark and is undoubtedly a wise choice for anyone who needs a functional truck that is easy on the eyes and comfortable
The MKX is the first SUV on my list, but I feel it deserves to at least come in second. The thing that attracts me to the MKX is that, with the new design for 2016, the car is luxurious but simplistic. You don’t get all that overly aggressive styling inside or out like you do with the F-150 Limited, for instance. The design cues are more elegant, and the 2016 MKX is much better looking than the boxy model it replaces. The SUV can be equipped with a 300-horsepower 3.7-liter V-6, or a 2.7-liter, EcoBoost V-6 that puts out 330 horsepower – not much of a difference, but either engine is well than capable of handling anything you would want to throw at an SUV of the MKX’s caliber.
In the safety department, the MKX comes with side curtain airbags, front and side airbags, knee airbags for both front passengers, and post-crash alert system. When adding the Reserve 102A equipment group, the MKX also comes with a blind spot information system and rear cross-traffic alert. Needless to say it doesn’t have all the safety features out there, but I still hold it as one of the better cars available this year.
For 2016, the Toyota Tacoma was given a serious refresh that almost gives it the personality of a completely different truck. The exterior’s design makes gives it a look that stands out in the crowd, and the interior, well, it is prepared for a nice road trip or a hard week of work. I love the way the truck is stylish outside and rugged on the inside. The cabin is comfortable and fresh, while still maintaining all the functions you would expect from a truck and then some.
In the drivetrain department, you can opt for a 2.7-liter four-cylinder or a 3.5-liter V-6. Both engines put out 19 mpg in the city when equipped with two-wheel drive while four-wheel drive models with the 3.5 drop to 17 mph with a manual transmission or 18 with an automatic. If you go with the TRD Off-Road model, the truck will even crawl over rocks, braking and throttling automatically while you sit and steer from the driver seat.
Safety-wise, all models come with stability control, traction control, ABS, EBD, Brake Assist, and Smart Stop. The Tacoma starts out in SR trim at $23,300, but moving up to the TRD off-road will raise that ticket to over $30,000. The range-topping limited comes in closer to $35,000, but is really well worth it for a truck this size and as capable as the Tacoma. I would definitely go for the four-wheel drive option on any trim, but that is just my opinion.
The Ford F-150 Limited is the solution for those that need to haul but want to do it as luxuriously as possible. Part of the reason I nominate the F-150 Limited is because of the interior. Specifically, it is far from simplistic. There is just something about it that is attractive. The leather seating, wood trim inserts, and the design styling of the trim itself is unique and comfortable. Combine that comfort with the ability to haul 10,000 pounds – when properly equipped – and you have a purebred workhorse.
That’s a decent towing capacity considering the limited is powered by a twin-turbo 3.5-liter V-6. That V-6, by the way, puts out 365 horsepower and 420 pound-feet of torque. The truck manages to pull 17 mph in the city and 24 on the highway – not bad for a truck this size. The Limited comes with all of Ford’s safety equipment as standard, including ABS, curve control, frontal and side airbags, side curtain airbags, and Advance Trac with Roll Stability. Luxury and functionality doesn’t come cheap – this Ford starts out at $58,480, but even at that price, it’s worth it for a truck of this caliber.
In all honesty, what’s not to like about the revamped 2016 Lexus RX? That iconic spindle grille, the sharp headlights and F-Sport trim makes the RX a pleasure to look at from the outside. Inside, the digital instrument cluster, two-tone color scheme and luxurious materials take a huge step away from the design cues of other Lexus Models. The RX has a 3.5-liter V-6 that puts out 300 horsepower, sending power to all four wheels (when equipped with AWD) via an eight-speed automatic transmission.
Optional equipment includes things like heads-up display, a 12.3-inch wide-screen display, and a dual-screen rear-seat entertainment system – perfect for keeping the kids happy whether it’s a trip to the store or across the country. Safety-wise the RX comes with a pre-collision system, radar cruise control, lane keep assist, lane departure alert, steering assist, and intelligent high-beam headlights. The RX350 starts out at just of $40,000 for the base model, with the range topping 450h F-Sport asking for more than $55,000. Either way you go, the RX is a fine and sporty family hauler that will get you there in comfort and style.
Performance Car of the Year
I have a feeling that the Camaro is popping up on a number of lists from my fellow journalists, and why shouldn’t it? We’re talking about a starting price below the $30,000 mark, up to 455 horsepower and 0-to-60 mph in just 4.0 seconds – when properly equipped. Of course, my favorite is the 2SS trim – especially with the aggressive body design. I specifically like the sportier look and power available on the SS models.
The interior is clean and unmistakable as a sports car interior. The car comes standard in any trim with airbags all the way around, a backup camera, 3-point seatbelts, stability control, and brake assist, and a host of OnStar services. Rear cross-traffic alert, rear park assist, and blind spot alert are optional on the 2LT trim and standard on the 2SS trim, but aren’t available on 1LT or 1SS trim levels. Opting for the 2SS – the model I would have to spring for – will hit you for more than $40,000 before options, but I think with the Camaro, you get what you pay for. It’s a fine addition to the Chevy lineup, and, in my opinion, is one of the best Camaros we’ve seen in a long time.
The Lexus GS F had to make it on this list. As a performance sedan, it puts out more power than any of Lexus sedan on the market. I love the aggressive styling, and there is just something about the spindle grill that gets me going. Just looking at the car tells you there is some serious power hidden away under that sporty hood.
One look at the interior and you’ll be sold, assuming you can cough up the bread to cover the nearly $85,000 base price tag. Leather upholstery, bucket seats exclusive only to the F line, the digital display and instrument cluster, and the way the vehicle combines function and comfort is unparalleled in my opinion. That instrument cluster, by the way, might make you think you’re sitting a space craft.
The GS F is powered by a 5.0-liter V-8 that puts out 467 horsepower and 389 pound-feet of torque. All that power and torque gets delivered to the rear wheels via an eight-speed, direct-shift transmission. The car comes with Lexus’ Safety System+ like most other Lexus models, so it can keep you and the fam safe on the road, too. Altogether, you’ll be paying more than $80,000 for the car, but fellas – if you can convince the wife it’s a suitable family car – you can have your performance car and family mover all in one. Going to the store won’t be so bad anymore now will it?
The history of the MX-5 dates back almost 30 years, and in those years, the little roadster has been one of the hottest setting convertibles on the market. Finally, for 2016, we got a new generation of MX-5 that was long overdue. When it comes to the exterior, I like the fact that the front grille takes a step backward toward the look of the original – that grille on the last generation was just too big. The new engine used in the 2016 MX-5 isn’t as powerful as the previous unit, but during the redesign, engineers gave the car a significant drop in weight to make up for it. As a two-seater, space for the driver and passenger is rather ample for a car this size, and the car finally has an adequate touchscreen display.
The MX-5 is one of those strange cases where the U.S. actually got the more powerful engine. In Japan, the car came with a 1.5-liter that put out just 129 horsepower and 110 pound-feet of torque. Here in the U.S., however, the SkyActiv 2.0-liter puts out a respectable 155 horsepower and 148 pound-feet of torque. It doesn’t sound like much, but for a car that barely passes the one-ton weight mark, that isn’t bad.
The biggest reason the MX-5 falls so far down on this list is because of its lack of safety options. All options Mazda offer are standard across all trim lines, but they are all basic systems – front and side airbags, seat belt pretensioners, ABS, electronic brake assistance, traction control, and stability control. That’s right, you won’t get any of that autonomous functionality like automatic braking or lane keep assistance. The MX-5 Miata starts out just below $25,000, but you really want the Grand Touring model that will set you back $30,065.
The McLaren 570S is probably on everybody’s top five list right now. Created as a model to bring the McLaren brand to a whole new segment, the 570S has been said to be one of the best McLarens yet. Look at that beautiful design, and just how aerodynamic the car really is.
The interior is nothing short of spectacular, offering a cabin that is both functional and comfortable – McLaren went out of its way to give this car the comfort of a daily driver, and it succeeded well. A 3.8-liter V-8 pumps out 562 horsepower and 443 pound-feet of torque, which enables the car to hit 62 mph in 3.2 seconds on the way to a top speed of 204 mph. That’s pretty damn good for an entry level car.
In the U.S., the car starts out at just over $184,000, but there are more than 50 options to choose from, allowing you to make the car unique, but clearly more expensive. Very little is known so far about safety systems included with the 570S, but if you’ve seen any of the video reviews out there, you won’t really care. So far, I’ve seen nothing but good reviews about the 570S.
There was a time when I never thought I would be throwing the Focus name around in the performance category – at least without substantial modification anyway. Even the previous RS models weren’t anything spectacular, at least not to me, but the new RS is something I can’t go without mentioning.
Clearly one of the hottest hatches on the market, the 2.3-liter, four-cylinder engine pumps out an amazing 350 horsepower and 350 pound-feet of torque. That’s a lot better than your sisters ugly little focus from 2004. The best part about it: The Focus RS is offered with all-wheel drive. Gymkhana anybody? Just sayin. Needless to say, Ford did it right with the RS, providing a race-inspired interior that is both functional and comfortable for longer trips. Naturally the RS sits at the top of the focus line, perched above all the others.
Airbags protect front and rear passengers all the way around. Electronic stability control and ABS come standard. Unfortunately, the car lacks advanced, autonomous features, but the RS was meant to be a driver’s car – real drivers know their surroundings, so the lack of blind spot warning, parking assist, and auto brake and steering functions really doesn’t hurt my feelings here. One of the best things about the RS is the six-speed manual transmission, and the Sony audio system with navigation and ten speakers, including a subwoofer. That’s right, no need to modify the car inside or out, but I won’t hate on you if you want to make a few modifications to the engine. 350 horsepower is enough, but there’s no harm in demanding more. The RS will set you back $35,730 before options, but in my opinion, that is a pretty fair price considering what you get. Finally, a Ford that I really like.