This post is sponsored by iConnect Influencer Management and Kelley Blue Book. While travel expenses are provided, all opinions remain my own.
Last week, I spent a few days in beautiful Southern California with some amazing bloggers for the first ever Kelley Blue Book Ride-n-Drive event. The event was to promote the 2nd annual Kelley Blue Book Best Buy Awards and a dozen or so of us stayed in the luxurious Newport Beach Marriott, dined at delicious restaurants like Fig & Olive and Del Frisco’s Grille nearby and then got down to business on test-driving some 2016 award contenders!
We drove to KBB.com headquarters in Irvine to learn more about the company, the Best Buy Awards, their testing criteria, and to get behind the wheel of cars in two of the award classes. As the most trusted automotive brand for almost 90 years and the most searched automotive brand on Google.com, 20 million unique visitors check out KBB.com each month (a blogger’s dream)! It’s found that 70% of those people are looking to buy a new or used car in the next 2 months, and KBB.com is the most helpful online source across all phases of the shopping-to-buying experience, from dream to post-purchase.
Kelley Blue Book designed their Best Buy Awards to provide a significant service to the everyday, new-car buyer by identifying the cream of the crop of all available current model-year vehicles. Their key evaluation criteria includes the following :
• Driving dynamics
• Vehicle controls and infotainment systems
• Interior and cargo space
• Exterior design
• Towing and hauling
We were lucky to get in a 2016 Volvo XC90 (in the running for best Luxury SUV) with Jack Nerad, the executive editorial director and executive market analyst for Kelley Blue Book’s KBB.com., who educated us on that very criteria. He mentioned how experts sit in every seat in the car, inspect cargo space, run the test drive loop a few times each, and listen to the “quiet” they hope to find when driving the vehicle. A quote I remember, from someone’s name I don’t, made a lot to sense to me, “A phenomenal car is one I can sit behind myself in!” Car buying is very personal, and although that may not be a requirement for everyone, it does make sense for a taller and bigger person to qualify.
It was time to jump into the cars for the drive portion of the event. My partner and I grabbed the Midsize SUV nominee, the 2016 Ford Explorer. We own two older versions of this car (1994 and a 2001 SportTrac) and I felt comfortable behind the wheel once I set the cooling seats to on. A gorgeous fall California day with little traffic on the highway and onto the PCH, we arrived at Dana Point Harbor.
Here we talked more about the drive, the cars, and hand hand-on demonstrations of loading seats in the vehicle as well as packing items like strollers into the cargo spaces to determine compatability. The BOB jogger-stroller fit cleanly in the back of the Explorer with room to spare for those of you wondering!After a view, a stretch, and a driver and car change, we were off to our last destination, lunch! This time, my partner drove the Volvo XC90. My daughter has a compact Volvo so I was interested in the luxury aspects to be found within the car.
At first glance the infotainment system was impressive as it was about the size of an iPad and we found the key displayed regally in it’s own case! A turn start engine button and drive mode dial were interestingly found in the center console and what was unique was the child booster seat built into the middle bench seat.
The final drive was smooth and the views phenomenal of Saddleback Valley, but alas our drive time came to an end.After a year-long expert vehicle evaluation and testing nearly every new vehicle available in America, along with analysis of vehicle-related data, including sales, 5-Year Cost to Own information, consumer reviews and ratings, and more, the results are in. Of more than 300 new-car models available for 2016, Kelley Blue Book’s expert editors narrowed the field to 49 Best Buy Award Finalists in 12 major vehicle categories to ultimately determine the winners. Without further ado, here they are:
Overall Winner: 2016 Honda Civic
The venerable Honda Civic has been completely redesigned for 2016, and the compact car segment will never be the same. Stylish, refined and tech-savvy, sporting a powerful and efficient new powertrain, the wholly impressive and downright desirable new Civic is nothing less than the best car you can buy for under $20,000, and this year’s Overall Best Buy.
Small Car: 2016 Honda Civic
Last year’s Small Car Best Buy Award winner was completely redesigned for 2016, and took this year’s trophy even more convincingly. With a sharp new look, class-above interior, impressive new powertrain and cutting-edge technology, the wholly rethought Civic is the best of the class by a long shot.
Mid-Size Car: 2016 Kia Optima
After years of winning fans with its sharp style, premium features and solid value, a full redesign for 2016 has catapulted the Kia Optima past some truly great automobiles to claim this year’s Mid-Size Car Best Buy Award.
Full-Size Car: 2016 Chevrolet Impala
Chevy’s famously roomy, comfortable, affordable sedan is much more than that today. The latest iteration is also stylish inside and out, offers a long list of in-car technologies including Apple CarPlay and wireless phone charging, and balances smooth highway ride with responsive handling.
Luxury Car: 2016 Mercedes-Benz C-Class
Last year’s redesign elevated the Mercedes-Benz C-Class to Luxury Car Best Buy status, and nothing could take it away this year. The distinctive design gets even more appealing with time, while the polished interior and surprisingly dynamic driving experience feel equally timeless.
Sports/Performance Car: 2016 Chevrolet Corvette
An unmatchable mix of performance and price has always been the Corvette’s trump card, but impressive fuel economy and resale value strengthen its case as the Best Buy in fun.
Electric/Hybrid: 2016 Chevrolet Volt
Another 2015 Best Buy that was completely redesigned for 2016, the second-generation Chevy Volt complements greater battery range and improved performance with sleeker styling, more features, and even-more-attractive pricing.
Small SUV/Crossover: 2016 Honda CR-V
The Honda CR-V is the best-selling SUV in the country, one of our 10 most awarded vehicles of the past year, and now it’s been named a Kelley Blue Book Best Buy two years in a row. Effortless driving manners, a roomy interior, and a bulletproof reputation for reliability continue to set the CR-V apart.
Mid-Size SUV/Crossover: 2016 Honda Pilot
After shining brightest in our midsize SUV comparison test earlier in the year, with a compelling combination of utility, comfort, features and price, none of our editors were surprised when the totally redesigned 2016 Honda Pilot also claimed this year’s Mid-Size SUV/Crossover Best Buy Award.
Full-Size SUV/Crossover: 2016 Chevrolet Tahoe
The Chevy Tahoe is far and away the best-selling vehicle in the segment, and its unique combination of style, comfort, economy and value has earned it Kelley Blue Book Best Buy honors for the second year in a row.
Luxury SUV/Crossover: 2016 Lexus RX
The Lexus RX isn’t just the best-selling model in the Lexus lineup, it’s the best-selling luxury SUV in America. Buyers find great value in the comfortable, reliable, desirable RX, and a complete redesign for 2016 has helped it earn this year’s Luxury SUV/Crossover Best Buy Award.
Truck: 2016 Ford F-150
Radically redesigned for 2015 with an aluminum-intensive architecture and an expanded lineup of powerful, efficient turbocharged V6 engines, the latest F-150 enters its second model year boasting best-in-class towing, payload and fuel economy, and now back-to-back Best Buy trophies.
Minivan: 2016 Honda Odyssey
Combining superior flexibility, unmatched practicality and renowned refinement, the Honda Odyssey remains the minivan of minivans and a repeat Best Buy Award winner.
Many thanks to Kelley Blue Book for having us out to experience this great cars! For more information and news from Kelley Blue Book visit www.kbb.com, follow on Twitter @kelleybluebook, like on Facebook at www.facebook.com/kbb, and get updates on Google+ at https://plus.google.com/+kbb.