With monthly car sales at a record high last month, car shopping is moving into full swing with lots of new and improved models, ranging from all-electric to huge SUVs. April is also the month when Consumers Report’s annual auto issue is published with its list of the best and worst cars.
The hottest new model is one you won’t be able to get for at least another year or two, the Tesla Model 3. This lower-cost all-electric car has already received more than 325,000 preorders that required paying a refundable $1,000 deposit for the $35,000 car, making it, according to Tesla, “the biggest one-week launch of any product ever.”
While electric cars like the Tesla are in high demand, they still require careful planning when taking a long trip to figure out where you can recharge your batteries every 200 miles. To address this range-anxiety issue, Tesla has built 2800 charging stations along major highways; but they’ll need to build a lot more to avoid the crowds when the 325,000 customers hit the road.
The other top choice for a car that reduces or eliminates gasoline consumption is the Chevy Volt. Often underrated compared to the Tesla, the $33,000 car never suffers from range anxiety. It’s powered by batteries running an electric motor, and then shifts to gasoline when the batteries are depleted. The new model is sleeker and more advanced than the first generation that came out seven years ago, and it gets over 55 miles on a single charge. Unlike the Toyota Prius Hybrid that intermixes gas and electric use, the Volt never needs gas, if you drive less than 55 miles between charges.
Prius, the country’s most popular hybrid, has just revised their design with a controversial-looking appearance that will turn heads. The new model has also increased its mileage to 55 mpg.
If you’ve not car-shopped for a while, you’ll be greeted by an entirely new vocabulary of technology features, many that make driving safer and more convenient.
Fortunately, much of this tech that cost thousands of dollars extra just a few years ago, is often standard or not very expensive on some of the least expensive cars. For example, Mazda offers keyless entry, pushbutton-starting, and blind-spot monitoring on their $21,000 Mazda 3, while BMW still requires you to buy a several thousand-dollar convenience package to get these features.
Other new features you’ll encounter are:
Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) that works much like conventional cruise control, except it automatically slows the car down and speeds up to maintain the appropriate distance between you and the car in front of you.
Blind spot monitoring (BSM) alerts you with a light, usually on the side view mirrors, when a car is alongside of you and it’s dangerous to leave your lane.
Lane Departure Warning (LDW) alerts you when you move out of your traffic lane when your turn signal is not on. Some cars even take control of the steering and move you back into your lane with a feature known as Lane Keep Assist (LKA).
Forward Collision Alert (FCA) provides a red flashing alert or rapid beeps if you’re following another vehicle too closely. Front Automatic Braking (FAB) goes a step further and automatically applies the brakes when you are approaching a car too quickly and a collision is sensed.
Many of these features are elements that will eventually make self-driving cars possible.
Next Page: What else is recommended this year?
What else is recommended this year?
Twenty-six members of the Northwest Auto Press recently tested 27 SUVs, Crossover, and pickup vehicles in 6 different categories in their Mudfest 2016 event, judging vehicles that are capable of enduring a wide range of driving conditions. They subjected them to everything from parking to hard cornering both on road and off-road. Here’s what they picked as winners:
Best Compact Utility Vehicle: 2016 Mazda CX-3 Grand Touring ($27,640)
Best Premium Compact: 2016 Volvo V60 Cross Country T5 AWD ($49,775)
Best Family Utility Vehicle: 2016 Jeep Grand Cherokee 75th Anniversary Edition, Diesel ($51,315)
Best Premium Utility Vehicle: 2016 Volvo XC60 T6 AWD Drive-E ($52,505)
Best Extreme Capability: 2016 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited 4×4 75th Anniversary Edition ($48,035)
Best Pickup: 2016 RAM 1500 Rebel Crew Cab 4×4 ($53,150)
Best Overall: 2016 Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited 4×4 75th Anniversary Edition ($51,315)
Lastly, Consumers Report recently published their Top Picks for 2016. These are cars that excel in their driving tests, offer good reliability, do well in government crash tests, and have high user-satisfaction scores. They are Honda Fit, Subaru Impreza, Toyota Camry, Subaru Forester, Lexus RX, Mazda MX-5 Miata, Chevrolet Impala, Kia Sorento, and Ford F-150.
The magazine also announced their ten worst cars that you want to avoid buying. They’re the Mitsubishi Mirage, Fiat 500L, Chrysler 200, Mercedes-Benz CLA250, Lincoln MKS, Dodge Journey, Land Rover Discovery Sport, Cadillac Escalade, Chrysler Town & Country, and the Mitsubishi i-MiEV, described as a “half-step up from a golf cart.”
There’s never been a better selection of new cars that employ technology to make your driving safer and more fun.