TopSpeed Awards: Car, Truck & Performance Vehicle of 2015
The annual TopSpeed awards are upon us again, coming at the close of the calendar year. Our writing stall turned judges have all announced their own lineup of vehicular candidates on separate pieces you can find here.
As a quick recap, each judge picked their top five contenders in each of the three categories – car, truck, and performance vehicle. Each vehicle was then assigned points according to their placement. With all the contenders submitted, the vehicle in each category with the most points wins its category. Each contender was chosen against a long list of criteria that can be found here.
That’s simple enough, right? But would you believe we had a tie? Of course, something like this could only happen in the performance vehicle category. Rest easy though, we broke the tie and will crown a winner. Just know these battles were hard-fought.
Let’s get down to it.
Click ‘Continue Reading’ for the Award winners
Car of the Year
It’s not hard to imagine the MX-5 Miata winning this challenge since our judges are all self-proclaimed gearheads. However, the Miata’s win is more than some predictable ode to “The Miata is always the answer!” blanket statement. In fact, the Miata, barring its rich history and preference among motoring enthusiasts, has been given a new direction and purpose that more closely aligns with Mazda’s goal for the original NA Miata. Some would argue the NC Miata, the previous generation, was one step too close to grand tourer, taking a “larger” approach to the original NA Miata’s foundation.
That has certainly changed with the all-new ND Miata. The two-seat convertible is lighter and more compact than the outgoing car, pulling it back in line with what the original NA Miata was designed to be – a modern, reliable interpretation of a proper British roadster. Sure, power levels are down compared to last year, but the 150 pounds missing from the ND’s chassis more than makes up for the 12-horsepower difference.
Inside, the 2016 MX-5 sports a much-improved cockpit with better materials and fitments. The in-dash infotainment screen is a welcomed addition, while not distracting from the purity of driving. The same is true with the analog gauge cluster.
Overall, the 2016 MX-5 is a better car thanks to Mazda’s laser focus on the Miata’s purpose. Oddly enough, the new car carries a broader appeal, dumping its old “hairdresser” looks for something more angular, modern, and fresh. Congratulations, Mazda, on a job well done.
In all fairness to the competition, the all-new 2016 Honda Civic trailed the Miata by only 12 points in our judging. Honda’s latest iteration of the iconic sedan is something very welcomed in the market as it replaces the not-so-loved ninth-generation Civic.
Truck of the Year
It’s hard to find another case of automotive neglect turned triumphant return than the 2016 Nissan Titan XD. Debuting for the 2004 model year, the Titan soldiered on nearly unchanged for 11 years, receiving only a small cosmetic upgrade and interior refreshing in 2008.
Now for the 2016 model year, Nissan adds the Titan XD to the Titan lineup, splitting the difference between a 2500-series, three-quarter ton truck and a more modest 1500-series half-ton. While Nissan will eventually add a more conventional, half-ton Titan to the roster, the heavier-duty Titan XD brings a whole new level of refinement to any truck Nissan has ever built.
What’s more, the Titan XD offers more cab and bed configurations than Titans before, along with five trim levels that include the new, range-topping Platinum Reserve, and a choice of engines. Of course, much of the Titan XD’s publicity comes from its optional 5.0-liter Cummins V-8 turbodiesel. Making 310 horsepower and 555 pound-feet of torque, the engine helps the truck pull more than 12,000 pounds worth of trailer or haul more than 2,000 pounds in its bed.
Innovative features like its standard gooseneck hitch, cargo tie-down system, and exclusive trailer light-check function all helped push the Titan XD to the top of our list. Capping everything off is a starting price right at $40,000, undercutting the competition’s base price. Even decked out in the Platinum Reserve trim, the Titan XD costs less money than an equivalent range-topping trim from Chevy, Ford, or Ram.
Trailing the Titan XD by a mere six points, the 2016 Volvo XC90 put up a good fight for our Truck of the Year. It’s completely new for 2016 and brings an unmatched level of refinement and beauty in its segment of crossover SUV. Add to that its optional hybrid powertrain, and the XC90 is a formidable contender.
Performance Vehicle of the Year
Remember the tie we mentioned earlier. Well here it is. Both the 2016 Porsche Cayman GT4 and the 2016 Chevrolet Camaro earned 26 points during judging, with four of our six judges picking one or the other as their first-place pick. Once the tie was spotted, we polled the remaining two judges to break the tie. As fate would have it, they continued the tie.
It was then decided that TopSpeed’s founder and owner, Philippe Daix, would do the honors. Phil chose the Cayman GT4 not only for its mechanical advancements, but also for its role in the high-performance segment. “It is a very important car because it is the first ’entry level’ GT car Porsche ever made,” Phil says. “It’s actually creating quite a movement in Porsche enthusiasts groups.”
While our judges were evenly split between the Porsche and Chevy, we had to crown a winner.
Porsche fans have long loved the 911 for its power and handling, though it can traditionally be a handful in the corners. Its rear-engine design tends to induce more oversteer than wanted, leading to tail-first meetings with road course barriers. The 911’s little brother, on the other hand, has a mid-engine design that loves to corner. Sadly Porsche has never given the Cayman the proper powertrain to exploit its handling – until now.
The Cayman GT4 is race ready with upgraded suspension bits, purposeful aerodynamics, and the 385-horsepower, 3.8-liter flat-six from the 911 Carrera S. A six-speed manual transmission is the only gearbox available, making the Cayman GT4 an uncompromising machine. While the Cayman GT4 isn’t a traditional straight-line screamer, the sprint to 60 mph comes in 4.1 seconds. Top speed is listed at 183 mph. Porsche’s PASM dampers offer selectable driving modes, giving the driver control over ride.
Beyond the specifics of its performance characteristics, the Cayman GT4 breaks new ground in the Porsche lineup. It brings the GT class of cars down to a more obtainable level thanks to a starting price under $85,000. The 911 GT3, for example, starts at $130,000 – a full $45,000 more than the Cayman GT4. Still, the Cayman GT4’s price gives it exclusivity, as does its two-seater design.
Honorable Mention – 2016 Chevrolet Camaro SS
The Chevy Camaro is about as iconic as they come these days, having been born out of the muscle and pony car era of the 1960s. Now in its sixth generation, the Camaro has evolved from purely a muscle car to an all-around sport car. Not only can it run the quarter mile, it can also hold its own on the road course.
More than that, the Camaro takes new steps for 2016. It now offers a turbocharged, four-cylinder engine for the first time, along with its 3.6-liter V-6 and Corvette-derived 6.2-liter V-8. A world-class interior replaces the long-outdated interior of the fifth-generation car, while offering modern amenities like Wi-Fi.
While the Camaro does offer a four- and six-cylinder option, the Camaro SS, the burly V-8 leads the performance numbers for the two-door, two-plus-two coupe. The eight-speed automatic Camaro SS can hit 60 in just 4.0 seconds and run the quarter-mile in 12.3 seconds. That’s not bad for a car with a starting price of $40,000.
These three winners are only here after a long and exhaustive process of vetting the entire automotive marketplace against the criteria, narrowing down the field to only those new or significantly refreshed for the 2015 or 2016 model year, then comparing each to our criteria’s eight points. Each had to show substantial improvement in design, engineering, efficiency, safety, value, execution of intended function, and the enrichment factor.
Each of our editors-turned-judges ranked their top five vehicles in each of the three classes – car, truck, and performance vehicle. The points assigned to each position within each respective list earned vehicles a grand total of points. You can check out our judges’ choices here: (Mark, Ciprian, Robert, Kirby, Jayk, and Jacob)
Points were awarded to the judges’ top five contenders in each segment.
#1. (First Choice) 10 points
#2. (Second Choice) 6 points
#3. (Third Choice) 4 points
#4. (Fourth Choice) 3 point
#5. (Fifth Choice) 2 points
|2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata||32 points|
|2016 Honda Civic||20 points|
|2016 Nissan Titan XD||30 points|
|2016 Volvo XC90||24 points|
|2016 Chevrolet Camaro||26 points|
|2016 Porsche Cayman GT4||26 points*|
*TopSpeed’s owner and founder Philippe Daix acted as the tie-breaker
The voting obviously got very close in the performance vehicle. Even the number of judges who voted for each were even. Both Mark and Robert selected the Camaro, while Ciprian and Jayk chose the Cayman GT4. Kirby and Jacob had other vehicles in their top spot, so they were asked to break the tie. Perpetuating the trend, Kirby chose the Camaro and Jacob opted for the Cayman. Gridlock
Thankfully the tie was broken and the winners announced. It’s certainly worth noting the Camaro and Cayman GT4 were neck and neck till the bitter end. And remember, it wasn’t a competition between the two cars, but rather each car against the criteria.
Let us know what you think in the comments below.