Of all the cars we test drove in 2016 these are the six we recommend purchasing.
We test drove a lot of cars in 2016. Some were great and some were crap. Of the cars in the former group, we'd recommend buying very few. Why is that? Well, living with a car for a week and owning it are two very different things. It takes a special car for us to recommend it as a purchase. We compiled a list of six such cars in six categories: best affordable car, best coupe, best convertible, best luxury car, best truck/SUV and the car you should buy if money didn't matter.
Best Affordable Car – Honda Civic: On paper this was one of the most boring cars we drove, a sedan with a CVT. However, the 1.5-liter turbo impressed us and the CVT wasn't entirely soul-sapping. Handling was better than expected and the new exterior design can actually be called sporty with a straight face. Why You Should Buy It: The Civic lineup offers fun and affordable options across the board. The hatchback's Sports trim makes 180 hp and all '17 models will offer the turbo engine and manual transmission combo. The available safety tech and driver's aids are comparable to those found a price bracket above. At almost any price the new Civic outclasses the competition.
Best Coupe – Lexus RC F: In an age of downsizing and turbocharging the RC F's beefy 5.0-liter V8 engine is a welcome blast from the past. Combine the sublime sound it makes with stunningly good looks and superb performance and you have a coupe that's hard to leave in the parking lot. Why You Should Buy It: Lexus is famous for building long-lasting cars, which should make the RC F easier (and cheaper) to grow old with. You can spend forever tweaking the drive modes to meet your demands or just throw it in "Track" mode and let the madness commence. It's perhaps the safest sports car bet on the market yet still manages to offer unrestrained thrills.
Best Convertible – Mazda MX-5: We drove a handful of convertibles this year, all with bigger engines than the Miata. However, none of them were able to slap a smile on our faces like Mazda's flagship. Its 50-50 weight distribution, slick six-speed manual, high-revving engine and convertible top are as potent a combo as ever. Why You Should Buy It: The simplest way to describe the allure of the MX-5 is that it is a car you will rearrange your life for. You'll ditch your friends (you can't fit them anyway), pack everything into a small backpack (there's no trunk space) and bundle up (it can get cold with the top down) all so that you can enjoy some time behind the wheel.
Best Luxury Car – BMW 7 Series: Despite offering executive rear seats that massage you and tablets to entertain you there's still a bunch of fun to be had behind the steering wheel. Its 445-hp twin-turbo V8 sticks you firmly into your seat once the boost has built. Why You Should Buy It: The 7 Series is a future-forward luxury car. It's packed to the brim with tech, including an infotainment with gesture control functions. It serves as a preview of the cars of tomorrow while still looking back to the past with its ridiculously opulent and roomy cabin. The exterior design trends towards subtle which is fine as you don't want anyone to know how expensive this car truly is.
Best Truck/SUV – Honda Ridgeline: The oddest truck on the market thoroughly impressed us. It offers a smooth ride, innovative storage features and payload and towing specs that surprisingly aren't all that far behind the "real trucks" it competes with. Why You Should Buy It: Your Home Depot runs don't require a payload capacity north of 1,499 pounds. You'll get more bang for your buck out of all-wheel drive than four-wheel drive. And really, don't you hate how "real trucks" sway like boats in choppy water every time you turn the wheel? The Honda Ridgeline is all the truck you'll ever need, if you can get past its atypical design. Trust us, it isn't hard to do.
Best Car To Buy If Money Didn't Matter – McLaren 650S Spider: They just handed us the keys to a McLaren. No one even asked us for anything when we showed up to the dealership. We weren't even met by our contact. A friendly mechanic gave us the keys and sent us on our way. Why You Should Buy It: It has a mid-mounted twin-turbo V8 and a top speed of 204 mph. Dropping the top in traffic is enough to stop traffic. If you have $323,000 to blow on a car and the McLaren 650S Spider isn't on your radar then you're a mad man/mad woman/mad ze.