The candy store that is the new car industry has never had more alluring choices for consumers than today.
Even as self-driving, or autonomous, cars inch (on their own) closer to reality, every automaker has put their best and brightest together to create some highly compelling reasons to shop for a new car. And perhaps what's most impressive this year is that our selections for The Car Connection's Best Car to Buy 2017 award range the gamut.
There's a minivan, the first solid contender in that category in years. There are luxury sedans from automakers who have long been established and those who are in the midst of a major renaissance. And there are mainstream sedans and crossovers that put their predecessors to shame.
Over the last year, we've test driven hundreds of new cars. If it's on sale today, our staff has driven it. We've evaluated it. We've ridden in it. We've sat in the front seats, the back seats, and even the third row. We've taken them on long highway jaunts. We've hit our favorite canyon roads. We've visited shopping malls and we've visited strip malls.
Last year, the family-friendly Honda Pilot emerged victorious. We were smitten with its real-world practicality. It may not be flashy, but it works brilliantly for hauling loved ones and all their gear from point A to point B. Back in 2015, the Subaru Legacy, a reborn mid-size sedan that offers tremendous value, was the winner. The year prior was also a solid hit for Subaru when the brand's Forester crossover took home the top trophy.
Here's a look at 2017's contenders:
2017 Audi A4: Although the A4 may not look that different than before, it rides on an all new platform and boasts a tech-heavy interior that simply blows its rivals out of the water. And the late announcement that the A4 will be available with a 37 mpg powertrain (at a lower price point) and (although not together) a 6-speed manual transmission simply add to its appeal.
2017 Chrysler Pacifica: Once upon a time, Chrysler produced the industry's best minivan... and then the competition caught up and surpassed the originator of the breed. Well, Chrysler's back, with a new van and a new name. It's good, really good. Even those of us on the staff who have no justifiable need for a minivan find ourselves smitten with this ultimate people-hauler.
2017 Buick LaCrosse: Subtly sexier than its chunky predecessor, the LaCrosse is remarkably polished and it boasts a great interior. Not only that, but this four-door is an especially good value at the low end. Buick's back, and the LaCrosse is its best model yet.
2017 Jaguar F-Pace: Its name may be a little awkward, but the Jaguar F-Pace is a terrific crossover from a brand that has never had an offering in this segment. As enjoyable to drive on a twisty road as the brand's sedans, the F-Pace adds extra utility that buyers have long demanded.
2017 Jaguar XE: Forget about the last time Jaguar tried to play in the compact sedan segment. The XE is so composed that it reminds us of what BMWs used to be. That's heady praise, and it's all wrapped up in an attractive wrapper. And it appeals to our frugal minds like no Jaguar before by offering a commendable value against segment stalwarts from Germany and Japan.
2017 Kia Cadenza: Kia inches closer and closer to genuine luxury territory every day. Although the Cadenza may not be the brand's actual flagship, this model is its de facto style and refinement leader. For just over $40,000, you can net a Cadenza that's as stylish and well appointed inside as brands costing well into six figures.
2017 Mazda CX-9: Who said that three-row crossovers had to be dull and uninspiring? Certainly not Mazda. Though we liked its predecessor, it was definitely getting long in the tooth. The CX-9 retains, and improves upon, the old CX-9's fun spirit but adds in a much-needed dose of real-world usability and fuel economy.
2017 Mercedes-Benz E-Class: Though there are pricier models in the Benz stable, the E-Class is the brand's real bread-and-butter, and it shows. Not only is it great to drive, it's amazing to not drive. You read that right: The E-Class is as close to autonomous driving as we've come so far.
2017 Volvo S90: Taking everything we love about the brand's XC90 crossover but condensing it to a palatable, and rather svelte, sedan, the S90 is exceptionally good in every way. It's elegant in a simple way that helps it stand out from the German "default" luxury sedans, but this capable sedan gets by on way more than just its good looks.
How we choose our Best Car To Buy
We start by only looking at vehicles that are new or significantly updated each year, and those priced under $50,000 to start.
Next, we eliminate vehicles that aren't available for road tests by our editors prior to November 1, 2016 or won't go on sale prior to April 30, 2017.
Then we make the tougher cuts. A car might be beautiful to behold, but so-so to drive. Or it may lack certain safety features that are essential to family buyers.
That leaves us with a list of cars that we need to consider against the established benchmarks and against each other. The cars above made it through all of those cuts.
We'll announce our Best Car To Buy Winner on November 14, along with the winners from our sister sites, Motor Authority and Green Car Reports. We'll also announce the winners in our Driver's Choice awards—as voted by you, our readers—at that time.
We still don't know what car will be the winner, but we are excited to find out. We hope you are, too.