It still surprises me just how many vehicles grace the test driveway each calendar year. It also surprises me what has not yet made it down our way when I look at the number of new or refreshed vehicles that have hit the market this year. Here is a look at my top five faves from 2016.
Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon Hard Rock
Still perhaps the best off-roader in the world, the Jeep Wrangler is an everyday driver that is always ready to get its shoes dirty. We took the Unlimited Hard Rock model on quite the road trip around the Texas Hill Country this year and were surprised at just how docile it can be while still carrying on the legacy of Jeep. Top on or off, this is one of the most fun vehicles to drive and always begs to forego pavement.
The new “truck” from Honda returned this year in a more rounded form. It still arrives on a unibody chassis so it is far from a real work truck but given how many folks rarely use their pickups for “real work” I give the new Ridgeline credit (and my wife gives it two big thumbs up). If this is the new “chick” truck so be it – it is also one of the best tailgating vehicles on the market today too, given the cargo box ice chest and bed audio system. It is certainly no Ram Rebel, which finished a close second here, but since a Ridgeline might just be in my driveway permanently I give it the honors.
Yes, you read that right, a Buick. In what turned out to be one of the most surprising vehicles I have driven this year, the all-new Buick LaCrosse gets my tip-of-the-hat here as I truly enjoyed the new V-6 along with magnetic ride control and larger interior. Oh, and those front bucket seats with the massage function – what a great drive home from work each day. The LaCrosse narrowly edged out the Lexus GSF performance sedan and mostly because there are not enough good, open roads where I can enjoy the GSF on a daily basis.
My No. 2 pick is not for a vehicle but for a television show starring a cast of friends of mine. Velocity, in all its wisdom, chose to take a chance and give Joe Martin and his gang of customizers a show of their own this year called Iron Resurrection. It is filmed in the Texas Hill Country where Martin is now based; it also stars his wife, Amanda, along with a character known as “The Shaggler” and a few others including paint expert Shorty (AKA Short Dawg). They have been picked up for a second season and are currently in production with that, and I cannot wait to see what they are creating next.
I fell in love with a little Italian hottie this year. Not a woman but a car, the Alfa Romeo 4C Spider. Granted, the 4C is no daily driver and is not for the faint of heart, but for those yearning for a great little runabout with real performance in a small package, Alfa Romeo has your ride. Be forewarned as there is no power steering, the turbo engine screams in your ear all day, and the ride is akin to what the pioneers felt crossing the prairies centuries ago but at the end of the day, the 4C Spider leaves you with a big ol’ you-know-what-eatin’ grin on your face.
That’s my top 5 from 2016. I hope you have had as much fun riding along as I have had testing these vehicles and I eagerly anticipate 2017 with many more new and improved vehicles set to arrive in the test driveway. Have a happy and safe new year. Salud!