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2015 Motor Trend Car of the Year Contenders and Finalists

Motor Trend logo Motor Trend 11/13/2014 William Walker, Motor Trend Editors

Of the year. It's easy to overlook that part. Car of the Year is not Car We Like the Most, regardless of context. Otherwise we'd still be talking about the Acura NSX. Rather, Car of the Year is a critical examination of where the automotive industry is at a given point in time. The big question, of course, is what new or significantly refreshed car is the winner? To answer it, we must consider the year. Remember, new cars showing up in 2015 were initially planned in 2010, at the tail end of the Great Recession. One might think this would portend boring cars.


Fortunately, despite all of the sober, left-brain reasons people give when buying a car, the truth is that an automobile is still an emotional purchase. This fact guarantees that carmakers will go after the hearts of their customers as surely as they will their minds. Look at this year's crop. From the diminutive Honda Fit, to the electric BMW i3, to the Italian swagger of the Maserati Ghibli, to the all-American new Ford Mustang, these cars were designed to make humans smile. What other reason could there be for the Kia Sedona having the sexiest interior in the test?

And the Winner Is: See the 2015 Car of the Year here.

Speaking of the test, here's how we do Car of the Year. There are six key criteria, detailed on page 38. Each contender is weighed against every other contender in terms of those criteria. This allows us to evaluate a diesel Volkswagen Golf against a 467-horsepower Lexus RC F. Which of the two performs its job better? Which one stands out in its respective segment? Which one moves the needle?

From our initial array of 42 vehicles (consisting of 23 models plus variants) driven at Hyundai Motor Group California Proving Grounds we whittled the group down to 10 finalists. Then, over the course of two days, our 11 judges looped the finalists around a 28.5-mile course. Finally, after much arguing and gnashing of teeth, sheets of paper were handed out and a vote was taken, the result of which will forever be known as the 2015 Motor Trend Car of the Year. -- Jonny Lieberman

2015 Car of the Year Contenders
Family: Chrysler 200Family: Hyundai SonataFamily: Subaru Legacy
Family: Kia Soul and Soul EVHybrid-Electric Luxury: BMW i3 eDriveHybrid-Electric Luxury: Cadillac ELR
Hybrid-Electric Luxury: Mercedes-Benz B-Class Electric DriveLuxury: Acura TLXLuxury: Kia K900
Near Luxury: Volvo V60Sporty: Alfa Romeo 4CSporty: Mini Cooper Hardtop
Sporty: Subaru WRX

2015 Car of the Year Finalists
Economy: Honda FitLuxury: Audi A3Luxury: Hyundai Genesis
Luxury: Maserati GhibliLuxury: Mercedes-Benz C-ClassMinivan: Kia Sedona
Sporty: BMW 2 SeriesSporty: Ford MustangSporty: Lexus RC F
Family: Volkswagen Golf

2015 Car of the Year Testing© Provided by MotorTrend 2015 Car of the Year Testing

Phase 1: Testing, limit handling, and the high-speed oval

Hyundai Motor Group California Proving Grounds, California City© Provided by MotorTrend Hyundai Motor Group California Proving Grounds, California City This Car of the Year marks the ninth year we've had the good fortune to utilize the Hyundai Motor Group California Proving Grounds. For the ninth time, we're both lucky and thankful to have their support. The state-of-the-art facility near Mojave, California, covers 4,300 acres and has 10 test courses, plus more than 30,000 square feet of offices and workshops. Here, we run all the cars through the complete set of Motor Trend tests -- acceleration, braking, figure eight—and focus on such qualities as handling, ride quality, and refinement. The closed environment enables consistent and repeatable testing at high limits. The aim of this first phase is to eliminate vehicles that do not measure up to the six COTY criteria.

1. Vehicle Dynamics Area

  • 43 acres; length: 2,950 feet; width: 1,200 feet. Low elapsed time and high lateral g on our approximately 1,740-foot figure-eight course show how a chassis copes with the acceleration, braking, and turning typically experienced on a winding road. The test also provides lateral grip numbers.
  • Quickest figure eight: Alfa Romeo 4C, 24.6 seconds at 0.93 g
  • Slowest figure eight: Honda Fit EX-L with a CVT and Kia Soul Eco Electric, 28.6 seconds at 0.64 g (tie)
  • Highest lateral grip: Ford Mustangs (GT and EcoBoost), 0.96 g
  • Lowest lateral grip: Hyundai Sonata Eco and Kia Soul Eco Electric, 0.76 g (tie)

2015 Car of the Year Testing© Provided by MotorTrend 2015 Car of the Year Testing

2. Straight/Stability Road

Four lanes, 0.75 mile. Standard 0-60-mph and quarter-mile acceleration runs are made in both directions to account for any wind and provide data for incremental acceleration times. Brake tests measure stopping distance from 60 mph.

  • Quickest: Lexus RC F, 0-60 mph 4.3 seconds, quarter mile 12.7 at 112.2 mph
  • Slowest: Kia Soul Eco Electric, 0-60 mph 9.2 seconds, quarter mile 17.0 seconds at 80.4 mph

3. High-Speed Oval

Three lanes, 6.4 miles. Smooth surface and long, constant-radius turns enable evaluation of engine noise and transmission shift quality under hard acceleration. High speeds test NVH suppression as well as high-speed steering and stability.

  • Fastest: [CENSORED]

4. Freeway Surfaces

One lane, 1.25 miles. Sectioned into replicas of L.A.'s notorious 710, 10, and 5 freeways. When taken at a steady 65 mph, this section allows evaluation of ride quality, tire noise, and suspension thump.

5. Winding Track

Two lanes, 3.1 miles. A demanding combination of fast sweepers, decreasing-radius hairpins, a tight right-left switchback, and three man-made hills, this course tests power, braking, and chassis balance at the limit. Also good for evaluating stability control and ABS.

  • Exciting: Alfa Romeo 4C, Maserati Ghibli, Subaru STI
  • Surprising: Hyundai Genesis 3.8, Volkswagen Golf TSI
  • Disappointing: Ford Mustang GT, Kia K900 V8, Mercedes-Benz C400 4Matic, Mini Cooper S
  • Boring: BMW i3, Chrysler 200C, Hyundai Sonata Limited

Phase 2: Real-world road loops

Tehachapi, California, west of Edwards Air Force Base near the Mojave Desert.© Provided by MotorTrend Tehachapi, California, west of Edwards Air Force Base near the Mojave Desert. We took 10 cars forward this year to tackle the real-world road loop in Tehachapi, California. This 28.5-mile mix of highway, city, and tight canyon roads starts in the parking lot of our hotel and heads west for a bit on California Highway 58. We double back through Tehachapi before climbing the 4,000-plus-foot pass in the Tehachapi Mountains between Bakersfield and Edwards Air Force Base. The route snakes back toward Highway 58 via a tight, two-lane country road. We focus on how the finalists perform on real-world roads. Judges pay attention to road and wind noise, steering response, and ride quality. They test audio, climate, and infotainment systems, including things like navigation, smartphone pairing, hands-free voice controls, active cruise control, and lane-keeping technology. After all the driving, we discuss/bicker/scream and choose the 2015 Car of the Year.

1. Tehachapi Boulevard
Low-speed stop-start driving tests transmission calibration and smoothness, throttle and brake tip-in, and low-speed ride. Also tests all-around visibility in traffic.

2015 Car of the Year Testing© Provided by MotorTrend 2015 Car of the Year Testing 2. Tehachapi-Willow
Springs Road Broken pavement tests whether tire noise is adequately suppressed and whether noise, vibration, and harshness are transmitted through the suspension into the vehicle's body structure.

3. Tehachapi-Willow Springs Road summit, about 5,000 feet
A sustained climb from 4,014 feet tests engine torque and transmission response under light throttle load, and a sustained descent to 4,147 feet tests the effectiveness of the cruise control.

4. Cameron Road
A challenging canyon road with mid-corner elevation changes induces major transient loads at just 45-55 mph. Ideal for evaluating steering response, chassis balance, and body control. Plus, it's fun.

2015 Car of the Year Testing© Provided by MotorTrend 2015 Car of the Year Testing 5. Rail Crossing 1
A sharp bump at 10 mph tests effectiveness of suspension noise and impact harshness suppression.

6. Freeway
Patched and broken concrete induces tire noise and high-frequency vibrations. Smooth asphalt tests ride quality in a typical commuting situation, as well as wind noise and effectiveness of the audio system. Also allows for testing of cruise control, both passive and active safety systems such as lane departure, and semi-autonomous driving modes. Also tests passing power.

7. Rail Crossing 2
Angled crossing induces twisting loads through suspension, plus noise, vibration, and harshness, providing a good assessment of chassis rigidity.

The Criteria

Advancement in Design
Quality execution of exterior and interior styling; innovation in vehicle packaging; good selection and use of materials.

Engineering Excellence
Integrity of total vehicle concept and execution, clever solutions to packaging, manufacturing, and dynamics issues; use of cost-effective technologies that benefit the consumer.

Low energy consumption and carbon footprint relative to the vehicle’s competitive set.

Primary safety -- the vehicle’s ability to help the driver avoid a crash -- as well as secondary safety measures that protect its occupants from harm during a crash.

Price and equipment levels measured against those of vehicles in the same market segment.

Performance of Intended Function
How well the vehicle does the job its designers and product planners intended.

The judges debate which car gets the gold.© Provided by MotorTrend The judges debate which car gets the gold.


Edward Loh: Editor-in-Chief
Angus MacKenzie: Editor at Large
Tom Gale: Guest Judge, Design
Chris Theodore: Guest Judge, Engineering
Ron Kiino: Executive Editor
Frank Markus: Technical Director
Jonny Lieberman: Senior Features Editor
Scott Burgess: Detroit Editor
Scott Evans: Associate Editor
Rory Jurnecka: Associate Editor
Christian Seabaugh: Associate Editor

Images captured by DJI Phantom 2 Vision.© Provided by MotorTrend Images captured by DJI Phantom 2 Vision.

Contender (Family): Chrysler 200

ByRory Jurnecka

2015 Chrysler 200C© Provided by MotorTrend 2015 Chrysler 200C We Like: Interior/exterior styling, creative cabin storage, low cabin noise.
We Don't Like: Poor rear seat headroom, lazy nine-speed transmission.

Nearly every judge's first impression of the new Chrysler 200 midsize sedan was a positive one. The 200 immediately comes across as an inspired rebirth of a historically lackluster model. With its stylish, contemporary sheetmetal, four- and six-cylinder engine options, and a new segment-first nine-speed automatic transmission, expectations were high for a car that could help reinvent the brand.

We had two 200s for COTY, each with upper trim levels. The 200C was a front-drive version with the Tigershark 2.4-liter I-4, while the 200S had all-wheel drive and the 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6. The 200C is Chrysler's luxe-oriented model, and it showed in the cabin, with real wood trim and leather seats. The S model had black leather sport seats and a blue aluminum-type accent trim that was deemed not quite as handsome by most. Enthusiastic remarks were made about the innovative center console storage cubby and the fit and finish of the cabin, but smiles turned to grimaces in the rear of the 200, where most judges weren't able to find enough headroom to be entirely comfortable -- a handicap in the ultra-competitive midsize segment.

On the high-speed oval, both 200s impressed with low in-cabin noise, and the 200C was praised for its ride on the choppy road. That comfortable ride became a disadvantage at the winding track, where the 200C wallowed its way around the course. The sportier 200S with its firmer suspension tune and all-wheel-drive system felt a little more composed, but the nine-speed auto in each car was slow shifting and occasionally seemed confused, hunting for the correct gear. The 2.4-liter I-4 engine struggled the most with the 200's shift programming, making more noise than forward propulsion, while even the V-6 didn't feel as peppy in this application as it has in others.

Markus noted what most editors felt in their hearts: "I want to love these cars. They are such a huge improvement over what came before them, but there are just a few too many rough edges left."

 2015 Chrysler 200C 2015 Chrysler 200S AWD
BASE PRICE$27,220 $29,690
PRICE AS TESTED$31,700 $35,060
VEHICLE LAYOUTFront-engine, FWD, 5-pass, 4-door sedanFront-engine, AWD, 5-pass, 4-door sedan
ENGINE2.4L/184-hp/173-lb-ft DOHC 16-valve I-4 3.6L/295-hp/262-lb-ft DOHC 24-valve V-6
TRANSMISSION9-speed automatic9-speed automatic
CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST)3509 lb (60/40%)3844 lb (60/40%)
WHEELBASE108.0 in108.0 in
LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT192.3 x 73.6 x 58.7 in192.3 x 73.6 x 58.7 in
0-60 MPH8.7 sec6.3 sec
QUARTER MILE16.6 sec @ 84.1 mph14.7 sec @ 95.1 mph
BRAKING, 60-0 MPH118 ft125 ft
LATERAL ACCELERATION0.80 g (avg)0.81 g (avg)
MT FIGURE EIGHT28.3 sec @ 0.64 g (avg)26.7 sec @ 0.72 g (avg)
EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON23/36/28 mpg18/29/22 mpg
ENERGY CONS., CITY/HWY147/94 kW-hrs/100 miles187/116 kW-hrs/100 miles
CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB0.71 lb/mile0.89 lb/mile

Contender (Family): Hyundai Sonata

By Rory Jurnecka

2015 Hyundai Sonata Limited© Provided by MotorTrend 2015 Hyundai Sonata Limited We Like: Huge rear seat room, classy interior, mature sheetmetal.
We Don't Like: Unimpressive power, sloppy handling.

On the face of things, Hyundai's new Sonata looks more like a heavy face-lift than an all-new model. Sure, the styling is vastly revised -- gone are the gimmicky character lines of the old model, replaced with more confident, mature sheetmetal -- but the two carryover engines, the 2.4-liter and turbocharged 2.0-liter I-4s, are merely revised for more measured power delivery. The suspension and steering systems have been revised, and cabin noise was reduced. The new Eco variant even gets a 1.6-liter turbocharged I-4 with a seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox (Hyundai's first). Remarkably, the Eco out-accelerated the Sport 2.0T despite a significant horsepower deficit.

The Limited's high-quality leather seating surfaces look nice, but the faux-wood trim is unconvincing. The center stack layout is much cleaner than that in the previous Sonata, and rear seat room is improved. Safety tech options include available lane departure warning and forward collision warning, the latter of which helps the Sonata gain an IIHS Top Safety Pick+ award.

Dynamically, none of the Sonata variants stood out from the pack. The 1.6-liter engine, while torquey, suffers from significant turbo lag, and the dual-clutch gearbox could use a little more refinement, with the occasional jerky shift and slow manual shifts. The Sport 2.0T feels underwhelming for its claimed 245-hp rating, making the 2.4-liter naturally aspirated engine and 6A transmission in the Limited our pick. The Sonata wasn't as well-composed as the Legacy over uneven surfaces, though it was remarkably quiet at steady freeway speeds around the high-speed oval. On the winding track, even the Sport version wanted to roll and understeer.

MacKenzie's final take: "This car is measurably better in every way than the last model. Toyota and Honda should be very worried because at this rate of development, the next-gen Sonata is going to be a bona fide Camry and Accord killer."

 2015 Hyundai Sonata Eco2015 Hyundai Sonata Limited 2.42015 Hyundai Sonata Sport 2.0T
BASE PRICE$24,085 $27,335 $29,385
PRICE AS TESTED$28,310 $32,510 $34,460
VEHICLE LAYOUTFront-engine, FWD, 5-pass, 4-door sedanFront-engine, FWD, 5-pass, 4-door sedanFront-engine, FWD, 5-pass, 4-door sedan
ENGINE1.6L/177-hp (est)/195-lb-ft (est) turbo DOHC 16-valve I-4 2.4L/185-hp/178-lb-ft DOHC 16-valve I-4 2.0L/245-hp/260-lb-ft turbo DOHC 16-valve I-4
TRANSMISSION7-speed twin-clutch auto. 6-speed automatic6-speed automatic
CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST)3307 lb (61/39%)3488 lb (59/41%)3605 lb (60/40%)
WHEELBASE110.4 in110.4 in110.4 in
LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT191.1 x 73.4 x 58.1 in191.1 x 73.4 x 58.1 in191.1 x 73.4 x 58.1 in
0-60 MPH7.8 sec8.4 sec8.0 sec
QUARTER MILE16.1 sec @ 89.4 mph16.5 sec @ 86.7 mph16.2 sec @ 88.4 mph
BRAKING, 60-0 MPH129 ft125 ft120 ft
LATERAL ACCELERATION0.76 g (avg)0.79 g (avg)0.81 g (avg)
MT FIGURE EIGHT28.1 sec @ 0.58 g (avg)28.1 sec @ 0.71 g (avg)27.5 sec @ 0.70 g (avg)
EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON28/38/32 mpg25/37/29 mpg23/32/26 mpg
ENERGY CONS., CITY/HWY120/89 kW-hrs/100 miles135/91 kW-hrs/100 miles147/105 kW-hrs/100 miles
CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB0.61 lb/mile0.66 lb/mile0.74 lb/mile

Contender (Family): Subaru Legacy

By Jonny Lieberman

2015 Subaru Legacy© Provided by MotorTrend 2015 Subaru Legacy We Like: Improved styling, AWD functionality, the car's honesty.
We Don't Like: Back-of-the-pack performance and handling, lack of innovation.

With the exception of pickup trucks, no segment in the auto biz is as closely contested as midsize family sedans. Not only are the perennial best-sellers -- Accord and Camry, take your pick -- really good vehicles, but so are the pretenders to the CamCord throne: Mazda6, Passat, Optima, Sonata, and Fusion. If you're going to try to compete with this gaggle of smartly engineered, aggressively focus-grouped mensches, you need to stand out. This doesn't leave the Subaru Legacy much room to maneuver.

The Legacy actually does pretty decently against many of our key criteria. Value, Safety, Efficiency, and even Performance of Intended Function all jump to mind. However, in terms of Advancement in Design and Engineering Excellence, the Legacy is playing catch-up with the others. Let's start with design. MacKenzie calls it "a reasonably generic, almost nondescript four-door sedan" and feels that "the interior is similarly unspectacular." Gale notes, "Overall design is very conservative with a long front overhang, which seems heavy due to smaller wheel graphics. Not as inspired as others in the segment."

As for Engineering Excellence, the 2.5-liter Legacy tied with the Kia Soul EV for slowest 0-60 time—9.2 seconds. That's half a second off the poky Chrysler 200C (8.7 seconds) and almost a full second behind the Hyundai Sonata 2.4-liter (8.4 seconds). You can't chalk the Legacy's relative turtleness up to power or weight, both of which are quite laudable in the class, so it's gotta be the CVT. MacKenzie again: "The CVT is slightly soul-destroying."

The big problem with the Legacy, however, is the rest of the competition. We couldn't even sort out if the Legacy was the best midsize family car in the test, let alone the segment. Everyone appreciated the one unique attribute the Legacy -- like most every Subaru -- brings to the table: all-wheel drive. But that simply wasn't enough to move the needle and impress the judges. Theodore says it best: "The Subaru Legacy, however, breaks no new ground as a Car of the Year contender."

 2015 Subaru Legacy (2.5 Premium)2015 Subaru Legacy 3.6R
BASE PRICE$24,290 $30,390
PRICE AS TESTED$27,180 $33,380
VEHICLE LAYOUTFront-engine, AWD, 5-pass, 4-door sedanFront-engine, AWD, 5-pass, 4-door sedan
ENGINE2.5L/175-hp/174-lb-ft DOHC 16-valve flat-4 3.6L/256-hp/247-lb-ft DOHC 24-valve flat-6
TRANSMISSIONCont. variable autoCont. variable auto
CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST)3508 lb (59/41%)3720 lb (59/41%)
WHEELBASE108.3 in108.3 in
LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT188.8 x 72.4 x 59.0 in188.8 x 72.4 x 59.0 in
0-60 MPH9.2 sec7.0 sec
QUARTER MILE17.0 sec @ 84.9 mph15.3 sec @ 96.5 mph
BRAKING, 60-0 MPH120 ft123 ft
LATERAL ACCELERATION0.83 g (avg)0.78 g (avg)
MT FIGURE EIGHT27.6 sec @ 0.63 g (avg)27.6 sec @ 0.64 g (avg)
EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON26/36/30 mpg20/29/23 mpg
ENERGY CONS., CITY/HWY130/94 kW-hrs/100 miles169/116 kW-hrs/100 miles
CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB0.65 lb/mile0.83 lb/mile

Contender (Family): Kia Soul and Soul EV

By Christian Seabaugh

2015 Kia Soul© Provided by MotorTrend 2015 Kia Soul We Like: Value price and feature-rich cabin; killer electric version.
We Don't Like: Coarse engine and gone-hunting transmission.

Love or hate its dancing hamster ads, there's no arguing the fact that the Kia Soul has struck a chord with buyers. Now in its second generation, Kia is looking to take all that its buyers loved about the first Soul and put it in a bigger package.

Wider and longer than before, the new Soul carries its new visual weight well. "Exterior design is a terrific rework of the original that gives the new Soul a more premium feel without losing that fun character of the original," MacKenzie said. The Soul doesn't just look more upmarket from the outside; it actually is on the inside. The funky-yet-functional interior includes Kia's Uvo infotainment system, mood lighting that syncs with music, and both heated and cooled seats. "Cooled seats!" Lieberman said. "What a welcome feature in California City!"

Buyers currently have a choice of three different powertrains for the Soul: a (not provided for us) 130-hp 1.6-liter I-4, a 2.0-liter I-4 making 164 hp, and, for the first time ever, an electric motor. The EV powertrain is the most compelling. Offering up an EPA-estimated 93 miles of range, the Soul EV was the electric favorite of the judges. "Wow. I think Mercedes-Benz and BMW have a huge problem here," Loh said. "This Soul EV is the love child between them, yet some $10,000 cheaper. Cute and quirky without pushing it like the i3 … this might be the EV choice for those in the know."

While the Soul EV wowed us, we were a bit less impressed with the gas-powered Soul's performance characteristics. It's not that we were expecting the gasser to blow our socks off, but we wanted a bit more refinement. The 2.0-liter gets coarse higher in its rev range, which is unfortunate because you need to spend a fair amount of time there while accelerating due to the slow-shifting six-speed auto. "The car struggled to get up to 90 mph," Lieberman said. Evans agreed: "Slow. Power feels barely adequate … Passing on the freeway pretty much requires flooring it." So while it's a better all-around package than before and a killer value in the segment, the Soul didn't stir us enough to earn a finalist nod.

 2015 Kia Soul (!)2015 Kia Soul Eco Electric (+)
BASE PRICE$15,900 $34,500
PRICE AS TESTED$26,715 $36,625
VEHICLE LAYOUTFront-engine, FWD, 5-pass, 4-door hatchbackFront-motor, FWD, 5-pass, 4-door hatchback
ENGINE/MOTOR2.0L/164-hp/151-lb-ft DOHC 16-valve I-4 0.0L/109-hp/210-lb-ft AC synchronous permanent magnet electric motor
TRANSMISSION6-speed automatic1-speed automatic
CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST)3129 lb (61/39%)3336 lb (58/42%)
WHEELBASE101.2 in101.2 in
LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT163.0 x 70.9 x 63.0 in163.0 x 70.9 x 63.0 in
0-60 MPH8.3 sec9.2 sec
QUARTER MILE16.4 sec @ 86.2 mph17.0 sec @ 80.4 mph
BRAKING, 60-0 MPH116 ft126 ft
LATERAL ACCELERATION0.79 g (avg)0.76 g (avg)
MT FIGURE EIGHT27.9 sec @ 0.75 g (avg)28.6 sec @ 0.64 g (avg)
EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON23/31/26 mpg120/92/105 mpg
ENERGY CONS., CITY/HWY147/109 kW-hrs/100 miles28/37 kW-hrs/100 miles
CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB0.75 lb/mile 0.00 lb/mile

Contender (Hybrid-Electric Luxury): BMW i3 eDrive

By Frank Markus

2015 BMW i3 eDrive© Provided by MotorTrend 2015 BMW i3 eDrive We Like: Architectural Digest design.
We Don't Like: Slippy/tippy handling unbecoming of the Roundel.

The Prius taught the world that if you want your alternative powertrain to sell, you'd best give it a unique wrapper. BMW took that lesson to heart when designing its i sub-brand's mainstream offering, and the i3's design inspired copious commentary. "In design terms, it's trying pretty hard, but doesn't look geeky, nor does it have the boiled-toad appearance of a Nissan Leaf," MacKenzie said. Adds Loh, "Love, love, love the interior and exterior design. The materials are inviting/touchable, bold and concept car-y." Kiino said the interior "feels like you're driving a spaceship, with the floating screens, huge dash, and big windshield," while Burgess found "a goofiness about the i3 that I enjoy" and Seabaugh called the interior "absurd but genuinely interesting."

Look beyond the quirkiness, and you find a rear seat that's tricky to access through the rear-hinged half-doors, with windows that don't open and a high floor that kills rear thigh support for adults. Behind that is a "puny trunk" that Lieberman posits wouldn't even accommodate a set of iGolf clubs. The start/stop button is poorly positioned behind the steering wheel rim, there's a peculiar rotary shifter on the steering column, the cruise control inexplicably slows down when negotiating a turn, and there are loads of other "features" that are just "weird for the sake of being weird," as Seabaugh noted.

But our biggest collective gripe was with the handling, which was pretty much what you'd expect of a tall, tippy car on skinny tires -- but not what we expect of a BMW. Sure, the 0.80 g lateral grip sounds good, but exploring it cupped the tires after four or five hot laps of the Winding Track. Hard cornering was attended by the sound of a "Star Trek" phaser. "The handling is so bad I simply cannot take the car seriously," Lieberman proclaimed. Burgess declared its performance "so bad it should lose its BMW badge." So while the i3 scored high in Engineering Excellence, Design, and Efficiency (81-mile EPA range, city!), it missed our finalist cut by a fair margin.

2014 BMW i3 eDrive
VEHICLE LAYOUTRear-engine, RWD, 4-pass, 4-door hatchback
TRANSMISSION1-speed automatic
CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST)2864 lb (48/52%)
LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT157.8 x 69.9 x 62.1 in
0-60 MPH6.4 sec
QUARTER MILE15.3 sec @ 89.0 mph
BRAKING, 60-0 MPH108 ft
MT FIGURE EIGHT27.2 sec @ 0.69 g (avg)
ENERGY CONS., CITY/HWY25/30 kW-hrs/100 miles

Contender (Hybrid-Electric Luxury): Cadillac ELR

By Jonny Lieberman

2014 Cadillac ELR© Provided by MotorTrend 2014 Cadillac ELR We Like: Great-looking. Side mirrors glow green while charging.
We Don’t Like: Louder gas engine than the Volt’s, and performance doesn’t feel greater.

"The wrong car at the wrong time at the wrong price." That was MacKenzie's bottom line on the Cadillac ELR. He's right. Why is the ELR the wrong car? It's just not big enough. Look at electric vehicles people love (basically, the Tesla Model S), and you'll notice they're big. Full-size, in fact. Next, unless we're talking sports cars, Americans still think that a big price should equal a big car. The ELR's base price is higher than every other Cadillac, save the top-trim Escalades. Yet the ELR is the second-smallest car Caddy sells -- it's slightly bigger outside than the ATS. Cadillac's most expensive car is also the brand's dullest performer. The Model S, on the other hand, can go toe to toe with Caddy's racehorse, the CTS-V.

As for the wrong time, the ELR could have worked if not for the Chevy Volt. Say huh? Isn't the ELR based on the Volt? It sure is, and that's the crux of the problem. When the Volt debuted (and we named it our 2011 Car of the Year), consumers struggled to make sense of a $40K Chevy. Eventually, the constant downward pressure on the Volt's price (and lease price) helped to get more and more people into Volts. But then you come out with a Cadillac halo vehicle that's heavily and obviously based on a Chevy. It smacks of the dreaded C-word: Cimarron.

Now, had GM possessed the foresight to launch the ELR first and follow it up years later with Volt, that strategy may have worked. Maybe hindsight being crystal-clear, it's hard to argue in favor of the decision to launch a $75K vehicle just after bankruptcy and bailouts. Those are what you'd call bad optics.

In a bubble, there's nothing wrong with the ELR. Its aggressive cab-forward design is handsome, especially when viewed from behind. The cabin is luxuriously trimmed out, and (with the exception of CUE) is a nice indication of where Cadillac design is headed. But while it's a very nice Volt, the ELR's just not a great Cadillac. Nor is it our 2015 Car of the Year.

2014 Cadillac ELR
VEHICLE LAYOUTFront-engine, FWD, 4-pass, 2-door coupe
ENGINE1.4L/84-hp/92-lb-ft (est) DOHC 16-valve I-4 plus 181-hp/295-lb-ft electric motors, 162 hp/295 lb-ft comb
TRANSMISSIONCont. variable auto
CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST)4040 lb (61/39%)
LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT186.0 x 72.7 x 55.9 in
0-60 MPH7.3 sec
QUARTER MILE15.8 sec @ 91.9 mph
BRAKING, 60-0 MPH125 ft
MT FIGURE EIGHT27.0 sec @ 0.72 g (avg)
ENERGY CONS., CITY/HWY109/96 kW-hrs/100 miles
CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB0.59 lb/mile

Contender (Hybrid-Electric Luxury): Mercedes-Benz B-Class Electric Drive

By Scott Burgess

2015 Mercedes Benz B Class Electric Drive© Provided by MotorTrend 2015 Mercedes Benz B Class Electric Drive We Like: Off-the-line speed.
We Don't Like: Its portly size and weight.

As the list of electric nameplates grows, their design will continue to become more mainstream, which often means less interesting. They'll be the electric version of the gas-engine car. The Mercedes-Benz B-Class Electric Drive proves this point with its completely satisfactory, if not downright normal-looking, entry.

"Typical Mercedes-Benz interior gestalt," Loh said. "All black, all very familiar and traditional."

Indeed, many pieces inside this Mercedes feel as if they came from a spare parts bin, but a high-quality one. There's nothing dramatic, and few details reinforce the vehicle's electric powertrain -- those little jewels that play to current electric car buyers.

The interior is well-crafted and includes some luxurious perks such as drop-down trays for second-row passengers. The tall body helps give this B-Class lots of interior space but works against its performance. There is a big step up into the B-Class as well, as Mercedes raised the floor an inch to accommodate battery storage. Mostly, though, the Mercedes-Benz B-Class looks perfectly normal.

The electric drive produces 177 horsepower and 251 lb-ft of instant torque to give the B-Class solid acceleration off the line. In testing, the B-Class ED managed 0-60 mph in 6.5 seconds, the second-fastest time of the four EVs tested this year.

However, many editors noted the vehicle's heavy feel, with lots of understeer on the handling course. This could be from a mix of the less-than-sticky, low-rolling-resistance tires and the vehicle's obesity issues, with it tipping the scales 69 pounds short of two tons. By comparison, the next heaviest EV was the VW Golf EV, weighing 3,412 pounds, 519 pounds less than Mercedes. The BMW i3 was 1,067 pounds lighter. The B-Class' body rolled significantly when cornering and felt top-heavy, Kiino said.

There are some notable features on the B-Class ED, such as paddle shifters that can instantly adjust the B-Class' regeneration intensity. But with the financial premium EVs bring, looking normal is just not enough.

2015 Mercedes-Benz B-Class Electric Drive
VEHICLE LAYOUTFront-engine, FWD, 5-pass, 4-door hatchback
ENGINE177-hp/251-lb-ft electric motor
TRANSMISSION1-speed automatic
CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST)3931 lb (58/42%)
LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT171.6 x 71.3 x 63.1 in
0-60 MPH6.5 sec
QUARTER MILE15.1 sec @ 92.7 mph
BRAKING, 60-0 MPH124 ft
MT FIGURE EIGHT28.3 sec @ 0.65 g (avg)
ENERGY CONS., CITY/HWY40/41 kW-hrs/100 miles

Contender (Luxury): Acura TLX

By Scott Evans

2015 Acura TLX 35 SH AWD Front Three Quarter View In Motion 1© Provided by MotorTrend 2015 Acura TLX 35 SH AWD Front Three Quarter View In Motion 1 We Like: Quiet interior, impressive driver aids.
We Don't Like: Terminal understeer, inoffensive styling at best.

The all-new Acura TLX comes to us carrying quite a burden, replacing two cars at once and filling the most important sedan segment for the brand. If that weren't enough, it also carries a number of new technologies to help further its luxury credentials. It's a lot to ask of one car, and the TLX manages pretty well. Judges agreed the car is a step forward for the Acura brand and the best of its most recent sedan efforts. But we found it lacking in some categories.

The most remarked upon was Advancement in Design, where the judges agreed that while the TLX is the best-looking Acura to carry this design language, that isn't saying a whole lot. Kiino and Burgess thought it needed to be sexier, while MacKenzie flatly panned it as "forgettable." Guest judge and design guru Gale remarked, "The front-end theme is a minor variation and basically continues a remarkably unsuccessful string of attempts." Guest judge Theodore agreed: "Time to start over!"

The TLX also struggled in Performance of Intended Function. Judges found a bit too much Honda DNA in the car and not enough uniquely Acura design and engineering. The words "glammed-up Honda" were uttered. Plus, the sporty sedan's handling is a letdown. While both models turn in sharply, both quickly give up to heavy understeer mid-corner. The front-drive four-cylinder is a bit more nimble, and the all-wheel-drive V-6 could be forced around a corner by flooring the gas, but neither is as fun to drive as either of the cars the TLX replaces.

The Acura did gain some points back in Engineering Excellence thanks to its rigid body, vault-quiet interior, and class-leading driver assistance technologies that can effectively drive the car themselves on the highway. Both engines and transmissions also received a fair amount of praise, even if the push-button shifter on the all-wheel-drive car drew scorn for being needlessly complicated.

The TLX is a solid car that has already proven very attractive to the Acura faithful. For the rest of us, it falls short of class leadership.

 2015 Acura TLX 2.42015 Acura TLX SH-AWD
BASE PRICE$31,890 $42,345
PRICE AS TESTED$35,920 $45,595
VEHICLE LAYOUTFront-engine, FWD, 5-pass, 4-door sedanFront-engine, AWD, 5-pass, 4-door sedan
ENGINE2.4L/206-hp/182-lb-ft DOHC 16-valve I-4 3.5L/290-hp/267-lb-ft SOHC 24-valve V-6
TRANSMISSION8-speed twin-clutch auto. 9-speed automatic
CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST)3478 lb (60/40%)3764 lb (61/39%)
WHEELBASE109.3 in109.3 in
LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT190.3 x 73.0 x 57.0 in190.3 x 73.0 x 57.0 in
0-60 MPH7.2 sec5.9 sec
QUARTER MILE15.6 sec @ 91.1 mph14.4 sec @ 98.4 mph
BRAKING, 60-0 MPH122 ft124 ft
LATERAL ACCELERATION0.84 g (avg)0.82 g (avg)
MT FIGURE EIGHT27.0 sec @ 0.74 g (avg)26.7 sec @ 0.76 g (avg)
EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON24/35/28 mpg21/31/25 mpg
ENERGY CONS., CITY/HWY140/96 kW-hrs/100 miles160/109 kW-hrs/100 miles
CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB0.69 lb/mile0.79 lb/mile

Contender (Luxury): Kia K900

By Ron Kiino

2015 Kia K900 V8© Provided by MotorTrend 2015 Kia K900 V8 We Like: Quiet ride, posh interior, smooth powertrain.
We Don't Like: Sloppy handling, chrome wheels, dated platform.

Despite not earning a spot on our short list of finalists, the Kia K900 was just about universally loved by our judges. Why? Well, picture an immaculate example of the defunct Lincoln Town Car. Now imagine it with clean, modern, understated sheetmetal; a 420-hp, 5.0-liter V-8 paired to a smooth eight-speed auto; a stunning interior with white Nappa leather and dark walnut trim; and a cabin so quiet you could hear a mouse break wind.

Gale gave the K900's style high marks, noting, "The exterior is proof positive that you do not need strange lines or shapes to differentiate in a positive way. All in all, a very successful and competent design with nicely executed details." Theodore praised the interior: "Very close, if not equal, to S-Class quality in the interior with beautiful I/P trimmed with wood grain, aluminum, and highly detailed knobs and switches. Loh noted, "This could be the quietest vehicle I have driven at a Car of the Year program." Though Advancement in Design and Performance of Intended Function were strong suits, other criteria were more elusive.

Per Markus: "I'm getting a sense of things moving around on the chassis over the Choppy Road. Some of these bumps are reverberating through the body structure." The Genesis, riding on the latest-generation large-car platform, provided a far better sense of solidity. Theodore said: "As a luxury cruiser, the K900 is more enjoyable than the Genesis, but special surfaces revealed more body shake with the old platform." Then there was the K900's porpoise-like behavior and terminal understeer. Burgess said it best: "You don't so much drive this car as much as you set sail."

But hey, when you want to go for a nice cruise...

2015 Kia K900 V8
VEHICLE LAYOUTFront-engine, RWD, 5-pass, 4-door sedan
ENGINE5.0L/420-hp/376-lb-ft DOHC 32-valve V-8
TRANSMISSION8-speed automatic
CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST)4652 lb (52/48%)
LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT200.6 x 74.8 x 58.7 in
0-60 MPH5.5 sec
QUARTER MILE13.9 sec @ 103.8 mph
BRAKING, 60-0 MPH123 ft
MT FIGURE EIGHT27.1 sec @ 0.76 g (avg)
ENERGY CONS., CITY/HWY225/147 kW-hrs/100 miles
CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB1.09 lb/mile

Contender (Near Luxury): Volvo V60

By Scott Evans

2015 Volvo V60 T5© Provided by MotorTrend 2015 Volvo V60 T5 We Like: Handsome looks, great seats, immensely practical.
We Don't Like: Rear seat legroom, spongy brakes, Polestars are sold out.

It's no secret automotive journalists are fans of wagons, and this new Volvo V60 gives us every reason to continue rallying behind them. It's handsome, practical, and reasonably fun to drive. Against its peers in the tragically small wagon segment, this car shines.

Why isn't it a finalist, or even Car of the Year, then? A few drawbacks hamstrung the otherwise strong contender. Among them was the lack of space in the rear seat, particularly with regard to legroom. Several judges noted it wasn't as roomy as other cars in the class. Also taking heat were the brakes, which in both models displayed a spongy pedal feel that sapped driver confidence. Some judges also took issue with the transmissions, which weren't as responsive as they'd hoped.

A bigger issue for many judges was the aging entertainment and information system, which, like the sea of buttons below it, remains rather unintuitive. Per Jurnecka, "This infotainment system wasn't great in my long-term S60 three years ago, and it hasn't improved with age."

Perhaps the biggest issue was the understeer. The V60 rides like a sports sedan and attacks corners with same intentions, but the front tires quickly give up the ghost. For all the promise of luxury sport wagon, the V60 failed to deliver. This was only amplified on the Polestar, whose beautiful blue paint and big wheels couldn't hide its proclivity to understeer as well.

The V60 otherwise hit well on our criteria. Judges lauded its Design and Performance of Intended Function. Safety is always a shoe-in for Volvo, and it also did well on Value and Efficiency. Also drawing strong praise from several judges were the seats, which were a rare combination of deeply comfortable, reasonably sporty, and beautiful to look at. "Volvo knows seats," MacKenzie declared.

In all, the judges really liked the V60 but felt it didn't quite deliver on its potential. A clearly successful refresh of an aging car (while new to us, it's been on sale in Europe since 2010), the V60 is a few updates and a few bugs away from being a Car of the Year finalist.

 2015 Volvo V60 T52015 Volvo V60 Polestar
BASE PRICE$36,675 $61,825
PRICE AS TESTED$43,525 $61,825
VEHICLE LAYOUTFront-engine, FWD, 5-pass, 4-door wagonFront-engine, AWD, 5-pass, 4-door wagon
ENGINE2.0L/240-hp/258-lb-ft turbo DOHC 16-valve I-4 3.0L/345-hp/369-lb-ft turbo DOHC 24-valve I-6
TRANSMISSION8-speed automatic6-speed automatic
CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST)3745 lb (60/40%)3985 lb (60/40%)
WHEELBASE109.3 in109.3 in
LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT182.5 x 73.4 x 58.4 in182.5 x 73.4 x 58.4 in
0-60 MPH6.9 sec5.0 sec
QUARTER MILE15.3 sec @ 92.2 mph13.5 sec @ 102.6 mph
BRAKING, 60-0 MPH121 ft108 ft
LATERAL ACCELERATION0.84 g (avg)0.89 g (avg)
MT FIGURE EIGHT27.1 sec @ 0.63 g (avg)25.5 sec @ 0.74 g (avg)
EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON25/37/29 mpg18/27/21 mpg
ENERGY CONS., CITY/HWY135/91 kW-hrs/100 miles187/125 kW-hrs/100 miles
CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB0.66 lb/mile0.92 lb/mile

Contender (Sporty): Alfa Romeo 4C

By Frank Markus

2015 Alfa Romeo 4C© Provided by MotorTrend 2015 Alfa Romeo 4C We Like: Lotus-like mass, steering, handling.
We Don't Like: Caterham-like comfort, amenities.

The COTY deck is inherently stacked against the 4C. This sweet-driving little gem was much better suited to our laser-focused Best Driver's Car competition, where it ranked as this year's runner-up with several staffers arguing vehemently in its favor. Here, with six diverse criteria chosen to help us assess each contender's worth as transportation, the lovable Alfa struggled mightily.

Mind you, it rocks the Performance of Intended Function category, presuming that function is merely to delight its driver on a great road. (The passenger will be miserable, with nowhere to hang on securely.) Said Loh after a lap of the Winding Track: "I need more time to recalibrate my inner ear. You feel so much more in this car -- the front end biting, washing out, the rear end coming around. I had a couple of thrilling yet controllable moments." Lago summed up the 4C's raison d'être this way: "Think of this like a toy you buy instead of a boat or a few Jet Skis." (Alternatives that are equally miserable to ride on a highway.) But even as a toy, Lago found room for improvement: "The engine's soft top-end leaves me wanting on corner exits." That's a complaint MacKenzie echoed, noting this "seems the antithesis of what an Italian car should do."

Alfa's carbon-fiber body tub earned huge Engineering Excellence points, some of which were docked for the dry dual-clutch tranny's somewhat clunky behavior in Sport mode. Even the Design criterion drew some expert criticism from Gale: "The surfaces are heavy with extraordinary crown, which imparts a very heavy feeling in the roof, quarters, and rear end." But Evans advocated for big Value points, daring folks to name an Italian two-seater, carbon-fiber monocoque, or mid-engine car on U.S. roads priced below the 4C's $55,195 base price. "This thing's a bargain in the right light!"

With no IIHS crash-test results to distinguish it in the Safety category and middling 24/34 city/hwy EPA ratings in the Efficiency category, the Alfa missed our finalist cut by a mile. Lieberman's pithy sum-up: "A great fifth car, but so one-note it may as well be a test signal."

2015 Alfa Romeo 4C
VEHICLE LAYOUTMid-engine, RWD, 2-pass, 2-door coupe
ENGINE1.7L/237-hp/258-lb-ft turbo DOHC 16-valve I-4
TRANSMISSION6-speed twin-clutch auto.
CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST)2468 lb (41/59%)
LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT157.5 x 73.5 x 46.6 in
0-60 MPH4.6 sec
QUARTER MILE13.2 sec @ 105.8 mph
BRAKING, 60-0 MPH111 ft
MT FIGURE EIGHT24.6 sec @ 0.93 g (avg)
ENERGY CONS., CITY/HWY140/99 kW-hrs/100 miles
CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB0.70 lb/mile

Contender (Sporty): Mini Cooper Hardtop

By Ron Kiino

2015 Mini Hardtop Cooper© Provided by MotorTrend 2015 Mini Hardtop Cooper We Like: Spunky: three-cylinder, fuel economy, door-mounted window switches.
We Don't Like: Awkward styling, choppy ride, notchy gearshift.

If there ever were a recipe for a strong COTY player, the Mini would seem to have it in spades: classic style, a hoot to scoot, and small, cute proportions that belied a big, infectious personality. Problem is, that pretty much describes the first two generations of the modern Mini, not this latest one. This all-new third generation, now based on a platform shared with BMW's front-drive 1 Series, has lost much of that Mini magic.

For starters, the exemplary Frank Stephenson design has morphed into an odd-looking fraternal twin of the past gens. Per Theodore, "Aesthetically, each Mini keeps getting bigger and more and more a caricature of itself." Guest judge Gale added, "Each new iteration of the Mini design seems to lose some of the iconic feel of the modern Mini introduced in 2001. The front overhang, the heavy handling of lamps and surface details all contribute to the departure."

Inside, while roomier with more rear-seat space, the Mini has become equally odd. We like that the window switches have moved from the center stack to the doors, but many cues and details seem contrived. MacKenzie said: "The pointless, large, circular graphic at the center of dash is a case in point of Mini desperately attempting to slap Stephenson's design cues onto an entirely different car. It's there solely because that's where the speedo used to be." And Burgess noted, "The fuel display's LED rope lights that go around the center gauge serve the purpose; however, it just feels like a cheap lightstick from a '90s rave." Further, both the base Mini and the sportier S were deemed to have stiff, choppy rides and notchy, imprecise gearboxes, none an admirable quality.

Nonetheless, it wasn't all doom and gloom. Most editors judged the base car's all-new, turbo three-cylinder a surprising delight, offering plenty of pop to easily reach and maintain 100 mph on the high-speed oval. And while not the match of the GTI, the S proved a nimble ride on the handling course.

Ironically, too little, too late for these quick Minis.

 2014 Mini Cooper 2014 Mini Cooper S
BASE PRICE$20,745 $24,395
PRICE AS TESTED$22,145 $27,595
VEHICLE LAYOUTFront-engine, FWD, 4-pass, 2-door hatchbackFront-engine, FWD, 4-pass, 2-door hatchback
ENGINE1.5L/134-hp/162-lb-ft turbo DOHC 12-valve I-3 2.0L/189-hp/207-lb-ft turbo DOHC 16-valve I-4
TRANSMISSION6-speed manual6-speed manual
CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST)2662 lb (62/38%)2757 lb (63/37%)
WHEELBASE98.2 in98.2 in
LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT151.1 x 68.0 x 55.7 in151.9 x 68.0 x 55.7 in
0-60 MPH7.4 sec6.8 sec
QUARTER MILE15.9 sec @ 88.8 mph15.0 sec @ 95.7 mph
BRAKING, 60-0 MPH113 ft111 ft
LATERAL ACCELERATION0.85 g (avg)0.86 g (avg)
MT FIGURE EIGHT26.9 sec @ 0.66 g (avg)26.4 sec @ 0.69 g (avg)
EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON30/42/34 mpg25/38/29 mpg
ENERGY CONS., CITY/HWY112/80 kW-hrs/100 miles135/89 kW-hrs/100 miles
CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB0.56 lb/mile0.66 lb/mile

Contender (Sporty): Subaru WRX

By Ron Kiino

2015 Subaru WRX STI© Provided by MotorTrend 2015 Subaru WRX STI We Like: Turbo oomph, rally handling, capacious back seat.
We Don't Like: Boy-racer bits, short gearing, down-market interior.

The WRX and its hi-po STI sibling didn't fail to advance in this year's COTY competition because of a lack of performance, what with respective 0-60 times of 5.7 and 4.6 seconds, and quarter-mile runs of 14.3 at 96.1 and 13.1 at 104.4 mph. Quite the opposite, really. Subaru's AWD pocket-rockets were lauded not only for their get-up-and-go, but also their hang-on-and-enjoy. As Seabaugh pointed out, "It's one of the few performance cars out there where a driver can hop in, turn off all the nannies, and have a blast without any butt-clenching moments." Of the STI, Lieberman said, "This is a truly great-handling machine."

But we expected this from the WRX tandem. We also expected a class-leading interior, fewer boy-racer bits, and better gearing for the daily commute. Alas, we got none. Loh noted, "Subaru really needs to bring the Outback/Legacy interior redesign people into WRX. Feels cheap in comparison to Golf and even Fit." Theodore observed, "Definitely over the top with boy-racer wings and scoops." And per Jurnecka, "Very short gearing makes for sky-high revs at freeway speeds. A touring car this isn't." And despite every direct competitor offering a rapid-fire, dual-clutch automatic, the WRX offers up a less-satisfying CVT and, for the STI, nada. Perhaps the biggest knock against the WRX was its Golf GTI counterpart, which nearly matched the Subaru's dynamics while superseding it in refinement and style.

Both WRX variants' exterior designs received mixed reviews. Some, like MacKenzie, saw sporty sedans that looked better than the cars they replaced, while others, like Gale, viewed them as busy, with "lots of exterior entertainment." MacKenzie sums up the WRX line this way: "It's a formula that has worked for years, and with Mitsubishi departing the arena, one that should continue to work for years to come, as there are no other cars that offer the same level of rally-inspired performance and handling. The WRX and STI are to be celebrated for that, but it doesn't make them COTY winners."

 2015 Subaru WRX 2015 Subaru WRX STI
BASE PRICE$27,090 $35,290
PRICE AS TESTED$29,639 $35,639
VEHICLE LAYOUTFront-engine, AWD, 5-pass, 4-door sedanFront-engine, AWD, 5-pass, 4-door sedan
ENGINE2.0L/268-hp/258-lb-ft turbo DOHC 16-valve flat-4 2.5L/305-hp/290-lb-ft turbo DOHC 16-valve flat-4
TRANSMISSION6-speed manual6-speed manual
CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST)3303 lb (60/40%)3367 lb (59/41%)
WHEELBASE104.3 in104.3 in
LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT180.9 x 70.7 x 58.1 in180.9 x 70.7 x 58.1 in
0-60 MPH5.7 sec4.6 sec
QUARTER MILE14.3 sec @ 96.1 mph 13.1 sec @ 104.4 mph
BRAKING, 60-0 MPH112 ft 108 ft
LATERAL ACCELERATION0.89 g (avg)0.89 g (avg)
MT FIGURE EIGHT25.7 sec @ 0.72 g (avg)24.9 sec @ 0.79 g (avg)
EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON21/28/24 mpg17/23/19 mpg
ENERGY CONS., CITY/HWY160/120 kW-hrs/100 miles198/147/175 kW-hrs/100 mi
CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB0.82 lb/mile1.01 lb/mile

Ten Best: From the answer to the universe* we cut to these ten finalists. From this pack comes one winner.

Finalist (Economy): Honda Fit

By Frank Markus

2015 Honda Fit© Provided by MotorTrend 2015 Honda Fit We Like: Magical seating and packaging, sprightly dynamics.
We Don't Like: Thrashy engine note, 2 tons of styling on a 1.5-ton car.

The Fit charmed our judging panel like a Jack Russell puppy—infectiously cute, eager to please, with a million great moves guaranteed to leave folks smiling. It bounded over most of our criteria hurdles with ample clearance. Its intended function is to provide compact, utilitarian, inexpensive transportation, and in doing so it runs rings around its competitors. Evans praised the upgraded interior (which gets optional leather and seat heaters) for being "less funky, more functional." MacKenzie noted it comfortably accommodates four adults his size (6-plus feet). Fold the rear seat cushion up against the backrest, and you can stand a bike up. Drop the "magic seat" flat to the floor to open up 52.7 cubic feet worth of space -- 3.2 cubes more than a Jeep Cherokee can handle, in a package that's a third smaller outside. MacKenzie proclaimed Fit "the most rational, intelligent B-segment car in the world."

Direct-injection boosts power by 11 percent (to 130) and broadens the torque curve, which peaks 8 lb-ft higher at 114. Paired with either a new six-speed manual or the Civic's slick paddle-shifted CVT, the new Fit hustles to 60 mph in 7.9 or 9.1 seconds -- an improvement of 0.3 and 1.1 seconds respectively. But its unexpectedly playful chassis beguiled us more than its straight-line speed: "Had almost as much fun driving this manual as I did in the GTI," said Evans. "It is a fun car to hustle around," said Theodore, adding, "The ride control is excellent for a small car, with little suspension harshness on any of the Special Surfaces -- it even handled manhole covers better than some midsize and luxury sedans! Quite an accomplishment."

Value and Efficiency are perennial Honda strong suits as well. So why isn't this story several pages farther back? Like that Jack Russell pup, the Fit is kinda yappy. Loh found "the engine a bit thrashy at wide-open throttle." "Drones hard at 5,000 rpm -- like an angry blender," said Evans. Theodore opined that the engine block wasn't stiff enough for DI duty. But it's still mighty darned lovable.

 2015 Honda Fit (EX-L)2015 Honda Fit (EX)
BASE PRICE$20,590 $18,225
PRICE AS TESTED$20,590 $18,225
VEHICLE LAYOUTFront-engine, FWD, 5-pass, 4-door hatchbackFront-engine, FWD, 5-pass, 4-door hatchback
ENGINE1.5L/130-hp/114-lb-ft DOHC 16-valve I-4 1.5L/130-hp/114-lb-ft DOHC 16-valve I-4
TRANSMISSIONCont. variable auto6-speed manual
CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST)2637 lb (62/38%)2578 lb (61/39%)
WHEELBASE99.6 in99.6 in
LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT160.0 x 67.0 x 60.0 in160.0 x 67.0 x 60.0 in
0-60 MPH9.1 sec7.9 sec
QUARTER MILE16.8 sec @ 85.8 mph16.0 sec @ 86.4 mph
BRAKING, 60-0 MPH130 ft130 ft
LATERAL ACCELERATION0.79 g (avg)0.80 g (avg)
MT FIGURE EIGHT28.6 sec @ 0.64 g (avg)28.3 sec @ 0.65 g (avg)
EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON32/38/35 mpg29/37/32 mpg
ENERGY CONS., CITY/HWY105/89 kW-hrs/100 miles116/91 kW-hrs/100 miles
CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB0.56 lb/mile0.60 lb/mile

Finalist (Luxury): Audi A3

By Scott Evans

2015 Audi A3© Provided by MotorTrend 2015 Audi A3 We Like: Loads of fun to drive, great looks.
We Don't Like: Gets very expensive very quickly.

When it comes to the compact luxury sedan class, the Value criterion can be a tough one to pin down because it's not always a matter of X features for Y money. To many people, the badge on the trunk carries a great deal of value by itself, but you can't really measure that. Rather than measure, though, automakers bank on it.

Value is the single biggest reason the A3 isn't Car of the Year. At just under $31,000 to start, the opening bid makes a strong case. Add features, though, and the proposition quickly sours, especially when you realize what isn't included in the base price. For example, the mid-range A3 2.0 Quattro in our test rang in at more than $37,000 as-tested and did not include automatic climate control, a backup camera, or parking sensors. It did, though, have a $350 option that provided the software and cable necessary to make an iPod or iPhone work with the stereo. Driving the point home were a number of blank buttons prominently displayed on the center stack.

Pricing gets even more ridiculous when you look at the S3, which stickers for one tank of premium gas shy of $50,000.

Also working against the A3, from the standpoint of our test criteria, was the design. While we all agreed it's a very good-looking car, it is in no way an advancement for Audi. A number of judges also remarked that the interior design was nearly too minimalist and almost devoid of color.

As for the rest of the criteria, the A3 did very well. Judges loved the chassis, which seemed to only get better with speed. All models handled extremely well and were very well-controlled in corners and over bad pavement. The MQB platform on which it's based is a proven winner in safety tests, and all models displayed decent efficiency for the class.

As much as we liked the new A3, none of us could overlook the Volkswagen Golf sitting next to it. Riding on the same platform, it did almost everything as well as the Audi and a few things better for a lot less money. There's intrinsic value in those four rings on the A3's trunk, but not enough to vault it into the winner's circle.

 2015 Audi A3 2015 Audi A3 2.0T Quattro2015 Audi S3
BASE PRICE$30,795 $33,795 $41,995
PRICE AS TESTED$34,345 $37,195 $49,945
VEHICLE LAYOUTFront-engine, FWD, 5-pass, 4-door sedanFront-engine, AWD, 5-pass, 4-door sedanFront-engine, AWD, 5-pass, 4-door sedan
ENGINE1.8L/170-hp/200-lb-ft turbo DOHC 16-valve I-4 2.0L/220-hp/258-lb-ft turbo DOHC 16-valve I-4 2.0L/292-hp/280-lb-ft turbo DOHC 16-valve I-4
TRANSMISSION6-speed twin-clutch auto. 6-speed twin-clutch auto. 6-speed twin-clutch auto.
CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST)3140 lb (60/40%)3349 lb (58/42%)3467 lb (58/42%)
WHEELBASE103.8 in103.8 in103.6 in
LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT175.4 x 70.0 x 55.7175.4 x 70.0 x 55.7 in175.9 x 70.0 x 54.8 in
0-60 MPH7.3 sec5.6 sec4.7 sec
QUARTER MILE15.7 sec @ 89.2 mph14.3 sec @ 98.3 mph13.4 sec @ 102.4 mph
BRAKING, 60-0 MPH124 ft121 ft113 ft
LATERAL ACCELERATION0.86 g (avg)0.87 g (avg)0.92 g (avg)
MT FIGURE EIGHT26.8 sec @ 0.75 g (avg)25.9 sec @ 0.76 g (avg)25.2 sec @ 0.81 g (avg)
EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON23/33/27 mpg24/33/27 mpg23/31/26 mpg
ENERGY CONS., CITY/HWY147/102 kW-hrs/100 miles140/102 kW-hrs/100 miles147/109 kW-hrs/100 miles
CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB0.73 lb/mile0.71 lb/mile0.75 lb/mile

Finalist (Luxury): Hyundai Genesis

By Scott Burgees

2015 Hyundai Genesis© Provided by MotorTrend 2015 Hyundai Genesis We Like: Stately exterior and smooth, quiet ride.
We Don't Like: Its body roll and V-8 performance.

The Hyundai Genesis was a welcome surprise for many judges. The large premium sedan combines luxury, performance, and style in a very elegant manner. "The Genesis is a real evolution," MacKenzie said. "Hyundai has changed the things that were wrong with the last one. It's a lot of car for the money. It's the kind of car that very few carmakers have managed to do in that segment." Indeed, Hyundai has found the sweet spot between sporty import sedans and traditional big, quiet rides.

Many editors preferred the 3.8-liter V-6 mated to the eight-speed automatic transmission over the 5.0-liter V-8 for its overall performance. The 3.8-liter V-6 creates 311 horsepower and 293 lb-ft of torque and delivers the power very nicely to the all-wheel-drive platform. By the numbers, the 5.0 outperformed the V-6 model, but not by what the potential price difference suggests. The smaller-engine Genesis felt more nimble on the track and very well-mannered on the Tehachapi loop. "If I wanted a straight luxury car, not a sport sedan," Evans said, "this one would make a very strong case for itself."

Both cars, which have the Fluidic Sculpture 2.0 design language, offer stately, if not understated, looks. Both were extremely smooth on the road, and quiet. "This car is dead silent at 90 mph, exactly how a luxury car should be," Seabaugh said.

Add to that the luxurious appointments throughout the cabin, such as the flat wood-grain and aluminum trim, and high-tech driving features including lane keep assist and blind-spot detection, and the Genesis is a complete package. The rotating knob control on the center console was also easy to use while driving.

"Very upscale interior," Loh said. "Logical control layout, high-end look and feel, though there are a few too many buttons."

The comfortable riding position, adjustable driver modes, and smooth ride moved the Genesis higher on many judges' lists, as the Genesis delivers more than promised. The speed with which Hyundai has moved up in the luxury car segment in America has been quite impressive.

 2015 Hyundai Genesis 3.8 HTRAC2015 Hyundai Genesis 5.0
BASE PRICE$41,450 $51,450
PRICE AS TESTED$52,450 $55,700
VEHICLE LAYOUTFront-engine, AWD, 5-pass, 4-door sedanFront-engine, RWD, 5-pass, 4-door sedan
ENGINE3.8L/311-hp/293-lb-ft DOHC 24-valve V-6 5.0L/420-hp/383-lb-ft DOHC 32-valve V-8
TRANSMISSION8-speed automatic8-speed automatic
CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST)4510 lb (52/48%)4599 lb (52/48%)
WHEELBASE118.5 in118.5 in
LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT196.5 x 74.4 x 58.3 in196.5 x 74.4 x 58.3 in
0-60 MPH6.3 sec5.4 sec
QUARTER MILE14.6 sec @ 97.0 mph13.8 sec @ 102.8 mph
BRAKING, 60-0 MPH115 ft114 ft
LATERAL ACCELERATION0.86 g (avg)0.86 g (avg)
MT FIGURE EIGHT26.2 sec @ 0.69 g (avg)26.6 sec @ 0.67 g (avg)
EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON16/25/ mpg15/23/18 mpg
ENERGY CONS., CITY/HWY211/135 kW-hrs/100 miles225/147 kW-hrs/100 miles
CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB1.02 lb/mile1.09 lb/mile

Finalist (Luxury): Maserati Ghibli

By Frank Markus

2015 Maserati Ghibli Q4© Provided by MotorTrend 2015 Maserati Ghibli Q4 We Like: Four-door Ferrari moves.
We Don't Like: Boutique build quality, Chrysler-bin bits.

The first Maserati to shimmy under our COTY price ceiling ($125,000 this year) aims to crash the German exec-sedan party. The design beguiled most judges, with Gale praising the overall proportions, front and rear graphics, and "squat feel to the overall package," and MacKenzie admiring the way "the low-slung grille pouts provocatively."

Of course, it was the dynamics of il tridente that got us raving. "Every sedan here, especially any RWD one, wishes it drove like this car. Huge power, huge grip, very neutral handling with a little rotation at entry and mild understeer at the limit -- what a fun car!" Evans said. "An absolute blast -- the rocket ship in our test group," Burgess said. Theodore enthused, "It sticks well and goes where you point it better than some of its German competitors." We especially appreciated the eight-speed automatic's swift and anticipatory Sport mode shifting.

The Ghibli's test numbers trailed its principal German competitors' in nearly every objective measure. This was partially attributable to ultra-hot, low-barometric-pressure test conditions that strained our weather correction, but it was mostly due to the weight it carries as a result of its aging, cut-down Quattroporte architecture. At 4,610 pounds, it outweighs recent test samples of all its chief competitors. Nevertheless, the engine note and chassis dynamics earned it a finalist slot.

On the public roads, more than a few shortcomings came into sharper focus. "Build quality is haphazard, with some poor panel and trim fits," Theodore noted. MacKenzie added: "Hidden away to the left of the steering column, the strangely placed starter button reveals the Ghibli's other major flaw -- dismal ergonomics. The cruise control was impossible to operate, for example." Railroad crossings revealed secondary body quivering, and grooved pavement led the steering to wander.

The Ghibli will undoubtedly upset the segment, but as much as we crave a long-term tester, we just couldn't muster a sufficient case against the criteria for awarding it the calipers.

2015 Maserati Ghibli Q4
VEHICLE LAYOUTFront-engine, AWD, 5-pass, 4-door sedan
ENGINE3.0L/405-hp/406-lb-ft twin-turbo DOHC 24-valve V-6
TRANSMISSION8-speed automatic
CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST)4610 lb (52/48%)
LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT195.7 x 76.6 x 57.5 in
0-60 MPH4.8 sec
QUARTER MILE13.4 sec @ 104.8 mph
BRAKING, 60-0 MPH109 ft
MT FIGURE EIGHT25.5 sec @ 0.80 g (avg)
ENERGY CONS., CITY/HWY225/135 kW-hrs/100 miles
CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB1.06 lb/mile

Finalist (Luxury): Mercedes-Benz C-Class

By Angus Mackenzie

2015 Mercedes Benz C300 4Matic© Provided by MotorTrend 2015 Mercedes Benz C300 4Matic We Like: Glamorous interior, strong performance.
We Don't Like: Poor ride quality, cramped rear seat.

The C-Class accounts for about a quarter of Mercedes-Benz's U.S. sales. So the decision to push the new 2015 model upmarket, with more equipment and technology, a more lavishly finished interior, plus, of course, a higher price tag, represents a significant marketing shift.

Interior and exterior styling leave no doubt that -- now the entry-level CLA sedan can look after wide-eyed first-time Benz buyers -- this new C-Class is for those who want a taste of S-Class luxury when they drive the three-pointed star. The beautifully executed interior, awash with softly polished metal, stitched leather, and your choice of richly polished or warm, open-pore wood, absolutely nails the baby S-Class meme. But the exterior misses. The extreme dash-to-axle gives a fashionably long hood, but the roof crowns awkwardly in profile. The slightly truncated rear end looks oddly soft compared with the aggressive front half. And while the W205 C-Class has a wheelbase 1.6 inches longer than that of the mid-'80s W124 E-Class sedan, the rear seat feels surprisingly cramped.

Currently available engines are a 241-hp, 2.0-liter I-4 turbo (C300) and a 329-hp 3.0-liter twin-turbo V-6 (C400). Both deliver impressive performance. The C300 hit 60 mph in 6.4 seconds and covered the quarter mile in 14.8 seconds, while the C400 sizzled to 60 in 4.7 seconds and took just 13.2 seconds for the quarter-mile sprint. Thank 4Matic all-wheel drive, standard on C400 models, and all that mid-range turbo torque -- 273 lb-ft from 1,300 rpm in the four and 354 lb-ft from 1,600 rpm in the V-6, which helps mask the slightly sluggish responses of the seven-speed automatic transmission.

Neither of our COTY testers rode like a luxury car. The C300, on optional AMG 19-inch wheels and low-profile tires, felt stiff and brittle on the road loop, and the optional AirMatic suspension on the C400 simply couldn't cope on the handling track -- the car's demeanor devolved into an odd pogoing motion.

The C-Class is very good in parts, but it's not quite the complete package we expected from Mercedes-Benz.

 2015 Mercedes-Benz C300 4Matic2015 Mercedes-Benz C400 4Matic
BASE PRICE$41,325 $49,515
PRICE AS TESTED$55,995 $62,905
VEHICLE LAYOUTFront-engine, AWD, 5-pass, 4-door sedanFront-engine, AWD, 5-pass, 4-door sedan
ENGINE2.0L/241-hp/273-lb-ft turbo DOHC 16-valve I-4 3.0L/329-hp/354-lb-ft twin-turbo DOHC 24-valve V-6
TRANSMISSION7-speed automatic7-speed automatic
CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST)3746 lb (55/45%)3890 lb (56/44%)
WHEELBASE111.8 in111.8 in
LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT184.5 x 71.3 x 56.8 in184.5 x 71.3 x 56.8 in
0-60 MPH6.4 sec4.7 sec
QUARTER MILE14.8 sec @ 93.4 mph13.2 sec @ 107.3 mph
BRAKING, 60-0 MPH108 ft114 ft
LATERAL ACCELERATION0.87 g (avg)0.86 g (avg)
MT FIGURE EIGHT26.3 sec @ 0.70 g (avg)25.9 sec @ 0.80 g (avg)
EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON24/31/27 mpg21/29/24 mpg
ENERGY CONS., CITY/HWY140/109 kW-hrs/100 miles160/116 kW-hrs/100 miles
CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB0.73 lb/mile0.81 lb/mile

Finalist (Minivan): Kia Sedona

By Christian Seabaugh

2015 Kia Sedona© Provided by MotorTrend 2015 Kia Sedona We Like: Handsome design and First Class seats—finally, a minivan for grownups!
We Don't Like: Fussy seat mechanisms, reduced third-row headroom.

Here's a surprising statistic for you to chew on: According to Kia, 45 percent of minivan buyers are empty nesters. That's a pretty sizable market, and Kia is looking to cash in with the all-new Sedona, the last model in the automaker's lineup to benefit from Kia's new design language.

And benefit it does. The Sedona certainly makes a case for itself as the most handsome minivan on the market. "The big truck-like grille gives the Sedona a tough, masculine demeanor while making an emphatic brand statement. There's no mistaking this vehicle is a Kia," MacKenzie said. The lone minivan at this year's Car of the Year also made a big case for itself inside. Our swanky Sedona SXL came loaded with goodies including black-and-tan antimicrobial Nappa leather, a whisper-quiet cabin, and Kia's First Class Lounge captain's chairs, which turn the minivan's second row into the best seats in the house. While judges loved the Sedona's seats, all found the mechanisms cumbersome and difficult to operate, and the SXL's second sunroof eats up headroom for third-row passengers.

When it comes to engineering excellence, the Sedona mostly impresses with rock-solid steering and confident dynamics, with Loh declaring, "I'd like to believe I could outpace the Kia K900 on the winding road." The performance specs suggest otherwise, and the Sedona's 276-hp 3.3-liter V-6 doesn't inspire that confidence. The engine feels powerful off the line, but power quickly tapers off unless the pedal is firewalled. The ride was mostly good, too, though the Sedona's suspension proved vulnerable to secondary vibrations from poor pavement.

As compelling as the Sedona may be, it ultimately isn't our first-ever minivan Car of the Year. The "why" is simple: The Sedona aces four of the six criteria, but measly fuel economy numbers and seat mechanisms that seem more complicated than nuclear physics resulted in low grades for Efficiency and Performance of Intended Function. A great grownup minivan the Sedona may be, but it's not our Car of the Year.

2015 Kia Sedona SXL
VEHICLE LAYOUTFront-engine, FWD, 7-pass, 4-door van
ENGINE3.3L/276-hp/248-lb-ft DOHC 24-valve V-6
TRANSMISSION6-speed automatic
CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST)4764 lb (56/44%)
LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT201.4 x 78.1 x 68.5 in
0-60 MPH7.9 sec
QUARTER MILE16.1 sec @ 89.2 mph
BRAKING, 60-0 MPH122 ft
MT FIGURE EIGHT28.0 sec @ 0.70 g (avg)
ENERGY CONS., CITY/HWY198/153 kW-hrs/100 miles
CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB1.02 lb/mile

Finalist (Sporty): BMW 2 Series

By Christian Seabaugh

2014 BMW 228i© Provided by MotorTrend 2014 BMW 228i We Like: The pure driving experience and potent powertrains.
We Don't Like: Being nickel-and-dimed for Bluetooth audio, iPod connectivity, and navigation.

It's really easy to be cynical about the BMW 2 Series. It's small, priced in a way that allows BMW to move the 3 Series upmarket, and it's completely devoid of standard amenities. Shut down that left brain, though, and the 2 Series starts to make a bit of sense. If there's one Car of the Year criterion the new BMW 2 Series excels at, it's Performance of Intended Function. With the 2 Series, BMW engineers set out to return the Ultimate Driving Machine to its roots, evoking the legendary BMW 2002 in the process.

To that effect, BMW largely succeeds. The BMW 228i and M235i are up there among the most fun-to-drive BMWs the company has built in years. Don't believe me? Ask Markus: "The 228i is a major hoot to drive on the winding road." Or Lieberman: "Totally sweet little track car. Great power, great balance. Most important, fun." Loh on the M235i: "It definitely wants to be driven sideways. Fantastic engine!"

The keys to the 2 Series' success are its two wonderful engines: a 2.0-liter I-4 making 240 hp and 255 lb-ft of torque in the 228i and a 3.0-liter I-6 producing 320 hp and 330 lb-ft in the M235i. Both powerplants are paired to an eight-speed automatic. "With both 228i and M235i, BMW serves up an object lesson in powertrain engineering," MacKenzie said. "The eight-speed automatic has been brilliantly calibrated to the engine's power and torque curves." While the M235i was the hot rod of the two, most staffers agreed the M Sport-optioned 228i was the one to have on back roads.

So where does it fall apart for the 2 Series? Just about everywhere else, especially in value. Simply put, the 2 isn't one. These cars were bare-bones for their near mid-century sticker prices. No navigation, no iPod connectivity, no Bluetooth audio, no power seats, no backup cameras -- nothing. "Ridiculously overpriced," Loh said. "It's especially galling when you come out of a Kia or Hyundai." The 2 Series may be an honest-to-goodness BMW in the classic sense and true to the brand's Ultimate Driving Machine moniker, but it isn't our Car of the Year.

 2014 BMW 228i 2014 BMW M235i
BASE PRICE$33,050 $44,050
PRICE AS TESTED$38,250 $46,050
VEHICLE LAYOUTFront-engine, RWD, 4-pass, 2-door coupeFront-engine, FWD, 4-pass, 2-door coupe
ENGINE2.0L/240-hp/255-lb-ft turbo DOHC 16-valve I-4 3.0L/320-hp/330-lb-ft turbo DOHC 24-valve I-6
TRANSMISSION8-speed automatic8-speed automatic
CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST)3346 lb (51/49%)3527 lb (53/47%)
WHEELBASE105.9 in105.9 in
LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT174.7 x 69.8 x 55.8 in175.9 x 69.8 x 55.4 in
0-60 MPH5.2 sec4.5 sec
QUARTER MILE13.9 sec @ 98.5 mph13.1 sec @ 105.6 mph
BRAKING, 60-0 MPH113 ft108 ft
LATERAL ACCELERATION0.89 g (avg)0.92 g (avg)
MT FIGURE EIGHT25.6 sec @ 0.77 g (avg)25.1 sec @ 0.79 g (avg)
EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON23/36/28 mpg22/32/25 mpg
ENERGY CONS., CITY/HWY147/94 kW-hrs/100 miles153/105 kW-hrs/100 miles
CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB0.71 lb/mile0.76 lb/mile

Finalist (Sporty): Ford Mustang

By Scott Burgess

2015 Ford Mustang Ecoboost Front Side View In Motion© Provided by MotorTrend 2015 Ford Mustang Ecoboost Front Side View In Motion We Like: Its sharply done interior.
We Don't Like: Its loose handling.

The 2015 Ford Mustang arrived for Car of the Year testing with a new engine, a new body, and an all-new independent rear suspension. The 2.3-liter direct-injection, turbocharged I-4 is all-new for the Mustang and provides more balanced performance, though its 310 hp and 320 lb-ft of torque never seemed fully available on the handling track. "I wish the EcoBoost engine was a little more raw," Evans said. "It's laggy at low RPM, but when the turbo comes on, there's no big payoff. It's just a little extra push."

The bigger (and heavier) V-8 Mustang's carryover 5.0-liter engine adds power but makes the car more difficult to control. The chassis seems to have a difficult time handling it when pushed to the limit. While many editors thought the steering was crisp and the ride generally solid, neither Mustang felt as thrilling as the ponycar competition.

However, the Mustang's new interior impressed everyone. It has a spacious front row, nicely designed IP and center stack, and comfortable seats, making it a great living space for the driver and front passenger.

2015 Ford Mustang GT© Provided by MotorTrend 2015 Ford Mustang GT "The engine-turned trim has a retro-cool look about it," Markus said. "The aircraft-inspired touches like the groundspeed indication on the speedometer and the look of the gauges is interesting." The Mustang adds a number of new features, including driver-selectable modes, blind-spot detection, and a set of track applications such as Launch mode and Line-Lock. The systems work well and add another arrow to the Mustang's quiver.

The evolutionary design advances the Mustang without causing it to lose a connection to its past. While some editors would have liked to see the new design move the Mustang in a different direction, Gale said most of the design choices work well with this car. "The rear view is very pleasing with a wider, flatter feel and a fresh handling of the surface and graphics," he said, adding that the side view remains flat.

While the Mustang did not display the performance chops to merit Car of the Year, most editors said this Mustang was the most livable yet.

 2015 Ford Mustang 2.3 EcoBoost2015 Ford Mustang GT
BASE PRICE$25,995 $32,925
PRICE AS TESTED$37,660 $46,380
VEHICLE LAYOUTFront-engine, RWD, 4-pass, 2-door coupeFront-engine, RWD, 4-pass, 2-door coupe
ENGINE2.3L/310-hp/320-lb-ft turbo DOHC 16-valve I-4 5.0L/435-hp/400-lb-ft DOHC 32-valve V-8
TRANSMISSION6-speed automatic6-speed manual
CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST)3658 lb (53/47%)3814 lb (54/46%)
WHEELBASE107.1 in107.1 in
LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT188.3 x 75.4 x 54.4 in188.3 x 75.4 x 54.9 in
0-60 MPH5.6 sec4.4 sec
QUARTER MILE14.1 sec @ 97.8 mph12.8 sec @ 112.2 mph
BRAKING, 60-0 MPH106 ft107 ft
LATERAL ACCELERATION0.96 g (avg)0.96 g (avg)
MT FIGURE EIGHT25.5 sec @ 0.80 g (avg)24.7 sec @ 0.84 g (avg)
EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON21/32/25 mpg15/25/19 mpg
ENERGY CONS., CITY/HWY160/105 kW-hrs/100 miles225/135 kW-hrs/100 miles
CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB0.78 lb/mile1.06 lb/mile

Finalist (Sporty): Lexus RC F

By Jonny Lieberman

2015 Lexus RC F© Provided by MotorTrend 2015 Lexus RC F We Like: Engine, transmission, brakes, handling.
We Don't Like: Shake 'N Bake exterior styling.

The Lexus RC is a mash-up of existing Lexus cars. The front third of the vehicle comes from the midsize GS sedan, the middle section is from the IS C convertible, and the rear third is from the IS sedan. The result is a wide track at the front, short rear overhang, and a very stiff structure. And weight. To wit, the RC F is more than 400 pounds heavier than the car it most directly competes against, the BMW M4. Sadly, Lexus couldn't provide us with an RC 350 F Sport, so we can't talk about the entire RC range. Still, we liked the RC F and its 467-horsepower, naturally aspirated V-8 well enough that we brought it along as a finalist.

Why is the RC F not Car of the Year? Because of the 4,045-pound elephant in the room, and we're not talking curb weight. We're talking design. The RC F is one of the most bafflingly bizarre-looking cars we've ever laid eyes on. That's being polite. Our design judge was even more polite. "The overall proportion and package are not at fault but are let down by a collection of details," said Gale. Kiino was more blunt: "It reminds me of an ugly dog that's cute because it's so ugly." MacKenzie summarizes, "This thing is a mess from front to rear."

That's a damn shame, because the RC F is a wonderful driver's car. Says Kiino: "A really pleasurable car to drive, and not just at breakneck speeds. Ride is surprisingly compliant, and the cabin is quiet on the highway." Should you decide to push deeper with your right foot, the RC F delivers. After smashing it around the Winding Track, Markus said, "This is how sport transmission shift logic is supposed to work!" As for the engine, MacKenzie called it "stonkingly good -- the RC F breezed up to speed with a barrel-chested roar on the bowl before nuzzling the speed limiter." Markus also praised the "indefatigable" brakes and the "exceptional" steering feel.

But man, those looks. Markus again: "I'm reminded of Ray Hutton's quote regarding the Fiat Multipla: 'It's like a whorehouse. You are embarrassed to be seen going in, but once inside you don't want to leave.'"

2015 Lexus RC F
VEHICLE LAYOUTFront-engine, RWD, 4-pass, 2-door coupe
ENGINE5.0L/467-hp/389-lb-ft DOHC 32-valve V-8
TRANSMISSION8-speed automatic
CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST)4045 lb (54/46%)
LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT185.2 x 72.6 x 54.7 in
0-60 MPH4.3 sec
QUARTER MILE12.7 sec @ 112.2 mph
BRAKING, 60-0 MPH107 ft
MT FIGURE EIGHT24.9 sec @ 0.80 g (avg)
ENERGY CONS., CITY/HWY211/135 kW-hrs/100 miles
CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB1.02 lb/mile

Finalist (Family): Volkswagen Golf

2015 Volkswagen Golf TDI© Provided by MotorTrend 2015 Volkswagen Golf TDI The 2015 Volkswagen Golf doesn't look much different from its predecessor, but the hatchback is lower, wider, and longer, without fussy creases in the sheetmetal. Inside, details like a standard 5.8-inch touchscreen and cloth-lined door pockets show Volkswagen's attention to refining the details. And with available gas, electric, and diesel powertrains, the Golf -- which drives as well as Golfs always have, is a car to suit a very wide range of consumer interests.

Read more about why the 2015 Volkswagen Golf is the 2015 Motor Trend Car of the Year RIGHT HERE.

2015 Car of the Year Testing

2015 Car of the Year Testing
© Provided by MotorTrend

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