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    Review: 2016 Buick Cascada Premium & Chevrolet Camaro SS Convertible


    • Dropping the tops of GM's latest convertibles

    Summertime means something different for everyone. For some, it’s time to enjoy the sunshine and warm weather. For others, it is the time to take that trip you have been thinking about for awhile. If you’re an automotive writer like myself, summertime means convertible season. The feeling of having the roof down and enjoying the expanded view of the sky is something quite special. This summer saw two of GM’s latest convertibles roll into the Cheers & Gears’ Detroit garage, the new Buick Cascada and recently redesigned Chevrolet Camaro SS convertible. How did these two droptops fare in the summer heat?

    Exterior:

    There is no denying the Opel/Vauxhall roots of the Buick Cascada as it is just basically the Cascada sold in Europe with Buick basing. But that isn’t a bad thing since the Cascada is handsome for the most part. The front features a new grille design and headlights with LED accents. The side profile reveals short overhangs for the front and rear. These overhangs make the side look somewhat oddly proportioned. A set 20-inch wheels come standard. Around back, a long chrome bar runs along the trunk lid into the taillights. 

    On the opposite end is the Chevrolet Camaro. If you’re looking for something quiet and doesn’t bring attention, then maybe you should pass on it. Redesigned last year, Chevrolet retained the Camaro’s basic profile with its sharp lines and rounded corners. But major work was done on the front and rear ends. The front features a narrow top grille and slim headlights. A massive grille sits underneath between a set of deep cuts into the front bumper. The back has been cleaned up with a new trunk lid design, rectangular headlights, and quad-exhaust tips. 

    One item both the Cascada and Camaro share is a fabric top. Putting the top down or up takes under 20 seconds for both vehicles. With the tops down, both vehicles look quite good. But put the tops up and the Cascada is the better looking of the two. I can’t put my finger as to why, but I think it deals with how the Cascada has a little bit more glass than the Camaro. 

    Interior:

    Unfortunately, both the Cascada and Camaro fall on their face when it comes to the interior for different reasons.

    In the case of the Cascada, it features the dash from the outgoing Verano and Encore. This reveals that the Cascada is older despite what Buick may have you think. For example, the center stack is laden with buttons and it will take you a few moments to find the specific one you’re looking for. Not helping is the Cascada using GM’s last-generation infotainment system. While the system is easy to use, the interface is looking very dated. It would have been nice if Buick could have slipped in the dash from the updated Encore into the Cascade, but that would have likely introduced more problems than solutions.

    On the upside, the Cascada’s interior is well-built and features decent quality materials. A fair amount of dash and door panels feature some soft touch material. The front seats are comfortable for short and long distance trips. Power adjustments for the driver’s seat make it easy to find a position that works. One touch Buick deserves applause for is the seat belt presenter. The front seat belts are nestled away when the Cascada is turned off to make it easier to get in and out of the back seat. But when you start it up, the presenter extends for both the driver and passenger to buckle in. The back seat provides enough space for kids or small adults. Taller folks like myself will find minimal legroom. With the top up, anyone sitting back here will feel very confined. With the top down, this feeling goes away. 

    Step into the 2016 Camaro Convertible’s interior and you’ll find the same retro ideas from the previous model such as the shape of the dash and circular vents. But Chevrolet improved the overall usability of the Camaro’s interior. For example, the retro-inspired engine information gauges that were placed ahead of the shifter in the previous generation are gone. In its place are a set of air vents that also control the temperature of the climate control system. 

    Our tester featured the optional Chevrolet MyLink system with navigation. We know we’re beating a dead horse with our complaints with MyLink such as a slow response when going from various screens and recognizing devices plugged into the USB ports. But you would think that GM would maybe issue an update or something by now to fix some of these issues? Like other Chevrolet models we have driven this year, the Camaro’s MyLink system comes with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatibility. We tried CarPlay and found it to be easier to use than most automaker’s infotainment systems. But, we had issues with apps crashing and the system not always recognizing our phone.

    The front bucket seats are quite comfortable and will hold you in if you decide to tackle that special road aggressively. A set of power adjustments makes it easy for anyone to find a comfortable position. The back seat is best reserved for small kids or extra storage as legroom is nonexistent. You would think that the Camaro Convertible wouldn’t feel as claustrophobic as the coupe since you can put the top down, but it isn’t. Sitting in the Camaro convertible with the top down, I felt like I was being contained in a small box. Blame the high belt line for this.

    Powertrain:

    Power for the Buick Cascada comes from a turbocharged 1.6L four-cylinder with 200 horsepower and 207 pound-feet of torque. This is paired with a six-speed automatic. The figures are impressive for this engine. But drop it into the Cascada and it is quite disappointing. Performance is very lethargic as the engine has to overcome the nearly two tons of Cascada. It feels like an eternity getting up to speed and you’ll find yourself putting the pedal to the floor to get the vehicle moving at a sufficient rate. EPA figures for the Cascada stand at 20 City/27 Highway/23 Combined. My average for the week landed at 21 mpg. 

    The Camaro’s engine lineup includes a 3.6L V6, turbocharged 2.0L four, and our SS tester’s 6.2L V8. The V8 pumps out 455 horsepower and 455 pound-feet of torque. We had the optional eight-speed automatic, but you can get a six-speed manual. The V8 makes the Camaro Convertible stupidly fun. I found myself wanting to roll down the window at a stop light to tell the vehicle next to me “let me play you the song of my people” before stomping on the accelerator and having the V8 roar into life as the light turns green. The engine will pin you in your seat if you floor it and there is a never-ending stream of power throughout the rev range. A nice touch is the optional dual-mode exhaust system that only amplifies the noises of the V8. The eight-speed automatic is ofine around town and on the highway but stumbles somewhat in enthusiastic driving where it takes a moment to downshift when slowing down. Fuel economy for the Camaro SS Convertible stands at 17 City/28 Highway/20 Combined. I got about 19 mpg during my week-long test.

    Ride & Handling:

    Describing the ride and handling characteristics of the Cascada can be summed up in one word; smooth. Buick’s engineers tuned the Cascada’s suspension to deliver an almost magic carpet ride. Even with a set of twenty-inch wheels as standard equipment, the Cascada is able to deal with rough roads with no issues. Around corners, the Cascada feels planted and body roll is kept in check. But don’t plan on doing anything enthusiastic with it. The steering is a little bit too light for it. Drive it like a relaxed cruiser and you’ll enjoy it. Wind buffeting is minimal with either the windows rolled up or down.

    The Camaro Convertible is shocking as to how well it handles. Part of this comes down to optional Magnetic Ride Control (MRC) system which limits body roll. Chevrolet engineers also worked on improving the structural rigidity of the Camaro. The combination makes the convertible just as good as the coupe in corners. Direction change is fast and there is plenty of grip coming from the meaty tires. Where the Camaro Convertible falters is the ride quality. The SS comes with a set of twenty-inch wheels. While they do look sharp, it makes for a somewhat unbearable ride. Bumps of any size are clearly transmitted to those sitting inside. MRC does its best to provide a comfortable ride, but it might be worth considering going down to a smaller wheel to improve the ride. Wind buffeting is kept in check with the windows up or down.

    Price:

    The 2016 Buick Cascada starts at $33,065 for the base model. Our up-level Premium starts at $36,065 and comes to an as-tested price of $37,385 thanks to the vehicle being finished in an optional blue color. You really don’t get much in terms of additional features when compared to the base Cascada aside from some additional safety features - front and rear parking sensors, lane departure warning, and forward collision alert - and automatic wipers. Also for that amount of cash, you could with the Audi A3 cabriolet which offers a slightly more premium interior. But you would lose out on the larger back seat of the Cascada. You would be better off with the base Cascada.

    If you have your heart set on a Camaro Convertible, be ready to shell out the cash. The 2016 Camaro 2SS Convertible carries a base sticker of $48,300 - $6,005 more expensive than the coupe. Add on the list of options fitted to our tester such as the eight-speed automatic, magnetic ride control, and dual-mode exhaust system and you’ll end up with an as-tested price of $54,075. I’ll give you a moment to pick yourself up from the floor due to the price shock. The Camaro is nice car all-around, but is it really worth dropping $54,000?! We’re not so sure. 

    Verdict:

    Both of vehicles have issues that don’t make them as appealing. The Cascada’s engine either needs to be kicked to the curb or head off to the gym to get a bit more power. It would nice if Buick could also figure how to put in the dash from the updated Encore into the Cascada, although that might prove to be an engineering nightmare and something that would be better suited for the next-generation model. The Camaro Convertible’s price tag will make a number of people and their bank accounts cry. Also for being a convertible, the Camaro still feels as claustrophobic as the coupe.

    But when you drop the tops in both models, you forget all about the issues. Instead, you begin to take in the sky and rush of the wind. This makes you remember why you bought a convertible, to enjoy the feeling of openness. It is only when you put the top back up that makes you wonder if you can live with the issues. In the case of the Cascada, the answer is no. The Camaro is a maybe.
     

     

    Disclaimer: General Motors Provided the Cascada and Camaro; Insurance, and One Tank of Gas

    Year: 2016
    Make: Buick
    Model: Cascada
    Trim: Premium
    Engine: Turbocharged 1.6L SIDI DOHC with VVT
    Driveline: Front-Wheel Drive, Six-Speed Automatic
    Horsepower @ RPM: 200 @ 5,500
    Torque @ RPM: 207 @ 1,800 - 4,500, 221 @ 2,200 - 4,000 (with overboost)
    Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 20/27/23
    Curb Weight: 3,979 lbs
    Location of Manufacture: Gliwice, Poland
    Base Price: $36,065
    As Tested Price: $37,385 (Includes $925.00 Destination Charge)

    Options:
    Deep Sky Metallic - $395.00

    Year: 2016
    Make: Chevrolet
    Model: Camaro Convertible
    Trim: SS
    Engine: 6.2L VVT DI V8
    Driveline: Rear-Wheel Drive, Eight-Speed Automatic
    Horsepower @ RPM: 455 @ 6,000
    Torque @ RPM: 455 @ 4,400
    Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 17/28/20
    Curb Weight: 3,966 lbs
    Location of Manufacture: Lansing, MI
    Base Price: $48,300
    As Tested Price: $54,075 (Includes $995.00 Destination Charge)

    Options:
    Magnetic Ride Control - $1,695.00
    Eight-Speed Automatic - $1,495.00
    Dual-Mode Exhaust - $895.00
    Chevrolet MyLink with Navigation - $495.00
    20" 5-Split Spoke Aluminum Wheels - $200.00

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    Maybe GM will fix all issues with the Cascada either next year or the year after.  That 4cyl has to go though, since it is as weak as any motor as they always push in displacement-constrained European markets.

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    Of the two the Camaro woudl interest me the most, but I much prefer the Camaro as a coupe.  I have no bias against convertibles, but with both the Camaro and Mustang, the proportions of the current convertible seem slightly off visually.  I am kind of glad in a way that the MOPAR boys have not followed suit and built a Challenger convertible.

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    The Cascada, being Astra based, should naturally get the new Astra's dashboard. 

    cq5dam.web.1280.1280 (3).jpeg

     

    The 1.6T is a perfectly fine engine... it's just not enough for this particular application. I would have loved to see this engine as a mid-level engine in the Verano, an optional engine in the Encore, and possibly even the base engine in the Regal.  In a car that isn't so heavy, it reportedly gets fantastic fuel economy and the power band is excellent. 

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    1 hour ago, Drew Dowdell said:

    The Cascada, being Astra based, should naturally get the new Astra's dashboard. 

    cq5dam.web.1280.1280 (3).jpeg

     

    The 1.6T is a perfectly fine engine... it's just not enough for this particular application. I would have loved to see this engine as a mid-level engine in the Verano, an optional engine in the Encore, and possibly even the base engine in the Regal.  In a car that isn't so heavy, it reportedly gets fantastic fuel economy and the power band is excellent. 

    I do like that Dashboard!

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    15 minutes ago, Frisky Dingo said:

    The new Camaro pricing has gotten awful ambitious. 

    I think GM is showing a change of attitude.... they care less about volumes and more about profit. They feel they can set the price, and if they sell fewer of them (them being just about any model except full-size trucks), then they are fine with it.  They're no longer building cars just to keep the lights on like they were 10 years ago. 

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    A friend on another site(facebook) son just bought a 2016 or 2017 1SS with 10k off sticker, walked out for only 28k. Freakin' great deal!

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    39 minutes ago, Drew Dowdell said:

    I think GM is showing a change of attitude.... they care less about volumes and more about profit. They feel they can set the price, and if they sell fewer of them (them being just about any model except full-size trucks), then they are fine with it.  They're no longer building cars just to keep the lights on like they were 10 years ago. 

    Yes, but it is obviously costing them sales. Neither Chevy store I've worked at in the last 2 years sell Camaros for crap. Not even much interest in them. There's no markup in them. The incentives are terrible. The back seat is now almost unusable. The visibility is still poor. And Ford is selling Mustangs hand over fist. And I'm a GM guy.

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    41 minutes ago, Frisky Dingo said:

    Yes, but it is obviously costing them sales. Neither Chevy store I've worked at in the last 2 years sell Camaros for crap. Not even much interest in them. There's no markup in them. The incentives are terrible. The back seat is now almost unusable. The visibility is still poor. And Ford is selling Mustangs hand over fist. And I'm a GM guy.

    But are they now more profitable for GM even at the lower rate of sales?  That's the point I was trying to make.  If GM can get $5,000 profit per car (completely made up number) selling 50,000 of them a year, but would have to mark it down $4,000 to sell 70,000 of them a year... where is the financial incentive to do so?  They make more money selling fewer cars at a higher price. 

    They are also likely making more per unit than Ford because of the fact they are using a platform shared by 2 other vehicles (both of which are in the premium segment), so the amortization costs of the platform will be much lower. 

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    29 minutes ago, Drew Dowdell said:

    But are they now more profitable for GM even at the lower rate of sales?  That's the point I was trying to make.  If GM can get $5,000 profit per car (completely made up number) selling 50,000 of them a year, but would have to mark it down $4,000 to sell 70,000 of them a year... where is the financial incentive to do so?  They make more money selling fewer cars at a higher price. 

    They are also likely making more per unit than Ford because of the fact they are using a platform shared by 2 other vehicles (both of which are in the premium segment), so the amortization costs of the platform will be much lower. 

    Therefore the prices could be more aggressive, while GM still made money. 

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    4 hours ago, Drew Dowdell said:

    But are they now more profitable for GM even at the lower rate of sales?  That's the point I was trying to make.  If GM can get $5,000 profit per car (completely made up number) selling 50,000 of them a year, but would have to mark it down $4,000 to sell 70,000 of them a year... where is the financial incentive to do so?  They make more money selling fewer cars at a higher price. 

    They are also likely making more per unit than Ford because of the fact they are using a platform shared by 2 other vehicles (both of which are in the premium segment), so the amortization costs of the platform will be much lower. 

    That entire platform has sold less than the mustang last I looked. So while it gets spread out it still sells less units. 

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    2 minutes ago, ccap41 said:

    That entire platform has sold less than the mustang last I looked. So while it gets spread out it still sells less units. 

     ATS + CTS + Camaro - yes at the moment that is correct.  As of August they are at 72,963 while the Mustang alone is 80,829.   But Cadillac is getting some of the highest transaction prices in its respective classes (even higher than BMW), so that means they are pulling in much higher transaction prices than Mustang. The mustang, quite honestly, is often to be found as an option at the rental car counter while I can never seem to find a Camaro.  That isn't a judgement against the car (I actually quite like the Mustang overall), it's just a reflection of what's behind the sales numbers. 

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    After 2 years, 3 max as they get their special models out, I believe they will have to start piling incentives on the Camaro just to move it.  I hate that as it is an excellent driving car, but it also has a lot of little issues such as visibility.  Looking at coupes and particularly if I was in the market for a turbo 4 or 6, I would look for a gently used ATS coupe.  My brother got a loaded 15 ATS could for the low 30s with only 4900 miles on the clock.  It was an AWD with the V6 too with driver assist and ever option Cadillac offers.  That is slightly optioned 1LT Camaro territory. 

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    On the Cascada, why not put the 2.0T in there?  It would probably get better FE too as it shouldn't have to stay quite as far in the boost all the time to keep it going.  The 1.6T would be reat in a maybe a sporty Cruise or even Sonic model.  I agree with the Encore (and Trax) too. 

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      Inside, Chevrolet promises best in class head and legroom for those sitting in the second and third-row seats. This does come at a price as cargo space does decrease. Behind the third-row, the Traverse will offer 23 cubic feet, which beats the likes the Ford Explorer (21 cubic feet). Fold both rows and space increases to 99 cubic feet. Other interior details include either seven or eight-inch infotainment touchscreen, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility; OnStar 4G LTE with Wi-Fi, and USB ports for all three-rows.
      Most Traverse models will come with the existing 3.6L V6 producing 305 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque. This has us scratching our heads since this engine was one our biggest issues with the current Chevrolet Traverse (and Buick Enclave). The new Traverse RS will use a new 2.0L turbo-four making 255 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque. Again, this is slightly odd as the RS is being positioned as the sporty-looking model with blacked-out elements. Both engines will come paired with a nine-speed automatic and front-wheel drive. The V6 will only have the option of all-wheel drive. Speaking of all-wheel drive, the top-line High Country will come with the twin-clutch all-wheel drive system found in the Cadillac XT5. This system can decouple the rear-axle to help with fuel economy.
      The 2018 Chevrolet Traverse arrives at dealers this fall.
      Source: Chevrolet
      Press Release is on Page 2
      The 2018 Chevrolet Traverse will arrive at dealers this fall.
      Chevrolet Introduces the 2018 Traverse
      Bold, refined new look with expected segment-best cargo space, third-row legroom DETROIT — Chevrolet today introduced the all-new 2018 Traverse. Wrapped in bold and refined styling, the completely redesigned Traverse offers technologies to help keep passengers of all ages and lifestyles comfortable and connected.
      Traverse will deliver what is expected to be best-in-class third-row legroom, maximum cargo room and passenger volume with an enhanced roster of available active safety features. 
      “The all-new Traverse offers the ultimate in style and convenience for the segment, with the versatility customers need and a thoughtful, spacious design they’ll love,” said Alan Batey, president of GM North America and brand chief, Global Chevrolet. “It’s the midsize SUV designed to help keep you safe, comfortable and connected.”
      When it goes on sale this fall, the 2018 Traverse will be the fourth updated crossover or SUV from Chevrolet within a year, joining the Trax, Bolt EV and 2018 Equinox, further strengthening the brand’s crossover and SUV lineup.
      “Nobody in the industry offers a broader, fresher lineup of SUVs and crossovers than Chevrolet,” said Batey. “From the all-electric Bolt EV to America’s longest-running nameplate, Suburban, we’ve got something for every customer and lifestyle.”
      Bold and refined 
      The 2018 Traverse has a new look inspired by Chevrolet’s full-size SUVs, with purposeful proportions complemented by premium cues such as chrome accents, LED signature lighting and available D-Optic LED headlamps.
      Chevrolet is adding two new trim levels for the 2018 Traverse — the sporty RS and luxurious High Country — to offer customers more choices for a personalized appearance.
      The new RS package includes unique, blacked-out exterior cues with a black chrome grille, black bowtie, 20-inch wheels and more.
      The High Country trim features premium content and technology, including a unique interior trim featuring Loft Brown leather appointments with suede accents, 20-inch polished wheels, High Country badging, D-Optic headlamps, standard twin-clutch AWD and power-fold third row seats.
      “The all-new Traverse blends Chevrolet’s characteristic SUV cues with capability and refinement,” said John Cafaro, executive director, Global Chevrolet Design. “Inside and out, it offers style with a purpose.”
      With available seating for up to eight and a longer wheelbase than the current model, the Traverse has few peers when it comes to capacity and roominess. In fact, the new Traverse is expected to offer best-in-class passenger volume as well as max cargo room at 98.5 cubic feet (2,789 liters), while greater storage options and larger bins throughout the ergonomically optimized cabin are designed to enhance convenience and versatility.
      Loading the Traverse is a breeze with a new Chevrolet bowtie logo lamp feature illuminating the ground to show where drivers need to place a foot to activate the available hands-free power liftgate.
      A new split-folding second-row seat improves on the Traverse’s original Smart Slide® feature. The curbside seat is capable of tipping up and sliding forward, even with a forward-facing child seat in place, to provide open and easy access to the third row.  Third-row legroom is expected to be the most spacious in the segment at 33.7 inches (856 mm).
      Connected and protected
      The 2018 Traverse offers purposeful technology designed to help keep passengers safe, comfortable and connected.
      Chevrolet’s latest connectivity technologies include available 7- and 8-inch-diagonal MyLink infotainment systems designed to support Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, as well as an available OnStar 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot. (Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are products of Apple and Google and their terms and privacy statements apply.  Requires compatible smartphone and data plan rates apply.)
      Passengers will have access to USB charging ports in all three seating rows, available wireless charging and steering wheel-mounted phone and audio controls. Chevrolet’s Rear Seat Reminder feature is standard on all trim levels.
      When it comes to helping to protect passengers, a comprehensive suite of available safety technologies and adaptive crash-avoidance features offers ease of use and added peace of mind, with new available features including:
      Surround Vision D-Optic LED headlamps (standard on High Country and Premier) Lane Keep Assist with Lane Departure Warning Front Pedestrian Braking Forward Collision Alert Low and High-Speed Forward Automatic Braking. Teen Driver is standard, allowing parents to set certain controls and review performance in order to help encourage better driving habits, even when parents are not in the vehicle. 
      Performance and efficiency
      A new 3.6L V-6 and nine-speed automatic transmission form the standard propulsion system, expected to offer nearly 10 percent more horsepower than the current model and a GM-estimated 25 mpg highway (FWD). The combination also supports an estimated 5,000-pound (2,268 kg) trailering capacity when properly equipped.
      Sporting the new RS trim, the Traverse will exclusively feature a 2.0L turbocharged engine that provides a unique driving experience, with more maximum torque than the V-6. It is also paired with the nine-speed automatic transmission.
      Both engines feature new intelligent stop/start technology that determines the best times for fuel-saving engine-stop events, based on a variety of driving factors.
      New Traction Mode Select is standard on all models and allows the driver to make real-time adjustments to the vehicle’s driving mode to account for varying road conditions. On available AWD models, it also allows the system to be completely disconnected from the rear axle, which helps save fuel and enhances refinement.
      High Country’s exclusive Advanced AWD system employs twin-clutch technology that optimizes traction for every condition it encounters. It is engineered for optimal performance in wet, snowy and icy conditions, while also providing enhanced stability in dry conditions.
    • By William Maley
      2016… What a year. This year saw a number of things that no one thought would actually happen did. Not helping matters is the number of famous people that have sadly passed on. Here at the Cheers & Gears Detroit Bureau, it wasn’t such a great year for vehicles. For the 2016 review season, 44 vehicles came in for evaluation. Out of this group, only eight vehicles earned a spot of being my favorite vehicles from the year. Read on to see which vehicles made the cut.
      2016 Cadillac ATS-V Coupe
      It is amazing how far Cadillac has come in the past decade and proof of it can be shown in the ATS- V coupe. A 464 horsepower twin-turbo V6 makes the vehicle fly with no issue. A set of sticky tires and adjustable dampers show the ATS-V is just as capable, maybe more so than its German counterparts. But it can also provide decent ride around town if you set the dampers into a comfort mode. Then there is the look. I’m not usually a fan of red, but it looks killer on the ATS-V coupe. It pairs quite nicely with sharp angles and a low roofline This was one of the models where I found myself grinning from ear to ear because of how much fun I had.
      2016 Chevrolet Volt
      It is amazing how far Chevrolet has come with the Volt. Five years ago, the Volt was this odd looking vehicle with a clever powertrain that made range anxiety nonexistent. Yes, 35 miles of electric-only range didn’t seem like a lot. However, the gas generator acted as an insurance policy if you ran out of juice with the battery. Flash forward to this year and Volt has not only seen an increase in overall range to 53 miles, but it has also gotten sleeker. This is currently my favorite looking Chevrolet vehicle with the new Cruze a close second. Other plus points include an improved interior and smooth ride. The new Bolt is currently basking in the spotlight that the Volt was at one time. But let us not forget the Volt is one of the key reasons why the Bolt exists. 
      2016 Dodge Charger R/T Scat Pack & SRT Hellcat
      Dodge covered the two extremes of performance this season with the Charger R/T Scat Pack and Hellcat. The Scat Pack was first up and I fell in love with it. For almost $40,000, you basically got an SRT Charger minus the adaptive suspension and number of luxury items. It was great fun with the 6.4L HEMI V8 bellowing down the road and the sharp looking Plum Crazy paint color. I found that you really don’t need the adaptive suspension as the Scat Pack does ok on bumpy roads or curvy roads.
      Then we come to the Charger SRT Hellcat. 707 horsepower from a supercharged 6.2L HEMI V8. It seems maddening that we are given a vehicle with all of this power for a price tag under $66,000. Trying to describe the way the Hellcat goes is difficult and something you need to experience. This is a vehicle that will make you laugh like a small child every time you decide to drop the hammer to hear the whir of the supercharger and manic sound of the V8.
      2016 Kia Optima SXL
      It is no secret that the Kia Optima is one of my favorite midsize sedans. It offers distinctive looks and feature set at a price that will surprise many. But it was set to fall off my list earlier this year when I drove the Optima EX. The big issues were an uncomfortable ride and poor noise isolation. So when I found out that the top of line SXL was scheduled later in the year, I was worried that it would be plagued by the same issues. But those issues never appeared. The SXL was not only quiet but showed a noticeable improvement in terms of ride comfort. I still don’t know what black magic Kia did on the SXL, but it kept the Optima on my favorites list. Now if they could work on the lazy throttle…
      2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata
      “Sometimes to fully test a vehicle, you need to put it in a situation where it isn’t fully comfortable.”
      That was the case for the Mazda MX-5 Miata as it would not be only driven in the middle of one of the coldest winters in Michigan, but it would also be taking me to and from the Detroit Auto Show. Crazy? Of course. But the MX-5 Miata was wearing a set of winter tires which helped it stick to the road. Despite the cold temps and snow that would fall during the latter half of the week, the MX-5 Miata proved to be just as fun as it would have been in warmer weather. Sharp handling, an engine that loved to rev, and a slick six-speed manual transmission. It didn’t hurt that I could actually fit my suitcase into the trunk of the Miata for the show.
      2016 Scion iA
      I have a trend of driving brands or vehicles that will be ending. Most infamously was the time when I drove a Suzuki SX4 for review and then hearing the news of the brand leaving a couple of days after returning it. That was the case of the Scion iA. A few months after driving the iA, Toyota announced that it was shuttering the brand. Some of the vehicles, like the iA would continue as Toyotas. This was a smart move as the iA proved to be a winner. Being a rebadged Mazda2 was a big reason as to why I liked the iA. It was a fun vehicle to drive around town or on a special road. But it also featured a lot of standard equipment including automatic emergency braking. While the brand is gone, it is good to see the iA lives on.
      2016 Toyota Prius Three
      I have never been a fan of the Prius family. Every Prius that I have reviewed left me wondering who decided to start selling a science experiment and not an actual vehicle. But the 2016 Prius is my biggest shock of the year. Yes, the Prius will take its time getting up to speed on the freeway. But around town, the Prius was a spritely performer. More surprising was how well the Prius drove. Taking a corner, I was expecting to experience motion sickness because of how much body roll previous models had. But the Prius took it like a champ showing little body and some decent steering - thank the new TGNA architecture. It doesn’t hurt that I got 60.2 mpg as my average for the week. Well done Toyota.
      2016 Volkswagen Golf SportWagen
      If there is one shining light at Volkswagen, it would have to be the Golf family. Last year, I named the Golf GTI as one of my favorites. This year, that honor falls to the SportWagen. Yes, it isn’t the sharpest looking vehicle in the class and the DSG transmission needs some more work. But Volkswagen got the basics right. The 1.8T is powerful and delivers excellent fuel economy. The interior spacious for both passengers and cargo - I was able to fit two massive Ikea boxes into it. Volkswagen also mastered the dark art of balancing fun to drive with comfort. I could take the Golf SportWagen down a windy road and be entertained. Afterward, I could drive it around town and not feel any road imperfections. 
      There you go, the eight vehicles that earned a coveted spot on my favorites list. Now it should be noted that some vehicles we’re close to getting onto this list, but were kicked off for one reason or another. Here are those vehicles,
      Chevrolet Malibu 2LT: Chevrolet did an excellent job with the new Malibu with fixing a number of issues that plagued the old model. But the 2LT introduced a new set of problems - questionable materials, poor road noise isolation, and the lack of options. I really do like the new Malibu, just not in 2LT form. Chevrolet Camaro SS Convertible: Loved the V8 performance and noise. Hate the $54,000 pricetag. This might explain why GM has such a large amount of Camaros sitting on dealers. Hyundai Elantra: Hyundai played it safe with the updated Elantra and this would have been ok a couple of years ago. But in light of the redesigned Chevrolet Cruze and Honda Civic, it wasn’t enough for the Elantra to be a strong contender as it once was. Nissan Titan XD Pro-4X: This was a truck I really wanted to like. Nissan was trying something different with the Titan XD - offer something between a light-duty and heavy-duty pickup. Plus, a nice Cummins V8 diesel could have been the cheery on top. But trying to convince someone that your truck is the best is difficult since truck buyers tend to stick with one brand. Not helping is the lack of cab and bed sizes. At the time of our original review, the XD was only available as a crew cab. A regular cab has been since introduced. But it seems Nissan doesn’t fully understand the truck market. You need to have a lot of options available to buyers at launch, not down the road.
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