My $1.6 Million Fleet in 2017 – the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

2017 Mazda MX-5 Miata RF - Image: © Timothy CainIn a year of great political transition, there was also much change afoot at The Truth About Cars and more than a few alterations made in the way my life intersects with the automotive industry.

2017 was crazy. Yet midst all of the external upheaval (Trump, TTAC, Apple skipping the iPhone 9, the launch of a new Honda Odyssey) and an array of internal disorder (GoodCarBadCar’s acquisition, a move to rural Prince Edward Island, Miata purchase, new job) there was at least one constant.

I drove a ton of cars. Many tons of cars, to be more accurate.

Until transitioning away from a full-day gig as road test editor and sales analyst here at TTAC, there was a new manufacturer-supplied vehicle filled with fuel sitting in my driveway every week. There were 35 vehicles in total, not counting many different vehicles I’ve driven for other reasons during the first 10 months of the year and since October ended.

Valued at nearly $1.64 million, they ranged in price from the high teens to nearly 90 grand. 20 of the 35 utilized all-wheel drive or four-wheel drive. Three were equipped with a manual transmission, and two of those three were Mazdas. 11 would charitably be called utility vehicles. There were only two pickup trucks, two convertibles, and one minivan.

After 35 vehicles, which weeks stood out? Which vehicles were most pleasantly surprising, which vehicles received the harshest verdicts, which vehicles failed to live up to expectations and left me disappointed? I answered these questions in 2015 and again in 2016. As 2017 ends, let’s answer them again.2017 Mercedes-AMG C43 Cabriolet - Image: © Timothy CainBest Of The Best: Mercedes-AMG C43 4Matic Cabriolet

Granted, it was the second-most costly weekly test example, so it ought to be great. But the 2017 Mercedes-AMG C43 4Matic Cabriolet excelled for reasons aside from the fact that it was an expensive and fast non-Benz Benz. Interior quality, front seat comfort, rear seat space, limited buffeting, impressive audio, and a charming balance between comfort and athleticism would make the AMG C43 a suitable companion even if it were to cost $25,000 more than it does.

Beyond the fact that Mercedes-Benz nailed so many details, the AMG C43 Cabriolet arrived at exactly the right time: the sun shone for days on end during the first week in which we moved into our new home in Prince Edward Island. Meandering coastal roads and friends who wanted to experience the AMG and convertible weather? This was the best vehicle I drove all year.

Honorable Mentions: Honda Odyssey, Audi A42017 Lexus IS350 F Sport AWD - Image: © Timothy CainBiggest Surprise: Lexus IS350 F Sport AWD

Not all ISs are created equal. As Lexus enters a drastic name change phase for the IS and RC, recognize that the Lexus IS350 F Sport AWD is still powered by a naturally aspirated 3.5-liter V6, is still fitted with an awfully sorted suspension, is still visually distinct, and is still obviously Japanese. I expected the IS350 to be overshadowed by newer, turbocharged competition. But because it’s more fun to drive than its competitors, it wasn’t.

Honorable Mentions: Hyundai Elantra Sport, Cadillac CT62017 Buick Envision - Image: © Timothy CainWorst Of The Worst: Buick Envision

Hilariously overpriced, woefully underpowered and under-equipped, disturbingly brown, and even troublingly smelly inside, the $38,830 2017 Buick Envision with which I spent a forgettable week in August 2017 was quiet. Yep, it was quiet. Impressively hushed. Any other redeeming qualities? Not really.

Dishonorable Mentions: Toyota Corolla XSE, Buick Encore, Audi Q32018 Volkswagen Tiguan - Image: © Timothy CainBiggest Disappointment: Volkswagen Tiguan

By no means the worst vehicle I drove in 2017, the second-generation 2018 Volkswagen Tiguan that visited PEI in late August nevertheless failed to live up to expectations. It doesn’t drive like a Volkswagen, doesn’t accelerate like it should, and vibrates at the same frequency as a Jeep Liberty CRD’s headliner. It’s bigger, Volkswagen says. And of course, it is. But enlarging the Tiguan seemed to result in a Tiguan that lost every ounce of prototypically positive Volkswagen characteristics.

Dishonorable Mentions: Audi TTS, Ford Flex2017 Hyundai Ioniq - Image: © Timothy CainMost Efficient: Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid, 46.1 mpg

As the only dedicated hybrid I drove all year, it only makes sense that the 2017 Hyundai Ioniq would also be the most fuel-efficient vehicle I drove all year. Making the Ioniq more appealing is the fact that it’s a perfectly pleasant vehicle to live with regardless of its fuel economy.

Honorable Mentions: Kia Optima Hybrid, Toyota Camry Hybrid2017 Nissan Titan Platinum Reserve - Image: © Timothy CainLeast Efficient: Nissan Titan 12.7, mpg

The first step is admitting you have a problem.
Nissan didn’t address the first-generation Titan’s drinking issues to the degree the issues should have been addressed when the second-gen Titan rolled around in 2016. Titan market share is nevertheless growing as Nissan focuses on specific areas of the country with meaningful incursions. But one wonders how the Titan would fare if tests like this didn’t result in 12.7-mpg findings one year after an F150 EcoBoost 2.7 did 19.4 mpg.

Dishonorable Mentions: Ford Flex, Cadillac CT6

THE CARS

2017 Infiniti QX30 AWD • 2017 Nissan Titan Platinum Reserve • 2017 Toyota Corolla XSE • 2017 Honda Ridgeline Sport • 2017 Cadillac CT6 Twin Turbo AWD • 2017 Ford Flex Limited EcoBoost • 2017 Chevrolet Cruze Hatchback • 2017 Honda CR-V Touring • 2017 Volkswagen Passat V6 • 2017 Hyundai Ioniq Limited • 2017 Audi Q3 Quattro • 2017 Buick Encore AWD • 2017 Toyota Camry Hybrid LE • 2017 Hyundai Elantra Sport • 2017 GMC Canyon SLE Diesel • 2017 Volkswagen Jetta GLI • 2017 Kia Optima Hybrid • 2017 Subaru Impreza 2.0i Hatchback • 2018 Toyota C-HR • 2017 Mercedes-AMG GLC43 4Matic • 2017 Audi TTS • 2017 Mazda MX-5 Miata RF • 2017 Mercedes-AMG C43 4Matic Cabriolet • 2017 Jeep Compass Trailhawk • 2018 Honda Odyssey Touring • 2017 Audi A4 2.0T Quattro • 2017 Buick Envision AWD • 2017 Lexus ES300h • 2018 Volkswagen Tiguan SEL Premium 4Motion • 2017 Lexus IS350 AWD F Sport • 2018 Acura TLX V6 SH-AWD A-Spec • 2018 Mercedes-Benz E400 4Matic Coupe • 2018 Kia Rio Hatchback • 2018 Mazda CX-3 GX Manual •
2018 Honda Fit

[Images: © 2017 Timothy Cain]